We also remember going to our friends in tears, hurting and desperate for hope.
Some of us know what it feels like to be that friend that's on the other end of a tearful phone call or sitting across the sofa from a girlfriend who's an emotional mess.
As the supportive friend, you want to be there for your friend who is obviously hurting. But the hidden truth that not to many people admit to is that being there for a hurting friend often ends up hurting you.
How so you ask?
For starts, it hurts to be the one to pick up a friend from the ground, listen to them for hours, comfort and pray, and give them sound advice, all for them to go back to the painful situation that hurt them to begin with.
So what can you do, as a true friend to support your hurting friend but protect your own heart?
Here are a few things to keep in mind when being there for a friend who isn't ready to let go of a tumultuous relationship:
1. Listening is enough. Don't feel compelled to do more than this. If your friend has a pattern of running to you and others when things get especially rough in their relationship, then this time is just one of many. Show compassion with a willingness to be a listening ear first. Let your friend know that you are someone they can trust.
2. Remember change begins with choices, not chatter. The truth is that if your friend really wanted to change their situation, they would not be on the phone with you or crying on your sofa. Changing their situation begins with a decision that only they can make. And trust me, when they're at the point of making that major decision, it won't be done in a crowd of friends or with an audience of sympathizers. When she's ready to let go of the drama, she won't be venting, she'll be moving.
3. Resist the temptation to offer advice. Most of us who have been the supportive friend know that this is the one question that can make or break a friendship so avoid it. If she asks you whether or not she should leave, don't fall for it. When a woman talks about her relationship, you must understand that she can personally dog the relationship but when anyone from the outside does so (including her closest friends), she immediately seeks to defend it. Women draw a large part of their identity and self worth from the relationships they invest in so to attack her relationship is to attack her. Instead of falling into this pit, go back to step one. Remind her that you are there to listen. This is your loving way of saying to her, "You must take responsibility for what you're going through and I refuse to have it dumped on me". If you tell her to leave her man, this will most likely happen: "When she leaves, she'll feel it was because of what you said, and not because of what she wanted. And when she reconciles with her man (which she most likely will do several times), she'll resent you. The decision to leave a relationship must always be her decision, not yours. Refuse to get drawn into that trap.
We love our friends, sometimes like our own blood relatives. It's easy to see how we can take on their pain and often, their drama. But hopefully, if we apply the wisdom of God to situations like this, we can guard our hearts and keep them offense free. No one wants to lose a dear friend over a relationship but sometimes it does happen. However, by keeping these key things in mind, it is possible to avoid the heartache that comes with dealing with a friend who's in a rocky relationship.
Again, the choice to leave is hers, not yours and the both of you must keep this in mind at all times. And lastly, venting is fine, but we also teach people how to treat us. Venting can be a very emotionally draining experience for a genuine friend. One way to lovingly put limits and boundaries around your friend's venting sessions is to literally give it a time limit. Most of us are willing to pull all nighter's for girlfriends who are emotionally broken. Yes, you should be there for her. But after a period of time, release her. Yep, I said it. After she has talked for a period of time, let her go. Tell her that you're going to give her space and time to meditate and pray about what she's going through. She may not want to get off the phone or leave, and at first, you may not want her to. But you don't want you friend to depend on you. You want her to draw her strength from the Lord. What happens when you're unavailable or facing challenges of your own? Will she fall apart? Love you friend enough to set boundaries and encourage them to find more productive ways to deal with their emotional turmoil besides dumping it all on you continuously.
Trust me, after you've had enough time alone with your thoughts, eventually, you'll come to yourself and realize that hurting is a pattern you don't want to continue following.
Question: What experience have you had with girlfriends who are in rocky relationships? How did you handle it?