Updated: Nov 14
If you think that a friend or someone you know is in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, it can be difficult to know what to do. Although you want to help, you may feel as though it is not your place to step in or fear losing them as a friend.
All of these feelings are normal, but the most important thing you can do is gently start a conversation. Here are a few tips to help you talk with your friend.
Start the Conversation on a Positive Note
Find time to talk to your friend one-on-one in a private setting.
Start by giving them positive affirmations and complimentary statements like, “You’re always so fun to be around. I’ve missed you!”
Once your friend feels comfortable, begin calmly voicing your concern for them.
Be a steady, non-judgmental support with whom they can talk openly and peacefully.
Don’t be forceful. Let them open up about the situation on their own terms.
Remind them that they are not alone and that you want to help.
The focus of the conversation should be on the unhealthy behaviors in the relationship rather than a personal attack on the partner.
Acknowledge that their feelings (and fears) are valid.
Create a safe space for them to come back to and process.
Anticipate defensiveness and emphasize that you are on their side, even if they aren’t ready to leave their partner yet.
Allow Them To Make Their Own Decisions
If your friend is in an abusive relationship, saying things like “just break up!” can come across as dismissive and unhelpful. They likely have reasons to think they can’t leave.
Remain solution-focused and make a safety plan if you can (go to https://myplanapp.org/ for a step-by-step guide, it's a great resource!)
Ask your friend how they would feel if they saw a loved one experiencing the same treatment from a partner. What would they say to them or want them to know?
Keep in mind: if your friend is already dealing with a controlling and manipulative partner, the last thing that they need is for you to mimic those behaviors by forcefully telling them what to do.
Offer Solutions to Your Friend
The best way to help is to remain solution-focused. Some of those solutions include talking to a relationship violence expert, getting feedback from professionals, or even calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
If your friend is planning to break up with their partner, you should create a safety plan with them because the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is post-breakup.
If you feel your friend is in immediate danger, you should alert authorities right away. Even if you think your friend will feel betrayed or angry with you for going to the police, saving someone’s life is the most important thing.
Expect More Conversations In The Future
The first time you have this conversation with your friend, they may admit a few things that have happened and then suddenly pull away or take it back. You do not have to get your friend to change their mind completely about their partner and you don’t need them to “admit” that they are being abused right away.
The goal of the conversation is to let them know that you care and that you are available for them when they need to talk.
It is not likely for the situation to be resolved neatly after one conversation, so you should expect to have more talks like this. Be patient through the process, and know that you are doing the right thing by talking to them about this difficult topic.
Let your friend know that you support them and that you are there for them should they need you.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Text Adapted from OneLove