I completely second everything Heather has said. I'm so sorry you're going through this. Please know we're here for you. It's okay if you need time to process and think and come back to this. This is about you
, so you do whatever you need to be able to handle this all.
One thing that struck me in your ask was something in a similar vein I came across the other day. It's from an advice column: Slate's "How To Do It" by the asker "Not Ready To Give Up"
. Here's near the beginning of the ask: "A majority of my past relationships ended when other people in my life were kind enough to raise the 'get the hell out' alarm and recognized abuse where I couldn’t. I seem to be lacking a BS meter that other people must have; I can also never guess when someone is lying."
This reminded me of you because you have an issue I am intimately familiar with: difficulty in establishing and upholding boundaries for yourself. This is ending up with jerks and bullies in your life taking advantage of you and your anxiety telling you that you need to just buckle down and get through them doing these things to you because this is the best you'll ever have it and you HAVE to have this thing. (These are lies your brain feeds you in order to survive these abuses! These are what people taking advantage of you want you to think!)
I hope you'll go read that ask because I think the answer may really help you to hear. But if you don't, I want to link you to the resources provided in the answer.
One is a book called Asperger's Syndrome and Sexuality
. The description sounds incredibly relevant to what you've been through, and I think it may be a really invaluable resource for you in beginning to learn to love yourself and support yourself and accept that you deserve better. I'm going to quote the whole summary here just because I think it's so relevant to you.
Playing the dating game is often tricky: all the more so for individuals with Asperger's Syndrome. How do AS adolescents and their families cope with sexual feelings and behaviour? What help can be given if a man with AS oversteps the mark in expressing his sexuality? How do people with AS deal with intimacy and communication in sexual relationships? In this comprehensive and unique guide, Isabelle Hénault delivers practical information and advice on issues ranging from puberty and sexual development, gender identity disorders, couples' therapy to guidelines for sex education programs and maintaining sexual boundaries. This book will prove indispensable to parents, teachers, counsellors and individuals with AS themselves.
Another resource linked in that advice column is another book, The Autism Spectrum, Sexuality and the Law
. It's in a very similar vein to the above book and could be another great resource in your pocket.
The final resource mentioned is an autism spectrum advocate, Amy Gravino
. I think checking out her videos in particular may be a helpful resource to you right now: https://www.amygravino.com/videos.html
If any of the titles/descriptions pique your curiosity or seem relevant/useful!
How do you feel about videos? There are some Ted Talks regarding boundaries and such that I may be able to suggest to you, if you would be interested in these and may have the time/energy to go through any you're interested in.
Next in line for resources - do you have a therapist or counselor or access to be able to see one, even if you aren't currently. A therapist could be really good for you for a couple reasons.
One, you've been through a lot
. That's a lot for one person to have to process by themself. Having someone who's job it is to listen to you and support you through this effort could be a relief and a big help towards gaining perspective about what you've gone through.
Two, this can be a great way to start learning that you deserve boundaries and give you good methods to being able to uphold and enforce boundaries.
Three, you've not only been through a lot, you're also going
through a lot. You've got a lot of hurt and fear and anxiety about your current situation. You're afraid that if the truth comes out, you'll lose your support system of your friends K and L. Even if things do get difficult and/or weird with K and L, you may feel safer and stronger having your therapist in your corner.
As someone else without health insurance, I completely understand any concerns regarding cost. There may be low cost options near you or you may be interested in an online resource that would be more available and more affordable for you. I had looked into online counseling a while back. I can dig through my old resources and see if I can find something that may be workable to you.In addition
(if at all possible) to a therapist, perhaps there's some sort of autistic folk groups/meetups in your area that you could look into joining/hitting up a few meetings. You might find such groups through facebook or meetup.com. Such groups could have several benefits for you as well. One, it could expand your social circle and give you a bigger support network so you don't feel so dependent on a small amount of people. Two, it could really help you realize how not
alone you are. Three, it would give you another great resource of people who perceive the world much like you and may have similar experiences and can help share how they've dealt with circumstances like this and what helps them create and enforce boundaries.
The last thing I want to address for this post is the core of your question: how to get out of this without hurting anybody.
I can absolutely feel the love and loyalty you have for your friends who've become your family. It's clear how much you care for them and how much you're hurting right now. I don't doubt any of that, and you don't have to either.
But you can't control how other people feel. You're in a really crappy situation. You're hurting now because this is a hurtful situation. Your hurt also matters. You can't hurt enough to take away other people's pain, nor do you deserve that.
S is his own person and made his own choices. He doesn't need you to make excuses for you. He's his own person, and he's made some awful, hurtful choices, and that's 100% on him.
I think S manipulated you and took advantage of your feelings and your compassionate and generous personality, and while you may be involved in a hurtful situation, I don't think you caused or created this situation and should allow yourself to grieve about the bad things that have happened to you. It's okay to admit that you're hurt and upset.
K and even L may be hurt and upset at what's been happening. They're allowed to feel that hurt. It may impact your relationship with one or both of them for a while. But hopefully they care about you as much as you care about them, and if that's true, I hope they will take the time to hear and see your side of the story and work towards rebuilding your friendship together.
I personally advocate for clearing up and extracting yourself from this situation by opening up and telling the truth. I know! That sounds terrifying and scary! It is! I just don't think this is something you should have to cover up and keep inside and take all responsibility for. I think being able to say what's happening would stop this cycle of manipulation and help give you power and belief in yourself back. Right now S is isolating K from you, an important person in her support system, and you from your friends, an important part of your support system, and I think keeping this a secret is just increasing the power he has over you. Honestly could be really freeing.
However, I absolutely don't think you have to or should do this immediately or even soon. I think it's definitely a good idea to prioritize your safety and extricate yourself from S first. I think it's definitely a good idea to widen your security net and "team you" by looking into resources like counseling and meetup groups. I think it's definitely a good idea for you to move at your own pace and do what you feels right. (Just because I think speaking up and sharing with K would ultimately be beneficial for you both doesn't mean you have to do it!!! Not at all! This is your life, not mine.)
If/when you're feeling ready to start extricating yourself from S, I think stepping back and taking a break from this one-sided friendship would be a good first step. Tell him that you need some space to think about what's important to you and you'll get back in touch with him when and if
you're ready, but in the meantime, you should stop having private conversations, not hang out alone, and be cordial to each other if you're both at the same group hang. Then block him. Block his number, his social media, his email - all private contact you have with him. If he convinces K to pressure you about it, you can tell her that this is really
hard for you - she knows how good a friends you two were - but that you've had to make a decision that's best for you, you still want to support her relationship with S, and that what you need right now is just what you said: some space and time from hanging out with S alone.
I know this is no small step. I know you're probably not ready for a step like this. Please do consider some of the other resources I linked and talked about above. You have to go at your own pace.
I'm hoping for all the best things for you. You deserve better, and you can have better, but you have to be prepared to demand better sometimes. <3