Being on the outside of a domestic abuse relationship
Is just as hard as being in one, though in different ways and for different reasons.
It's heartbreaking to watch someone you love, allow themselves to be walked into and stay in relationships where they're abused.
Even moreso when everybody knows that abusers eventually discard their victims after they've sucked them dry, or cause such damage to them that they die from injuries or suicide.
The stark reality, is that for most loving friends and family members observing loved ones in toxic relationships, there isn't a lot that can be done without becoming a part of the drama and abuse cycles.
Though that doesn't mean there isn't anything that can be done.
Below are some tips for ways you can be there for your loved one during these hard times, without becoming unhealthy yourself.
One of the hardest and easiest things you can do when you notice a loved one is in an abusive relationship, is to stay in their lives.
It's hard because even with healthy boundaries, it will make you emotional, you'll likely become a target of their abuser, there will be many many times when there's nothing else you can do except be there, and you'll have to be vigilant not to enable your loved ones unhealthy behavior or to get triangulated by their abuser.
It's easy, because if you consider the victim to be a "love one", you'll want to stay and be there for them.
Though if you can maintain your sanity, keep your own life on track, release your need to rescue or control them, and avoid codependent behaviors; then staying in your loved ones life, can be what helps them release themselves from what has likely been generations of abuse cycles their entire family have been stuck in.
Staying can look like:
- Being there to listen without trying to fix anything, without placating, without using platitudes, and without pressuring or shaming them - just listening.
- Checking in on them every so often; this will depend on them, you, and how controlling their abuser is; it could be a text or call every week or every 3-4 weeks, or emailing, or showing up in places you know they frequent, just to say hello and let them know you're there and that you care that they exist.
- Being available to take them to the doctor or therapist when they're ready to get help.
- Being there to exercise or go out for healthy meals.
- Being someone in their lives who reminds them that it matters that they exist, are alive, and are in your life.
- Being one person in their lives who has faith that they will come out of this without being pressured, controlled, convinced, or tricked - that they'll see it, find the strength to face it, and will rescue themselves.
Staying in their lives can mean a great deal of heartbreak for you, as you watch them go through the upcycles it requires to get out of Domestic Abuse, step by step.
That's often why many people abandon those who find themselves in abusive relationships.
Another reason is because it can be frustrating to watch a loved one go back to their abusers over and over again, getting the courage to speak up and leave; then getting gaslit and deciding to stay; then coming out of it again; then getting blackmailed and bullied into staying; and on and on.
Staying means that you'll have to do your shadow work on releasing control of how they get to the outcome of getting better and getting out of domestic abuse and violence - whether that's with a lover, parent, friend, boss, or other family member.
Most people have a hard time with the aspects of releasing control, and finding unconditional love for those keeping themselves stuck in abusive cycles.
You'll find yourself in many moments of telling them what to do, trying to convince them to do better, and trying to lead them out.
Though really, the most helpful thing you can do, is just to love them as they are; even if they never get out of abuse cycles all together, and then working on your own life and self.
This will help them see and feel, that a good and healthy person in their lives, values them and isn't going to abandon them like most everyone else who isn't using them, has done.
That helps to create some wholeness where they've been wounded from childhood on up, with the belief that they will always be abandoned - which is often what leads a person into relationships with abusers.
Often times, we can better see into other people's lives and relationships as outsiders, then we can into our own relationships and lives.
We often have an outward focus, where we can see how others are keeping themselves stuck with abusive lovers, while we keep ourselves entangled with abusive family or in abusive jobs.
We look at others who aren't managing their finances well, while we juggle our own bills and building debt.
We might call someone out for drinking or using drugs while we feed shopping addictions and codependent relationships.
The reality is that there's are no instances of moments when we can look at anyone else and see where improvements and growth are needed for them, and not have any growth or healing needed in our own lives.
This is important to recognize, because abuse victims often compare themselves to those around them, and when they see that those who are telling them to get better and get out of the abusive relationship, they can see hypocrisy and then turn away from getting better.
Because what's the point when the only people giving them "advice", are doing the same things and aren't putting in the effort into themselves in the ways abuse victims are told to do?
I remember a time many years ago in therapy.
I asked my therapist why so many people continue to go back to abusive relationships of all kinds; with family, lovers, ex's, bosses, and friends.
Especially people who know that there are better ways to live, and know they can do better.
He said something that stuck with me and that has been the most helpful in my own life; both as an individual and as someone with loved ones who've been stuck in abusive and violent entanglements.
He said "because they've never seen healthy self love modeled."
Modeling is often a psychology term for having an example.
So what he meant, was that most people know what's right and what's healthy, though they've never had good examples either in childhood or adulthood, of anyone who chose to be healthy without ulterior motives and actually succeeded in life, love, and career.
So one of the best things anyone can do to help loved ones in domestically abusive relationships, is to be the example of healthy self love, self respect, boundaries, career success, and lifestyles.
This can look like:
- Going to therapy, counseling, and other mental health services EVEN if you feel like you don't 'need' them.
- Eating healthy and exercising adequately.
- Checking to see that your boundaries aren't too hard or too loose.
- Working on property budgeting, spending, and investing.
- Getting away from placation, omissions, white lies, and playing towards the desires of social groups and crowds.
- Taking care of your physical health; especially if you have chronic pain or very challenging conditions, and doing it soberly.
- Practicing mindfulness and gratitude.
- Having fun in your life, in wholesome ways that don't require intoxication, sex, and superficiality.
- Pursuing your dreams, life goals, and following your heart.
- Disconnecting from any toxic relationships in your family life, work life, romantic life, and friendships.
- Stabsiy up for yourself in emotionally stable ways.
- Doing your shadow work.
- When necessary, being willing to be alone, be single, and being independent.
The math is simple: in any ways you feel they need to grow in order to save themselves, there are definitely places in your life where you can be the example of what you know they need to do.
When you can be the example in your life of what to do, and show that it leads to greater happiness, health, and success - that will be far more effective in helping your loved one, then just pointing out to them where they're failing or need to get better.
It will also give you greater creditability in your loved ones eyes, if you aren't being hypocritical with them.
This is something to definitely be careful with.
It is a way to help a loved one who is getting out of an abusive relationship, though you need to be aware that in being the person who is there to help them in these ways, you could go through some intensity with them and will likely be used.
This is because, when abuse victims finally see that there's no chance they're abuser will get better or stop abusing them, and they get tired of their own acceptance of the toxic behavior and recognize they must find the courage to leave their abusive relationship, things often happen quickly and chaotically.
Part of this is because it's often cognitively painful to realize the truth and that can create large emotional discharges.
The other main reason for this, is that if abusers made it so easy to walk away, they wouldn't be able to use their victims in the ways they do for as long as they do.
So when your loved one decides to leave their domestic abuse dynamic, or to get there abusers to leave them, their abusers will pull out all sorts of tricks and tactics to reel them back in.
And when those no longer work, often abusers get violent and have no problem using others to further hurt their victims and anyone committed to helping them escape.
This means that helping your loved one, will likely make you a target of their abuser and anyone they've triangulated into believing you're the bad guy.
Depending on how low an abuser is willing to go, and how many dark connections they have, this could result in:
- You getting bullied or threatened
- Abusers sending people to steal from you or damage your property.
- You getting physically harmed
- You're reputation being temporarily damaged, especially if they are good at framing people.
And more; unfortunately.
It's also important to recognize that because abusers are skilled at enmeshment and getting onto the emotional crevices of their victims, that even if you go through it all with your loved one, and get them free; and they see everything that their abuser also does to you and others when they are angry, they might still go back to they're abuser if the abuser puts on a good enough show to make them believe they have "really changed" this time.
That could mean that you're time, energy, money, and resources feel like they were used in vain, to help your loved one.
Which is sometimes true.
Though in my experience, it's more important to view it as a step in the right direction, and an investment in your loved ones safe and self loving future.
Especially as, it often takes repeated cycles to get so stuck in domesticate abuse relationships, and those cycles often stem from childhood conditioning and experiences that aren't going to be healed over night or in one attempt.
So in order to Be Ready to help when your loved one feels ready to get free and get to safety, you'll need to give yourself firm and clear boundaries for how you will and won't help them.
If you can, start setting aside and saving money for the ways you'd be willing to help them; such as with food, housing, and phone bills.
Start researching various different safe houses for victims of domestic abuse, and looking for organizations that help regardless of gender; especially as, there are many men stuck in abusive relationships who cannot get help, because the patriarchy in the rest of society, have decided that men cannot be abuse victims when they can and are more often then many believe.
Set aside some clothes that would fit them, and some things you know would help calm their anxieties.
Be prepared to take some time off work and have a plan for caring for yourself, your kids, any pets, and anything else you're responsible for.
And be realistic; consider how many times you're willing to do this for them, and how many ways you can help without sinking yourself.
Then find a space of inner peace within yourself, about the ways you cannot help and the ways you choose not to help.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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