Let’s be real, most of us think of an abuser as an easy-to-spot evil monster. So it’s hard to admit or even recognize when someone we care about is being abusive. When we do start to see it, some of us want to vote them off the island and some of us want to stick our head in the sand.
But what if we want to continue to be in community with folks who have done harm? What if they are our family? What if they are our friend? What if we love them?
How do we convey that we won’t tolerate this behavior while staying connected and asking them to change?
We believe the answer lies in having conversations and being real. We hope to encourage you to talk with a person in your life who is struggling in their relationship, who maybe isn’t their best self, and who has the will to change.
It might seem kind of scary and it might be uncomfortable, but YOU CAN DO IT. Think of yourself like a farmer; no matter what happens, you planted the seeds and gave it your best shot.
Here are some strategies that will help you to have the conversation that you want:
- Address their behavior privately. Be direct but loving as you challenge their actions, words, or violence.
- Focus on the behavior. Talk about the behavior and how it impacts you. Be clear that you don’t think they are a bad person.
- Ask a question, listen up and stay connected: “Hey, I’m worried about you… is everything ok?” “Things don’t seem right in your relationship. What’s going on?” “Sometimes I’ve noticed… How do you feel about that?”
Remember, it’s not your job to change someone. You can’t make someone change, but you can hold up a mirror and support them. You can also get help! Talk to your trusted people and reach out to experts.
I ♥ football. Although I was really grouchy about this year’s Super Bowl because I was still bitter about my Falcon’s loss in the playoffs, I still watched the game. And the commercials. And I know there is A LOT I could say about how women are portrayed in these ads, but I’ll let you peruse the game day dialogue at #notbuyingit for your fill of that.
One (ridiculously adorable) commercial got me thinking about something else. First, if you haven’t seen it, watch this car commercial with cute human and animal babies.
Adorable, right? (In case you didn’t watch it, a little boy asks his dad where babies come from and dad tells a fantastical story about a planet full of babies that each day get rocketed to earth to find their parents.) All of us parents have had that moment of panic when faced with a tough question from our child. Your tongue caught somewhere between figuring out an age appropriate response and your own discomfort.
So I’ve got a solution for you! It’s a win-win. It buys you time, prevents you from having to make up space babies, AND it’s a chance to start a great conversation with your kids about healthy relationships. Try this: “That’s a good question, little Tommy. (sweaty palms on the steering wheel, deep breath) And it’s a little complicated to answer, but I know that often babies come from two grown-ups who love each other very much and want to start a family. What do you think it means when two people love each other?” Answers will certainly vary and could be quite comical. But it will open the door to a conversation about what healthy relationships look like, and get you out of stumbling over body parts and mechanics. For the time being. You’re welcome.