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Understanding Lopsided Relationships

Lopsided Relationships Following Sexual Assault

Because you care about your friend, feel for your friend's pain, and want to help your friend through the current crisis, your relationship naturally changes. A friend in crisis is just like a swimmer trying to stay afloat, and to some degree it is up to you to help.

Your friend's needs may suddenly come first. You may be giving more support and asking for less from your friend. You may feel and take more responsibility for your friend and there may be changes in the way power and control are shared in the relationship.

The more severe the crisis and the longer it lasts, the more lopsided the relationship can become. Some changes can "go too far" in various directions and ultimately threaten the friendship. Here are some characteristic ways good-intentioned people can get into lopsided roles when their friend is sexually assaulted.

  • Paramedic: when you spend a lot of energy solving problems and "patching your friend up" immediately after the assault, then expect your friend to heal quickly and the crisis to be over soon.
  • Chronic rescuer: when you repeatedly get caught up in your friend's problems and solutions which make sense at the time, only to have another problem appear shortly thereafter.
  • Angel of mercy: when you will give any support, nurturance, and care that your friend seems to need without asking for anything in return.
  • Tireless listener: when you will listen, accept, take in, and carry every feeling of pain and distress that your friend expresses.
  • Avenging warrior: when you lead a counterattack against the person (or social issues) that injured your friend.
  • Commander in chief: when you encourage, if not order, your friend to counterattack, press charges, become a vocal woman's advocate, or otherwise rise up in battle.

Taken too far, all of these roles are hazardous to your friend's recovery and hazardous to the friendship as well, because they change what was once a balanced relationship into something else. All are likely to generate new feelings of injury and anger, hurt and resentment, either on your part or your friend's.