Telehealth sessions in Maryland and DC

How to Support a Friend That’s in an Unhealthy Relationship

Friends are important to us. They’re the ones who are there for us when we struggle. They make our lives a little less lonely and make our lives a little happier. That’s why, when we see our friends struggling, we want to help them too. But that doesn’t mean we always know how.

If one of your friends is in an unhealthy relationship, you may want to step in. It’s for their own good, right? You only want what’s best for them, and they may not be listening. Unfortunately, unhealthy relationships are tricky, and while you may have the very best of intentions, it’s possible that it could backfire.

So, how can you help? How can you make your friend realize how unhealthy their relationship is without pushing them away? Here are a few things to keep in mind while you think about your next move.

Don’t Be Harsh

Your first instinct may be to criticize your friend’s partner to your friend. Maybe if you can make them see how awful they are, they’ll drop their partner, right? It’s possible they’ll end up defending their partner instead. You may think their partner is terrible for them, but it’s likely your friend truly cares about them.

You might also say some things to your friend that may come across as judgemental. It happens sometimes when you get frustrated. But judging your friend will only make them feel alienated. They may think they can’t rely on you because you’ll only judge them. So, don’t be harsh with your friend. Remember they’re going through a hard time and the solution isn’t to make it even harder.

photo of two female friends sitting together talking on a park bench

Give Them Time

You may, understandably, want this to be solved instantly. But that is rarely the case when it comes to unhealthy relationships. They may be unhealthy, but your friend truly cares for their partner. That’s why you have to give them time. You don’t want to push them away. Let them know you’ll be there for them whenever they’re ready, and stick around until that day comes. Rushing them will only make things worse.

Be There for Them

When people are stuck in unhealthy relationships, they often unfortunately don’t have a lot of support from their loved ones. That’s what gives the unhealthy relationship so much power. So, if you truly want to help your friend, you have to be there for them when they need you. As soon as they’re ready to talk about it, be there and listen. Remind them they have you in their corner. You’re there to help; all they have to do is ask.

Unwanted advice may not ideal in this situation. Neither is forcing your help on them before they’re ready to accept it. Just let them know you’re here no matter what, let them know they can ask for what they need. Knowing that they can come to you when they’re ready can provide a safe space for them during a confusing time.

Seek Professional Help

Your friend might not be instantly ready to accept the reality of their unhealthy relationship. You may need to approach this topic gently. And your friend may need the help of a counselor. Of course, they may not be ready yet. That’s okay too. Just let them know the option is available to them and you’ll also be there to support them through it. Let them know they have nothing to be ashamed of.

Don’t hesitate to encourage them to reach out to learn more about relationship counseling. Once they’re ready to confront the uncomfortable truth of their situation, things will change for the better.