How to Help Someone Let Go of a Bad Relationship
Bad relationships seem especially common during the teen years, when people are inexperienced and trying to decide what kind of individuals they want to be with. Some bad relationships happen because two people are incompatible or simply not ready to move forward into a deeper level of commitment. The most serious type of bad relationship involves abuse. Love Is Respect, a website maintained by the National Dating Abuse Helpline and the youth education program Break the Cycle, states that one in three teenagers experience some form of dating abuse. If your friend is in a bad relationship, speak up. Whether or not abuse is involved, your friend needs your support.
1 Checking Your Perceptions
Keep in mind that no matter how close you are, you are not inside your friend's relationship -- your perceptions might not match the reality. Whether you suspect abuse or simply a bad relationship, give your friend a chance to explain before you interfere. Make sure that help is warranted and welcome. Let her know that you are there no matter what.
2 Reaching Out
When you realize your friend is in an unhealthy relationship, keep the lines of communication open by asking him periodically how things are going. Let him know you support his decisions and are there for him no matter what happens. Stay calm and keep the conversation light. Avoid grilling your friend or making demands about his relationship. When he does not feel pressured, he may open up about his own relationship concerns.
3 Stages of Grieving
Upon ending the relationship, no matter how negative it was, your friend might go through a grieving process. Mourning the loss of a serious relationship is similar to mourning a deceased loved one, notes psychologist Jennifer Kromberg in her "Psychology Today" article “The 5 Stages of Grieving a Relationship.” It is normal for people to move back and forth between stages, from denial to depression, before finally reaching the last stage -- acceptance. Help your friend understand what she is going through, and normalize her experience as much as possible. Let her know that her feelings are normal and healthy, and happen to everyone. Be patient with her mood swings, as many people go through rapid emotional changes while moving through the stages of grief.
4 Seeking Additional Assistance
Most people survive breakups with the help of their friends and family. In some cases, especially those in which a just-ended relationship was destructive, people need a bit of extra assistance. If your friend is unable to function, seems extremely depressed or shows other worrying signs, ask a trusted adult for help. You can also contact the peer advocates at Love Is Respect at 1-866-331-9474 for advice.