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How Intervention Helped My Friend in a Toxic Relationship

I am a lifestyle enthusiast. I believe that with few positive changes in lifestyle we can improve the quality of our life and health.

We share everything with our close friends, but certain healthy boundaries have to be maintained—especially as far as their personal life is concerned. There is a certain line which cannot be crossed unless it is absolutely important.

My friend Rita, normally a happy person, became sad and was always lost in her thoughts. She rarely had a smile on her face. We had been close friends since our school days and shared everything with each other. Lately, she hadn't been speaking much and was often unavailable. I was starting to worry about her.

I knew she had relationship problems that she did not want to discuss with anyone. She turned defensive when I asked her about them. She said she could sort things out by herself and did not want to bother anyone. It was painful for me to see my best friend go through this stuff. It was then that the idea of an intervention occurred to me.

A healthy relationship will never require you to sacrifice your friends, your dream, or your dignity.

— Mandy Hale

What Is a Toxic Relationship?

A toxic relationship in one in which there is constant conflict, jealousy, and competition. They do not support each other, but rather try to undermine or cause harm to one another. The term was first coined by Dr. Lillian Glass, in her 1995 book Toxic People. Dr. Glass is a communication and psychology expert based in California.

Characteristics of a Toxic Relationship

No relationship is perfect, and relationship ups and downs are normal. But when there is consistent unpleasantness and when negative moments far outweigh the positive moments, it is categorized as a toxic relationship. Such relationships are mentally, emotionally, and sometimes even physically damaging to one or both parties, according to Dr. Kristen Fuller, a renowned mental health specialist based in California. There is often a lack of trust, lying, and controlling behavior in the relationship.

Help your friend recognize the red flags in a relationship/

Help your friend recognize the red flags in a relationship/

What Are Red Flags in a Relationship?

Dating psychologist Madeleine Mason Roantree defines a red flag as “something a partner does that indicates a lack of respect, integrity, or interest towards the relationship”.

Some of the major red flags in a relationship according to Dr. Jill Weber, a Washington-based clinical psychologist, are:

  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of trust
  • Controlling behavior
  • Abusive behavior
  • Wanting different things
  • Not being able to be your true self
  • Friends and family don’t approve
  • Possessiveness, jealously, and a bad temper

In my friend's case, all the parameters seemed to match. I felt an intervention was needed to save her from the negativity of the toxic relationship. When I asked her about all the red flags, she confirmed my fears.

Read on to learn how I helped her.

Best Friends Forever

Best Friends Forever

It's Important to Be Direct

I thought that there was no point in beating around the bush when I knew my friend was going through something difficult. I told her straight away that I needed to talk to her about something concerning her life. At first she was taken aback and started saying everything was fine and she was alright. I assured her that I did not want to interfere but felt the need to help her by just talking to her about it. I was intending to give her any advice or lecture her about anything. I assured her that it was just a friendly chat.

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Stick to the Point

I decided to be precise and on point. A lengthy conversation with ifs and buts would not solve the problem. Someone who is upset can take in only so much information at a time, especially negative information. I told her my main concern about the issue and gave her time to respond. When her response was favorable, I continued the conversation.

Be a Good Listener

I knew that the first and foremost rule of intervention was not to be aggressive but rather sympathetic. I realized that being aggressive would only push her away. The best thing I did was listen to her story patiently. I did not push my beliefs onto her, but rather shared experiences from my own life.

I made her understand how, since I didn't ignore red flags in my past relationship, I was able to get out before things got really bad. I allowed her to to come to her own realization naturally, and never once suggested that she break up with her partner. I assured her that I would always be there for her, no matter what the situation.

Remove yourself from people who treat you like your time doesn’t matter like your feelings are worthless, or like your soul is replaceable

— S. Mcnutt

Boost Her Self-Image and Self-Worth

My friend's morale was down because of the relationship problems. The constant negativity and frequent fights had broken her confidence. I tried to lift her spirits by boosting her ego, reminding her of all her achievements. I comforted her by saying that this was just a phase that would pass eventually.

Facing constant criticism and blame can cause a severe dent in someone's self-image. I tried everything possible to boost her self-esteem. I encouraged her to have confidence in herself and reminded her that no matter what anyone thought of or felt about her, she should always know her worth and not believe in others' opinions about her.

Listen to Their Reaction Patiently

At first, she tried to brush it off completely. I realized that she was in denial and was very uncomfortable. She kept repeating that I wouldn’t understand so let it be. The key is to not judge or react to your friend’s response.

I was patient and heard her out, giving valuable input whenever necessary. I was neither judgmental nor critical about the situation. I advised her to read books and watch movies that deal with the subject so that she could check for similarities to her situation. I advised her that the psychological trauma that she'd been subjected to could affect her physical and mental health.

If It Doesn't Work the First Time, Try Again Later

The first time I spoke to her, I did not seem to get through to my friend. But I did not worry. I gave her some time to heal and tried to talk about it again after a few days. The second and third conversations are often more crucial than the first.

I checked on her regularly, lest she develop depression. I knew that she would give in and talk to me about everything and start sharing relevant bits of information. Whatever it was she was going through, I did not pressurize her to divulge any more information than she was comfortable sharing. When she saw me as someone she could trust, she started to confide in and shared her problems with me. The most important aspect of an intervention is to not judge your friend. Do not approach them aggressively. If you do, they may be unwilling to talk.

I was able to convince her to consult a counsellor because only a professional can be truly unbiased and non-judgmental and help find solutions to such problems. I am glad that my intervention helped my friend and she was able to make a decision.

It’s better to be healthy alone than sick with someone else.

— Dr. Phil

Is It Possible to Mend or Fix a Toxic Relationship?

It is possible to mend a toxic relationship, but only when each partner is keen on trying to make it a healthy relationship. Here are some tips for mending a toxic relationship:

  • The relationship should be mutually beneficial for it to remain healthy.
  • Both partners must be willing to see a therapist or counsellor.
  • The partners must be willing to forget the past and make a fresh start at a healthy relationship.
  • They each should have compassion for each other and support each other at all times.
  • They should give ample space for each other to heal and grow mentally, emotionally, and physically.
  • Good communication is the key to a healthy relationship and should be practiced.
  • Both parties have to work towards winning each other’s trust back.
  • It helps to be honest with each other and discuss the expectations each has of the other.
  • Each should keep up with their own interests and hobbies without infringing on the other's interests.
  • Both parties should ardently follow the advice given by a therapist. A skilled professional in the field can provide new solutions by analyzing the challenges faced by the couple.

Final Thoughts

Relationships are categorized as toxic when there is a lack of trust, controlling behavior, and frequent lying. They often involve one partner dominating and belittling the other, refusing to work on the relationship. Toxic relationships can be healed only when the partners are willing to adjust their behavior and strive toward making it work.

If allowed to continue, there's a chance that the relationship could turn unhealthy and abusive. When there is violence of any sort, be it physical, emotional, or sexual and when one partner is forced to live a life lacking in human dignity, it is termed as abusive relationship.

It is up to an individual to recognize the red flags early on and seek intervention. They must decide whether to continue with the relationship or end it. Abuse of any sort should never be condoned. A person in an abusive relationship should seek immediate help.

When a person is in an abusive relationship, it is best to seek help and make a plan to leave before it is too late. When we see that someone we love is in an unhealthy relationship and feel that they are prone to danger—whether with the risk of self-harm or harm from another person—it is best to alert the authorities, even at the cost of displeasing your friend and making them feel betrayed. Saving a life is far more important than anything else.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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