How do I help my friend in an abusive marriage?

Monday, May 9th, 2022 08:29 | By

Hi Achokis. My best friend is in an abusive marriage. She has been married to this guy for the last seven years. They have two children, a boy  and a girl. Her husband is known to be a nice guy, and is highly respected in society. In fact, he is a worship leader in our Church. I noticed that my friend has changed drastically from the bubbly outgoing girl she used to be, to a withdrawn private person. On pressing her to find out what the matter was, she recently confided in me what was happening in their marriage and had me promise that I wouldn’t share it with anybody else. I don’t want to betray my friend’s trust, yet I’m scared that something worse may happen. What do I do? Please help!  Angela

Thank you Angela for sharing with us your predicament. Many people in an abusive relationship are often so subdued and intimidated that they fear sharing with others what they are actually going through. They live under so much fear that they even lose a sense of their well-being and alienate themselves. 

Be supportive

From your observation, it looks like your friend’s husband has narcissistic tendencies and such guys are difficult to understand. They can be mean at one time and the next moment they apologise profusely and appear to be one of the nicest people you know. What makes things even more complex when in a relationship with such people, is the fact that everybody outside the relationship regards them highly that even if the abused partner raises issues about them, nobody believes them.

Since your friend has confided in you and confirmed your fears, it is important for you to support her. Constantly check on her, spending time with her, just listening to her pour out her heart. Help your friend understand that it is not her fault her partner is abusive. She may feel personally responsible for her partner’s behaviour or as though she brought on the abuse. Everyone is responsible for their own behaviour, and no matter what the reason, abuse is never okay.

Seek help

Make her see the need to seek professional help, assuring her that there’s nothing wrong with going for counselling even if it means you paying for the services. Whatever decisions she makes after that, it’s up to her now.

Let her know that you are going to talk to her family members or people in both his and her life who need to know this such as their parents and their pastor. By so doing, you will not be betraying her, but saving her soul. The only exception here is if she is in imminent danger — whether it is self-harm or harm inflicted by her husband. You should alert the authorities. Even if you think your friend will feel betrayed or angry with you, saving someone’s life is the most important thing. If it means that this becomes the end of your friendship, so be it, but at least you would have tried to help her.

The writers are marriage and relationship coaches

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