The pain of seeing a loved one in an emotionally abusive relationship and feeling unable to help is incredibly hurtful. You love your daughter/friend/mum/sister. You can see what is happening and the ending, like you are watching the worst movie ever, but you can’t just get up and walk away. Meanwhiles, it’s as if they are blind.
They have an invisible bubble surrounding them and each time you try to help, you are pushed away and regarded as the enemy. Your loved one believes you are there just to burst this precious bubble. All you see is a toxic mess – certainly not something that should be treasured. Something that should be buried, but not because it is special. Because no one should ever have to experience it again.
The problem, as many of you will know only too well, you will not get through. Each attempt results in their turning on you. The manipulator has weaved a perfect web, played the long game and taken over her world. Constantly niggling, chipping away and planting seeds of doubt. Debasing you and them via little whispers every day.
It’s a clever (but somewhat sickening) trick – give them a taste of bliss – of what pure love is and plant it. Water it a little and then rip it out the ground. The threat of them leaving leaves your loved one desperate and willing to accept anything they say. Even at the cost of the people who actually love them dearly. Self-esteem keeps dwindling as they question everyone and themselves, feeling so alone. So, what do you do if you are in this situation?
I have been on both ends of the scale. I have suffered at the hands of a physically and psychologically abusive ‘partner’ for more years than I care to remember. One thing I can share is that this behaviour is enabled far longer than the point of realisation. Instead of escaping, time drags as the persecuted feel there is nowhere to turn, believing they deserve all they get. This turns into a self-perpetuating cycle (as so many things in life). Breaking that cycle is so hard, but it isn’t impossible. People hardly ever change. Patience, time and understanding are crucial factors in recovery.
This is an ongoing issue, so it is still a learning curve for me. I fear the worst and hope for the best. Having extensively researched ways to help, I put these practices in place. Sometimes they work a little, other times not so much. But what they do is press pause on anything deteriorating too much. If you don’t feed the anger, if you keep quiet and just listen when needed, there can be no ammunition when they are back in a brief cosy spell before the next episode. Here is my advice:
1. Don’t Speak Your Thoughts
I know this sounds awful but hear me out. After countless times of seeing a loved one distraught and saying what I think, I concede this does not work. Also suggesting they leave or pointing out the obvious will end up biting you on the bum. Once peace between them is restored his ammunition gets an upgrade: “She wants us to split up because she is jealous.” This doesn’t end well. Only say what you think if asked, and even then, you must be as tactful as possible.
2. Help by Listening
Listening is undervalued, it really is. Just listening when they are upset will help. They know they can come to you, without judgement.
3. Be There for Your Loved One
Be there for them, plain and simple. It doesn’t matter what time of day or night, let them know they can call you at any point and you will be there. Knowing this will give them a little support and confidence if the situation worsens.
4. Give Them Breathing Space
They will be feeling pressured, stressed and overburdened. The last thing you want to do is give a lecture. Give them space to breathe and reflect.
5. Keep Watch Over the Relationship
Although becoming too involved will just add to the problem, this does not mean you should ignore things. Keep a slightly distant eye on what is going on and ensure there is always communication between you both. That way you are prepared to step in and act/assist as soon as you get the green light (or if you believe the relationship has reached a level that warrants outside intervention).
I will keep adding to this as events progress. When I discover anything that works or similarly anything that doesn’t, I will post. In the meantime, if anyone is going through this or knows someone who is, be strong. Be kind to yourself. Any thoughts, please leave a comment in the messages below. Stay safe. xx