Worried About a Friends' Behaviour

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Sometimes we might spot our friends behaving in a way that isn't OK. It can be difficult to start a conversation about this, but it's important to try to do something. They might not realise how they are acting isn't acceptable, or maybe they had been concerned about their own behaviour and needed encouragement to try and get some help. Either way, if you’re concerned then try to find a way to do something to help. Whether that’s saying something about it yourself, or getting some help from an adult you trust.

What things should you look out for?

Possible signs to look out for:

  • Maybe your friend tells their partner to cover up because their clothes are too revealing.
  • Maybe your friend makes fun of their partner in a mean way, or calls them names, in public.
  • Maybe your friend talks about reading their partners text messages/DMs/emails.
  • Maybe you've heard your friend say they won't let their partner hang out with people they might be attracted to.

All of these behaviours are controlling and could be a sign they don't have a healthy attitude toward relationships and how to treat their partner.

What should you do?

Sometimes you might be able to call out the behaviour. 

Say for example your friend makes fun of their partner and calls them a horrible name. You could say something like “That's not cool, you shouldn't call your partner horrible names like that”

Your friend might reply that it's “just a joke”. But if this is how they talk to their partner in public, what could be happening in private?

You could reinforce your view and say something like “It's not funny, I don't find it funny”.

If you stay silent, or laugh awkwardly, it might make your friend think their behaviour is OK. By standing up and saying it isn't, they could start to think about how they're acting.

You could also try to talk to your friends partner. You could ask them how they are and bring up the things you've noticed. Saying something like “I noticed the other night my friend kept calling you some pretty mean names. I just wanted to check in with how you were doing and how things are with the two of you.” This can allow them to talk about any issues there might be and help them open up.

How can you help?

Maybe your friend doesn't realise this way of behaving isn't okay.

You could offer to go through this landing page with them so they can see how their behaviour is unhealthy and controlling. Our article on healthy relationships could be really useful.

You can point them toward places like Respect (over 18's only) which can help people who abuse their partners recognise their damaging and unhelpful thoughts and feelings, and work with them to change their behaviour.

Their helpline 0808 8024040 is open Monday–Friday from 9am-8pm. They also have a web chat that's open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 10 – 11am and 3 – 4pm.

You can also use Respect's service if you want extra support to help your friend and their partner.

You could also talk to a trusted adult and tell them that you are worried about your friend and their partner. This could include your parents or carers, a teacher, a youth worker, a school counsellor, or a religious figure like a priest, rabbi or imam. 

What next?

If you keep calling out their behaviour but they aren't changing – or you notice their partner is becoming quieter, or shy, or they seem scared of your friend – then the relationship you have with your friend may become difficult and might change. 

You might offer your friendship and support to their partner.

Remember: your friend is responsible for their own behaviour– and it's never their partners fault, no matter how much your friend might try and justify how they are acting. They have to make a choice to change and treat their partner with respect.

If you ever witness your friend being violent toward their partner and you are afraid for their safety you should contact the police.

Remember: it's important to make sure that both you and their partner are safe.

If either of you are ever in danger you should call 999 straight away. If it's not safe to talk you can cough after dialling 999, you will be put through to the operator. If you are in danger, you will be asked to dial "55", otherwise the call will be terminated.

Where can you get help and support?

Find out where to get support.

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Visit the That's Not OK campaign page for more information.