Don't lose yourself

When a friend gets caught up in a sticky situation — that is, she gets an abusive, controlling, manipulative boyfriend which causes complex problems in your friendship — how do you know when or if you should walk away to take care of yourself or continue with them through thick and thin?

If I have learned anything about being friends with someone going through a tough situation, it is that there is a fine line between the notion that you must be there for them no matter what and you must also give in to self-care.

In the past, anytime I mentioned to her that she could do better and should try her best to do without this person she would agree with me, even asking me for the advice to begin with, but then never taking it. I have realized this is because she has lost love for herself.

She no longer values herself. She does not see herself as someone worthy of respect, affection, or love. She puts up with the situation she is in because she thinks that it must be better than loneliness, and this is wrong on so many levels. This is where self-care comes in,

Please understand I am not saying that this applies to everyone who is in an abusive relationship, as everyone’s experiences are different. I am well aware there are victims of abuse who do not leave because that could potentially put their lives in danger and I am not trying to generalize. If you take care of yourself in every aspect, then everything else will fall into place. 

You will find you do not need another person to fill any kind of void in your heart, nor do you need to depend on anyone for your happiness. You are the only person who can make you happy. No one else can dictate that for you.

People in these kinds of situations need a support system. They need friends to listen to them, to talk to them, to simply be there for them when they need it. I think that is a human right.

But I also think it is important to know when you should step back because you are not being treated how you should.   

For example, you tell this friend that you believe she deserves more for herself, that she could do better, etc. As a result, she lashes out at you, gets nasty, and gives you attitude, saying that it is her life and she will do as she pleases.

She may be an adult, but that does not mean she is doing what is in her best interest. That being said, you are not her mother, either, which is why this fine line between supporting your friends in tough situations and taking care of your own mental health is so sketchy and confusing. And I still do not fully have the answer.

It can be exhausting trying to help this friend and watch her continue to make decisions she admits are bad for her. It is also tiring to have someone else being put above you in a messed up sort of ranking where the boyfriend always comes first.

It is okay to want better for someone and it is okay to tell them this. But I think it is also acceptable to know when you aren’t being treated fairly and to back off a bit and let that person figure their life out.       

I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer except to do what it best for yourself if you feel you aren’t being treated right, and to be there for your friends when they admit they’ve done wrong.