Dear One Love,
I’ve shared my concerns with a friend in an unhealthy relationship. Now what?
Dear What’s Next,
High-five for starting that conversation with your friend. I know how tough it is to talk to a friend, especially when you see blatant signs of unhealthiness in their relationship, but if something feels off about their dynamic, chances are something is off.
The good news? You’ve begun to talk to your friend about their relationship and they know they have someone in their corner they can turn to for support no matter what. The other news, no matter how much you dislike their unhealthy partner or wish they would “just break-up,” that may not be what is best for your friend. Not-so-fun fact—the most dangerous time for someone in an unhealthy or abusive relationship is post-break-up. Unless your friend is in imminent danger (in which case, you should contact campus safety or call 911 immediately), the best approach to take is a calm, non-threatening demeanor when talking to them about their relationship.
I know how hard it is to leave your superhero costume at home, but your goal here is to support your friend through their relationship–not solve it for them. Unhealthy relationships are complicated, and your friend is likely already dealing with controlling and manipulative behaviors from their partner, the last thing they need is for you to mimic these behaviors by forcefully telling them what to do. Make sense?
Lastly, keep being the awesome friend that you absolutely are by creating a safe space and being sensitive to your friend’s needs whether it’s a shoulder to lean on or Netflix and popcorn. Check out this article for more tips on how to help a friend in an unhealthy relationship.
Psst…Have you heard of compassion fatigue? It’s a type of stress that involves physical and emotional exhaustion resulting from caring for someone in emotional or physical distress. Supporting a friend can be depleting if you aren’t taking care of yourself too. Learn more about compassion fatigue here.