Have you ever brought a significant other to meet your friends and family? Were you nervous? Did you eagerly quiz your friends/family later to ask how they liked your date, or try to casually gauge your boyfriend/girlfriend’s response to your loved ones?
In a perfect world, everyone who likes you would — by default — also like each other. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. When we’re caught in the middle, it can feel like we are forced to answer one question:
When it comes to the “others” in our lives, who is more significant?
This was exactly the question we watched Jennifer in “16 and Pregnant” struggle with last week. She was caught between her parents and her abusive boyfriend, Josh. Both sides openly told Jennifer that they wanted her to disconnect with the other. Just as it was hard to see Jennifer so isolated, it was also hard to watch her parents (who clearly understood Josh’s aggression) struggle with the situation.
Here are tips for both those in the relationship and those nervously watching from outside it:
If you are in the relationship:
- Understand that your friends/family have your best interests at heart. They love you and want to protect you. They want you to be treated wonderfully — if they’re upset, its not directed at you. They want you to be happy.
- If they are angry, their anger isn’t at you, it’s for you. They’re angry on your behalf — they want you to have it better than you do, so try to remain calm and don’t get upset with them.
- A certain chain of reactions can happen around an abusive relationship. You talk about your relationship with your family/friends, they get upset and tell your boyfriend/girlfriend who in turn gets upset with you. You -> Family -> Boyfriend/Girlfriend-> You. This isn’t fun for anyone and can be harmful to you, especially if you’re in an abusive relationship.
**So we recommend this- if your friends/family always respond by talking to your sig. other, just don’t talk to your family about your relationship. Keep that relationship strong with your family/friends by avoiding that area of conflict (you will need your family for support) BUT BY ALL MEANS talk to someone else. Maybe someone who is impartial and doesn’t even know your boyfriend/girlfriend. That includes us at loveisrespect, maybe a school counselor or a teacher.
If you are a friend or family member watching from outside:
- Try not to badmouth or threaten the abusive person. It may push your loved one closer to them.
- Don’t try to pressure them into ending their relationship before they are ready. They are likely already feeling pressure from their boyfriend/girlfriend to make decisions they don’t want to make. Ultimatums don’t work.
- Offer your support to the person even if they aren’t ready to end the relationship. Often, isolation is a huge part of an abusive and controlling relationship. Work to keep the lines of communication open. Your friend needs to know they always have you to turn to when they need help.
What do you think? Have you been caught in this situation as either the person in the relationship, or watching from outside it? How did you respond?