A true friend is someone who doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, but tells you what you need to hear. This is especially true when it may be the exact opposite of what you want to accept. And when the reality is the fact that your partner is bad for you, you need to hear the facts, and you need to act on them.
But what about those times when you’re not the one who needs advice, but you’re the friend who needs to share the hard truth?
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If your friend has a toxic boyfriend, they may not be able to see their own situation clearly. It may fall to you to help them see his many flaws so that they can make their own decision to exit the partnership.
But telling your friend that their partner is toxic takes a bit of finesse no matter how well-meaning you are, because if you do it wrong, you may instead push them away, and push them ever farther into his toxic embrace.
What Is a Toxic Person? And How Does Toxicity Manifest?
According to WebMD, a “toxic person is anyone whose behavior adds negativity and upset to your life… They [tend to] act in ways that don’t present them in the best light and usually upset others along the way.”
To be clear, “toxic” is not an official term like “sociopath” and “narcissist,” and it’s not even a term that can be applied universally to a given person. In other words, a person may be toxic to some people but a perfectly good friend or partner to others; the toxicity comes into play when it manifests in a given relationship.
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The signs of toxicity to look for include manipulation, a lack of comfort in one’s own skin when the toxic person is around, a diminished sense of self-worth and pride caused by the toxic party, and a constant feeling like the person needs to make excuses for themselves and their partner.
In short, a toxic boyfriend is someone is just no good for your friend; he doesn’t bring out the best in her (and may even bring out the worst) and never seems to have her best interests at heart. A toxic partner is self-centered rather than focused on an equal relationship, and he may feel and demonstrate a sense of entitlement, acting as if he is owed something merely for existing. But these negative traits may be hard for her to see from within the partnership, so don’t be surprised if she is surprised and defensive when you bring up the topic.
How to Tell Your Friend Her Significant Other Is Toxic
Yes, there is a concern you are going to seem like a nosey person who is overstepping his or her bounds when you tell your friend you think her partner is toxic. Yes, it may be awkward and painful and ugly – at least for a while. If you truly believe your friend is in a bad place with her boyfriend, though, she’ll see your heart through the hurt sooner or later. So go for it.
First, make it clear you are coming from a caring place and not a judging place, and make it clear you are giving thoughts and advice, not orders. And when possible, make use of the Socratic Method, asking questions that will lead your friend toward making the conclusions herself. Ask her how she feels about the relationship, ask her if she feels as safe and connected and free as she thinks someone should. Ask her if she has noticed any traits about her boyfriend that worry her.
And then, depending on how she answers, you can frame your critiques of him as questions. Think: “Does he ever convince you to do things you don’t really want to?” or “Do you feel like you have to apologize to him a lot even though you’re not really sure why?” or “Are you as comfortable around him as you are around me and your other friends and family?”
By asking questions rather than making comments (also known as criticizing) you are less likely to push your friend away and more likely to help her see the truth of the situation. That way, she will have come to her own conclusions which will make her more likely to act on them and less likely to lose her resolve.
Just be ready to back down if she pushes back hard – it’s better to stay friends and try again later than to push too hard and lose your friendship.
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