Knowing how to support a friend in an abusive relationship is difficult. We hate to see people we care about being treated badly, so it makes us feel helpless that we can't get them out of the situation. Sadly, we can't dictate what other people do, we can only be there for them. So here are some tips on how to support a friend in an abusive relationship …
My first tip on how to support a friend in an abusive relationship is to avoid judging her for not getting out. Most likely we think that in the same situation we would leave, but there may be many reasons why she hasn't done so. Even if she is aware of the abusive nature of her relationship, she may not be ready to pack her bags and leave. It's a very big step, and one that she must take only when the time is right.
Being a supportive friend is all about being there for her when she needs you. Really close friends know that you have their back no matter what. In the case of an abusive relationship, it's best not to constantly go on at her about leaving. Instead, just let her know that if she needs a space to go to, she can count on you.
You may be all too keen to confront this man about the way he treats your friend, but resist getting into a fight with him. Rightly or wrongly, your friend loves this guy, and if you have a confrontation with him she will probably take his side. Avoid criticising him as well. It will probably have the opposite effect from what you want, and make her defend him.
If your friend asks your advice, be honest, but try to phrase your opinion as tactfully as possible. People don't always want to hear the truth, even if they ask for it. So say that you're worried about her, but don't say that he's the biggest jerk you've met in your entire life. Again, that may actually cause her to defend him.
Your friend may be looking for someone to confide in, but not know where to start. So give her opportunities to open up to you. Say things like "I've noticed that you seemed a little worried at the party, is anything bothering you?" This avoids sounding critical or judgemental, but leaves the field wide open for her to tell you what's going on if she wants to.
Being in an abusive relationship may have left your friend lacking confidence, and feeling that she isn't worth being treated well. She may have been given the message that she will never amount to anything, and made to feel dependent on her partner. Help her to feel more confident and boost her self-esteem, and hopefully in time she will realise that she deserves better.
If she isn't in denial about what is happening, you can also try persuading her to look at the situation as if she were an outsider. What would she do if she saw this happening to another friend? Doing this can make her realise just how badly she is being treated and see things clearly for the first time.
Seeing a friend stuck in an abusive relationship is tough. You want desperately to get her out of the situation, but it's not your call. Your friend is an adult and you can't make decisions for her. It's for her to decide what to do; your role is to support her. Have you ever lost a friend because she didn't like what you said about her partner?