Abusive relationship – the importance of friends but how some are more supportive than others

There is much research showing that having a large social network improves mental and physical health. However the type of support you get is important.

‘Greater emotional support from friends is consistently linked with lower levels of psychological distress’ (Cohen 2004)

Socialising with friends can take people out of their unhappy situation for a while, helping them to forget it even for that short space of time and smaller issues seem more in perspective.

Being around positive, upbeat people is good, and it can be helpful to meet people who have been through the same kind of experience and come out the other end. Social media can be great to reach out to others anywhere in the world. Groups such as those held at Woman’s Aid  show that women have partners with exactly the same personality traits and in fact some of these traits follow a universal pattern!

However, things can be difficult with some friends. Some people are in really good relationships and they don’t understand why others put up with unreasonable behaviour from their partner. In fact many people in society have the view that it’s the woman’s fault, as if she is being treated badly she should just leave. Some friends get irritated when you don’t leave a bad relationship.

There are many reasons why some women would not get into an abusive relationship. They may not have fallen in love with an unsuitable man. They may be better at setting and enforcing boundaries so that the relationship would not proceed. They may not have the low self-esteem which can cause attachments to these kinds of people. Their lack of understanding of someone’s position can cause further stress and make them feel even more inadequate. In the end they may stop sharing problems with these friends.  Whilst it is right that friends point out that someone deserves better, they should not put up with it and that it would be best for them to leave, this needs to be done with empathy.

Some friends can take it further by being bossy, in order to try to force someone to end it.  – ‘Throw his stuff out on the street’, ‘Call the Police’, ‘Change the locks’.  Reluctance to do this would also cause annoyance with them. Not only is the person  an idiot to stay with him in their eyes, but they won’t even take good advice! This pressure from them, combined with controlling behaviour at home, just adds to stress levels. Leaving an abusive relationship is not as easy as walking out of a shop where you don’t like the clothes but some people seem to think it is! An abusive partner can take over someone’s whole soul and they can be struggling with issues entrenched since childhood. Advice is fine, but it needs to be appropriate action when the person is ready, prepared and able.

Sometimes  the way people react is because they care, this can be the case with friends and family. They can be over emotional in their response, for example over protective and/or angry. Sometimes they even exaggerate the problems being faced. This can in itself be stressful because there are then their emotions to consider. It can also make the person feel in a ‘victim’ mentality which does not put them in the right frame of mind to take positive action. There needs to be calmness and rational thinking from friends and family.

Because Narcissistic people often portray as charming to others, and try to convince people that they are the victim, some people may not even be believed. Blatant lies, are a common trait in narcissistic people, who try to convince friends and family they are not at fault. It is devastating if people believe the abuser.

Of course there are often issues of co-dependency. Whilst some people are attracted to what they perceive to be strong and controlling partners, and whilst there may be some addiction in couples to arguing and making up, I cannot imagine there can be many people that enjoy long term abuse. It saps you of all your confidence, self esteem and energy. You end up being a shadow of your real self with no vitality. You live your life every day in a state of anxiety and fear, carrying a false hope that things will change. Many people want to finish the relationship but are frozen in a state of inability to take action and don’t really know how to go about it.

So to conclude, it is important to socialise as much possible, choosing people who are positive and fun to lift spirits. Choosing people maybe who have been through the same experience, or at least don’t judge. Being around people who are confident themselves and can help set boundaries, but don’t condemn when it goes wrong. Getting away from an abuser is not always easy and may take time. It gradually happens when self esteem grows which gives strength and the person can slowly take back control.

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