ImageI’m wrapping up my series on abuse, with some tools to break the cycle! We’ve discussed verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, as well as the subject of bullying and violence in the workplace over the past month. Today I want to equip you with some tools to know when to stay and when to go, how to hold your ground and maintain your boundaries, and respect yourself in the process.

The decision to continue or end the relationship will likely be a difficult one. You have history together, some good and some bad. You are likely fueled with hope for repair, that maybe ‘this time it will be better’. Envisioning your life free from the abuse is foreign and distant, and let’s face it, often things that are unfamiliar are fearful. What will life be like without him or her? You hold onto hope, because there is a part of you that is so attached to ‘need’ for the relationship. As I mentioned a couple weeks back while discussing sexual abuse, the same holds true for all abusive relationships: “our lack of connection is a big reason why we choose unsafe people. If we are not able to connect in an intimate way with others, then we will often pick people who are unable to connect as well. If someone is isolated inside, she will pick isolating relationships until she addresses her problem. Fear of abandonmennt fuels an ongoing isolating connection.Many times someone who is in a painful relationship should set strong boundaries or cut off the relationship altogether for a time. But he fears being alone so much that he can’t do it. Every time he thinks of standing up to the other person, or getting out of the relationship, he is overwhelmed by feelings of loss and aloneness, and he either avoids the difficult step to begin with, or he quickly caves in. Because he doesn’t have primary safe and supportive relationships, he would rather have the unsafe relationship ghan nothing at all. This… keeps the isolation and abandonment going.” Dr. Henry Cloud PhDImage

The above quote is the precise reason why choosing to end an abusive relationship is so hard.

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.”

-William Blake

Before we examine reasons to leave an abusive relationship, let’s take a look at some good reasons to stay.

If your abusive partner has admitted to being abusive and has begun to take some of the following steps to change the abusive pattern, you may want to consider going the distance or at least staying a while longer to see how sincere or permanent this change is. The steps your abusive partner needs to take are as follows:

  • 1. Admit to himself that he is abusive and acknowledge the damage he has done.
  • 2. Understand the reasons why he abuses.
  • 3. Understand her abusive pattern and work on her unfinished business from the past that traps her in the abuse cycle (ie. having been abused as a child – hurting people hurt people)
  • 4. Admit to your partner that you have been abusive.
  • 5. Apologize to your partner and work on developing empathy for her and others.
  • 6. Learn and practice ways to identify her anger, pain and sress in constructive and healthy ways.
  • 7. Identify your triggers and false beliefs.
  • 8. Seek professional help. Be willing to see a counselor for the long haul until the root issues are revealed and being dealt with.

However, this is not the only thing necessary for change to occur. Believe it or not, the abused person needs to take some action as well in order for this process to work. If the abused partner is willing to do the following steps, there may be hope for real change in your relationship.

  • 1. Admit to yourself that you are being abused and acknowledge the damage you have experienced as a result.
  • 2. Understand the reasons why you chose an abusive partner to begin with. (ie. examine the isolation/fear of abandonment mentioned above).
  • 3. Examine and understand the reasons why you have put up with the abuse.
  • 4. Understand your pattern and work on completing YOUR own unfinished business. This can be done with a therapist if you are unsure how to go about doing this.
  • 5. Confront your partner on his or her abusive behavior. Believe it or not, but this is a CRUCIAL step. If you are unable to do this, there is little hope for real and lasting change. You will need to examine the subject of boundaries and how to set and maintain them for your protection.
  • 6. Pay attention to your feelings. Sometimes emotional abuse is subtle, and you may not even be aware that it is taking place, especially when you become accustomed, or ‘used to’ it. Notice physical reactions like knots in your stomach, or tightness in your chest. Pay careful attention to how you are feeling when you are with the abusive person. You DO have the ability to determine when things are ok, despite possible put downs you endure frequently that cause you to second guess yourself.
  • 7. Take your power back by setting up and enforcing your boundaries. I am a certified personal development and relationship life coach and spend a lot of focus on developing solid boundaries. Feel free to contact me for a complimentary coaching session with me if you feel you need help learning about and setting boundaries. You can find me on my website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com to book your free consultation to see whether working with me is the right fit for you. 
  • 8. Continue to speak up each time abuse occurs. If you let it slip just one time, you may be giving up your power, and allowing the abuse cycle to start all over again.
  • 9. Be prepared that if you confront, things MAY get worse before they get better, as being confronted most likely will not sit well with the abusive person at first. But setting limits is the only way to stop the cycle.
  • 10. Be on the alert for the moment it is not working, and you need to make preparations to leave to ensure your safety.

Other Reasons why you stay:Image

  • My partner told me it was my fault and i believed her.
  • I’m afraid I am unlovable, or unattractive, stupid, etc. because he says I am.
  • I am afraid I will never be loved by anyone else.
  • I’m afraid of what he will do if I leave.
  • I am afraid for my safety.
  • I’m afraid I can’t make it on my own financially.
  • You may also struggle with a strong desire to avoid confrontation or
  • a tendancy to try and believe that things are better than they are.
  • You feel responsible for their behavior.
  • You blame yourself for the problems in the relationship because you believe what she says that you ARE the problem in the relationship
  • You listen to the lies spoken and believe them as fact.
  • You make excuses for their behavior.
  • And once again… that dreadful fear of being alone.

Be prepared that if you confront, and say something like “I don’t want you to talk to me that way.” Or set a limit such as “If you hit me I will leave until you can calm down.” or simply let them know that their statement is abusive. In response, you will likely get an argument (or further berating or familiar abusive tendancies.) Are you prepared to stand your ground if this happens? Don’t engage in the argument. Simply stand firm by repeating the same thing you stated before. Be prepared to follow through on whatever limits and consequences you set on their behavior. They may give you the silent treatment. Don’t let him get away with that either. Remind him that this is also abusive and disrespectful and that you do not appreciate it.

If you can do all the above steps (there are tons more… too much for one blog) you may have grounds to stay in the relationship.

Another good reason to stay (at least for a time, to see how things fare) is if you and/or your partner have admitted to being abusive and have begun working with a counselor or marital counseling. Do not stay on the basis of the promise alone that she will go with you to therapy. If she makes good on her promise, then you might have a chance. If she makes a promise to seek professional help and does not follow through, her commitment is not sincere, and you are likely in store for more of the same.

If you make it clear you are unwilling to tolerate abuse of any kind, and your partner is willing to work on changing their behavior and makes positive steps toward change, then you may have a chance of making it work.

If your partner has begun already any of the processes or stages mentioned above and has become less abusive, or not as often, this may be an indication of their willingness to work on and change behavior. Change takes time. Abusive speech and actions are a learned behavior and will have to be unlearned. They may have slips from time to time, but if it is decreasing, and they have become more loving and treat you as an equal partner in the relationship and are actively working toward bettering themselves, deciding to wait and see may not be such a bad idea. Each situation is different, and if you feel in danger in any way, remove yourself from the situation as quickly as you can before it has the opportunity to escalate further.

Some questions to ask yourself to determine the amount of good will in your relationship, as well as to help you determine if getting out or staying is the best choice for you at the time are:Image

1. Do you and your partner have an equal footing in the relationship?

2. Do you have an intimate connection?

3. Do you feel like your partner’s intentions are good when it comes to how he/she treats you?

4. Do you have much in common?

5. Do you experience more joy than pain in the relationship?

6. Do you believe your partner genuinely wishes you well, and may just have some bad communication habits, rather than an intention to deliberately undermine, control, manipulate or destroy you?

Even if you want to say yes to staying based on what I have said above, here are some things to consider when it comes to whether you have endured too much pain in the relationship to stay.

ImageGood reasons to Leave

If your partner refuses to acknowledge and take responsibility for his abusive actions, or admit to being abusive, he is beyond reasoning with, and needs the limit of your leaving to protect yourself from further injury.

If your partner does not seek out help for her abusive behavior… on their own. If you have to do it all for them, you are taking responsibility for something that is not yours to own. They must see the reason for help and seek it out on their own, thereby taking responsibility for their own actions.

If you have made yourself clear that you will not tolerate any further abuse, but she still continues to abuse, you should leave.

If you or your partner are unwilling to follow these suggestions and/or the ones given to you by your therapist, there is little hope for things to be any different. As the saying goes: “The definintion of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result!” And another one I particularly like is this: “Until the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change, then you will change.” If you continue to stay involved in the same cycle over and over, nothing will change until you are tired of the cycle and finally the pain is too much to remain trapped in the abusive cycle.

WHEN YOU DEFINITELY NEED TO LEAVE!!!Image

  • If you or your children are being emotionally, physically or sexually abused by your partner. If your partner is overly dominating, controlling, critical or rejecting of you, this pattern may be passed on to other members of the family, such as your children.
  • If your children are being damaged by the emotional abuse between you and your partner.
  • If your partner is physically abusing you or threatening to do so.
  • If you have reached a point where you now have become physically abusive as well.
  • If you are fantasizing about ways to kill or harm your spouse.
  • If you are seriously questioning your sanity.
  • If it becomes clear to you that your partner has no respect for you at all.

Seek outside help immediately. Go to your supportive friends or family members, or an agency in your area that can help you get the help you need.

Learn how to prevent abuse in the future.Image

Ways to spot an abuser:

  • someone with poor impulse control
  • low self esteem
  • selfishness and narcissistic
  • being needy and demanding of your time, attention, etc.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse or addiction
  • A history of abuse (either as an abuser, via his/her reputation among peers, or experienced it as a child growing up. Most kids who were abused grow up either as abusers or the abused.)
  • Any history of mental illness
  • If they exhibit anti social behavior, have a personality disorder.
  • Becomes agressive, demanding or abusive.
  • A need to feel powerful and in control.

Make a list oImagef what you will not tolerate in future relationships. For instance, “I won’t have a relationship that is not equal”, or “I won’t stay in a relationship if it becomes clear that it is all about him/her”, or “I won’t be in a relationship with someone who criticizes me,” or plainly and simply, “I won’t have a relationship with someone who hits me and does not have control of their anger.”

Make your list and set your limits. These will prove to be the boundaries you need to stand on and enforce when and if the time comes for you to have to confront the issue.

If you still wrestle with how to find safe and supportive relationships, circle back to a blog I did in my boundaries series a while back on identifying safe people if you have not already read it, or need a crash course reminder on the subject!

I hope that this information has been informative and beneficial to you, or as a tool to offer someone you know who is currently in an abusive relationship. Please tell them to read this blog and encourage them to seek outside help!

If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

 

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