friendship

'I tried to save a friend from a toxic relationship. It ended our friendship.'

After years of being the shoulder to cry on for one of my closest friends, I found myself at the end of an emotionally and mentally exhausting battle; it was one I would never win. I had been trying everything in my power to save a friend in an abusive relationship.

But I couldn’t do it any longer.

I was losing sleep and sabotaging my own relationships. I couldn’t talk about anything else in my social circle. I was fixated on the idea that I could save her from her manipulative partner.

I had good intentions but by trying to force change where it was not wanted, I ruined a friendship and hurt myself in the process.

I only wanted to help, but that doesn’t mean I was helpful. It was an instinct for me (like so many other people) to reach out and help a loved one in a harmful situation. I thought I was doing the right thing by giving her advice and supporting her when she ignored it.

I began to write regularly as a way to deal with the secondary trauma I was experiencing from spending my energy trying to change her mind. Only then did I see the harm I was causing myself by living my life trying to change hers.

I didn’t think it was possible, but someone else’s problems were now the biggest problems in my life. Her toxic relationship had become toxic to me.

I tried to be a good friend, and I let her problems take over my life.

The Mamamia Out Loud team discusses “green flags” in relationships. Post continues after video.

I gave her advice when she’d tell me about the things he’d say to her, or the way he took advantage of her kindness. She angrily rejected any advice, so I stopped giving it. I remember how I held her as she cried when she found out he cheated on her.

I stood back as I watched her stay with him even after she learned he was going to be a father.

I confronted her partner and told him he was a terrible person. I humiliated myself as I yelled all the horrible things I thought about him.

And then, I watched my friend get in his car and leave with him. I had embarrassed myself for nothing. I apologised to her the next day and she thanked me for speaking up, but she reminded me she was happy and in love.

I struggled to remain calm when she stayed with him through it all.

I really tried to help her see that she wasn’t stuck, no matter how much she felt like it sometimes. But she stayed. So I held my tongue when she’d say his name in conversation and I stopped telling her how I felt.

I cursed the day he was born when we discovered details about him that made his affair look so small in comparison. But after everything, she stayed.

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I distanced myself from this friend after that. It was only after cutting her out of my life that I finally saw, no matter what I did, it would never be enough. She would be at his side until the day she wanted a change.

I didn’t know if that day would ever come. But it wasn’t my problem to fix.

Change comes from within, and there is nothing we can say or do to make someone change unless they want it.

In an article by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, “Supporting Someone Who Keeps Returning to an Abusive Relationship”, the author discusses the importance of self-care while being supportive and ends with a simple but powerful message:

“Remember you cannot save or “fix” a person and, ultimately, it will be their choice to leave or not.”

If someone you know is a victim of abuse in their relationship, offering them your support is the right thing to do.

Support is love. Show them you love them. They need it.

But it is important to know how and when to approach the situation. It must be done with care, without any judgment or guilt. Don’t do as I did, and make it all about you. Because it has nothing to do with you.

Show them love by not making them feel stupid for staying. 

For anyone who has ever been in a toxic or abusive relationship, you know of the intricacies and complications that come with leaving their abuser. It’s not simple, it’s not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Yelling at a friend’s abuser will not make your friend see what you see.

You can be as supportive and friendly as you’d like, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. Don’t let their toxic relationship become your problem to the point of breathing, sleeping, dreaming, and talking about them every day.

There is only so much of yourself you can give before you have to let the people involved take care of themselves while you take care of you.

I wish I had the insight I do now to handle the situation in a different matter. But I truly hope my dear friend is happy in her life, wherever she may be.

It may be hard to walk away from, but if it’s come to that breaking point, your mind, body, and soul will thank you for letting go.

Jessica Mendez is a full-time writer living in Las Vegas. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Northern Arizona University and a Master of Science degree in family and human development from Arizona State University. In 2018, she left her career in the mental health field to pursue her lifelong passion of writing. She is currently working on a collection of bilingual poetry. Follow her on Twitter and Medium.

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