What to do when your friend’s partner mistreats them

This situation happened many, many years ago and a lot of old wounds have healed since then, which is why I feel comfortable sharing this now. It was a pretty painful memory for a while. A friend in my circle was dating a man she was crazy about. We were all out one night, a whole big group of us, and no one’s sure what, but something my friend said really triggered him and he got incredibly mad, called her a terrible name and then storm out. It was so hostile and mean and out of nowhere. There’s nothing my friend could have done to warrant this reaction. She was humiliated and left. The next time I saw her, she was with him. Apparently, everything was back to hunk dory. That situation happened a few times in front of me. All I could think was if something that gnarly was happening in public, what was going on behind closed doors? I was really worried for my friend and didn’t understand why she was with this guy. I wouldn’t stop bringing it up with her and wasn’t supportive of them being together at all. I did go to their wedding, but I wasn’t a bridesmaid. After they got married, we really drifted. Years later, she thankfully divorced him and we’ve reconnected. She’s happy and emotionally much healthier now. But, listening to her talk about her relationship and how alone she felt made me realize how poorly I handled the situation years ago. I could have done a lot differently to be a better friend to her and probably more helpful in getting her out of what turned out to be an emotionally abusive relationship. Here’s how I wish I handled it.

Ask questions

When I tried to help my friend, I did a lot of telling her what was what. I was all about spewing my opinions at her and it wasn’t effective at all. What I should have done was ask her about how she was feeling. It would have started a conversation between us instead of forcing her to build a wall to protect herself. Abuse is a difficult thing to talk about, especially when you’re being victimized by someone you love. Don’t make it harder to for the person. Your goal should be to get them to open their own book instead of reading them the riot act. Start with questions about their emotions and then move into asking about what they might consider as next steps and eventually how you can help them.

Don’t involve the partner

I made the mistake a couple of times of getting into yelling matches with my friend’s terrible guy. That doesn’t do anything to help the situation. It actually makes it worse. You become the enemy when you get into it with the partner. Suddenly, they’re a couple that’s fighting against you. You should keep your conversation strictly with your friend, even though you have a million things you need to get off your chest and say to the partner. It’s not your place. What’s important is helping your friend, not berating their partner. Who cares about that guy? I really wish that I focused the energy I spent on being angry with the boyfriend on helping my friend instead.

Keep them engaged

Disagreeing with a major life decision your friend is making and being their friend anyway is the ultimate sign of a true friend. And I wish I were mature enough to have done that, but instead, I let her relationship mistake ruin our relationship. Don’t let her terrible romantic relationship make your relationship terrible. Instead, work on making your relationship stronger. Become a bigger part in her life. Make new memories together. Be sure she’s having fun with you and knows that there are people aside from this one abusive person in her life who respect her and will treat her right. Stay engaged with your friend so they know they can turn to you when they’re ready.

Hope that helps you guys who are seeing your friend not being treated well. It’s your job to be loving and supportive to her and remind her of what she deserves, but you can’t actually make her do anything. I went wrong by trying to make her act instead of being a good friend. Don’t make that same mistake.