Find out how to help and support a friend who is in a toxic or abusive relationship…
Are you worried that your friend might be in an unhealthy relationship? Perhaps you’ve noticed some changes and suspect that things aren’t quite right in their relationship. Maybe your friend’s partner is always checking up on them, reading their phone or controlling who they see?
What Can I Do?
It can be difficult to know how to approach this subject with your friend. You might be worried that your friend will be defensive or accuse you of meddling. But if you have genuine, serious concerns, its ok to talk to them.
Talking To Your Friend
Find a time when it’s just the two of you and make sure you can have a completely private conversation. Start by letting your friend know how much you care for them to make them feel at ease and safe. You can then calmly say something along the lines of, “It’s great to see you smiling! I’ve missed that. Is everything ok between you and X? I’ve noticed a few things that have made me a little worried…”
Quietly and calmly tell your friend the things you’re concerned about and reassure them that you have their best interests at heart. Talk about the worrying behaviours you’ve observed and gently ask how those specific behaviours make them feel. You can then talk about how the concerning behaviour makes you feel and hopefully this will give your friend a healthier perspective.
By being calm and reassuring, you’re far more likely to get your friend to open up and talk. You can also:
- Be as relaxed and friendly as possible to make sure your friend knows that what you are saying is coming from the heart and a genuine place of concern.
- Avoid pointing any fingers or placing blame, either on your friend or their partner. This could cause your friend to become defensive and clam up.
- Make sure your friend knows that this is not their fault. They may feel as if they’re somehow foolish for putting up with certain behaviour, but this is never the case. Abusive or controlling actions are only ever the responsibility of the person who is carrying them out.
- Be careful not to judge your friend or the situation. This will only add to their misery and make them feel more isolated. They may even back off completely and refuse to confide in you when things go wrong because they’re worried about what you might think.
Helping Your Friend
Sometimes, just pointing out and talking about worrying behaviours can be enough to help your friend to see the unhealthy aspects in their relationship. You can support them in what they choose to do next. Your friend may find it hard to acknowledge there are problems in the relationship. They may need time to process any concerns and may choose to do nothing initially. Offer to be there for them if they need a friend, that way they are more likely to lean on you if they later decide to address the issues with their partner or decide to end the relationship.
If they are open to help, and you feel able, consider offering your friend some suggestions and solutions for the issues in their relationship. You could encourage your friend to talk to an adult or to call Childline on 0800 11 11 to speak with a trained counsellor who will be able to offer support and advice.
If you’re concerned your friend is a victim of severe abuse, talk to a parent, teacher or an adult you trust immediately to share your concerns. They can help to decide on the right course of action and contact the police or social services if required. You might be worried about ‘betraying’ your friend, but their safety is the most important thing right now.