Q: My ex and I broke up after a turbulent relationship. We lived together for two years. He was verbally abusive, but the day he hit me and broke my finger I walked out. I was so embarrassed I never told anyone. It wasn't his fault. He's a great guy at heart, I just made him mad.
I still love him -- all our friends know it -- and to make matters worse, he is now dating a good friend. My heart is broken on so many levels I don't know where to start, but my real fear is that he might hurt her, too. I noticed a huge bruise on her arm last time I saw her. She said she fell. What's good ex-etiquette in this case? Should I tell her he hit me and that's why we broke up?
A: First, good for you for leaving. We know that was a tough decision. And you're not alone in loving someone who hurt you badly -- but it does prompt us to make a suggestion. Do some research on Battered Woman Syndrome. If you look carefully you might see yourself in the four general characteristics of the syndrome; you hinted at every one in your e-mail.
1. The woman believes that the violence was her fault. ("I just made him mad.")
2. The woman has an inability to place the responsibility for the violence elsewhere. ("It wasn't his fault.")
3. The woman fears for her life and/or others' lives. ("My real fear is that he might hurt her, too.")
4. The woman has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient. ("He's a great guy at heart.")
Here's what we think you think you are up against: There's no proof that he hit you. Your friends know you're still in love with him, and telling his new girlfriend that he hurt you may be perceived as an "If I can't have him, no one can have him" act of desperation. They will think that you hope scaring her off will free him to come back to you. You'll look like an idiot.
We say, "So what?" Tell her. She's a friend. "A huge bruise" may indicate he may have already hit her. Rather than looking like a fool, you may be a hero. Finally, get some counseling! You did the right thing.
JANN BLACKSTONE-FORD and SHARYL JUPE are co-founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com) and authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation." Blackstone-Ford is married to Jupe's ex-husband. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.