This is a good one to remember, as it not only holds true for those in unhealthy relationship...but any situation that requires a person to see their situation (addiction, etc.) for what it is, in order to save themselves. It's also true for those of us (myself included) that are co-dependent and feel a "responsibility" to try and "save" and "fix" others!
Recently, I had a woman ask me how to support her niece that's in an unhealthy/dysfunctional relationship. The young girls boyfriend has not been physically abusive. However, he often demeans her by yelling and cursing at her; takes most of her money, disappears and "borrows" her car for days on end; openly cheats on her and is extremely manipulative. Her family is frustrated that after they help her to leave her boyfriend, she always goes back. They have even staged "interventions" and everything else to make her change her situation. The family wants to cut their ties with the young girl until she "figures it out" and leaves her boyfriend.
"You can't save your niece or anyone else for that matter...we all are responsible for saving ourselves. Once you realize your role is not to make her "see the light" and give her ultimatums if she doesn't...it will take a huge weight off your shoulders. Your niece has to be willing to invest just as much effort in changing her situation, as you and your family do. You can't want [it] for her...more than she wants it for herself! As much as it frustrates you to stand back and watch her go back and forth..you must.
It's her lesson to get and no matter how much we try lead a person to clarity...they must gain it and see though their own eyes.
Don't bash her boyfriend (even though you may know he's not good for her); it will only make her defend him more and cause distance in your relationship, making her less likely to come to you for support in the future. Listening, I am learning in school (I'm a Psych Major), is the best way to help provide support to anyone in crisis.
It took nearly eight yrs for me to gain clarity and get off the roller coaster. I reflect on how my poor mom must have felt watching me go back and forth and putting my children through the trauma (even after finding me beating nearly to death...twice). As a mother, I'm sure that every time I went back or stayed, a little piece of her died; as she waited for the next 2 am call from me, one of my children or the police. It's not easy being in an abusive/ dysfunctional situation....but I'm also sure it's not easy to watch from the other side of the fence either.
My mom never sugar- coated the situation and always tried to make me see the dysfunctional roller coaster I was on and taking my children, though....but it was up to me to get off the ride. I recall my mom saying she wanted just to shake me to get me to see the mistakes I was making.
In the end, everything still went as it was supposed to end. God took me through a journey that forced me to learn the lessons the situation was trying to teach me; the same will hold true for your niece.
No matter what my mother wanted for me, I had to want it for myself...same for your niece. At the end of the day all you can do is continue to be there to listen and support her when she comes back again hurt and frustrated....(because we always know they will come back)...even if she doesn't. Hopefully, she will figure it out on her own..until then, just be there when she needs you and give her options to change her situation if she wants to."