When you’re in a toxic relationship, the last person to accept it is you. The people in your life see the signs, but they either keep their mouths shut because they know it could cause a rift in the friendship or they express their fears and it’s met with hostility. In some scenarios, the input is welcomed and even eye opening, but this can be rare. It’s a gamble that not a lot of people want to take.
I’ve been in both positions—I’ve been the friend observing the ugly cycle and the one stuck in it. Either way, it’s hard to break free from. When I was stuck in the pattern of highs and lows, I exhausted my friend’s ear to the point where she just couldn’t take it anymore. She confronted me and told me point blank that I couldn’t talk about him. She said it was too hard and she hated seeing me this way. I won’t lie and say it didn’t hurt; I was confused. Isn’t that what friends were for? To comfort you when you’re in pain.
Then I was put in the other person’s shoes and I have to, and had to, watch my friend suffer. What my friend had done finally made sense to me. On one hand, you want to be there to support them, but on the other hand, it can be emotionally draining. Ultimately you’re powerless.
My friend told me about all the rough patches they endured and all the ugly stories. Then, in front of certain people, their relationship was suddenly blissful. “I can see myself marrying this man,” she would say. You find yourself completely flabbergasted. Wasn’t it just last week that she told you an argument got so heated that he started speeding so aggressively he got himself pulled over? That the trooper saw how distraught you looked from crying she didn’t even bother to write him a ticket? The same man who has you leave your phone out (to the extent that you needed to talk in person in case he saw our exchange)? Not only had I heard the stories, but I had also witnessed the screaming matches.
The turbulence of these relationships can be nauseating at points. I bit my tongue, but it gets to the point where you can’t take it. You start to make comments that are misinterpreted. She starts to believe you don’t want her to be happy because you don’t support their relationship, when all you really want is for her to see what you see—a man who is manipulating and controlling. It’s hard to be happy for them. You want her to leave him. You want her to listen to you.
“You can’t control what other people do with their lives.” That’s probably what you’re thinking. And it’s true, but when your heart breaks over and over again while you watch your friend go down a destructive path, you have to remember to take care of yourself. For the sake of your own mental health, put space between yourself and your friend who is in a toxic relationship. They deserve better, but so do you. Don’t wear yourself out trying to save them. You can’t fix someone. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be rescued.
It doesn’t make you a bad person to distance yourself. You can support your friend from the sidelines. Remind them of their accomplishments before they were with their partner and the ones they make now. Check in every now and then. If you’re feeling up to it you can lend your ear when you’re in a good spot, but if the subject becomes too much steer it in a different direction. Don’t give advice but ask questions that make them think about their future.
In the end, though, don’t let someone else’s relationship consume your life. Their relationship isn’t your problem to take on. Focus on yourself. Your time and energy can be spent on ways to improve your future and ensure that you are happy. Hope that your friend finds their worth, but also remember yours.