6 Tips on How to Support a Friend Who is in a Bad Relationship
One of my best friends is in a bad relationship. He doesn't treat her well, but she seems to be the only one who can't see it. I think the reason she can't see it is because I know how badly she wants to get married. Maybe she thinks that this is her only shot. We've tried to warn her about him, but every time we do, she gets so defensive and just goes running to him. I'm so worried that they'll get married and she'll end up having a terrible life! Do you have any ideas for how we can talk to her and help her see what we see?
Thank you so much for reaching out! I'm so glad you did!
So — this is SO SO hard. I love that you love your friend so much, and it's just so hard to watch people we love make decisions we know aren't good.
I love that you're looking out for her though, and that you're invested in her life. She's lucky to have a friend like you!
So when it comes to what to do about this, here's what I would do:
1. Show her how much you love her
This is more important than anything — hard words like the ones you want to share with her are going to be really hard to hear, and they fall on deaf ears if we don't know that we're loved. If somebody I don't know, or somebody I don't trust, or somebody who I don't feel like really loves me tells me something I don't want to hear, I am really unlikely to listen. I will have a thousand reasons why that voice isn't trustworthy.
But if it's someone who I KNOW knows me, and who I KNOW loves me, and someone who I KNOW loves me without an agenda, and they tell me something hard, I am so much more likely to listen.
Love has to come first. So show her how much you love her in a whole bunch of ways. Not just that you love her by telling her hard truth, but love her just because you love her just because you love her. Let that be the first thing you do.
2. Have a conversation, face-to-face, where you tell her the truth as you see it
It's super important that this conversation happens face-to-face. Emails, and texts, and Facebook messages, or whatever — those are fertile ground for miscommunication. She needs to be able to see your face, and see your concern, and hear your tone of voice. Find a place where you can sit down together and not be interrupted, where you can be honest, and vulnerable. Make it a comfortable, safe, loving environment, and then tell her what you're thinking and what your concern is.
Another thing is that even if you have a bunch of friends who feel the same way, don't ambush her. This conversation is best had one-on-one. People are likely to feel SUPER defensive if they feel like they're being ambushed.
3. Be intentional about what you say and how you say it
As you're talking to her, make sure you're honest, make sure you say what you need to say and that you put it all out on the table then. You don't want to be texting her later saying, “Oh, one more reason he's a jerk …” You want this to be the conversation and to do it well.
So as you're thinking about what to say — have concrete examples ready. When people say things like, “He's a jerk, he doesn't treat you well” that's super vague. If you give some concrete examples of times when you've seen him do things that concerned you, that's harder to argue with or hide from.
Also give her examples of what you're afraid this will look like in the future once they're married. Help her see what you're seeing in her future. If he's mean to her now, he will be mean to her in the future, and that's not who she wants standing next to her as she's giving birth to a baby — that's not who she wants to raise her kids — that kind of thing.
Also — be careful about how mean you are about him. Be careful to be honest, but not to bash him. The meaner you are about him, the more she'll dig in her heels.
The last thing is, make sure you don't say, “We all have been talking, and we ALL think he's a jerk.” Nobody likes to feel like they're being talked about behind their back. That'll just make her feel more alienated from the group. Speak for yourself. That's more effective than trying to speak for the group.
4. Speak to the real thing that's going on
I love how you asked your question — because you already identified a big factor at play here. She really just wants to be married! And so make sure you speak to that. Speak to the thing she's really afraid of, that she really wants. She wants to be chosen! She wants to have someone to share her life with. And she's afraid that if it's not this guy, it's not going to be anybody. She's afraid that this is the best she can do.
So remind her that this ISN'T her last chance! Reminder her that she's SO worthy of love, and so loved, and that there WILL be another chance for her. Remind her that just being married isn't the same as having a GOOD marriage. You know she wants to have a good marriage, and that just means she has to hold out a little bit longer. But letting go of this guy doesn't mean she's giving up on marriage, it just means she's holding out for a better one.
5. Resource her
6. Love her no matter what decision she makes
At the end of the day, this is her decision, and her life. And that's so hard to accept, but it is. And so after you've said what you have to say, your job then is to support her, and love her, and be there for her no matter what. If this guy is bad news like you think he is, and she moves forward with this, then she's really really going to need you at the end of all of this.
And so I hope you make sure she knows that you're going to be there for her, and that you are actually there for her. Be there to love her, and support her, and listen to her, and pray for her. Be there and don't say “I told you so,” even if you were right.
Just be there for her and remember she's human — like all of us, and sometimes we make bad decisions even when we're warned not to. And when we're sitting in the rubble of our decisions, we need our friends to be there and help us put ourselves back together.
So be there for her, no matter what she decides. Okay?
I hope this helps love!!
Thanks for being such a good friend. 🙂 She's lucky to have you!
All my love,
P.S. Here are a few podcast episodes on growing deeper in your friendships:
How to go Deeper in your Friendships
How to make new friends as an adult
Single, Married, Kids, No Kids — How to Stay Best Friends Even When You're in Different Life Stages