Have you ever had to watch a close friend get mistreated by a toxic partner over and over again? If so, you know how difficult it is to see someone you love get hurt. I’ve personally experienced this situation at both ends: as the scared onlooker and the blindly in-love friend. If you’re looking for some veteran advice on how to speak to your friend in a toxic relationship, you’ve come to the right place!
1. Don’t tell your friend to just “dump them.” While this may seem like the simplest response, it actually won’t work 99.9% of the time. When you’re in a toxic relationship, you usually don’t know the extent of how toxic it is until you’re out of it. Ever heard of the term “blinded by love”? Sometimes, love makes us ignore the bigger problems. Instead of simply telling your friend to break it off, encourage them to reflect on the toxic situations they often ignore. Does their partner tell them they’re not allowed to wear revealing clothes? Maybe their partner belittles them, or demands to know their location at all times? Ask your friend to talk about how these patterns make them feel, and if they think it’s a healthy dynamic. This will encourage your friend to independently develop a rational perspective of their situation. Hopefully, your guidance and support will help them conclude that it’s time to end the relationship.
2. Don’t give them an ultimatum. Trust me, I know from experience that this will not end well for anyone. We would all like to believe that our friend would pick us over a shitty partner that can’t be bothered to remember birthdays. However, you might be surprised at the real answer. Ultimatums make you look like a toxic friend, even if you’re only doing it to help. Instead, set firm boundaries and make it clear that you will not tolerate her being a bad friend due to their partner’s influence. Hold your friend accountable for their actions. For instance, if they consistently flake on plans for their partner, or are glued to their phone while hanging out, let them know this behavior is not okay! It’s important to help them realize that their relationship is holding them back, without bullying them into making that choice.
3. Don’t be judgmental. The worst thing you can do for a friend who is in a toxic relationship is judge them. It may seem impossible to wrap your head around their poor choices, but judging them will only foster resentment. A tiny part of your friend realizes the flaws in the relationship, and further judgment is ultimately more hurtful than helpful. Instead, try helping your friend rediscover their confidence; show them how cool they are outside of a relationship! Toxic situations often go hand in hand with underlying insecurities. People who feel like they don’t deserve better are willing to settle for the relationship they have. If you encourage your friend to love themselves, they may realize their worth, and leave their toxic relationship.
4. Let them know you’re there for them. Sometimes people are scared to leave relationships because they feel like they have no other options. They might believe they have allowed their relationship to push away the people who cared for them, so if they left their partner, they would be alone. Be sure to remind your friend that you are always there for them. If they voice to you that they feel unsure about their situation, do what you can to make them feel comfortable about leaving the relationship. If they are currently living with their partner, offer a couch to crash on in the meantime! If you aren’t in a position to offer that amount of assistance, all you need to do is be a supportive friend during this period of uncertainty. Looking back, they will be grateful for having you by their side.
Written by: Emma Cooke