No one can ever know the dynamics of another’s relationship.

It’s a maxim I hew to as I write about relationships. It’s also a line from a blog post by Jennifer Willoughby, one of Rob Porter’s two ex-wives, explaining why she stayed with him despite years of physical and emotional abuse.

Everyone loved him. People commented all the time how lucky I was.

That’s more about Willoughby’s relationship with Porter, who is now dating Hope Hicks, the White House communications director. Maybe you’ve heard similar things, Hope. I do not know the dynamics of your relationship with Porter, but it’s time to leave him. Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to Willoughby describing a pattern of abuse that started as soon as they were married. Look at the pictures of Colbie Holderness’s bruises. (Porter has denied the allegations.)

The first time he called me a “f—king b—-” was on our honeymoon. (I found out years later he had kicked his first wife on theirs.)

His first wife, Holderness, didn’t have this kind of public warning system. What if she’d heard from an ex of Porter’s before tying the knot? What would she have learned? In hindsight, Holderness tells the Daily Mail:

I was his first wife, and it wasn’t until there was a second wife and then a longtime girlfriend reaching out to me, who was experiencing some weird things. I started to realize that he keeps getting away with it. It’s a pattern now; it hasn’t gone away.

Anyone can try to sabotage their ex’s future relationships; sometimes that’s just past pain that hasn’t fully healed, and it’s best to ignore it and focus on the future. Willoughby, however, does not present as an aggrieved ex-wife who wants to make Porter’s current life miserable. She presents as a measured warning signal.

If he hasn’t already been abusive with Hope, he will. Particularly now that he’s under a lot of stress and scrutiny. That’s when the behaviors come out. And if he hasn’t already, he will.

That was Willoughby on CNN this week, issuing a loud-and-clear siren that I imagine Willoughby and Holderness might’ve wished they’d had. Without strong evidence that he’s taken steps to reform himself, Hope, why wait around to see whether he’s changed?

I don’t think that he has really taken the time to deconstruct why it is that he behaves this way. And until he’s able to do that, I don’t know that he has control about it.

Willoughby knows how hard it is to leave someone who’s abusive, especially when they appear to be a charming, upstanding citizen to the outside world. She writes:

When I tried to get help, I was counseled to consider carefully how what I said might affect his career. And so I kept my mouth shut and stayed. 

Porter has already lost his job; the public knows.

He could be kind and sensitive. And so I stayed. He cried and apologized. And so I stayed. 

Porter must be really charming, very convincing. What if his past were even more convincing?

He belittled my intelligence and destroyed my confidence. And so I stayed. I felt ashamed and trapped. And so I stayed.

It’s time to go, Hope. It’s time to go.

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