Sex and relationships: FGCU ahead of national curve on toxic relationships

Posted on December 18, 2011

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Veronica Vela

vvela@eagle.fgcu.edu

Sex and relationships. A seemingly simple combination, but for FGCU students these two things can be toxic.

“People who abuse have seen or been abused. It’s hard to rise above that,” said Dr. John Brunner, a licensed psychologist and the director of counseling and health services at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Every two years, a random selection of FGCU students are emailed an invitation to take part in the National College Health Assessment (NCHA).  The numbers Brunner has received back this year are worrisome. The survey found FGCU students statistically have more sex and are involved in more toxic relationships than the national collegial average.

Brunner defines a toxic relationship as one that may contain verbal, physical or sexual abuse. He also says relationships require people ask themselves if they are actually happy and fulfilled. And if the answer is no, Brunner says students need to “to rise above and say ‘I don’t deserve this.’”

In the most recent survey, taken during the Fall 2011 semester, 73.1 percent of FGCU students have had a sexual partner within the last 12 months, more than the national average which is 70.7 percent.

A student partaking in sexual acts isn’t the problem, said Brunner; it has more to do with what the student is using sex for.

“You look more at psychological variables,” said Brunner. “When people have sex they feel a commitment.”

The survey also found 35.6 percent of FGCU students reported an intimate relationship to be “traumatic or very difficult to handle,” as opposed to the 32.2 percent reported in the national average.

He said this could have to do with a student’s self reaction, which he defines as the variables that play into the way students view themselves, such as their self-worth, self-esteem and self-concept. He worries students don’t have a healthy self-reaction and consequently look for value in relationships and sex.

This is can be especially true for women. He said many women feel their relationships are about giving, when that is not always the case.

“Young women look at themselves more as rescuers,” said Brunner. “(They do) what they feel their role is. What they feel their responsibility is. There is a psychological factor there that is very important.”

One FGCU senior can attest to this.

Choosing not to reveal her identity, she was involved in a toxic relationship her freshman year. Her boyfriend spent an unhealthy amount of time, even dropped out of school, to play video games, but blamed it on a fight they had.

She paid for everything, she said, including his groceries, transportation and chewing tobacco. He, however, gave her specific rules concerning what she was allowed to eat and which friends she could see.

“He’d go grocery shopping with me to ensure I’d buy healthy food,” she said. “And I’m not overweight by any means, but he could eat anything he wanted.”

Her friends and roommates couldn’t understand why she stayed, but he was her first boyfriend. They met and started going out her senior year of high school, but when they came to FGCU together, she says he changed.

She says she wasn’t allowed to go to parties and could only see approved friends for up to four hours. And when she would go visit her family he would criticize her and say she was being childish.

The strict rules and stress started taking a physical toll causing her hair to start falling out and she reached her breaking point.

When he noticed the limited phone calls and visits, sex started being used as a tool to regain affection.

“When we were about to break up and he saw that I wasn’t down with it anymore, he would call me up and promise a whole day of sex,” she said.  “I declined, trust me.”

This isn’t out of the ordinary as to why males feel the need to maintain a toxic relationship.

“Men cannot deal with losing, failing and rejection,” said Brunner.  “Some need to have power and control over their partners.”

Now, when her friends are in the same situation she tries to help.

“When I see girls going through the same thing I have to say something and ask if you are happy,” she said.  “If you’re not then we can do something as a team.”

This is the right thing to do says Brunner. He wants students to talk to each other and create awareness to bring the numbers down. He suggests “planting a seed” and asking friends and roommates questions that will make them contemplate their decisions.

“Begin a conversation,” said Brunner. “Those open-ended questions are teachable moments.”

He also wants students trying to get out of a toxic relationship to have clear boundaries, like limiting contact and not going out with the person as “just friends.”

“Have a support system,” said Brunner. “Have someone who will be there for you, maybe even hold you accountable.”

It’s still unanswered as to why FGCU has such high numbers, but Brunner says that it may be due to the fact that students are still evolving.

“You learn a lot outside of academics,” he said. “Young people are developing, trying to learn about relationships.”

If students feel like they are unsafe and in a toxic relationship, Brunner encourages them to seek help.  They can confide in a friend and visit Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) on the second floor of Howard Hall to get involved in the various programs and therapy sessions they offer.

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Veronica Vela 

vvela@eagle.fgcu.edu

 

 Sex and relationships. A seemingly simple combination, but for FGCU students, these two things can be toxic.

 

“People who abuse have seen or been abused. It’s hard to rise above that,” said Dr. John Brunner, a licensed psychologist and the director of counseling and health services at Florida Gulf Coast University.

 

Every two years, a random selection of FGCU students are emailed an invitation to take part in the National College Health Assessment (NCHA).  The numbers Brunner has received back this year are worrisome. The survey found FGCU students statistically have more sex and are involved in more toxic relationships than the national collegial average.

 

Brunner defines a toxic relationship as one that may contain verbal, physical or sexual abuse. He also says relationships require people ask themselves if they are actually happy and fulfilled. And if the answer is no, Brunner says students need to “to rise above and say ‘I don’t deserve this.’”

 

In the most recent survey, taken during the Fall 2011 semester, 73.1 percent of FGCU students have had a sexual partner within the last 12 months, more than the national average which is 70.7 percent.

 

A student partaking in sexual acts isn’t the problem, said Brunner; it has more to do with what the student is using sex for. 

 

“You look more at psychological variables,” said Brunner. “When people have sex they feel a commitment.”

 

The survey also found 35.6 percent of FGCU students reported an intimate relationship to be “traumatic or very difficult to handle,” as opposed to the 32.2 percent reported in the national average.

 

He said this could have to do with a student’s self reaction, which he defines as the variables that play into the way students view themselves, such as their self-worth, self-esteem and self-concept. He worries students don’t have a healthy self-reaction and consequently look for value in relationships and sex.

 

This is can be especially true for women. He said many women feel their relationships are about giving, when that is not always the case.

 

“Young women look at themselves more as rescuers,” said Brunner. “(They do) what they feel their role is. What they feel their responsibility is. There is a psychological factor there that is very important.”

 

One FGCU senior can attest to this.

 

Choosing not to reveal her identity, she was involved in a toxic relationship her freshman year. Her boyfriend spent an unhealthy amount of time, even dropped out of school, to play video games, but blamed it on a fight they had. 

 

She paid for everything, she said, including his groceries, transportation and chewing tobacco. He, however, gave her specific rules concerning what she was allowed to eat and which friends she could see.

“He’d go grocery shopping with me to ensure I’d buy healthy food,” she said. “And I’m not overweight by any means, but he could eat anything he wanted.”

Her friends and roommates couldn’t understand why she stayed, but he was her first boyfriend. They met and started going out her senior year of high school, but when they came to FGCU together, she says he changed.

 

She says she wasn’t allowed to go to parties and could only see approved friends for up to four hours. And when she would go visit her family he would criticize her and say she was being childish.

 

The strict rules and stress started taking a physical toll causing her hair to start falling out and she reached her breaking point.

When he noticed the limited phone calls and visits, sex started being used as a tool to regain affection.

“When we were about to break up and he saw that I wasn’t down with it anymore, he would call me up and promise a whole day of sex,” she said.  “I declined, trust me.”

This isn’t out of the ordinary as to why males feel the need to maintain a toxic relationship.

 “Men cannot deal with losing, failing and rejection,” said Brunner.  “Some need to have power and control over their partners.”

Now, when her friends are in the same situation she tries to help.

“When I see girls going through the same thing I have to say something and ask if you are happy,” she said.  “If you’re not then we can do something as a team.”

This is the right thing to do says Brunner. He wants students to talk to each other and create awareness to bring the numbers down. He suggests “planting a seed” and asking friends and roommates questions that will make them contemplate their decisions.

“Begin a conversation,” said Brunner. “Those open-ended questions are teachable moments.”

 

He also wants students trying to get out of a toxic relationship to have clear boundaries, like limiting contact and not going out with the person as “just friends.”

 

“Have a support system,” said Brunner. “Have someone who will be there for you, maybe even hold you accountable.”

 

It’s still unanswered as to why FGCU has such high numbers, but Brunner says that it may be due to the fact that students are still evolving.

 

“You learn a lot outside of academics,” he said. “Young people are developing, trying to learn about relationships.”

 

If students feel like they are unsafe and in a toxic relationship, Brunner encourages them to seek help.  They can confide in a friend and visit Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) on the second floor of Howard Hall to get involved in the various programs and therapy sessions they offer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in: Veronica Vela