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Sex + Relationships

5 Tips for helping a friend in a toxic relationship

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, most of us have been there: head on the pillow, legs curled up into the fetal position, tears stains poking through newly applied foundation. All of this over a guy who couldn’t care less that they were the cause of this emotional distress.

I have also been a doting friend, trying to give advice to my bestie when she found herself in a similar situation. From an outsider’s point of view, her relationship was terrible - but she couldn’t see it just yet, or didn’t want to. It was frustrating, the fight between wanting to be a supportive friend, while simultaneously feeling guilty for supporting a relationship that was clearly unhealthy. 

If you find yourself struggling with such a dilemma, this article is for you. I have compiled a list of my 5 best tips for helping a friend caught in the cycle of a toxic relationship: 

  1. Choose your words carefully. When giving your friend advice, make sure you’re being your kindest self. The last thing you want to do is be another source of your friend’s pain. 
  2. Avoid getting in the middle. As much as it may feel like it when your friend tells you everything, you are not a part of their relationship. Do not engage with your friend’s partner and try to fight their battles for them. Doing this causes more harm than good every single time. 
  3. Listen first. When tending to a friend in crisis, don’t go straight into a monologue of unsolicited advice. If they need or want your advice, they will ask for it. Otherwise your words will likely fall on deaf ears. 
  4. Just be there. Sometimes all someone needs is a shoulder to lean on. Show up for them, whether that means taking the bus to their apartment or connecting through FaceTime. Being a good friend is about showing the other person that you care about them. You do not have to cosplay as a registered psychologist; as long as you show up, that is enough. 
  5. Know when to take a step back. If your friend’s relationship is taking a toll on your own mental health, take some time apart from them. As much as you may love and care for them, their relationship is not your responsibility. Choosing your health is never a bad thing, and it does not make you a bad friend. 

There is no secret to being a good friend; the fact that you clicked on this article means you care enough to want to help. I really hope this piece can help at least one person. That said, if you take on your friend’s relationship issues to the point of your own detriment, it is time to walk away. Choose yourself above all else, and for the love of God, don’t be like Cassie from Euphoria - it’s seriously embarrassing.

Angèle Hatton

Dalhousie '24

Angèle is a second year Sociology and Social Anthropology student at the University of King's College. In her spare time, you'll find her listening to audiobooks on her hot girl daily walks, watching Gilmore Girls (again), or reading a romance novel, hot tea in hand.
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