I’ve heard this a lot. And prior to a few years ago, I wouldn’t have known what to do either. And again, I was a Psych major and my first post-college job was the good touch/bad touch lady in the local school districts. So, show yourself some grace if this is all new to you.
But if you think your friend is in trouble, here are some things you can do:
Pray. Walking into something like this takes great discernment. Ask the Spirit to help you know things you do not know, to give you the right words, and to soften your friend’s heart to what you have to say.
Ask her. You can only know for sure if you talk to her. Be prepared that she may be defensive because she may either be in complete denial, she may not be ready to admit it to herself, or she may not be ready to deal with the potential fallout.
Read up on the subject. There are some amazing books out there on this subject. I’d recommend The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick, Foolproofing Your Life by Jan Silvious, Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, or my new e-book Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage.
Gather resources. Do some investigating for your friend. What kinds of support groups and social service agencies are available in your area that you can recommend to her?
Offer to go with her to talk to someone. If your friend readily admits that things in her marriage seem more difficult than they should be, gently suggest she talk to someone that she trusts, and offer to go with. First of all, saying these things out loud can be scary enough; but secondly, if you end up in a conversation with, for instance, a pastor who doesn’t know about these kinds of things and treats all marriages with a formula of pray more + a monthly date night + join a couples’ group = everything will be fine, odds are, she will feel unheard and probably won’t go back to him. If you’re with her, she may say all that needs to be said.
Follow up. If she didn’t admit to anything the first time around, but you still think there is a problem, keep praying and gently check in with her one more time, making sure she knows you’ll be there for her. If she did admit there’s something going but wasn’t quite ready to do anything about it, go back and reassure her that you will help her walk through this.
Here’s what not to do:
Ignore it. The Spirit can help us sense things and if you truly feel a friend is in trouble, taking the chance on a difficult conversation is the least you can do for your friend. I know it can be scary, but ignoring it will only keep your friend in peril – emotionally, spiritually, and/or physically – longer. So speak up.
“I will not be that person that sits silently by while a friend or loved one is being mistreated. I understand the reason for caution, but you can at least ask in private if they are ok and let them know if they need anything that you will be there for them when they are ready. This would have helped me.” –a formerly abused wife
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