How to Help a Friend in an Unhealthy Relationship

Of all the difficult conversations to have with a friend, talking to them about a relationship you fear may be unhealthy or abusive is among the most harrowing. How do you even broach the subject without seeming confrontational? What if they decide you’re no longer worth the trouble, blaming you for interfering? And what if their partner’s behavior escalates? You’re not a therapist or professional, after all. 

See Related: Are You In a Toxic Friendship?

Tough though this sort of situation can be, there are concrete steps you can take to safely help your friend.

These tips below come from a comprehensive list compiled by the experts at the One Love Foundation, a nonprofit established in memory of Yeardley Love, a gifted University of Virginia student and athlete tragically murdered by an ex-boyfriend in 2010.

One Love teaches young people what healthy — and, conversely, abusive — relationships look like in hopes of changing the statistics around intimate partner violence.

Start a calm, positive conversation of support

Voice concern for your friend without panicking. Make it clear you’re there to be a support system, not to have an argument or place blame. Listen and encourage your friend to open up without being forceful. 

Focus on unhealthy behavior rather than “abuse”

Labeling your friend’s relationship as “abusive” could shut down the conversation. Focus on specific instances or behaviors that seem unhealthy or inappropriate. Ask your friend how that behavior (a partner constantly keeping tabs on their whereabouts, for instance) makes them feel.

Go in with proposed solutions

If you’re a college student, you could suggest talking to an R.A., a faculty member, or a staffer from the behavioral health center or campus violence prevention center. If you and your friend don’t have access to those sorts of resources, you could try the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you fear your friend is in immediate danger, you should contact the authorities. 

Read more advice on helping a friend who may be in an unhealthy relationship here

Bumble will be making a donation to the One Love Foundation on behalf of our users, both to honor Yeardley and to pledge that we’ll be part of the solution and #LoveBetter. Find out how you can help here

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