Anyone can end up in an unhealthy relationship. Some people may even go through a series of them. It might not be the intention, but people can find themselves in unhealthy relationships, whether they realize it or not. When you think it might be happening with a friend, it can be a worrying time. You want to support them, but you’re probably also uncertain about how much it’s appropriate to get involved. If you say the wrong thing, it could have a negative effect on your own relationship with your friend, instead of helping them out. So what can you do if you think your friend is in an unhealthy relationship? There are a few steps you could take that might be helpful.
Find Some Resources for Support
The first thing you could do is look up some resources for support, both for your friend and for yourself. It’s useful to have information and advice from experts on the best steps to take and how to handle everything. You might start by looking up women’s organizations like WomenSV that can provide various kinds of support for women in abusive or toxic relationships. Local organizations can often be the best options because they’re able to provide support nearby and may be able to offer help such as emergency accommodation or counseling if it’s needed.
Offer to Listen
Being a listening ear is really one of the best things you can do for a friend when they’re in an unhealthy relationship. It can sometimes be difficult to do this without being too judgemental or opinionated, which might make your friend wary of confiding in you. But, although you might try to gently help them see what’s happening, it’s important that you’re not too pushy. Listening to what they have to say is the most important thing, and offering your support in their decisions can reassure your friend that you’re there for them.
Help Build Their Confidence
Some people in an unhealthy relationship might feel bad about it but could fail to recognize that they shouldn’t be treated badly or that they’re capable of leaving. As their friend, you could have the role of helping to build their confidence and self-esteem so that they feel able to make their own decisions. You can remind your friend that they deserve respect and kindness, and that they don’t deserve to be treated poorly by anyone, least of all by a romantic partner. This also helps to keep the focus of the conversation on your friend instead of the other person, which can help them to feel more comfortable talking about it.
Know What Is and Isn’t Helpful to Say
It can be pretty tough navigating a conversation about what you believe to be an unhealthy relationship. If you say the wrong thing, your friend might get defensive or feel they’re not safe to talk to you. Just starting the conversation can be tricky, but there are a few things you can say. Asking an open-ended question while trying not to be judgemental can be a good start. For example, you might ask a general question about how they’re feeling about the current status of their relationship. Put the focus on how they are feeling, rather than concentrating too much on the behavior of the other person.
Question If Your Friend Is Being Abusive
Sometimes, noticing that your friend is in an unhealthy relationship might mean suspecting that they are the person being abusive. This can be difficult to admit to yourself, and even harder to talk about with them. You can’t change their behavior for them, but it’s possible you could get them to recognize what they’re doing and change their ways. Not everyone realizes that they are treating someone else poorly, but you might be able to point out their unhealthy behaviors. However, there can also be times when you feel that the best thing to do is to end your friendship.
Help Create a Plan to Leave
You can’t decide for your friend whether they should leave their relationship or not. But if they do want to leave, you can be there to support them with a plan. This could involve helping them decide what to say or do, getting in touch with a shelter or finding somewhere else to live, or cutting off contact with their partner. You can be there for them during this time to help them make a new start and support them after their relationship has ended.
It’s difficult to see a friend in an unhealthy relationship, but you can be there to provide support if they’re willing to have you.