Abusive RelationshipsAs a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety and trauma, I've worked with hundreds of women in abusive relationships so I'll share some of what I've learned in the hope that it might help an abuse victim.
1. The longer you put up with abuse, the harder it will be to walk away.
When I work with abused women, my job is to convince them that the abuser won't change and all she can do is GET OUT. It's not an easy thing to accept. Her self-esteem is at rock bottom. Deep down, she doesn't believe she deserves better than this... She's afraid that no one else will ever love her. She's afraid of what her partner might do if she should leave... She often wants to believe that their love is so 'special' that it will somehow get them through this.
2. No abuser starts abusing on your first date. First, he must win you over. Then, he must wear down your self-esteem. No one with a healthy sense of self-esteem allows abuse. The most effective (and least detectable) way to lower your self-esteem is to poke fun of some weakness or mistake of yours. He does it in the spirit of 'only kidding' or teasing but it becomes a running joke that subtly affects you... makes you feel less than others.
3. The mental health field has an abysmal record of 'fixing' abusers. That's because controlling another person is a deeply-seated need for controllers. And losing one's temper becomes a habit. It's like a drug. It is a great feeling of release ...a rush... for the person who is losing his temper. Once you have given yourself permission to express RAGE with another human being and have gotten away with it, no one can take it away.
4. Blaming is a common aspect of abuse. To believe that the answer is to change YOURSELF is to buy into the abuser's excuse. How many women have told me that their spouse "warned" them that, if they said one more word, they wouldn't be responsible for the outcome? Then, of course, the victimized spouse says something and gets hit... and tells me how it was, ultimately, HER FAULT because he warned her.
Bullshit! There is NOTHING any woman could say to me... NOTHING any woman could do to me that would make me hit her or be emotionally abusive to her. You could get me to walk away... that's all.
5. 'Controllers' always need to be right, seldom apologize, and always place blame elsewhere. They know exactly what we should all be doing and spend tons of time 'teaching' it to us and correcting and criticizing us... and yet they're some of the least happy people on the planet!
There is an unspoken agreement in every successful, healthy relationship: "I'm not perfect and you're not perfect. I'll live with your imperfections if you'll agree to live with mine. I prefer to go through this life with you."
In an unhealthy relationship with control issues, the unspoken attitude is, "Here is PERFECT (hand held high) and here is YOU (hand held low). I'm going to devote my time and energy to pointing out the difference."
6. Abusers often grew up with an abusive parent. If Dad hit or attacked emotionally when he was angry, then a child learns that it's a normal ex
7. Abusers often isolate their victims. He doesn't like your friends and/or family and does his best to sever or weaken your ties with them. He has worked very hard to get you under his emotional control. An ob
If you believe you might be the victim of an abusive relationship, confide in as many friends as you can!
8. Abusers apologize so they don't have to find and train a new victim. Here is what's called the "Cycle of Abuse":
Tension building phase
This phase occurs prior to an overtly abusive act, and is characterized by poor communication, passive aggression, rising interpersonal tension, and fear of causing outbursts in one's partner. During this stage the victim may attempt to modify his or her behavior to avoid triggering their partner's outburst.
Characterized by outbursts of violent, abusive incidents. During this stage the abuser attempts to dominate his/her partner, with the use of physical or emotional violence.
Characterized by affection, apology, or, alternatively, ignoring the incident. This phase marks an apparent end of violence, with assurances that it will never happen again, or that the abuser will do his or her best to change. During this stage, the abuser expresses overwhelming feelings of remorse and sadness, to minimize any consequences for his actions. Some abusers walk away from the situation with little comment, but most will eventually shower the partner with love and affection. Some abusers may threaten self-harm or suicide to gain sympathy and/or prevent the partner from leaving the relationship. Abusers are frequently so convincing, and victims so eager for the relationship to improve, that victims who are often worn down and confused by the longstanding abuse, stay in the relationship.
Although it is easy to see the outbursts of the Acting-out Phase as abuse, even the more pleasant behaviors of the Honeymoon Phase perpetuates the abuse because the victim is now convinced that the relationship isn't all bad... convinced that there is hope... and the abuser has successfully avoided any consequences for his actions.
During this phase (which is often considered an element of the honeymoon/reconciliation phase), the relationship is relatively calm and peaceable. However, interpersonal difficulties will inevitably arise, leading again to the tension building phase.
9. It's important to understand that, in most cases, the abuser does not do these things consciously. They do them automatically, which is worse. Where there is a conscious effort, there can be a conscious choice to stop. Automatic behaviors are not a matter of choice. The last breath you took was not a conscious choice. Abusers abuse as thoughtlessly as they breathe.
10. Many of you protect your abusive partners by keeping his ugly little secrets. You may feel embarrassed to admit you're in an abusive situation. You must understand that when you keep his behavior a secret, he wins. He stays in control. You need to tell as many people as possible what he is like. In the long run, it's your insurance policy. He is limited as to how he can hurt you and what he can get away with when people in your life know what he's capable of.
Also, there are women's shelters in many areas that will work with you and help you to leave quietly and without incident. It's worth looking into. It costs nothing to talk with people who understand and are there to help.
~I hope that any of this may be of help to someone.