Being on the outside looking in is always hard. Watching someone you love go through an abusive relationship can be exhausting, especially when you have been there yourself. It’s not an easy road, but there are some very important things you can do to help your friend or family member through.

First, always be there. Yes, there may come a time that your loved one cuts you out. Don’t get mad, understand that they are being controlled. They may be mad at you now, they might not even know why. Maybe you warned you about the red flags you see. Maybe their significant other saw you helping and going against them. Usually the friends or family that seem the most threatening to the abuser are the first to get cut out. But, I promise you, somewhere deep inside your loved one feels guilty. They miss you and love you. There will be times when they want nothing more than for things to be back the way they were before, when they could talk to you about their problems. Just make sure that when they do cut you off, you let them know that you’ll be there when they need you. And if they do need you, make sure you’re there.

Next, it’s ok to warn your loved one. Tell them all about the red flags you see and the toxic things their partner is doing. You might be surprised, they may listen. If it’s early enough in the relationship they may not be completely emotionally invested. However, don’t be surprised if they blow you off. Prepare yourself for a barrage of “he’s not like that”, “you just don’t know her like I do”, or “they just really care about me, that’s all.” The thing is, your loved one is on the inside. They may not see the flags, they just feel what they feel about the other person. Things most likely weren’t like this in the beginning of the relationship. Abuse takes time and it happens slowly.

Don’t push, your loved one doesn’t need that. Once you’ve told them you see the flags, don’t consistently bring it up. All that will do is make your friend or family member resent you. Tell them once, maybe twice, and let it be. Constantly reminding them that they are in a bad relationship only makes them feel worse about themselves. Just like the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The person you are trying to help is their own person. This is something they need to figure out on their own. Eventually they will realize what’s going on. When they do …

Don’t tell them “I told you so” or remind them that you tried to stop this when you first saw the signs. Trust me, they remember, and they most likely feel like shit for not listening. Right now what they need is someone to listen. It’s very possible that while your loved one realizes what’s going on, they aren’t ready to leave just yet. Make sure you remind them that you are there, and then ACTUALLY be there when they need you. No matter how many times they try to leave and fail, be there. Be there EVERY TIME. They will leave when they are ready. It’s a process and it takes a lot of emotions and sometimes a great deal of planning. It also takes a great deal of courage.

Yes, I know watching someone you love get hurt is hard, but remember, they are actually living it and that’s a lot harder. I’m currently watching someone I love go through this now, and it’s hard because I see the flags. But, I have to keep reminding myself that I was in her shoes once. I KNOW how it works and that she won’t leave until she sees it herself and then makes her choice. It’s a long road, and watching from the outside can be rough, but as long as you are waiting for them at the end, you can help rebuild.

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