Supporting a Friend Who is in a Toxic Relationship

May 23, 2018

It’s hard to see our friends go through tribulations because of a toxic relationship. These relationships could be romantic or just friendly, and odds are, you have either been in one or have seen someone you are close with go through one.

 

The hardest thing we have to deal with in life is change, and with that often comes saying goodbye to someone. Knowing the right time to draw a line in a relationship and cut ties is vital to living a happy and healthy life surrounded by positive influences and people who you love and who love you back. Before reading on, I want to put out a disclaimer that every relationship is different based on the people in it, and this advice is simply from my perspective as well as those in my life who have chosen to share in this article.

 

 

I have had many friends who have gotten into toxic relationships and ended up cutting off any friends and family who have any criticism about the relationship. To those who think they might be in a toxic relationship: if everyone around you is telling you that something is dysfunctional or detrimental to your life, it is probably best to listen to those who know you best.

 

Something one of my friends told me and continues to tell me when I’m getting myself caught up in trying to patch up a relationship or a friendship that is falling apart is that my mental health is more important than continuously trying to “fix this.” Psychologically, humans strive for consistency. For example, if someone is in a romantic relationship with someone who is cheating on them, it drives that person crazy because the fundamentals of that situation are not consistent. If they are in a monogamous relationship together, they have agreed to be with and love only each other by the very definition of the relationship. When the other person cheats, they are saying they like or are more attracted to someone else. This causes cognitive dissonance, which inherently makes human beings feel uncomfortable.

 

Cognitive dissonance is why we drive ourselves crazy trying to fix something. If a friend or a partner is supposed to be supportive and love us and they aren’t doing that, it makes us uncomfortable and launches us into fixing mode. If someone tells us they like us, and then does something that shows us the opposite, we have to make it consistent again. This is why we don’t always listen when our friends try to give us advice, and this is why our friends don’t always listen when we try to give them advice. It’s always difficult to break consistency, naturally, but it is important to know that this is how our minds work and to be aware of why people act the way they do.

 

I’ve noticed in toxic relationships and other life decisions that no matter how much advice you may give someone, they have to reach their final decision on their own. No amount of pushing or otherwise making them feel bad is going to encourage them to leave a toxic relationship. Being supportive in what they are going through while always offering your honest advice is the most important thing anyone can do in these situations. When I have taken this approach versus being pushy or getting mad that someone isn’t listening to my advice, I find that people are able to grow more at their own pace and respect my opinion, rather than avoiding wanting to hear it.

 

Toxic relationships are hard in every form they come in. Family members, friends, and romances will all cycle through over the years. It is important to balance letting your friends grow on their own and offering your own advice. Be open to sharing your own experiences. Always be a resource for your friend and make sure they know that you are there for them whenever they need you.


If your friend is in immediate danger, recommend calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline,or you can call yourself to get professional advice.

 

​My name is Meagan Donovan and I’m a 20-year-old junior at Chapman University in Southern California. I am a public relations/advertising major with an entrepreneurship minor, emphasizing my studies in the entertainment industry. I have been performing since I was in third grade and I love writing my own songs, playing guitar, dancing, and acting.

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