|How To Support Friends and Loved
Ones Through an Abusive Relationship
This is a question that comes up a lot.
Its hugely frustrating, as well as difficult and painful to watch someone
you care about struggle in the quicksand of an abusive relationship.
Its frustrating because we can
see all the things that they cant. Wed love to help them
which probably means getting them to adopt the solution that we know is right.
But they dont see it, and theyre not going to do it.
Its difficult because you start
to feel like youre caught up in Groundhog Day. They reach the point
of leaving, they may well even leave
and then the whole thing goes
around again, and again. Maybe the same partner, maybe a different one. But
you hear the same story again and again.
In the end your emotional investment
wears you out. You end up feeling resentful towards them for what theyre
putting you through.
Its painful because watching someone
turn into a shadow of their former self is tragic. All the more so when there
are children who are also suffering. Witnessing the pain of someone you care
about and not being able to make it go away, really taxes us.
So how do we support them?
First we need to be clear about the
distinction between helping and supporting them. We cannot help them, i.e.
move them on even so much as a millimetre. What we can do is be there for
them. That doesnt mean making ourselves available to listen 100% of
What it does mean is simply acknowledging
and respecting their right to make choices, or else stick with the situation.
However disastrous it may appear from the outside, they are making the best
choices they can at the time. They already feel pretty bad about themselves;
your continued respect may make more of a difference than you could
Second, we mustnt give up on them.
There is a very human temptation, at some point, to say Whatever,
and walk away. Abusers create a void around their victim that leaves the
victim even more dependent. Its very easy to end up becoming irritated
with the victim. When you do, youre actually colluding with the
If an abused loved one cant hold
on to the thought of life beyond their relationship, then that is something
important we can do for them. This simply means believing and trusting that
they will come out the other side of this. Even if neither of you can predict
Third, we can hold onto the knowledge
of who they truly are. Over time, living with a self-appointed King of the
Jungle reduces them to feeling little better than a cockroach. We can hold
and remind them of- their gifts, their qualities, their uniqueness,
their lovableness, until they are able to do it for themselves. Our vision
may be the resource that starts them on their journey to recovery.
It doesnt even have to be a major
holding operation on our part. Remember, abuse leaves its victims starving
because it systematically closes down any channel of nourishment. Often,
by opening up a channel we offer them more sustenance than we could possibly
To a friend of mine who has suffered
hugely at the hands of a homicidally brutal partner and lost sight of herself,
I sent a list of the blessings that she did not see. The list is incredibly
empowering for her and she treasures it. It reads like this:
1) You are blessed with good and loving
2) You inspire great love in those around
3) You have two wonderful children -
maybe not easy, but definitely wonderful.
4) You have enormous strength.
5) You have a vast reservoir of
6) You are an extraordinarily loving
and supportive person.
7) You have a talent for creating
8) You have an extraordinarily attractive
9) You have formidable energy
10) All this and there is still, I'd
guess, about another 85% of capacity that you are currently not able to access
My friend is unique and gifted. So are
all our friends and loved ones. Another persons list may be different,
but it will be no less extraordinary. We are all uniquely gifted and wonderful.
Yet we may need to have our eyes opened to this fact. Repeatedly.
We support others best when we offer
them a valid, empowering vision of themselves. We support ourselves when
we do the self-same thing for ourselves.
(C) Annie Kaszina
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