It’s a situation none of us wants to face: seeing or suspecting a dear friend of ours is being emotionally abused.
And still, very unfortunately, it happens.
And it can often lead us as friends to feel powerless, wondering how we can help.
Today, we share some tips and reminders for you if you find yourself in this situation.
First of all, aside from witnessing it or being directly told by your friend that she’s being emotionally abused, there may be some common signs and signals you can look out for:
1) If your friend starts to abandon beloved hobbies, routines, etc. that she used to love before getting in the relationship and she doesn’t seem thrilled or clear about why she’s giving them up, there may be some emotionally abusive manipulation happening at home.
2) If your friend seems overly concerned with wanting/needing to check in with her partner for fear of their reaction to plans you talk about making, this could be a sign. This usually doesn’t look like the typical courtesy of needing to check a partner’s calendar – it looks like heightened anxiety when thinking about how the partner might respond if not checked in with about the plans first.
3) If you start to notice a drop in your friend’s self-esteem and an escalation in her own negative self-talk that doesn’t seem to correlate with any major change in her life (weight gain, job loss, etc.), this could be a clue that she’s being negatively impacted by emotionally abusive messages she’s getting at home.
These are only some of the possible signs that your friend may be being emotionally abused and, if you do suspect that this is happening to her, there are some things you can do as a friend to be of support:
- Be someone safe that she can talk to. Usually, people who are being emotionally abused are too scared or ashamed to talk about it and won’t proactively bring it up. It can be helpful to let your friend gently know that if anything at all is going on for her, you want to be a confidential person she can share with. And then let her choose if she wants to bring it up.
- Suggest therapy. If your friend doesn’t seem to be open to talking about what’s going on for her with you, it may be a good idea to bring up the possibility of talking with a therapist. You can let her know about any positive experiences you’ve had working with one (if you have) and/or share stories of people you know who had positive experiences. Planting the seed of your friend seeking out professional help to cope with what’s going on at home can be a great support if gently suggested and not insisted upon.
- Be a loving, affirming, force of kindness and goodness in her life. When people are being emotionally abused and are starting to internalize that abuse, they may experience a drop in their self-esteem, their vitality, their joy, and their overall good opinion of themselves. If you suspect this is happening to your friend, do what you probably do best anyways: heap lots of love, praise, and positive feedback on her. She probably really needs to hear this!
These are just a few of the ways you can support a friend who you suspect is being emotionally abused. There are, of course, many other things you can do but if you start with just these three, it may be a big help.
Also, please consider exploring the website of The National Domestic Violence Hotline and/or sharing their phone number or chat function with your friend.