When it comes to affairs of the heart, we are all beginners. Some of us, however, at least speak with authority. Introducing Shon Faye, author of The Transgender Issue (2021) and the forthcoming Love in Exile (2025), whose advice caught our eye. Contact her at [email protected] for your own chance at enlightenment.
I’ve recently seen a friend of mine act in what seems to be a controlling manner toward his girlfriend, who I’m also friends with. This has involved him telling her not to do certain things (such as scratching her head), to the point at which one time when we were all hanging out, he hit her hand to get her to stop. He didn’t hit hard but still I found it disturbing and didn’t know how to react in the moment. She didn’t really react but stopped and was quiet.
Couples are weird; you can never know what’s going on as an outsider. But this felt undeniably wrong. I’m going to message her when I know she is at work (away from him) to check in if she’s okay. But I wanted to know what your advice would be in this situation and for future. I find these situations involving friends and their relationships challenging. How much should one get involved (if at all) and what’s the best way to do so?
A Concerned Friend
Dear Concerned Friend,
This one is always tough. You’re listening to your gut and it’s telling you what you saw and heard was wrong. Couples are weird, but I also think warped ideas of propriety encourage us to avert our gaze or come up with dismissals when we witness obviously controlling behavior in relationships. It’s good you are not doing this! Especially as the guy in this scenario is your friend too. Like you, I have also been a witness to this kind of behavior from one person in a couple to another. I have also been the girlfriend who is scolded publicly. I once got the name of a holiday destination wrong and the tone of voice used to correct me in front of all my friends made me feel profoundly uneasy. I swept it under the carpet but it was a warning. That guy turned out to be a real piece of work.