I Tried to Save a Friend from a Toxic Relationship

What I learned about the unattainable goal of fixing someone else.

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

After years of being the shoulder to cry on, I found myself at the end of an emotionally and mentally exhausting battle; one that I would never win. I had been trying everything in my power to save a friend in an abusive relationship.

I was losing sleep, sabotaging my relationships, and I couldn’t seem to talk about anything else. I became fixated on the idea that I could save my friend from her manipulative partner. I began to write regularly as a way to deal with the secondary trauma I was experiencing. Only then did I see the harm I was causing myself by spending so much time and energy on trying to change someone else’s life.

I had good intentions but by trying to force change where it was not wanted, I ruined a friendship and hurt myself in the process.

It was an instinct for me, as it is for a lot of people, to reach out and help a loved one in a harmful situation. I thought I was doing the right thing by giving her advice and supporting her when she ignored it. But when is it too much?

When does someone else’s toxic relationship become toxic to you?

I tried to be a good friend and I let it take over my life.

I tried giving her advice which she angrily rejected. I held her as she cried in my arms when he cheated on her. I stood back as I watched her choose to stay with him after learning he was going to be a father.

I confronted her partner and told him that he was a terrible person.

I humiliated myself as I yelled all the horrible things I thought about him, just to watch my friend get in his car and leave with him. I apologized to her the next day and she thanked me for standing up for her. I thought she just needed someone to show her they cared.

I struggled to remain calm when she stayed with him through it all.

I tried to help her realize she wasn’t stuck, no matter how much she felt like it sometimes. I held my tongue when she’d say his name. I cursed the day he was born when we discovered details about him that made his affair look so small in comparison. After everything, she stayed.

It took me years to finally be at peace with knowing no matter what I did, it would never be enough and she would be at his side until the day she wanted a change. I don’t know if that day will ever come. But it wasn’t my problem to solve.

I have learned that change comes from within, and there is nothing that we can say or do to make someone change unless they want it.

In an article by the National Domestic Violence Hotline site, “Supporting Someone Who Keeps Returning to an Abusive Relationship”, the author discusses the importance of self-care while being supportive and ends with a simple but powerful message:

“Remember that you cannot save or “fix” a person and, ultimately, it will be their choice to leave or not.”

I wrote countless poems to my friend to help myself come to terms with the end of our friendship, including He Stole Her Light. Writing has helped me heal once again. I sincerely hope my dear friend has found happiness, wherever she may be in her life.

If someone you know is a victim of abuse in their relationship, offering them your support is the right thing to do.

But it is important to know how and when to approach the situation, and it must be done with care, without any judgment or guilt. You can be supportive and help as much as you’d like, but don’t let their relationship become your problem to the point of breathing, sleeping, dreaming, and talking about them every day. There is only so much of yourself that you can give before you have to let the people involved take care of themselves while you take care of you.

It may be hard to let go, but if it’s come to that point, your mind, body, and soul will thank you for letting go.

© Jessica Lovejoy 2019. All Rights Reserved.

If you are concerned that someone you know is in an abusive relationship, Hotline advocates are there to help. Call 1–800–799-SAFE (7233), 24/7/365 (National Domestic Violence Hotline).