We all know that feeling. Your friend is back together with her significant other for the fourth time, even though he belittled her dreams and ambitions and cheated on her the previous three times they broke up. But this time he says it will be different, and she believes him.
But it is not just that. The way he treats her drains her self-confidence, meaning she can never be the person you know she could be. One time, after a few glasses of wine, you made the mistake of telling her how you feel about the guy, but that only created a distance between the two of you that took ages to fix. So, what do you do when a friend is in a bad relationship? Can you (and should you) do something when someone you care about finds themselves in such a situation?
1. Understand mental well-being
Most people who are in a relationship with someone their friends don’t approve of know what is going on. They know their friends don’t like their choice and they are already in defensive mode. Therefore, anything you say will probably only push her further away. If her self-confidence is suffering because of being with a bad person, perhaps the best you can do is to be there for her and boost her confidence. If you can take care of her mental well-being, perhaps she can grow enough as a person to realize she can do better.
I think another good option is to gently nudge your friend to talk with a therapist. Is she in a good place in her life? If not, why? Is her behavior caused through an event or a series of events that happened to her as a child or does it come from other failed relationships? A good place to start is with one’s self-confidence and revisiting the painful moments in your past to make yourself stronger.
2. See the big picture
It is always important to remember that you want your friend in your life – probably forever. Boyfriends come and go. Think of what you want your relationship with your friend to be like once the relationship with her boyfriend is over. Don’t do anything in the heat of the moment to jeopardize the future relationship with your friend. And you know, once that relationship ends, your friend is going to need you more than ever before.
3. Keep the bad guy on your good side
If you make the mistake of telling your friend how you feel about her guy, or even worse, how the entire group feels about him, you can be sure that she is going to tell him about it at some point. She may even use it as ammunition when they are having a fight. If this guy is as bad as you think he is, you’d better believe that he is going to try to get you back. Instead, give him the same unconditional approval as you would your friend. Invite him to all the get-togethers with your other friends. People often justify the way they are treated in private, but when their boyfriend is a jerk in public, the embarrassment might just be enough for her to leave him. This is another reason why isolating your friend is the worst possible choice.
No matter how you decide to support your friend, remember that bad relationships are a two way street. Your friend needs to make that decision on her own and understand the big picture which is her well-being and happiness in the long run. As frustrating as that might be for you for the time being, remember that you cannot control someone’s decisions but need to allow her space to come to her own conclusions and that you will always be there for her, just as she is for you.