Signs your friend is in a toxic relationship & how to help them GTFO
Everyone’s dealt with a friend ditching them for a new boyfriend, and everyone’s probably dealt with a friend who dates a guy you’re not a huge fan of. But when does your friend’s obsessive or annoying relationship turn into something you should actually talk to her about?
After all, there’s a difference between your friend ditching her friends for her new boo on her own accord vs. her ditching her friends because her boyfriend threatens to dump her if she doesn’t.
We talked to relationship expert Dr. Nikki Goldstein, author of Single But Dating, about how to know when you should step into your friend’s toxic relationship, and how to do it the right way.
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1. She’s withdrawing from family and friends
We’ve all seen friends go MIA when they first get into a new relationship, but sometimes it’s not because they’re “so in love” with their new bae that they’ve forgotten about everyone else in their life. If someone’s relationship doesn’t allow for their friends, or even their family, it’s definitely not a healthy one.
Sometimes, your friend might not even realize she’s doing this, and other times it might be that her partner is telling her to stop seeing her friends and family because he worries they’re going to take her away from him or make her realize he’s no good.
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“Sometimes when we’re unhappy in our relationships — you would think we would run away from them — but sometimes we tend to withdraw from the people around us, because we don’t want people to see us unhappy,” explains Nikki.
Make an effort to hang out with your friend. If she keeps dodging you, something’s up.
2. She’s sad more often than she’s happy
When you evaluate your own relationships, you probably take a step back and look at if the person is contributing positively or negatively to your life. A good way to see if your friend’s relationship is good for her is to see how her mood has been since entering the relationship. Is she happier and bouncier and more talkative? Obviously, that’s good. Is she always hiding in bed, sad, or apathetic? Probs not so good.
3. She’s stopped doing the things she loves
This is another one that can happen in relationships where people are unhealthily obsessed with each other – which usually leads to something worse.
“Toxic relationships lead people to wake up one day and say, ‘Hang on a second, I’m not living the life I wanted to live, I’ve morphed into this other person,'” says Nikki.
If her partner cared about her, he would encourage her to do the things she’s passionate about – whether that be painting, volunteering, or posting thotty pics on Instagram. If he lets her drop everything to be with him and adopt his interests, or worse, he’s telling her to stop doing the things she loves for some bogus reasons he’s formulated to justify his possessiveness, there’s a problem.
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4. You see him mistreating her IRL
For the above three signs, there is a bit of speculation involved. But if you see him mistreat her in public, it’s game over and you absolutely have a right to speak out to her.
“Maybe you’re hanging around this couple, and you’re seeing that he’s mistreating her, he’s controlling her, and dominating her — that’s when you really have an opening to step in and say something, because you’ve actually seen the evidence,” says Nikki.
How to do it:
Once you realize your bestie’s boyfriend is controlling her or manipulating her, how do you tell her? You don’t want her to brush it off as jealousy or to agree with what you’re saying and stay with him anyway.
Sure, she’s your friend and you’d think she’d value your opinion, but if you’ve never been in a toxic relationship you probably don’t realize how manipulative someone can be.
Check your assumptions
There’s a difference between knowing your friend is in an unhealthy relationship and simply not liking her boyfriend or the fact that she spends more time with him than she does with you.
You can stop being friends with her if you’re pissed at her for that, but she’s going to think you’re psycho if you tell her you think she’s in a toxic relationship because she’s stopped getting drunk and thotting at the club with you. It definitely is a bummer when your friends start growing up and settling down before you’re ready to, but it doesn’t mean you have a right to tell them you know what’s best for them. And BTW, your friend quitting her habit of blacking out every Friday doesn’t count as her “stopping doing the things she loves.”
Nikki suggests first asking yourself, “Are they happy?”
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“If you’re saying, ‘I don’t know if I like the guy, but she’s happy,’ you have to look at that — do you think they’re toxic because you’re on your high horse? Or [are you] jealous? It takes a lot of self-realization,” says Nikki.
Also determine whether it’s worth you getting involved. If she’s just a party friend and she’s not actually being harmed, you might just want to let things play out.
Take a soft approach
You might be pissed that your friend’s boyfriend is being absolutely mental and told her she can’t wear crop tops out of the house anymore, but instead of storming into her apartment and yelling at her for putting up with his shit, Nikki recommends taking a very soft approach.
“If you take the aggressive approach, then your friend might withdraw from you, just on the pure fact that she knows now that you don’t approve of the relationship,” says Nikki.
She also says to remember that your friend’s relationship was probably good at some point, so try to empathize with her for staying rather than acting like she’s an idiot for getting into the relationship in the first place.
Do it in person
It’s easier to have serious convos like these over text in terms of making sure you say everything you want to say, but it can get interpreted as super bitchy or rude. It’s also easy for your friend to simply ignore your text, or get distracted and not fully understand what you’re trying to say. Nikki says even over the phone isn’t a great option and that you should definitely push for talking to your friend in person when they’re not stressed, tired, or too bust.
Nikki recommends saying something like this:
“Listen, I’m nervous about bringing this up, because I don’t want this to come between us, and I don’t know how you’re going to take it, but I’m concerned that your relationship might negatively impacting you.”
She warns against using the word “toxic,” since it’s a bit of a trigger word.
“You don’t want to offend them, you want them to listen to you and hear you out,” she says. “But, if they come around and say, ‘Actually, you’ve got it wrong, I’m very happy,’ then you might have to trust them on that.”
Talk to her family
If you’re seriously concerned for her safety and you know that things have been violent or have the potential to, you should definitely talk to your friend’s family. You might also want to if you tried talking to her and she didn’t take your concern seriously. If you don’t have your friend’s parents contact info, it should be easy enough to get it through Facebook (because all parents have Facebook these days), or you could potentially contact a sibling.
“Even if you think that they will be mad at you, as a friend, you need to look after their safety first,” says Nikki.
Obviously, this is assuming that you’ve checked all the boxes and know that she’s in a dangerous relationship. She might be annoyed initially, but she’ll one day realize you’re doing it because you care about her!