What to do if a loved one is in an abusive relationship?

If you have somebody close who is involved in an abusive relationship, I know how helpless it can feel to have to sit back and watch the destruction happen before your eyes.

You can see clearly what’s happening, but your loved one seems oblivious to what’s obvious to everybody else. And she defends him!!!

I was recently contacted by one of my subscribers (Lily) who was concerned about her sister Amanda, (names have been changed to protect their identities) and her two children.

Amanda was engaged to a man who was unemployed and living off her. He often lied about where he was and what he was doing, he was verbally and emotionally abusing her and was doing what he could to distance her from her family. Lily and her family could see it clear as day. But no matter how hard they tried to get through to her, Amanda refused to listen to them. She began pulling away from and eventually stopped most contact with their family over the course of a few months.

Amanda’s children were also suffering through all of this because they were rarely allowed to see their grandmother and they missed her.

Through all of this, Lily and her family tried everything they could to talk Amanda into leaving her fiance, but it was no use. She defended him despite the fact that his shortcomings were there for all to see…

Now, Lily’s intentions and that of her family’s were purely to take Amanda and her children out of what they considered to be a terrible situation, and they were desperate to help her.

The problem was, Amanda didn’t want their help, and all they were doing was prompting Amanda to defend her fiance and push her closer to him – not the result they were after! Also, her fiance was making terrible accusations about family members, making the situation so much worse.

So what can Lily’s family start do starting now, to hopefully turn this situation around?

Well… the first thing they need to do is to back off on talking the fiance down and trying to convince her to leave him, because the first thing Amanda’s going to do is jump to his defense. She’s proven this already.

As unfortunate as the situation is, Amanda loves her fiance (well… she thinks she does, despite how he treats her), and she’s not about to give up on him that easily.

When in an abusive relationship, even though you may know you’re being treated badly, you will defend your partner for many reasons. It could be because you don’t want the world to know how bad things really are between you, or you don’t want to admit defeat and make yourself wrong and your family right. There are also many women out there who are too proud to admit they’ve picked a “bad one” and to ask for help.

Also, when in an abusive relationship, you really do believe that leaving would cause a whole lot more trouble, pain and/or trauma than staying. So staying looks much more attractive than leaving does.

For Amanda, it could be that she’s used to the “stability” of being in a relationship (even a bad one – it is how she expects it to be). Ok, her relationship isn’t ideal, but she’s in one and doesn’t have to think about entering the dating scene which she may be afraid of having to face.

Or it could also be that she is hoping and praying that her fiance will eventually “wake up” and begin treating her better and she’s pinning all of her hopes on that. I know I did this!

But ultimately it’s not until she finally gets so sick of the bad treatment and sees all of the reasons why leaving is actually better than staying, that she will finally consider doing so.

This is the key: She needs to believe that leaving will be a whole lot better than staying, before she will actually leave him or do something to change her situation.

And this is where her family comes in. It’s time to stop putting Amanda’s fiance down (it’s clearly not working), and instead communicate from a loving perspective, rather than one of contempt and dislike or even hate.

It’s up to Lily and her family to help Amanda to see what a good relationship should look like, how wonderful it is to be a part of their family, and to know that they will be there for her, no matter what. She needs to feel that she is loved, despite her choices, good and bad.

Here’s how they can begin to achieve this:

  • Stop putting down her fiance – it’s only pushing her away and causing her to defend him.
  • Let her know how much she is loved – this is important.
  • Offer support, if and when she needs it.
  • Don’t offer advice unless it’s asked for – be diplomatic and do NOT make negative comments about her fiance while doing so.
  • If she makes contact, be open and loving towards her – don’t mention her fiance if you can help it and definitely not if she doesn’t.
  • Instead of saying “You should leave him because he treats you badly”, try using words such as “I would love to see you in a relationship where you’re loved, cherished and adored…”.
  • If somebody in the family or a friend finds themselves in a new happy and loving relationship, tell her about this new relationship and how happy they look together and mention how well he treats her. And leave it at that – don’t go on about it because she will know you’re up to something!
  • If they miss her children, say so. But don’t bring him into it. Just a simple “I miss X and Y so much! How are they doing?” will do for starters.

By trying to convince Amanda to leave her fiance, Lily’s family were only successful in pushing her away. But if they remained open and loving towards her and stopped putting her fiance down, then she wouldn’t be so resistant to them and may eventually turn to them when she needed help.

Also, they need to let her know that they love her and she deserves to be treated like a princess, but don’t go on about it. Say it once to plant the seed and then let it drop. Start helping her to believe that she and her children deserve the very best.

While these actions won’t change things overnight, Lily’s family may begin to notice gradual, subtle changes. They just need to remember to hold back and let Amanda handle things at her own pace and just be there for her. It’s difficult being patient, but one wrong move and they could find things back to where they were in the first place.

I cannot stress enough though, that if physical violence is involved, then Amanda’s safety (and that of her children) is of utmost importance, and appropriate advice should be sought from the police or other services specifically to help abused women, as soon as possible.

These steps are by no means guaranteed to succeed, but if what you’re doing now isn’t working, then it’s time to try something different.

My heart goes out to anybody in this situation because it can be extremely painful and the feelings of helplessness can be overwhelming, so please remember to come from a place of LOVE, and the chances for change will increase dramatically. xxx


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