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Dependence can leads to toxic relationships

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Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 12:39 am

Charity Stutzman, Relationship Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention coordinator, said friendships can have abusive qualities and that’s something to watch out for. 

She said some red flags for abusive friendships are excessive jealousy, stalking behaviors, isolation, being controlling and co-dependency.

However, she said it’s easier to stop talking to an abusive friend than it is an abusive partner.

According to a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence survey, nearly 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experienced physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their life, nationally.

A year of lies

For a year, Maggie Seminara completely isolated herself from family and friends.

The psychology senior said she was in a relationship with a man who was emotionally abusive.

Seminara said he would play on her vulnerabilities, use manipulation to control her and constantly told lies.

“For a year I couldn’t tell what was real and what was fake,” she said. “I knew things he told me weren’t true but he was so manipulative that I couldn’t tell the difference.”

Seminara cut off her boyfriend totally, but found she also had shut out family and friends because of the close relationship they had with them. Seminara said she is still friends with some people they both knew, but not all. She said he tarnished her reputation with most of her old friends because of his manipulative behavior.

Seminara’s boyfriend was her brother’s best friend. They began dating when she was 17, and he was 23. One thing he did to control her was tell her because of the age difference, they had to keep their relationship secret.

“When we would all get together, it was such a big secret,” she said. “He made me believe that I couldn’t tell my family because there was an age difference, and they wouldn’t understand.”

When Seminara started to stick up for herself toward the end of their relationship, she said he became physical. He would grab her wrist and yank her back if she started to walk away. She decided then that she needed to end the relationship.

Walking on eggshells

English language senior Gina Rodriguez said she had a friend since elementary school who never made her happy.

She said they remained friends because of the time she invested in their friendship, not because she was a good friend.

“If we all went out as a group, and she didn’t like what we were doing, she would make everyone miserable,” she said “You couldn’t talk to her, because she would get angry, so we were all walking on eggshells all the time.”

When Rodriguez went to college, she said she stopped talking with her former friend. The distance from her friend and meeting new people made her realize she had grown out of the relationship.

“I think if you have friends that have an impact on your life, then you talk to them on a daily basis,” she said. “If you have a friend and you find not talking to them on a daily basis doesn’t impact your life, then you probably don’t need that friend.”

Attention Seeker

Social work junior Brenda Beltran and biochemistry sophomore Erika Linares used one word to describe a friend they both stopped talking to — “drama.”

Linares said their friend behaved like she constantly needed attention and always tried to be the center of everyone’s attention.

“She was really overly dramatic, especially if all the attention wasn’t on her, she would get mad,” Linares said.

Beltran said their friend was picky. It was either her way or no way, she said. The friend would often get jealous of Beltran and Linares’ relationship, Beltran said.

“If me and her were talking while we were out, she would get mad,” Beltran said.

If Beltran’s friend called her now, she said she would talk to her, but not for long. It would be a strained hello, then goodbye, she said.

Psychology professor William Ickes said there are two reasons why it is easier to leave an abusive friend than an abusive husband or boyfriend. One is the degree of interdependence a person can have with the other person, and the other is the degree of investment put into the relationship.

He said if someone lives with another person, someone will, or will soon become, reliant on the person they’re living with because either person could end up depending on the other for help with expenses, emotional  needs or obligations.

The second reason, investment, can come in several forms: financial, emotional, time, future plans and aspirations and sexual commitments, he said.

“It, therefore, is more difficult to break up with a person with whom you are highly interdependent in these and many other ways than it is with a person with whom you are less interdependent,” he said. “The break-up will disrupt most, or even all, of the ways in which you have become interdependent with that person.”

Seminara said growing up she witnessed domestic violence in her family and should have paid more attention to warning signs that something was wrong. 

She said leaving her boyfriend was hard because she felt emotionally obligated to him, but if she had a friend who did the same thing, she said it would be easier to leave because the emotional involvement isn’t as strong.

Beltran also thinks it’s easier to leave an abusive friend than an abusive boyfriend because a boyfriend has more emotional ties.

“You are emotionally attached to that person,” she said. “So, even though it’s bad, since you are more emotionally involved, it’s harder to let go.”

Rodriguez said it’s easier to leave an abusive friend because boyfriends are harder to replace than friends. She said people don’t feel like a partner could be replaced as easily.

Stutzman said, “I think with any partnership there are more romantic ties. Friends come and go, especially in college. Boyfriends are harder to let go because we are socialized to think that we should be in relationships.” 

@ednahorton

edna.horton@mavs.uta.edu

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