What I Learned From Trying to Save My Friend From Her Toxic Partner
I had good intentions, but by forcing change where it was not wanted, I lost her as a friend and hurt myself in the process.
After years of being the shoulder to cry on for one of my closest friends, I found myself at the end of an emotionally and mentally exhausting battle. It was a battle I would never win.
I had been trying everything in my power to save her from her abusive relationship. I was fixated on the idea that if I tried hard enough, she would leave her manipulative partner. I was losing sleep and sabotaging my own relationships because I was so invested in her relationship. I couldn’t talk about anything else. I thought one day, she would see what I saw in him.
That’s not the way someone leaves a toxic relationship.
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.
I only wanted to help, but that doesn’t mean I was helpful. It was an instinct for me to drop everything to help my close friend who was in a harmful situation. But I handled it all wrong and I hope you take my story as a lesson in helping loved ones in abusive relationships.
I was so invested her life and relationship that it began affecting my mental health. I began to write regularly as a way to deal with the secondary trauma I was experiencing from spending my energy trying to change her mind.
Only after journaling about my feelings towards her and her manipulative partner did I finally see the harm I was causing myself by trying to change her life. Her toxic relationship had become toxic to me.
I didn’t think it was possible, but someone else’s problems had become the biggest problems in my life.
I tried to be a good friend, and I let her problems take over my life.
I gave her advice when she’d tell me about the things he’d say to her, or the way he took advantage of her. She rejected any advice, so I stopped giving it. Then, I held her as she cried when she learned he was unfaithful.
I stood back as I watched her stay with him, even after she learned he was going to be a father.
I decided to confront her partner and tell him all the horrible things I thought about him. And I did it. I humiliated myself as I yelled how he had stolen my friend’s light from her. She wasn’t the same person that she was before she met him.
And after all of that, I watched as my friend got in his car and left with him. I had embarrassed myself for nothing.
I apologized to my friend the next day and she thanked me for speaking up, but she reminded me she was happy and in love.
It was hard for me to remain calm when she stayed with him through it all. What shocked me the most was when we discovered details about him that made his affair look so small in comparison and even then, she stayed.
I distanced myself from my friend after that.
I was harming myself by trying to change her life, and I needed to think of my own well-being. I couldn’t spend every waking moment thinking of her and relationship, no matter how hard it was to see her unhappy.
It was only after cutting her out of my life that I finally saw, no matter what I did, it would never be enough. She would be at his side until the day she wanted a change. I didn’t know if that day would ever come and I had to accept that.
Change comes from within, and there is nothing we can say or do to make someone change unless they want it.
In an article by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, “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 you cannot save or “fix” a person and, ultimately, it will be their choice to leave or not.”
If someone you know is a victim of abuse in their relationship, offering them your support is the right thing to do.
Support is love. Show them you love them. They need it. But it is important to know how and when to approach the situation. It must be done with care, without any judgment or guilt.
Don’t do as I did and make it all about you. It has nothing to do with you.
Show them love by not making them feel stupid for staying.
For anyone who has ever been in a toxic or abusive relationship or friendship, you know of the intricacies and complications that come with leaving a toxic person. It’s not simple, it’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
Yelling at a friend’s abuser will not make your friend see what you see.
You can be as supportive and friendly as you’d like, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. Take breaks away from this person if you need to. Don’t let someone else’s toxic relationship become yours, to the point of breathing, sleeping, dreaming, and talking about them every day.
There is only so much of yourself you can give before you have to let them take care of them while you take care of you.
I wish I had the insight I do now to handle the situation in a different matter. I would’ve done so many things differently. But I truly hope my dear friend is happy in her life, wherever she may be.