5 Signs Your Friend Is In A Toxic Relationship & How To Help

Because caring is a superpower.


We know what you're thinking: nobody likes a busybody. You've got a feeling that something's not right about your friend's partner – perhaps they are being manipulative or controlling – but without being a literal fly on the wall in their relationship you can't be sure. You don't want to be that friend: the one who pokes her nose into other people's business where it's not welcome. After all, your mate's an adult and she can probably look after herself, right?

Wrong. Look, first of all, showing that you care does not instantly equate you to a nosy busybody. If you are genuinely worried about your friend, you should never just brush that gut feeling under the carpet for fear of ruffling a couple of feathers. But there is definitely a right way to go about it: a calm, considered, sensitive way that could potentially help save your friend from further harm. Before unleashing a shit storm onto your friend – which will almost definitely be unwelcome, by the way – keep an eye out for the following signs that suggest their partner is being toxic or abusive. As soon as you have a clear indication that confirms your worries, then's the right time to speak up.


She's gone silent on you

It's perfectly normal to go a little M.I.A. when you first start dating someone. You might feel pissed that your mate hasn't been so keen on meeting up recently, but if she's wallowing in the honeymoon period right now, chances are all she wants to do in her spare time is be naked in bed with her guy between her legs. Sorry, girl, but you can't compete with that. When should you have a cause for concern? If your friend is being uncharacteristically flaky, has withdrawn from her family, or has been so absent from your life that she could have legit fallen into a bottle of Vanish when she finally got around to washing her filthy sheets, it might be a sign her partner is isolating her. She might not even notice what's happening, so it's a good idea to talk to her about it and see what's up. It could be that she's unhappy in the relationship and has stepped back so that nobody has to see her that way, but that's exactly the time she needs support.


She's lost her confidence

Your friend used to be a force to be reckoned with, beaming with confidence, but now when you're with her, it feels like someone's switched off her inner light. She looks sad more often than she's happy, she's started acting anxiously, putting herself down a lot, perhaps she's even dressing differently. A toxic partner will chip away at their other half's self-esteem to gain control in the relationship, often convincing them that they are treating them this way in order to “help” or “protect” them. Imagine how you'd feel if somebody was constantly calling you up on every little thing you did, as if you were completely incapable of being a normal, attractive, intelligent,worthy human being. Frankly, you'd feel like crap.


She's stopped doing the things she loves

When we stop doing the things we love because of a partner, we're either unhealthily obsessed with each other or there is control or abuse at play. When you fall in love, you don't just leave all your other passions at the door; you don't wave goodbye to all of your individuality to become some kind of fucked up sexually conjoined twin. If your friend's partner cared about her, he would encourage her interests – whether that's painting or pole dancing classes – because they are part of her happiness. If he's told her to give up the things she loves and is justifying this possessiveness with bogus reasons, there is definitely a problem. Remember to always check your assumptions first, though. If she's just stopped getting wasted with you on Friday nights, she hasn't “stopped doing the things she loves;” she's probably enjoying settling down a bit. People are bound to make small changes when they fall in love; don't blow it up into a huge issue just because you miss the old times.


She tells you her partner is frequently mad at her

Hear that sound? Yep, that's alarm bells. It's great that your friend is opening up to you about it, but when she's regularly talking about her partner being mad at her or constantly criticizing her actions or decisions, you should absolutely take note. Like we said before, abusive partners will always be working to make their other half feel wrong in some way, that they've done something bad to “deserve” the abuse, so look out especially for signs that she's blaming herself, making excuses for her partner or wondering if she's going crazy. Sometimes abusers might even deny saying or doing something abusive or manipulate the truth, making their victims doubt their own memory or sanity.


You've seen him mistreating her

If you've seen him mistreating her in real life, there's no question here and you've got a giant green light to go ahead and speak out to her about it. More than simply feeling a bit on edge around her partner, you've actually seen him treating her badly, controlling her or dominating her. You may have witnessed a massive argument blow up out of nowhere or some aggressive behavior. RED FLAG.

If you have noticed any of these warning signs and you feel that you need to talk to your friend about it, like we said before, it's crucial that you take a calm, nonjudgmental approach – and it's best to talk to her in person. If she's feeling vulnerable, stepping in could feel like a confrontation or an attack – especially if she has been manipulated into thinking her partner is looking out for her best interests. However much the situation upsets you, whatever you do, don't go in all guns blazing with the goal of making her leave her partner. Open by asking your friend if she's feeling happy in her relationship – does she have any concerns? This way she's less likely to get defensive. Then gently introduce your own concerns into the discussion, making it very clear that you are only looking out for her well-being and safety, and whatever is actually going on, that you fully support her. If you have personal experience of a toxic relationship, touch upon it, because ultimately you've been in the same boat – but avoid actually using the word “toxic” as it can be triggering.

Of course, your mate might not want to hear what you have to say – be ready for that – and if she tells you she's happy and you've got it wrong, you might have to trust her. Most important, however, is that you have opened the discussion and let her know that you understand and are there to support her. Boost her confidence and make her feel like she is worth something, even if she's been made to feel the opposite; if you can't help her leave her partner, do what you can to counteract his negative impact. If you do feel as if she's in danger, or you are certain that her partner's being violent, try to get in touch with her family or call the National Domestic Violence hotline. It's open 24/7.