Most of us have experienced not particularly liking a friend’s partner. However, when a friend is in a relationship that’s abusive, hurtful, manipulative, or otherwise unhealthy, it may become imperative that you talk to them about it. Admittedly, opening this conversation–let alone having it–can stress even a close friendship. In order to make this conversation a little less intimidating, Rewire recently featured Tribeca Therapy in an article providing some guidance on how to approach a friend in a bad relationship.
Our Founder and Clinical Director Matt Lundquist tells Rewire writer Katie Moritz that despite its difficulty, supporting a friend–and defending them when need be–is an integral part of a strong friendship. “I think standing up for your friend when they’re in a tough relationship is an important thing to do—I think it’s a really hard thing to do—but I think that’s an obligation of a good friend,” Matt asserts.
This doesn’t mean it’s not challenging to talk to a friend about a bad relationship (so much so that Rewire highlighted Matt’s advice in a wide-ranging piece on conversations, “How to Talk to Anyone About Anything”). Before you approach your friend, Matt strongly suggests questioning your own motivations, as well as talking to other mutual friends who can “hold you accountable to ask you the tough questions.” He says, “Spend some time checking yourself and thinking about the question of might there be something else going on there…It can be tough when it comes to a really close friend. This is an area in which there is a decent amount of signal interference.”
Another strategy Matt offers is to explicitly ask your friend if they want to hear your thoughts. “What’s important about that is it allows the opportunity or them to say ‘no,'” he explains. Matt also cautions: “An affirmative response has to be a really affirmative response…”
Why is this important? Because if your friend isn’t ready to hear it, not only could they ignore your advice, but it also could create conflict in your friendship. “Trying to offer that advice when somebody isn’t ready to hear it I think can result in things blowing up,” Matt observes.“If you go in too soon or too aggressively… maybe your friend a couple months down the line is ready to hear it, but they shut you out and they become even more resistant to hearing it.”
Read more of “How to Talk to a Friend About Their Bad Relationship,” as well as “How to Talk to Anyone About Anything,” on Rewire.