Helping A Friend Out Of A Toxic Relationship
I cannot judge a friend for getting into a messed up, unhealthy, toxic relationship. I cannot judge a friend for doing so because I had one such relationship in my life. I had to have it in order to learn to identify unhealthy behaviors, and find the happy relationship I’m in now. I’m grateful for the experience, because it taught me important lessons. And, more than anything, I’m thankful that I got out of it. I have a good friend to thank for that. I had a friend who recognized what was happening, and gently found ways to tell me and help me out of it. So, I want to pay it forward, and if I see a friend in a toxic relationship, I want to help her out of it. But I will say it isn’t easy, and it can be frustrating. Here’s what you should know about helping a friend get out of a toxic relationship.
She’ll make a lot of excuses for him
Know that at first, she will have an excuse or justification for every bad thing he does. He’s stressed at work or He’s messed up from his last relationship or His parents were abusive. There is a reason for every one of his abusive behaviors. Prepare for that.
You have to show her the big picture
Now, you have to show her the big picture. You never said he doesn’t have his reasons for how he behaves. But you want her to zoom out. You don’t want her to ask, “Is he a bad person?” but rather to ask, “Is he perhaps bad for me?” Get her focusing not on his motives for his behavior but rather the results of them, and how they make her feel.
She’s protective of him
She’s still protective of him, so, unfortunately, you can’t call him an a**hole. You can’t even outwardly say she should end things with him here and now. Her brain isn’t ready to flip the script so completely just yet. And if you say mean things about him, she may pull away from your help.
So you have to use gentle language
Use gentle language when analyzing the relationship, and pointing out the problems with the guy’s behavior. Really keep the focus on how it makes her feel, and that she doesn’t deserve to feel that way. Speak more about loving her rather than hating him. Just be ginger for now.
He’s brainwashed her
You will hear the ways in which he has brainwashed her. She will speak, and you will hear his words coming out of her mouth. Maybe he’s made her believe things like she isn’t worthy of a different type of relationship, or even that her friends who badmouth him are just jealous of her. That’s not her talking—that’s him.
Remind her of who she is
When you see the brainwashing is present, you have to remind her of who she was before this relationship. Talk to her about memories of times she was free and happy. Remind her of the way it felt to not be with this man. Like that road trip you two took together where you did all of the things he’d never let her do now, like simply not check her phone for a full day, dance with other men at bars, and travel without him. Remind her how strong and adventurous she is.
She needs an influx of real love
Right now, you need to love her like crazy. Be supportive. Be gentle. Be kind. Do nice things for her. Bring her some lunch. Help her decorate her apartment. If she needs help, be there. Make her laugh. Be as loving and supportive to her as you are to your romantic partner right now.
That will show her he isn’t real love
The reason you will shower her with love is that she will inevitably compare the way you make her feel to the way her partner makes her feel. And the stark contrast will be eye opening. You make her feel simply and purely happy and loved. And he…doesn’t. Remind her what it feels like when people really care about her.
She won’t be strong overnight
Know that while she may hear your words and respect your advice, she isn’t going to be strong overnight. You may talk to her for hours, and she’ll cry, and you’ll make a game plan of how she’ll get out of this. And when she reports to you the next day, you’ll learn she didn’t have the strength to do what she said she’d do the night before. She’s still with the guy. That’s because this will all happen in baby steps.
So expect relapses
Don’t get angry with her if she relapses. She may leave him, and then go back to him. This may happen several times before she finally calls it quits. In fact, for some, it’s an important part of the process. Seeing that no matter how many times they take space and try again, it still isn’t better, can show people they are not right for each other.
Use comparisons to teach her
When she tells you about how her toxic partner handles a situation, tell her about how your partner handles it. Try not to be too preachy, but it’s important for her to see oh, so not every guy yells, throws plates, and storms out during a small argument. Nope. Just the bad ones.
Don’t make her feel judged
Never make her feel judged. If you’ve been in such a relationship yourself, keep that in mind. You were once as naïve as she is now. You had to learn, just like she’s learning now. She isn’t dumb or weak: this just isn’t a lesson she’s learned yet.
Share about your experience
Tell her about the toxic relationship that you were in. Let her know that you were in the same boat once and you got out. It’s important she knows that you aren’t in a happy, healthy relationship today just because you got lucky—you went through what she went through, too. If you could get out, so can she.
Praise and applaud small steps
It’s important that she feels encouraged. If she simply takes a few days of not speaking to the guy, applaud her. Tell her how proud you are of her. If she speaks up and tells him she isn’t happy with his behavior, praise her for doing so. He, of course, will be angry and throwing tantrums throughout this, so she needs approval and praise from you.
Keep her busy
Invite her to do things that are uplifting and to be around people who are happy, emotionally healthy, and strong. Bring her into the light so much so that, when she returns to that guy, it’s painfully obvious that he is the dark.