How to Help A Friend or Someone You Love Get Out of a Bad Relationship
Standing by while a loved one endures the problems of a bad relationship is difficult. You may find that you go through a number of different emotions while acting as the support for this other person. Sometimes you feel angry that she doesn't just get herself out of the bad situation. Sometimes you feel scared that something awful is going to happen to her. Sometimes you feel frustrated because you don't know how to help her. What you need to realize is that her problems are not your problems, no matter how much you may care about her. Separating your own emotions from the situation will assist you in better helping her through the ordeal.
As a result of this, the first thing that you need to do is to take a step back from the situation and figure out how you feel about it. Do some journaling or talk with another close friend that you can trust about your feelings. Determine whether you are mostly worried about your loved one or mostly angry that she's letting herself endure the situation (or even mostly angry at her partner for his abusive ways). Let yourself feel these feelings honestly so that they don't control the way that you react to the situation. By acknowledging what's going on with your own emotions, you'll be able to look at the situation more objectively and help her through it.
After you've dealt with your own feelings, you need to look honestly at the feelings of the woman who is in this difficult relationship. Ask yourself if she wants the situation to change. Some people like being miserable and if she's not really and truly willing to make a change, the sad fact of the matter is that you can't make her do anything differently. If she isn't interested in change, you'll have to decide whether you are willing to support her choices anyway or if you need to step away from your relationship with her for awhile. If you do, however, determine that she does want to change the situation, you need to look seriously at all of the options she has and what she's willing to do and not do within those options.
The two basic options for someone who is in this type of situation are to leave the relationship or to work with the other person in the relationship to improve the situation. If you believe that your loved one is willing and interested in leaving the relationship, you will help her with this. If not, you may need to support her in working within the relationship to change the situation. How you'll help her differs depending on whether or not she's going to remain in the co-dependent relationship. Be aware that if she's leaving the relationship and she does have a serious problem with co-dependency, she may transfer those feelings of need over to you during the course of this change. Determine in advance how you are going to deal with this if it occurs.
If your loved one is ready to leave the relationship, here are the things that you can do to help her:
o Always be there to listen to what she is going through.
o Help her to sit down and identify the reasons that she is leaving the relationship. Sit with her and write these down. You should also write down any good things about the relationship that she'll be sad to leave behind. By having a list on paper that shows how the negatives outweigh the positives, she'll be more capable of making that first step in leaving the relationship.
o Develop a plan of action for leaving before she actually breaks off the relationship. This plan should include how and where the break-up will take place as well as all of the details of the relationship. Help her to identify what she wants to happen so that she can be clear in communicating that to her partner. She needs to know where she will live and what her time frame is if she's asking him to move out. She needs to have a plan for allowing him to see the children. She needs to know what items stay with her and which go with him. She has to have clear guidelines about contact after the break-up. (For example, she may be willing to take his calls only to discuss issues with the kids and will hang up when he starts to discuss anything else). By planning all of these steps in a neutral environment, the break-up will become more concrete before it even takes place. This will allow her to be more successful in leaving the relationship.
o When she starts to have regrets about leaving, remind her about the reasons that she left. Also remind her that she is not always going to feel this sad about the end of the relationship. Encourage her to remember her reasons for leaving on her own so that it's not just you saying what was wrong with the guy that she was with.
o Help her to keep busy. Having idle time is often what makes getting out of a bad relationship so hard. Be aware that she left something really intense behind so she needs some intensity to feel stable in her life. Healthy intensity could include taking a trapeze class, going rock climbing or joining a band. Help your friend identify exciting new things that she'd like to do and then support her in them by joining her in some of those activities.
o Always focus on why her life is good, not why the man was bad. When you speak negatively about the guy that was in her life, she may get defensive and start to see reasons that he wasn't so bad. Don't bring these points up. Just help her to see all of the great little things that are going for her now that she's on her own.
If your loved one is indeed prepared to exit her negative relationship, you can help her a lot just by being there and reminding her that she's strong and beautiful and wonderful and loved. If she's not ready to leave the relationship, you'll have to figure out what you can do to support her in being where she's at in life instead of where you'd like her to be.