U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Help Someone in an Unhealthy Relationship: Quick tips

It can be hard to know what to do when someone you care about is in a controlling or violent relationship. These tips can help.

Watch for signs of abuse.

Make a list of anything you see that doesn’t seem right. For example, watch for signs of:

  • Controlling behavior, like demanding all of your loved one’s time
  • Physical abuse, like bruises or cuts
  • Emotional abuse, like put-downs or name-calling

Find out about local resources.

Before you talk with your friend or family member, call 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233) to get the address and phone number of the nearest domestic violence agency. This way, you’ll be able to share the information if the person is ready for it.

You can offer to help your friend or family member call the agency. You can also suggest visiting the domestic violence agency, talking to the police, or going to the doctor together.

Set up a time to talk.

Make sure you can have your conversation in a safe, private place.

Be specific about why you are worried.

Does your friend or loved one:

  • Spend less time with friends or doing things he used to enjoy?
  • Make excuses for his partner’s behavior?
  • Have unexplained cuts or bruises?

Does your friend or loved one’s partner:

  • Yell at or make fun of her?
  • Try to control her by making all of the decisions?
  • Check up on her when she’s at work or school?
  • Force her to do sexual things she doesn’t want to do?
  • Threaten to hurt himself if she ever breaks up with him?

Try to help your loved one see that being treated this way isn’t right. The more specific you can be, the better.

Plan for safety.

People whose partners are controlling or violent may be in danger when they leave the relationship.

If your friend or loved one is ready to leave an abusive partner, help him make a plan for getting out of the relationship as safely as possible. A domestic violence counselor can help with making a safety plan.

If someone is in immediate danger, call 911.

Be patient.

You can do your best to share your concerns. But your friend or loved one will decide what’s right for her, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.

It can take time for someone to be ready to talk. Let her know that you are available and ready to talk again whenever she is.

Get help for yourself.

Watching someone you care about stay in an unhealthy relationship is hard. You can get support, too. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233).

Help Someone in an Unhealthy Relationship: Quick tips

Content last updated on:
September 30, 2014