How to support a friend who has been though an abusive relationship?

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Abusive relationships are more common than you might think, how to be that support?

As time passes, more and more women are becoming more comfortable to speak of their abusive relationships. Yet it is still a very delicate topic for many! And not specifically for the reason you might think. For many women who have found themselves in an abusive relationship of any kind they find it hard to speak of because for many their initial reaction is ‘I can’t believe I was that woman’ or ‘I can’t believe I was that stupid.’ It’s for these reasons initially that many women find it a difficult conversation to bring up as they feel as a result of being in it they are now ‘damaged goods’ or ‘less of a woman’ as a result. Whilst none of that is the case, they are by no means less of anything and / or stupid for finding themselves in the situation.

How to be their support network?

Like many events in life that people have been through, most of the time they are not looking for your advice or your endearing comments, as for times these comments can feel (whilst delivered with the best of intention) can be received as undermining their situation. Yet all they are looking for is someone to listen. That’s it, listen! Not to give advice but for someone to listen to them so they can feel truly heard. So they can calm their internal state to know they are not broken or less of a woman as a result of finding themselves in an abusive relationship. One key aspect to this and something I always pre phrase all of my coaching calls with. Is that it’s one thing to just listen to her but she will also need to know that it’s a safe and judgement free environment that she is able to express ANYTHING that she requires. This is the space I create for all of my coaching sessions, pre phrasing it with the following “This is a safe space for anything to be said and anything that you say will be free of judgement.” And you HAVE to mean it when you say it and when you create the space, be mindful of your own reactions based on some of the topics that she might bring up. For some they can be rather shocking, yet she will be looking to you for that safety and stability that doesn’t create any significance around anything she says.

But then what?

If she asks you for your own suggestions, phrase them in a way that isn’t telling her what to do yet suggest possible ideas that she might choose to consider. Once she has spoken of it all she will already be starting to feel lighter, freer and more self acceptance. So when giving suggestions keep them expansive and not direct ‘you should do this_____!’ but rather ‘what about this ____?’ Allowing her to sit in the curiosity of the thought that you have just expressed and she will be able to ponder that in a way that is checking in how it fits for her. Then just keep being there for her yet also at the same time, create boundaries around it for yourself. Whilst she might be a dear friend and you love her lots, you’re also dealing with stuff in your own life, so it’s key to balance the time you spend with her being her support and time for yourself. Or alternatively if you personally don’t feel you’re able to hold that space and be that support because she is a close friend then refer her to scheduling a free clarity call with myself (click here). Because this is the work I specialize in and it’s what I do daily so I have learnt the art of being there for my clients and for myself so I can be there for my clients even more!

Final thought… What if I haven’t been in her situation?

Just be an empathetic supportive friend whilst doing your best to attempt to understand how it must be for her to have gone though it all. And you can even ask her, ‘what is it like to be where you are now?’ This also will help support her in decoding this journey for herself.

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