“Can I Save Them?”

“Can I Save Them?”

This post was contributed by Kim, a loveisrespect advocate

“If I stay, I can save him.”

“If she loves me, she’ll change.”

“I need to save them from that relationship!”

Here at loveisrespect, we know there are many reasons why someone might stay in an abusive relationship. One common reason is wanting to help the abusive partner change, or believing you are the only one who can change them. Sometimes, family or friends may also feel this way towards a victim of abuse: like they’re the only people who can help. While it’s totally normal to want to help someone you love, there is no way to ‘save’ or ‘fix’ another person. Ultimately, all we can control are our own actions and attitudes. So, while we can offer our support, it is up to the individual to take the next step in the situation.

Staying To Save Your Abusive Partner

You might hope that by staying in the relationship, you can potentially “save” your abusive partner or stop them from being abusive. We often hear from people attempting to save their abusive partners in a number of ways, like:

  • Trying to find batterer intervention programs for their abusive partners
  • Giving their abusive partner an ultimatum
  • Suggesting or going to couple’s counseling
  • Telling the abusive partner they have to go to therapy

These reactions are natural, since not only is abuse a traumatic experience, it’s also difficult to see someone we love act in ways that are harmful or unhealthy. However, it’s important to recognize that none of these tactics will ultimately stop the abuse. Change is possible in an abusive partner, but in order to truly change, that person has to acknowledge their behaviors are harmful, commit to stopping, seek treatment and support and put in the actual effort to change. You may encourage your partner to go to a batterer intervention program or to individual therapy (we don’t recommend couples counseling in abusive relationships), but unless they are already in the place to make a change in their behaviors, the abuse most likely will not stop. In fact, some abusive partners may even promise to change or seek therapy in order to manipulate their partner into staying in the relationship.

It is admirable to want to help another person, but we can’t control another person’s actions or decisions; an abusive partner must come to the realization that their behaviors are unhealthy/abusive and decide to change on their own. Even if they do begin to take steps toward change, keep in mind that does not mean you are obligated to stay to support them through the process. You have the right to move on with your life and take time to care for yourself.

Wanting to Save Someone from an Abusive Relationship

If someone you know and care about is in an abusive relationship, you might want to do whatever you can in your power to save them. We often hear from people attempting to help their loved ones by doing things like:

  • Calling the police
  • Giving their loved one an ultimatum to leave the relationship
  • Not allowing the abusive partner in their home
  • Criticizing the abusive partner’s character

These are common responses to have, and it’s great to offer your support to a loved one affected by abuse. However, it’s important to remember that leaving an abusive relationship can be very difficult and even dangerous. Your friend or family member knows what is safest for them and may not be ready to leave. Rather than trying to “save” them, consider how you might empower them to make their own decisions about how to proceed. You can offer support in a number of ways:

  • Provide a nonjudgmental space that allows your friend to open up to you if they feel comfortable doing so
  • Develop a safety plan with them
  • Create opportunities to engage in self-care activities with your friend without pressuring them to talk about the relationship
  • Be there for them regardless of whether they get out of the relationship or not, or whether they go back
  • Respect the decisions that they make and continue to care for them

Even if your friend does decide to leave the relationship, there is a chance they might return to their partner. It is common for a person in an abusive relationship to leave and return multiple times before they leave for good. This might make you feel frustrated, and that’s okay, but by establishing a caring and supportive relationship with your friend, they may feel more comfortable reaching out for help when they are ready to receive it.

When caring for someone in an abusive relationship, it’s also important that you continue to care for yourself. Finding an outlet where you can process some of your feelings of frustration or fear can be really helpful, whether that’s talking to a counselor or friend, or doing a relaxing activity.

If you are struggling with these issues or know someone who is, you can always get in touch with one of our peer advocates. We are here 24/7 via phone, chat or text!

Comment section

2 replies
  1. Hi Kim and Love is Respect Team

    Happy New Year with new beginnings in 2016, I just want to thank you for the advice on domestic violence . I have a few incidents here regarding a close relative who is in this relationship but could not get out because of threats, she has attempted on several occasions to leave but she is threatened that she will be killed if thinking of leaving and she said that is her only fear. Even his sisters, mother and aunts are encouraging her to stay as some of the abusive acts happened in front of them.

    The new developments is that he constantly abuse her and her 7 year old verbally and physical and after that he wont even allow that they discuss and have a resolution otherwise more physical abuse will follow. She cannot question anything he does but from his side he is stalking her all the time. He claims that they will only be separated by death.
    He has 2 kids outside relationship and he forces her to look after these kids i mean by force, they have to come ans stay in her home for holidays, she has to feed them and cloth them. Then he later proposed that they come and stay with her on a permanent basis. He is also working outside town but he insist that they stay with her and her 7 year old. Her freedom is taken, her finances are controlled, she is not even allowed to spend time with us and her friends its terrible. She once said she is waiting for him to have another girlfriend maybe she will then be free but even that is not helping because he is also promiscuous and often calls girls in front of her and there is nothing she can do she is very scared him. If he wants something he just instructs not asking, his siblings normally side with him as they blame previous girlfriend who opened a case. Again she once attempted to leave him but they took his side and she was a bad person. I wish she can join these support groups maybe she may be able to leave this relationship.


    1. Hi Ivy!

      Thank you so much for being a part of our online community! It sounds like your relative is in an incredibly frightening and overwhelming situation! No one deserves to experience abuse of any kind, and she and her child deserve to feel safe and respected. Abuse is about power and control, and it sounds like her partner has taken a lot of steps to ensure that there is an atmosphere of fear and isolation.

      If you are interested in exploring other ways that you might be able to support her, this article on Helping a Family Member may be useful to look over. It sounds like so much is going on, and if it is safe to do so, I definitely encourage you to share our contact information with her. We would be more than willing to explore options for support, safety planning (whether she is staying in the relationship or working to leave), or discuss any other priorities or questions she might have!

      I also encourage you to consider reaching out to us to talk further about the situation. Our advocates are here 24/7 by phone (1.866.331.9474), online chat and text (text: loveis to 22522) to offer you a safe place to talk, whether that is about further ways you might be able to support her or even to focus on how to take care of yourself throughout this. It can be so stressful to see someone in such a dangerous and hurtful environment, and you absolutely deserve support as well!

      Take care!
      Advocate GR

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