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The following questions have been answered by Rachel Rosenthal, Prevention Program Coordinator and Licensed Social Worker. You can email her directly with your questions or comments at rachel@jcada.org

*names have been changed

Caught in the Middle


I thought my friend Sarah* was in a bad relationship. Her boyfriend would make every one of his problems her problem, he would harass her about hanging out with other people, and she had to get permission from him to do pretty much anything social. Mine and Sarah's families are really close, so I decided to talk privately about it with her mom. Her mom was totally shocked—apparently he'd always been a perfect gentleman in front of her parents. Her mom told her that I spoke up about how he treats her and told Sarah she can't see him anymore. Sarah hates me now and won't talk to me. I feel really bad and think maybe I shouldn't have said anything. I've never had a boyfriend, so maybe I was just freaking out for no reason. I've made a mess of things. How do I fix it?


AWARE's® Response

Dear Alanna,

Wow, this sounds like a really difficult situation. I want to let you know that you should go with your gut feeling about these types of things, and if you're worried about a friend you should talk to someone about it. In your particular situation, it does sound like her boyfriend is exhibiting some unhealthy relationship behaviors, and you were brave to go and talk to her mom about your concerns. However, at JCADA, we reinforce the idea that if you (or a mom, dad, sibling, or anyone!) are witnessing this type of relationship, you shouldn't tell someone that he or she needs to leave the person he or she is with. Even though that may sound counterintuitive because the intention is to help, by telling a friend he or she must leave a relationship, it's taking even more power and control away from him or her—in this unhealthy relationship he or she likely already feels powerless. Since after you talked to Sarah's mom, she forbade Sarah from continuing her relationship, I would guess that Sarah is angry about the situation and you're taking the heat for it.

Damage Control

Of course, before you go to someone for advice, you have to understand that the outcome may be that your friend will be upset with you, even if she knows deep down that you're just looking out for her. Regardless of the fact that you have never had a boyfriend, you had good instincts and you followed them. In terms of the situation with Sarah, keep an open door policy with her and let her know that you are there if and when she decides to talk to you again. I can't guarantee that Sarah will forgive you, but at the end of the day, know that you did the right thing.  Hopefully in the future Sarah will be able to recognize for herself that the relationship she is in is unhealthy. 



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