I just came off a radio interview on the topic of teen dating violence. (Excellent timing for my Kindness and Respect Challenge. )One of the other guest experts, Associate Professor Emily Rothman of Boston University School of Public Health, said that 10% of teens report having experienced physical violence in a dating relationship. (Hitting, slapping, kicking, sexual coersion, etc.) Apparently that number has been fairly constant over the past 15-20 years. What has been increasing is emotional/psychological abuse in dating relationships. That ranges from name-calling, insults and threats, to dictating what a partner can wear and who s/he can talk to. 25-30% of teens report having experienced emotional/psychological dating abuse. Any controlling behavior (typically on the part of males toward females) is disrespectful. It also frequently leads to physical violence. Because many girls value their close relationships so much it can be hard for them to stand up for themselves and set boundaries.
In this recent email a girl describes to me the disrespectful treatment she gets in a friendship. Substitute the word “boyfriend” for “best friend” and you’ll see we’re talking about a common challenge for teen girls: “How do I get the respect I deserve from the people I care about?”
I have a best friend and she’s keeping me in jail. (Well, that’s what I think.) It’s like she won’t let me be friends with anyone or else she’ll be jealous. If she’s jealous, she’ll seek for revenge and I will be miserable and not able to concentrate on my studies. I’ve always wanted to tell her that I don’t wanna be her best friend anymore but I don’t have the confidence to say that. My heart says it’s the best thing to do. Do you think it’s the right decision?
Don’t Wanna Be a Doormat
Dear Don’t Wanna Be,
I agree with your heart. From what you describe, this “best friend” of yours isn’t acting like a friend at all. In your own words she:
• gets jealous if you are friends with anyone
• seeks for revenge
What kind of “friend” is that!?
Do I have to tell you your next best move? Nah. You already know what you need to do. This friendship is not a healthy one. It lacks the key ingredient: mutual respect. This is bullying prevention month. And what’s going on in this friendship is a form of bullying.
You need to end this. I know that is a scary thought. So take some slow deep breaths, right here, right now, and calm yourself. Get your confidence up and say to yourself, “I deserve friends who treat me with respect.” Think it and say it over and over until you can say it with confidence and know that it’s true.
Get to that point and you should be able to say something like this to your friend, “When you try to control who I am friends with by getting jealous and angry at me, I feel like I am in jail. Friends shouldn’t treat each other that way. It’s disrespectful. I’ve been feeling like this for a while but I haven’t told you. Even though I was scared I should have told you. Friends should be able to talk to each other about the hard stuff. I apologize. We don’t seem bring out the best in each other. That is why I am taking a break from this friendship.”
I hope this helps.
Tune in tomorrow (Day 10) for an update from Don’t Wanna Be a Doormat
*(Excerpted from my upcoming Girls’ Friendship Q&A Book)