How To Help A Friend In A Toxic Relationship

How to help a friend in a toxic relationship.

Several years ago, when I was in a toxic relationship, I was in complete denial. 

My gut knew something was off for a long time, but my head refused to accept my reality. I kept holding onto the false hope that things would somehow change and go back to how they once were in the beginning. But the problem was that I was trying to hold onto something that was never real to begin with. 

For the majority of the relationship, I didn’t tell anybody what was going on behind the scenes. I held in my secrets for as long as I could because I was ashamed that I was allowing somebody to treat me that badly for so long. Not only that, I was also ashamed of their actions, and couldn’t justify letting anybody else see what was going on behind closed doors. I was trying to learn how to separate the lies from the truth and learn how to find the strength to carry on through it all. 

Once I could no longer hide the extent of the emotional and physical harm I was experiencing, I started confiding in my mom. Tears streamed down my face when every Google search confirmed what she told me: I was in an extremely toxic relationship.

Somehow, physically reading those words solidified what I already knew deep down. After leaving that relationship, I knew part of my healing process would be opening up to the people that loved me unconditionally, including my friends. The problem with being in a toxic relationship is feeling like you have to protect the other person. I remember my friends being in complete shock initially. I knew it was hard for my friends to not only process what I was telling them, but learning how they could be there for me when I barely felt like I could breathe.

It’s hard to process the weight and depths of a situation until we’re in it ourselves. My friends were more than supportive of me and gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it. As somebody who lived it first hand, here’s how you can help if your friend is in a toxic relationship:

Express How You Feel But Be Patient

Our gut feeling never lies to us. We can typically sense and feel when something is off with a friend and their relationship. In my particular situation, I was cut off from a lot of my friends. I wasn’t “allowed” to talk or spend time with them, or I would never hear the end of it. At the time, I never dealt with this before, but I thought I was being respectful to what my partner “needed”. If you sense something is off with your friend, express your concerns about how you feel, but be patient throughout the process. Mentally, it’s a lot for them to process what they’re going through, and the last thing they need is a close friend telling them that they should just leave the relationship.

Looking back, I wish I could’ve done multiple things differently. Such as opening up to my friends sooner. Understand that your friend isn’t thinking clearly because of everything they’ve been going through. Express concern for your friend, but be patient and never force them to confide in you before they’re ready. Always be honest, but respect that your friend is trying to process through heavy emotions that they’ve most likely never experienced before.

Listen Without Judgment 

When your friend is ready to open up and confide in you, listen compassionately and without judgment. I was at complete rock bottom by the time I was at the end of that relationship. I honestly don’t think I could’ve sunk any lower. What pulled me out was surrounding myself with the people I knew who loved me unconditionally. The ones who would always listen to me without judgment when I was finally ready to open up.

None of my friends ever made me feel less for any of my decisions, even when they couldn’t necessarily understand them. We never know what somebody else is going through. It can make all the difference in the world listening to somebody with compassion and just simply being there for them. I never needed somebody to say the right words at the right time, because I knew it wouldn’t erase the pain. But I did need the reassurance that the people I opened up to would embrace me with compassion and understanding.

Ask How You Can Be Supportive 

Sometimes it’s as simple as asking how you can be supportive. Your friend might need different things at different times. One day they may need to vent and cry, and another day they might need to completely take their mind off the situation and not talk about it all. I remember spending hours upon hours with some of my closest friends just talking about what I went through. I kept myself busy, rotating between work and my social life, and I never stopped. The second I was alone, the awful memories would replay in my head over and over, and I knew it wasn’t healthy for me. Showing a friend support when they need it can make all the difference. People will always remember who showed up for them when they needed it the most.

You'll always remember who showed up for you when you needed it the most.

Reassure Them It’s Not Their Fault 

I was always accused of doing the wrong thing. Whether it was talking to the wrong person or not showing enough affection, I could never get it right. I kept feeling like I deserved how I was being treated because of my “mistakes”. The most important thing I learned throughout the entire process was knowing that it was never my fault. Being treated that way is never okay, and there’s never an excuse for it. I think if I had realized sooner that it wasn’t my fault, I would’ve been able to start the process of letting go quicker. When you’re constantly being put down or told that you aren’t enough day after day, you start to believe it. It’s hard to shift and alter your mindset otherwise, even if deep down you know that’s not the truth. Reassure your friend that it’s not their fault, it was never their fault, and it’s not okay how they’re being treated.

Encourage Them To Process Through Their Emotions 

There were days when I was in a toxic relationship that I thought I was able to move forward and never look back, and other days I was back to square one. When we go through something so traumatic, it takes time to heal. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be a process that happens immediately, as we’re trying to learn how to process so much of what we’ve been going through. Your friend might experience a lot of ups and downs, and it’s crucial to be a shoulder for them to lean on through it all. Emotions come in waves. Some days it’ll be calmer, but some days they’ll be learning how to simply survive and make it through the storm.

Remind Your Friend Of All Their Amazing Qualities 

When you’re constantly told otherwise, it’s hard to believe all the good things you once knew about yourself to be true. I’ll never forget when I first started opening up to my friends. It could be the simplest text from them telling me how loved I am, and it would mean more than anything to me. It was words that I hadn’t heard in so long, but it was always the smallest things that meant the most. Remind your friend of all their amazing qualities, of all the things that make you unconditionally love them. Also, remind them that they deserve a partner who is all those things and more. 

It’s hard learning how to approach your friend who you know is in a toxic relationship. One of the most important things you can do is make sure that your friend knows somebody who loves them unconditionally is there for them, regardless of the circumstances. Always remind them that everything is going to be okay, and that it’s also completely okay to seek professional help if they need it. Processing through trauma is anything but easy. Reassure your friend that they always deserve to be treated with love and respect, and there is always hope for a better future. 

Leave a Comment


  1. 3.1.24
    Stephanie said:

    Excellent information in this article on helping our friends. All too often it is easier to ignore the issue – but the tips included in this article are important to show our friends we do care and support them.

    • 3.1.24

      Thank you so much! & so true. It’s so important to remind our friends that they’re not alone in what they’re facing, rather than looking the other way. It can make all the difference!

  2. 3.3.24
    Courtney said:

    Love this! One of my best friends was in a toxic relationship and it was so hard to help her see it and support her. Thanks for sharing such great information!

    • 3.4.24

      Thank you!! It’s especially hard when you’re on the outside looking in & can see all the things they can’t at the time. But all we can do is support our friends the best of our ability & hope that they see the truth eventually! Thanks for reading ❤️

  3. 3.4.24
    Marady said:

    Such an important topic, thank you for sharing! I’ve been the friend trying to help a friend in a toxic relationship before, and I struggled with how to help. This is very straightforward and helpful. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • 3.4.24

      Thank you so much! Learning how to navigate supporting a friend in a toxic relationship is so difficult, especially when you want to help but aren’t sure how to. But I think sometimes even just being there for them to lean helps so much, even if you don’t always know what to say necessarily. I’m glad it was helpful!! ❤️

  4. 3.4.24

    This is such good advice. Sadly, one of my friends died because she would not leave the toxic relationship. Get away if you feel unsafe!

    • 3.5.24

      Thank you! I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. That’s heartbreaking & it’s so hard to watch somebody you deeply care about struggle in a toxic relationship. I agree with you, our gut feeling will never lie to us, even when sometimes we’d rather look the other way and ignore it because we’re hoping it’s wrong.

  5. 3.5.24
    pedja said:

    I really resonate with this! Supporting a friend through a toxic relationship can be incredibly challenging, but your article offers such helpful guidance. Thanks for sharing!

    • 3.5.24

      I’m so glad it resonated with you!! Yes, it absolutely can be, especially when you want to help but aren’t sure of how. I appreciate you reading!

  6. 3.6.24

    Love this post! I thought it was very real and relatable!

  7. 3.6.24

    It’s important to speak out when your relationship is going downward. And sometimes the best advice would come from your parents. Great article!

    • 3.6.24

      SO important! I think it’s hard when you’re in that situation, and you want to ignore it or hope that it’ll suddenly get better. I agree with you, usually they know us the best more than anyone else & always know how to steer us right. Thank you so much!

  8. 4.1.24
    Rylee said:

    This is such important information, I really appreciate you sharing. I have had a few friends who have been in toxic relationships, and it can be hard to know what to do! Posts like this help. Thanks!

    • 4.1.24

      Yes it can be so difficult knowing what to say, and how to approach the situation when you’re on the other side. I’m so glad you found it helpful!