How to help a friend in a toxic relationship?

You’re sure of it. Your friend’s relationship with this person is toxic. Her father, her sister, her husband, her partner: it does not matter, the characters are there, but you do not know how to help her. And at the same time, it is impossible for you to let it sink in without taking action.

Seeing the signs of a toxic relationship from the outside

Before embarking on anything, make sure that the signs you think you are seeing are actually signs of a toxic relationship. Be careful though, these are just signs, clues. It is first necessary to meet them, have several of them and then take a step back to be aware that one is not inside this relationship.

The most important clue will be the way she talks about her relationship. “If it shows signs of fear, worry, too much submission, there is cause for concern,” emphasizes France Brécard, psycho-practitioner and author of ‘Free Yourself from Toxic Conditions’ (Editions Eyrolles).

For example, when we are with her, should she come home quickly, and before her companion? When the toxic relationship involves one of her parents, does she feel so terribly guilty if she does not visit him enough?

These examples reflect this mixture of emotions that gnaws at this friend: “guilt, fear, but also the shame of being in this situation”, list France Brécard. When shame takes over other emotions, this relative tends not to talk about it.

There “the lack of availability can make it possible to recognize a toxic relationship”. Isolation is one of the great manipulation techniques. The fewer external contacts their prey has, the less perspective they have on the situation, and the less likely they are to turn to a third party for help.

A friend who is less willing when you ask her out, a close colleague who never talks about her relationship, never invites us home, is never available on the phone when she’s home: all these examples are so many clues.

Some end up breaking up the relationship without any real explanation. “The solution then is to ask her to understand,” assures France Brécard. more on the side of what is happening at home than what is happening outside ”.

The clues can also be physical: “a person who grows or loses too much in a few months, it may mean that they compensate or are too poor to feed themselves, or if they appear to be a little depressed”, illustrates psycho-practitioner.

Finally, it’s most obvious when she tells us about it. But be careful once again not to rush headlong and without delicacy.

What not to do to help a friend in a toxic relationship

Once this relative has opened up to us, even in an anecdotal way, there is no point in whipping his executioner.

Already because we need to know more to be sure that the toxicity is one-way. There are many relationships where the unhealthy relationship is maintained by both members. So because being too virulent is often a sign of judgment.

Let us not forget that shame is ubiquitous to this person. Tell him “leave him, he’s awful” when she does not leaving a toxic relationship reinforces this feeling. Phrases like “what are you doing with that guy?” is also very guilt-causing. We blame ourselves for having fallen into the trap, we blame ourselves for having feelings for him, we blame ourselves for not having the strength to go.

It is useless to try to admit toxicity. “The loved one risks protecting the other person: there is a part of them who thinks they love them, so attacking them will bring up this ‘loving part’,” the psychopractor laments. She adds: “Even the psychologist will take the time to recognize this toxicity”. Your friend will break ties with you more easily than with him or her.

Of course, it is necessary to differentiate physical and mental violence. When it’s physical, “we can say it’s not normal”. When it lies in the words, the looks, the behavior but without blows, it is much more complicated to recognize the violence. “You risk pointing to the person who will also find excuses for the other like: he loves me so much that he wants me to be there all the time.”

France Brécard warns against a mechanism: the dramatic triangle consisting of a savior, a persecutor, and a victim. “When you try to save the victim, his distress is such that he can turn around: he becomes your pursuer.” You are not equipped to ‘make him listen to reason’.

Listening and caring to help a friend in a toxic relationship

“The most you can do is listen and be kind,” says the psychopractor. Some key phrases can help you like ‘I believe in you’, ‘It’s hard what you’m going through’, ‘What would you need me for?’ or ‘How can I help you?’ So you can help her by getting her to talk.

The relative must also understand that we are a resource in difficult times, by offering to be available on the phone, or that she can come to us if necessary. However, it is up to you to define the boundaries, depending on the reaction of the opposite person: you should not feel obliged to answer every time, answer regularly at three in the morning or feel guilty about not having your phone with you. every moment.

You therefore enter a position of companion. The #NousToutes collective provides advice on how to handle this situation. In addition to lack of judgment, she recommends not being in compassion, but in empathy.

Compassion means empathizing with others (worry, fear, sadness, shame). Empathy means putting yourself in someone else’s place. Of course, this is a trying emotion that can provoke fatigue, a loss of patience or an overflow of emotions on your part. You need to know how to say stop when you feel you can no longer hold your accompanying position.

Congruence also goes in this direction. It indicates the fact of putting speech and behavior in line, for example saying “yes yes, I have time to listen to you” while looking at your watch.

The collective #NousToutes then clarifies that it is important because people are very often victims of manipulation techniques that make them doubt what is true and do not have the capacity to know if it is bothering you. So you have to know if you are able to take care of the victim, and to have the energy and desire, you have to take care of yourself.

When she is ready to ask for help, acknowledge that you are not capable of it and suggest that she seek help from the right structures, such as associations that fight violence against women, such as women and the right people . most often a psychologist.

If this friend does not trust, your action is all the more limited. “Keep seeing her, to offer her things to break the isolation,” says France Brécard, “the more intrusive we are, the more the person will withdraw.”

The delicacy is only amplified, with phrases like “I can see you do not look good, if you have something to tell me, then I am here”. Do not hesitate to mention what you see according to the psychopractor. “You’ve lost a lot, is something wrong? I’m a little worried you’re not looking good.”

Keeping this distance, without blaming yourself for being able to do more, allows you to be there when your friend decides to leave this relationship. Then another long road begins.

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