It doesn’t make sense – you see your best friend, brother, sister, daughter, son, cousin, relative in tears constantly because of their relationship. You’ve heard their partner call them names, threaten them and then blame your friend or loved one for their harmful behavior. Your friend has become a shell of who they used to be. It is simple to you: break up with the partner and the problem is solved. No more tears, bruises, or heartbreak.
It’s just not that easy.
There are many reasons your friend or loved one may be resisting your heartfelt encouragement to break it off with his or her partner:
- Their partner wasn’t always this way. Keep in mind, your friend or loved one didn’t get into the relationship with someone who said “I am going to call you names, obsessively text you and slaughter your self-esteem.” The relationship probably started off with an awesome first date, but the red flags started showing after your friend or loved one had already developed feelings for their abusive partner. Your friend may still be holding on to an image of their abusive partner from the beginning of the relationship.
- They think their abusive partner will change. He’s just stressed right now, her parents are really getting to her, it’s only when he’s drunk, she’ll change when things are better. After your friend or loved one is slapped or screamed at, their partner may be coming back and apologizing, promising it will never happen again. Your friend or loved one has invested time and feelings into this relationship and wants it to work out. Your friend may believe that their partner is going to become a different partner and the abuse will stop.
- They are afraid what’s going to happen after they leave. Abusers, in desperation mode when they sense their partner is going to leave, will escalate the intimidation and violence; even threaten suicide if your friend leaves. The most dangerous time for someone in an abusive relationship is when they are leaving. It takes, on average, seven or eight attempts for someone to leave their abusive partner.
- They are still financially or legally tied to their abuser. If your friend lives with the abusive partner, has a child with them or is married to them, then making the decision to cut off the relationship can be even more heart-wrenching. Even if your friend just goes to the same high school or college as their partner, they may still have to see the person who punched them, called them a ‘slut,’ and terrorized them daily again. No matter what, your friend will have to see the abuser again to sort these matters out- this is terrifying.
- They still love their partner. This may be the hardest for you to swallow. It doesn’t make sense, but your friend may still have feelings for their abuser. As we said above, their partner wasn’t always this way, and there may be times when the abuser resembles the nicer, gentler person whom your friend or loved one wants to be with. The emotional ties will still be there, even after the relationship ends.
- They feel like they have nowhere to turn. You’re frustrated. Your other friends are frustrated. Your friend’s family is frustrated. No one wants to be the shoulder to cry on, when you have already said more times than you count that he or she just needs to move on. You’re sick of it- we get it. But, look, this is when your friend or loved one needs you the most- this is a serious emotional crisis for them, and no one can get through it alone. Start the conversation with “I’m sorry about the things I’ve said in the past, but I want to be here for you in every way that I can. I support and care about you, and this is where I’m coming from.” When they are ready to make the choice to break things off, they will know they can turn to you.
Remember: it takes tremendous amounts of courage to leave an abusive relationship- your friend or loved one needs all the support they can get.
You may have more questions, or you may just need to vent about the situation you’re in with your friend. Chat or call us at 1-866-331-9474. We can help you help your friend.