You've seen the warning signs. Your friend or loved one says she is happy in her relationship, there are red flags billowing and you have grown concerned that her relationship has taken a turn towards abuse. How do you address this situation and, in fact, should you express your concerns?
Commenting on a relationship that does not directly involve you is always a potentially dangerous prospect, but when you add suspicions of abuse or mistreatment, tension escalates at a rapid pace. While you want to be a good friend and offer support when you suspect a volatile situation, it can often do more harm than good to place yourself in the middle of the fray. Even the best intentions can explode in your face when it comes to trying to save a friend.
Don't enter into this blindly
If your loved one is in fact in an unhealthy relationship, there are certain patterns of behavior that are likely to appear over the course of time. While you can't know for certain what is unfolding unless you have been told about the dynamic, some of the potential signs of an abusive relationship include:
If you have begun to notice these signs in a loved one, don't assume that you can or should bring up these concerns without doing research. Consult websites about domestic violence or unhealthy relationships. Gather facts and tips from experts so that you understand the dynamic of what could potentially be at play here.
Should you speak up?
While your loved one is in the middle of an abusive relationship, the dynamic is not only emotionally and physically charged, but warped in comparison to a healthier bond. No one wants to be the object of abuse, but the mental abuse that has likely taken place blurs the lines between right and wrong. In many instances, the person being abused has become convinced that the pain being inflicted is a sign of love.
Directly expressing your concerns to someone in the midst of an abusive relationship can, in many instances, cause more harm than good. He will most likely defend his partner fiercely; if he has tried to isolate him from people who care, she might have even told him that you would try to come between them. Even if you ask your loved one to keep your conversation private, he is likely to reveal your concerns to his partner and she could respond by keeping you apart.
Support without expressed suspicion
You can, however, remind your loved one of how special and worthy of healthy love she is. It is possible to convey a feeling of concern without coming right out and saying that you are afraid that she is in the middle of an abusive relationship.
Make sure that your friend knows that the door is always open in your relationship and inquire about how he is doing. If you notice the reemergence of a particular warning sign, check in. "How are you? You haven't seemed like yourself lately, and I wanted to check on you" sounds much less combative than "Is your lover hitting you?" Likewise, extending an offer for coffee and catch-up conversation is more likely to yield the result of your friend confiding in you than staging a clear intervention.
If you are watching a loved one navigate a relationship that seems potentially abusive, your first inclination is to swoop in and remedy the situation immediately. That is natural and a sign of how much you care about the person in question. An abusive relationship, however, creates confusion and fear for the person involved. By understanding and navigating these difficult issues, you have a better chance of seeing the result you want: your friend feeling she has the support she needs to leave the abuse behind and move on to a happier life.
Signs of an abusive relationshipare often overlooked in the beginning. Falling in love feels so overwhelmingly good that women dismiss potential problems. You have a tendency to give yourself completely to another person in order to make sure that your partner is happy and committed to you as much as you are to him.
At the root of all trust issues is a past betrayal. No matter how long ago that betrayal occurred, a person will not learn to let others in until she has begun working through trust issues.