When I share my story of the abuse and toxic relationships a common question I get from people is how to help their friends that are in similar situations.
Now, this could be the “friend” that’s really them but EITHER WAY it got me thinking of what people did, or could have done, to help me to get out of mine. What was done or said to make me finally leave?
Obviously the answer is NOTHING. There is absolutely NOTHING you can do or say to convince your friend to leave their abusive relationship. But there are some things you can do to help them convince THEMSELVES!
- Keep Calm
When we hear about our friends or family being mistreated our first reaction is typically to get angry. And while it may be warranted it isn’t smart.
Not just because it could produce volatile results but because sometimes that anger masks the truth of what’s happening in the relationship.
One time my ex-husband decided to bait me (because that’s what he was doing when he’d do stupid things to make me angry) and after he verbally assaulted me in front of our mutual friend things got physical. I struck first and he hit me back. As I told my family the details they got angry, because they love me.
BUT what would have been more effective would have been to say something that snapped me into reality.
“Christina, that sounds like very abusive behavior from the both of you. Do you feel like that’s a healthy relationship?”
That doesn’t mean I would have accepted it but it would have been a seed.
The first person I can remember being honest to that extent was the 3rd counselor we went to see. She told us flat out that we were being abusive to one another. It took me a long time (not until my pregnancy and lots of other people watering that seed) to embrace it but eventually I came to the light.
This was an abusive relationship and I needed to get out.
Don’t get so caught up in how YOU feel that you forget to address the REAL issue. Use this moment to seed plant and water! Be the wisdom.
- Be Honest With Them
This goes hand and hand with number one. You have to be honest with them while also having rationale, peace, and love prevail.
Now some people would say “nope, mind your own business!” because they’ve had experiences where being honest with their friends has backfired. I’ve had that experience before but honesty is STILL the best policy!
Because being honest with your friends typically isn’t the issue. It’s the way in which we communicate our honesty; a certain finesse is required.
“Girl, ya man is trifling. He’s always abc and def I don’t see how come you can’t see that! When it doesn’t work out don’t come crying to me!” <—- SHE AIN’T LISTENING! Would you?! This sounds like a hater, NOT a concerned friend.
“Hey, have you noticed xyz about blah blah? That really concerns me for you. What do you think about it?” <—- Here you’re sharing your perspective while also guiding her to her own conclusions. MUCH more effective in her ability to be receptive to the truth.
WARNING: Her conclusions may not always be what you see or want her to see. Your objective isn’t to persuade her but rather TO GET HER THINKING about it!
- Be a Safe Place
Even when you finesse your approach it still may cause a rift in the friendship.
“Then why should I say anything. This isn’t convincing me!”
I had an experience with one girl that kept coming to me for advice and kept not taking it. It didn’t bother me one bit that she was ignoring the things I was saying because my responses weren’t going to change. Truth is truth. Again, my objective wasn’t to persuade her, but to plant a seed of truth to grow in her. Unfortunately, when she fell into some situations I predicted she became too embarrassed to keep talking to me about it. Which left her to bear the burden secretly.
Sometimes your friends are just going to get angry because you said it. But a lot of times they’re upset with themselves because it rings true.
Truth can be one of the hardest things to face.
But continue to speak honestly and love her honestly. Your honesty coupled with love builds a bridge that allows for reconciliation if need be.
I saw the situation for what it was and reached out to let her know that I was not secretly scolding her situation or thinking “I told you so”. And because I had always been honest and loving she knew that I was a safe space to keep sharing.
Your friend has to know that no matter what you will always maintain her confidence and you will support her process. She has to know that you will be there to love her despite what she may tell you and how you may feel about it.
- Give Her Space
Let’s deal with the pink elephant: what if they’re in a physically abusive relationship and her life is being threatened?
I hate to say this, REALLY I DO but, it doesn’t matter. You still need to give her the space necessary for her to make her own choices.
And you can always call the police to have them intervene if it’s especially dangerous!
But unless you plan to pack her bags, house her until she’s stable, get her mental health services, while also helping her to pursue charges against her abuser you can’t successfully MAKE her walk away.
Even if you convince her to leave, until she’s ready, she won’t stay gone.
This is why it’s important to approach her with the truth in a guiding way, like mentioned above, because you can’t make her do anything. She has to want to.
I have a friend that I could help to leave her situation but I can’t offer it because I know she isn’t ready yet.
Being “ready” has more to do with action than words. If they aren’t actively working on their own plan to get out (looking at apartments, dusting off their resume, setting up a separate bank account to stash money, etc.) they aren’t ready! They are just looking for a quick fix to how they feel right now. But their minds haven’t shifted to “stay gone” yet.
“Well if I shouldn’t really get involved then how am I helping again?”
Helping them isn’t about making the decisions for them, it’s about leading them to their own. You’re the person that comes in and ASKS them “have you set up a bank account…do you have an updated resume…have you figured out what you can afford for an apartment on your own?” etc.
And giving her space isn’t about a lack of involvement it’s about being APPROPRIATELY involved.
Having a friend in an abusive relationship can be a hard experience. I’ve not only lived through abusive relationships I’ve had friendships where they were being abused. It’s hard to do what I’m asking you to do. I know that!
Our culture loves to praise heroism. But your friend doesn’t need you to be their hero. They need you to support them becoming their own!
So implement these tactics CONSISTENTLY. If you can’t consistently, don’t at all. One of the most damaging things that can happen to a woman in an already abusive relationship is to have a friend that only supports them until it annoys them.
Women, especially, need security and stability.
If you’re looking at these tactics saying “I don’t think I can do that” you don’t have to feel guilty about your truth. Tell your friend, honestly, “I don’t think I’m the best person to help you with this. What about so and so?” Because remember, this will be a journey for her. And it’s better to have the same walking stick for the whole hike than to lose it halfway up!
Love you guys SO much! And I’m believing for your limitless lives. #limitlesslife #meandthenwe