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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Relationships Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

I have a female friend who was sexually abused as a child and it led to the whole family being separated. Her mother could not leave her husband (step-father to my friend). Now my friend is an adult and still maintains a relationship with her abusers, mother and stepfather. Her siblings and biological family will not to talk to her because she maintains contact with her step-father and mother.

She told me that she wanted to be my friend. It's a very difficult relationship. It causes me hurt feelings. She can intentionally hurt my feelings when things don't go her way. And she must "control" every aspect of the relationship. Her desperate need for a friendship is what keeps me her friend. She even has tried therapy and claims that she was abused by her therapist.

I was abused as a child and had no support system; I have recovered to a functional level. Is this healthy for me?

Answer

As I understand your situation, since you have personally experienced abuse in your family and had no support, you feel a kinship to your friend. Since she has managed to alienate her family, has no support system, and even found therapy abusive, you do not want to abandon her. You find yourself to be her only source of support. However, you find her behavior toward you controlling and hurtful. Because you feel sorry for her you find it difficult to leave. Yet you are wondering whether this relationship is good for you. Are you hurting yourself by remaining her friend and thinking more about her than about your own well-being?

Sometimes when people are abused as children, they may grow up and have difficulty forming positive relationships with others. In fact, they often seek out the company of abusive people out of a sense of familiarity. Just as dogs abused as puppies may seek the approval of their abusive masters, people can often behave similarly. And when they meet people who are kind to them, they become abusive toward them. Additionally, people abused as children may have difficulty forming attachments. They tend to push the limits of others, often forcing rejection or seeing those who do not give in to their demands as abusive. You and perhaps even her therapist may have been put in that category.

I would suggest that you consider limiting your contact with your friend in order to take care of yourself. You might be slipping into a similar pattern of seeking the friendship of abusive people such as your friend. I further suggest that you recommend that your friend seek out a self-help group for those who were abused. She could find information about these groups else where in our magazine and through the Resources Department.

3/5/98

Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years. He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation, couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.

 

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