I was in a toxic, abusive relationship. As I became a victim in my marriage, I felt drawn to a new single sister at church. My husband was controlling, especially of my friendships. He distrusted women with whom I developed close bonds due to shared experiences.
It was as if he feared that my closeness with another would be the pathway to my escape. And eventually, he would be right. This is when I met her. I needed human connection, even though it required whole-hearted vulnerability, something that was difficult for me at the time because of the shame of abuse.
This single sister’s story was shockingly similar to mine, which caused me to trust her.
Experiencing the secrecy of abuse, I was desperate for support and connection and it was clear we had these things in common. She had a harrowing story of surviving an abusive marriage herself, a husband who cheated on her with her best friend and spoke of her struggle as a single mom with full custody.
She wore this like a badge of honor. I was taken by her bravery. At the time, I could never imagine being in her shoes, having gone through all she had gone through.
We became intimate friends, walking together in the mornings, lunching at Panera, bonding over being a betrayed spouse. Soon, I felt comfortable enough to confide in her about the abuse I was experiencing.
I shared my secret with her–I had contacted my local domestic violence shelter and heeded the instructions to have a safe place to go and a plan in place should the time come. Her reply was empathetic just as I would have expected it to be.
She also urged me to leave because I “wouldn’t have any trouble finding another guy.”
When my children and I fled, I had injuries. Visible, horrible abrasions and bruising. The assault gave me flashbacks and nightmares for weeks.
Soon, I learned that my husband was going to be asking for custody of the children and was taking me to court. I had anxiety over what may happen, as my husband held a position of power and respect in our town and I was just a stay at home mom. No one knew of the abuse behind closed doors—no one except my single friend.
Best Friend Betrayal
Coming back to the place of my abuse was surreal. As I walked into the courthouse, I saw her. My friend who was a single mother, who had a harrowing story of surviving an abusive marriage, whose husband had cheated on her with her best friend, who had full custody of her children.
The friend who wore this like a badge of honor. I was taken by her bravery, thinking “Wow, is she here for me?” Realizing that once a long time ago, I could never imagine being in her shoes and at this moment I was.
But she wouldn’t look at or acknowledge me. Nothing could prepare me for what happened next. Soon, I realized that she was there with my husband, for my husband. My abuser.
The shock and horror were earth-shattering.
How could she?
It soon came none to me that she would proffer her testimony, stating that I was an unfit mother; that I planned to kidnap my own children, that my husband would never abuse me. She bragged about working as a city employee in social services and taking children away from unfit parents.
She took pride in these things; virtue signaling using the lives of my children as collateral.
I have never felt betrayal like this before.
It flattened my spirit and stamped out so much of what I thought I knew. It would be years before I grew to be able to fully trust myself again after her indescribable actions.
Realization after realization swept over me, that she was having an affair with my husband, at the same time my skin was black and blue from his abuse. She had stayed in my home, carelessly boxed up my intimate belongings, and intentionally destroyed my personal possessions.
I see from private chats that they conspired together from the beginning. Within days of me fleeing for my life with my children in tow, they were going on hikes together, dating, romancing each other. Realizing she put herself, her career, her livelihood on the line for him–a person she knew was abusive–left me in disbelief day after day after day.
Her betrayal felt as harmful as the physical abuse itself.
Those horrific abrasions and purple bruises faded–her damage still lingers.
People who hear my story for the first time will often say: “She did what!?” Truthfully, I can never forgive her (and she has not asked) for betraying me in a way that only a woman would understand—using my children in her plan, hurting me in such a fundamental and cheap way; by attacking my mothering.
Because it was the most important role I held.
But still- I have overcome this. I have risen from the ashes to become an advocate, a writer, a nurse who helps others survive and thrive in spite of trauma.
But I am still, always, and most importantly a mother.