Help! My Friend is in a Bad Relationship!

broken heart

Written by Paige Farnworth, Media by Jack Wang

It’s bound to happen. Because we love our friends so much, we are going to form immediate opinions about the people that they date. We want them to be loved in the way they deserve, but unfortunately, that does not always happen. We don’t want our friends to be in “bad relationships”, in any sense of the phrase. Some of our friends’ relationships may be rebounds, loveless relationships of convenience, or relationships that stemmed from loneliness. Other relationships may be more than just “blah”; they may be degrading, toxic, abusive, or obsessive.

So what do we do? Do we leave our friends to the horrible fate that is a bad relationship? Should we mind our own business and nod politely, or should we speak up?

Because I have experienced both sides of this problem myself, I believe that it is important for readers to know what to do in this situation.

To the reader with a friend in a bad relationship:

Graphic by Jack Wang
Graphic by Jack Wang

They need your honesty.

No good will come from keeping your opinions to yourself. Even though it may make you both feel more comfortable to avoid the conflict, you are doing more harm than good by ignoring the situation. Throw comfort out the window. If you have a genuine concern, and you claim to be their friend, then you need to speak up. This is not the time to chat with others about this. This is the time for you to honestly tell your friend your opinion. Don’t make this a Gossip Girl episode filled with unnecessary drama with no time left for genuine help for your friend.  Don’t let it become a situation that everyone whispers about behind closed doors but won’t bring it up when the time comes. State your opinion and concerns clearly, kindly, and honestly once, and then again whenever they ask. No need to badger them; just state your case and leave it at that.

Graphic by Jack Wang
Graphic by Jack Wang

They need your love.

Show them what true love is. When I say this I don’t mean that you should have a Nicholas Sparks movie night. Don’t even try to set them up with someone that you think would be “better” for them. The perfect significant other is not important (and non-existent). What is truly important is that they know how much you love them and that you show it. Show them a relationship filled with honesty, communication, kind words, laughter, and support. Use your friendship as an example of the kind of relationship they deserve. Not only that, but show them that no matter what they do, your love will not falter.

Graphic by Jack Wang
Graphic by Jack Wang

They need you to accept their decisions.

This is not your relationship. No matter how close your friendship is and no matter how strongly you feel about your friend’s significant other, you are not the one dating them. You cannot force people to do what you want them to do, even if you believe that it’s for their own good. Sometimes you have to let your friend make their own “bad” decisions. If they do not want to follow your advice, don’t hold it against them. If you are right about the relationship, it will eventually go south, so be ready with arms wide open. Refrain from saying “I told you so”. At least, at first…

Graphic by Jack Wang
Graphic by Jack Wang

They need you to take action.

While I believe that letting your friend make his or her own decisions is very important, I believe that there are some scenarios where you may need to go against their wishes. If the relationship is a risk to their health or life, you need to take action. This is no time for secret keeping and polite respect of your friend’s space. If your friend is being hurt, is hurting his/herself, or is hurting his or her partner, you should do something about it. Go ahead, badger them. Badger them with love. Tell them you love them too much see them in this situation. Ask how you can help. Again, don’t turn it into the hottest gossip in your friend group, but find a professional, parent, or authority figure with your friend’s best interest at heart. Maybe this other person will help your friend realize how destructive their relationship is. Maybe your friend already knows but doesn’t know how to get out. After all, leaving an abusive relationship isn’t always that simple. Whatever you do, don’t let your friend brush off a serious issue with “I’m fine”. When you know that it is NOT fine.

So friends: talk it out, love them with all that you have, and never ignore a serious issue.

Now that you’ve heard what I have to say, listen to the podcast below to hear what Greenville College’s own Dr. Richard Beans has to say on the subject.
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