Tag Archive: abuse



Millions of domestic abuse cases occur each year. The exact number of such cases is difficult to keep track of since agencies report them differently, while other incidents of abuse are never reported at all. In the past, victims of domestic abuse were unable to protect themselves legally because police rarely got involved in such disputes. As such, families were left to settle and work things out thus allowing abusers to escape with their acts of violence without any consequences from the law. Fortunately, domestic disputes are now dealt with differently as all states have laws making domestic violence a crime, while various legal protections are imposed to help victims of abuse.

What Is Domestic Violence / Abuse?

When domestic violence is involved, acts of physical abuse are used, including threats, harassment and emotional abuse which can dominate another person. ; Domestic violence or domestic abuse can be found in all types of relationships and it is not based on race or economic class. Although women are often victims of domestic abuse, men can also become victims. Unlike in the past, police these days in many states, now have the power to arrest people suspected of abusing others regardless of the willingness of a victim to file charges because of fear. As such, victims and potential victims are protected from abuse after police leave. If victims want to file charges against the abuser, they can do so in civil court, allowing them to recover money damages for financial harm resulting from physical and emotional abuse.

Restraining Order For Protection

Restraining orders are legal options available in every state for victims against the abuser as they can make it illegal for abusers to contact victims. If a victim is in immediate danger, a temporary emergency restraining order can be secured from the local police department. However, a temporary restraining order will not be valid for long, so it is essential to secure a proper restraining order from the court that can last for three months to three years.

How To Secure A Restraining Order

In order for a victim to secure a restraining order that can last longer, a petition must be filed in court. Victims can handle the process on their own without a lawyer, but having a legal professional assist in the process and explain their rights is to their advantage. When a petition has been filed, the hearing will then be scheduled within two weeks. ; The abuser will also be notified and invited to attend the hearing as he will have the right to testify in court as well.

The victim will then have to explain to the judge, the necessity for a restraining order. At the hearing various evidence or documents, such as medical records, photographs, police reports and witness testimony can be presented to support the need for a restraining order.

Once a restraining order has been issued, the local police department must be informed about the abuser and the limitations imposed. All this information is recorded into the police computers for reference.

Other Forms Of Help

Domestic violence must never be tolerated in any way. It is necessary that victims must try to escape or leave their abusive relationship as soon as possible. There are various free legal agencies and shelters to help victims of abuse in every state. If a victim will decide to leave their relationship, they must be sure to have copies of their important documents as well as other items such as spare money and keys.

Valerie Clearwater is a freelance writer specializing in criminal law. She regularly contributes articles to legal websites such as ElliotSavitzLaw.com where well experienced criminal attorneys can be consulted.

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Just posting a quick announcement to watch for my brand new ebooks releasing this weekend at http://www.freedomlifelove.com

Check out ‘Identifying and Understanding Abuse’ for helpful tips on understanding the abuse cycle and how to know whether the relationship is salvageable and how to end an abusive relationship if it is not!

Or perhaps you could use some helpful tips on ‘Managing Stress’. Watch for the release of both of these books this weekend on my website!

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And stay tuned for two more great ebook releases in the next month: ‘The Four Stages Of Boundary Development’ and another compelling book simply entitled, ‘Forgive’!!

 

 


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

 


I have been doing a series on abuse for the last few weeks in my Friday blogs, and am continuing on that theme this week on the subject of bullying and violence in the workplace. I will finish up the series next Friday on how to break the cycle of abuse.

To get started today on the subject of workplace violence and bullying, let’s begin by defining some terms so we are all clear on the definitions of violence, bullying, discrimination, workplace interpersonal conflict and harassment.

Violence is defined by an exertion of physical force as to injure or abuse. An instance of violent treatment or procedure. It is also an act of behavior that jeapordizes someone’s physical or psychological well-being. It involves a threat to one’s life, safety, health, or integrity. The intent to control, dominate, to injure or destroy, to deprive a person of dignity. Workplace violence includes verbal abuse, threats, physical attacks as well as near misses, psychological abuses, assault, sexual assault, discrimination of any kind, harassment and bullying.

Workplace bullying is a repeated pattern of intentional inappropriate behavior, direct or indirect (aggressive or passive), whether verbal, physical or otherwise, performed by one or more persons against another person or group of people which could reasonably be regarded as under,inning the individual’s right to dignity at work.

Discrimination is any practice or behavior, whether intentional or not, which has a negative effect on an individual or group, because of their race, ancestry, place of origin, color, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed (religion), sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, or handicap (disability).

A Workplace interpersonal conflict is defined as a an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources and interference from the other party in achieving their goals.

Finally, harassment is defined as engaging in a course of annoying and provoking comment or conduct, that is, or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, and related to one of the protected grounds in the human rights code. The human rights code includes the following areas of protected grounds under the definition of harassment: Race, ancestry, place of origin, color, citizenship, creed, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, handicap and gender.

The profile of a bully looks like this:

Someone who is insecure, has low self esteem, poor or non existent social skills, little empathy, someone who is controlling, or manipulative, often driven by jealousy of ability, or jealous of relationships.

The profile of a target is someone who is very capable, dedicated, intelligent, honest with integrity, trustworthy, loyal and independent, sensitive, who has the ability to master new skills & perform new tasks. Someone who is well liked, imaginative, creative or innovative, with high moral standards.

Now that we have some definitions out of the way, let’s look at how to define whether your conflict involves a bully or is merely based on assumptions of another person. For instance, if you are a person who has trouble with confrontation, and even hearing that word makes you feel like the very nature of confrontation itself is an aggressive positioning of one against another, thereby defining, by you’re experience that confrontation equals bullying, you will have a hard time identifying between bullying and simple confrontation. Confrontation done well, does not have to involve force or violence, or even raising one’s voice to try and gain a position of power, or strength to confront. It can be done in a very straightforward way, involving both compassion and respect for the person you are confronting. Confrontation CAN be a very loving and caring act if performed with good intent, with no malice or undealt with anger in order to bring about a positive result for both parties involved.

If you are confronting a reasonable person, and not a bully, someone who is able to hear your voiced complaints or concerns, or request for change, this person will respond differently from a bully. They will take what you say to heart, they are able to listen, adapt and change, and give feedback positively, and take criticism well, they are empathetic and are concerned not only about their well being, but yours as well. They have a genuine concern and make effort to improve, change, adapt and accommodate to the best of their ability. They do not allow problems that crop up to become negative continuing patterns. They are looking for ways they can make the situation better.

The bully on the other hand, will try to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it. When given feedback, they become defensive and immediately come back with reasons why something is not their fault. They cannot own or take responsibility for their own actions, and insist that other’s do, by their actions more than their words. They react as though you were the person who needs to take responsibility for their anger and bitterness. This type of person cannot hear or understand how to listen to reason, and cannot reason, they have to control their environment, a d when they cannot get away with that, the begin to bulky to try and get the environment to comply with their perceived ability to control it. They often minimize, blame shift, or make up exaggerated complaints against you, when you attempt to address a conflict. Excuses, rationalizations, minimizing… These are the traits of someone who cannot reason with you when you address a conflict. And when you do, this is often when the bully within them begins to emerge. The only way to deal with a bully is to stop talking, and set limits on their behavior. They do not respond to reason. This is where you need to ensure you have a healthy set of boundaries, so that you can hold your ground.

Know who to contact if you believe you are being bullied. Contact the management team in your workplace and make a formal complaint if necessary. Learn how to recognize the warning signs.
Get help. The negative effects of bullying over time do take their toll on one’s stress level, and psychological well being, as well as one’s productivity or positive attitude in the workplace. If you are experiencing burnout, you MAY be around people who are wearing on your overall well being. Burnout does not always involve bullying, nor is it always the cause, but it can be a symptom if you identify with any of the issues raised in this blog,

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!

Stay tuned for next week’s conclusion on the subject of abuse!

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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

Sexual Abuse


Sexual abuse is a major problem in today’s society, going far beyond domestic violence, sexual exploitation has become a major multi-billion dollar business exploiting and trafficking human lives to sexually gratify one person at the expense of another. Although, in the case of human trafficking, this gratification goes far beyond one person’s gratification, as a whole industry is gratified lucratively for monetary value at the expense of innocent lives sold into slavery to fulfill a greedy lust for power, money and sexual addiction, and perversion. Let’s face it, to pay for sex with an unwilling participant is cruel to say the least, but goes to prove that we have an incredible problem with sexual addiction in our culture. Only sexual addiction and lust for power and greed can ignore the humanity of another to gratify one’s own lust. The purpose of this blog is to discuss sexual abuse and not sexual addiction, so I will not go in depth on that particular subject, but I will say this much before moving on: sexual addiction is not even about sex. It is coping mechanism for early childhood boundary violations, or trauma, or to cope with a lack of nurturing. It is a ‘quick fix’ to deal with much deeper issues of isolation and emotional neglect, or other issues a child cannot figure out how to deal with that are traumatic in their life. It is a way to temporarily ‘feel better.’ it may even be caused by being sexually violated themselves in childhood.

So let’s take a look at domestic violations that seriously affect a child on into adulthood, often for the rest of their lives without divine intervention and intense healing to allow the consequences of the violation to be made whole.

Sexual abuse is a form of physical abuse, as it is a physical violation, involving a lot of shameful emotions. It is also a boundary violation, coming back to the series I did on boundaries, one of the boundaries that we have is physical, involving who can touch us and how. The problem with sexual abuse, especially in childhood, is that this boundary is completely disregarded, teaching the child that they do not actually ‘own’ this boundary, or the right to say ‘no’ to unwanted and inappropriate touch. Just like the out of control problem with sex in our culture I just mentioned, the same principles apply in domestic cases of sexual abuse. It is the same issue: one person exploited and taken advantage of for another’s sexual pleasure.

Children take in a lot of information and pick up on everything. They are very observant and can feel that something is inappropriate or ‘not quite right.’ But they lack the development to know what something healthy should look like if it is not modeled. The problem of sexual abuse is that suddenly a child becomes unsafe in their own home. They lose all ability to know what ‘safe’ should be. Sadly, this carries on into adulthood, and a recurrent pattern of sexual abuse continues throughout their life.

Some of the effects and consequence of sexual abuse that happen in the life of the one abused, is that they learn that they do not ‘own’ their own bodies, that they do not have the right to say ‘no.’ the same shame and secrecy and threats from childhood resonate deep within their spirit. Often the abuser threatens with ‘don’t tell anyone, or else’ messages. The child can grow up believing she must give herself away, and is not allowed to set limits on other people’s behavior, or that she is powerless to do anything about it, as she was powerless in childhood to her childhood abuser.
All sorts of confusion can arise. Everything from confusing sex with affection, nurture and intimacy or she may become rigid and avoid sex and fear affection believing affection will cause sex which has all kinds of negative experiences associated with it in her mind, because sex was not a mutually beneficial experience for her. Sex and affection are interpreted as ‘exploitation.’ Sex may not be seen by someone who has been abused and violated as something enjoyable and safe. It often involves fear or a resigned detached participation believing she is powerless against it, to the opposite extreme of offering her body willingly to anyone, in search of finding affection and nurture, but because these things were distorted from sexual abuse, she lacks the understanding of knowing what authentic nurture, affection and intimacy really are.

Other common effects are an inability to trust, ana an altered sense of impaired judgment to determine what is ‘safe’ from ‘unsafe’, unable to properly judge character, as this part of them has become shattered by previous abuse. Often we choose people to connect to very subjectively. We base it on who we feel a connection or sense of attraction to, or what “pulls us” toward someone. This in and of itself is not necessarily a ‘bad’ thing, but for one who has been abused, the sense of ‘familiarity’ is what draws a person to repeat abusive cycles. We are drawn to the familiar. We are also drawn to ‘complete’ our growth & development. If there is some unfinished business in the area of growing, we are attracted to what feels familiar in order to complete that growth. Unfortunately, attempting to complete that growth without awareness of what the unfilled need is, ‘pulls us in’ to cyclical patterns, doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different or better result. This is why those who have experienced abuse of any kind, need retraining in a sense. They need to understand a healthy set of boundaries to teach them how to be drawn to healthier relationships. This is because some of the basic tools for living were not taught or distorted in their early development. As I mentioned above, trust is one of those areas that becomes distorted from sexual abuse, the same applies to boundaries, and can also distort our decision making processes, (ie. being drawn to unhealthy people, inability to follow through with promises, inability to make decisions, or trust their decisions,) and it can also cause problems with planning and organization.

Other problems that result from sexual abuse are anxiety and stress disorders, depression, eating disorders, panic attacks, compulsive behaviors, rage, self mutilation, self hatred, problems with concentrating and much much more.

Some of the disruptions that take place for normal development involving any kind of abuse include a lack of predictability, sense or order, love, acceptance, nurture, safety and security, appropriate attention and healthy affection and recognition and appreciation for the talents and abilities and simply the God given sense of a healthy self esteem.

One thing I have not yet mentioned is why it is that once people are in an abusive relationship of any kind in adulthood, why it is that they often feel they cannot leave.

According to Dr.s Henry Cloud and John Townsend, PhD,

“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 abandonment fuels an ongoing isolating connection. Many times someone who is in a painful relationship should set strong… boundaries or cut off a relationship altogether for a time. But he fears being alone so much 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 than nothing at all. This all-or-nothing split keeps the isolation and abandonment going.”

Sexual abuse in childhood most often leads us to abusive relationships later in life. They may not always be sexually abusive, but the lack of a healthy understanding of one’s physical boundaries can lead to allowing yourself to put up with mistreatment of any kind. As well as the lack of connection and feelings of isolation keeping us locked in a relationship that involves mistreatment of any kind, due to a fear of being alone, disconnected and isolated. Any kind of abuse leads to all sorts of problems. Even if you were not sexually abused as a child, if you have undergone any other type of abusive interactions, these same principles apply, the same lack of understanding of boundaries, the same lack of connection that leads one to try and find some way to fill the void.

There is hope for recovery. There is hope for being totally restored, change can take place. Your patterns of being drawn to unsafe, unhealthy relationships can change as you begin to develop a stronger sense of your self worth, and an understanding of healthy boundaries. The more you begin to value these things, your values will change and you will begin to be drawn to others with the same healthy values. Like attracts like. There IS hope.

Stay tuned for next week as I touch on workplace bullying, and the following Friday as I close the series with learning some tools to break the cycle of abuse, and how to get out of unsafe, and unhealthy abusive relationships. How to know when and if there is hope for change in the relationship, or if you are simply staying for the reasons mentioned above: fear of abandonment.

As I have mentioned from my previous blogs on this sensitive subject, if you or someone you know is being abused, in the words of the song twenty seven million, “We’ve got to rise up, open our eyes up, be her voice, be her freedom, come and stand up!” Contact the appropriate authorities, Children’s aid, or the police, or whatever the situation calls for. Go to a shelter for battered women if you are a woman being abused. Seek help! If you are a mother or father who has a child coming to you telling you they are being abused, take them seriously, listen to them, stand up for them and don’t ignore it. Do not be passively involved in allowing it to continue. If you are not standing up for your child for fear of your own safety, you need to seek help for yourself as well. It is likely you too, are being abused in some form or another.

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!

I would also like to mention on a closing note, that my coaching business, Freedom Life Love, supports the A-21 Campaign, an organization devoted to fighting against human trafficking and rescuing those sold into slavery, and helping to rehabilitate, restore and re-establish these victims back into society. I would also recommend downloading the song “Twenty seven million” by Matt Redman and LZ7 from iTunes on the subject of human trafficking, as the proceeds from your purchase of this song go towards rescuing these innocent children and youth from their exploiters.

Let us ‘rise up’ together, and be the voice, be the freedom, be part of the solution to the problem of abuse!

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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 Relationship Life Coach


Domestic violence happens in intimate relationships or marriage when one person tries to dominate and control the other. Domestic violence includes sexual abuse, but we will take a closer look at that subject on it’s own next Friday. Today, we will take a closer look at the aspect of Physical Abuse. For those just joining in, I am in the middle of a series on the subject of a abuse, and if you wish, you can take a look back at the preceding blogs including Emotional Abuse or Verbal Abuse.  I will discuss Sexual Abuse, Workplace Bullying, and finally, how to break the abuse cycle in the coming weeks.

Domestic violence is used for one purpose: Control. Total control. It takes place in the form of using fear, guilt, intimidation, shaming, put downs, manipulation, threats, and physical harm to wear you down until you submit to the total control, because you have become too tired of fighting it over time.

As I mentioned in my last blog, physical violence in a relationship often isn’t the first sign of abuse. You will likely see the signs of emotional and verbal abuse first, until it escalates to physical violence. Interestingly enough, although the purpose of the one who is abusing is to control and dominate, the very thing that occurs when his anger is aroused to the point of physical violence is the exact opposite – a lack of self control. Each one of us is called to be able to control our own reactions and interactions with others, and restrain our anger from physical and even verbal violence. Although it does not seem so at the time, (because anger is a powerful emotion, accompanied with a powerful sense of control), when a person loses the ability to control one’s own harmful actions towards another, they are out of control. Often physical violence happens for this reason. At the point the one abusing begins to feel they have lost control of the person they are trying to control, that is when the release of violent behavior takes place in an attempt to regain total control.

There are many signs of an abusive relationship, and we have addressed some of those over the past couple of weeks, but to simplify, if you feel a sense of ‘walking on eggshells, or an al or constant state of fear, unsure what you might do next to ‘set him off’, constantly worrying about what you should or shouldn’t say to avoid his wrath, you are likely involved in an unhealthy relationship. If you are belittled, or feel controlled, helpless desperate, or even a sense of self hatred, be careful… You may very well be in a toxic relationship.

Signs that you are in an abusive relationship:

Inner thoughts and feelings

Do you:
Feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
Avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
Feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
Believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
Wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
Feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Does your partner:
Humiliate or yell at you?
Criticize or put you down?
Treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
Ignore you or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
Blame you for their own abusive behavior?
See you as property or a sex object rather than as a person?

Your Partner’s Violent Behavior or Threats

Does your partner:
Have a bad and/or unpredictable temper?
Hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
Threaten to take your children away or harm them?
Threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
Force you to have sex?
Destroy your belongings?

Your Partner’s Controlling Behavior

Does your partner:
Act excessively jealous and possessive?
Control where you go or what you do?
Keep you from seeing your friends or family?
Limit your access to money, the phone or the car?
Constantly check up on you?

It is still abuse if…

The incidents of physical abuse seem minor compared to those you have read about, seen on tv, or heard other women talk about. There isn’t a ‘better’ or ‘worse’ form of physical abuse.

The incidents of physical abuse have only occurred one or two times in the relationship. Studies indicate that if your spouse/partner has injured you once, it is likely he/she will continue to physically assault you.

The physical assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire, to move about freely and see others, and to make decisions. It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and a partner in exchange for not being assaulted!

There has not been any physical violence. Many people are emotionally and verbally abused. This can be as equally frightening and is often more confusing to try and understand.

(See http://www.helpguide.orgfor more information on domestic violence).

Despite what I mentioned earlier regarding the abuser’s ‘loss of control’ about his/her physical responses, giving in to that ‘loss of control’ by becoming verbally or physically violent is actually a deliberate attempt to control or regain control. There are different perspectives on whether it is due to a loss of control or not. I feel that anyone who no longer takes the ownership of their behavior and allows themselves to respond out of rage and violence, is indeed ‘out of control.’ But I also believe that when we feel a loss of control and feel rage, what we are doing is trying to regain control by becoming violent. I believe we do not have to give in to our feelings and let them control us. We have a ‘choice’ as to how we react and CAN control our behavior. When we choose not to take ownership of our ‘out of control feelings’ we give in to the illusion that we are not responsible for our actions, and we are consciously choosing to become abusive, and yield to the rage we feel for feeling ‘out of control’ because someone is not doing what we want them to do, so we incite force to make them comply with our wishes. It is a very complicated matter and a fine line between control and out of control, involving cognitive distortions about what behaviors we believe we have control over and what we believe we are powerless over. No matter what we believe, we are each responsible for our own choices. Abusive behavior often comes from not taking ownership of your own thoughts, feelings and actions, and projecting ownership onto others. Engaging in abusive behavior IS A DELIBERATE CHOICE made by the abuser to control. I do not have time to thoroughly unpack the psychology of the abuser’s make up in this blog, but what I have written is a short summary of a more in depth discussion.

Let’s take a quick peek at the cycles involved in domestic violence:

To recap: the tactics used to exert power in a relationship include, domination, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial and blame.

The Cycle Of Domestic Abuse:

Abuse – The abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. The power play is designed to show you who is “boss”.

Guilt – after abusing you, your partner feels guilt, but not about what he’s done. She’s more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing the consequences of her abusive behavior.

Excuses – Your abuser rationalizes what he/she has done. The person may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for the abusive behavior – everything to avoid taking responsibility for his/her own actions.

“Normal Behavior” – The abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. He may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. The peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.

Fantasy and planning – Your abuser begins to fantasize about abusing you again. He spends a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how he’ll make you pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.

Set up – Your abuser sets up and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where she can justify abusing you.

The apologies and loving gestures in between abusive episodes make it difficult to leave. He may make you feel like you are the only person who can help him, that things will be different this time, that he will truly change, and get counseling, and that he really does love you.

If you suspect somebody you know is being abused, look for these signs:

The person seems afraid of, or is anxious to please their partner.
They may go along with everything their partner says, not expressing any difference of opinion.
They seem to check in with their partner about everything they are doing.
They receive harassing phone calls from their partner.
They communicate to you about violent encounters, or talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy and possessiveness.

They may communicate re: excessive injuries that they have had an ‘accident’.
They may frequently miss school, work or social occasions without explanation.
Dress in clothing to disguise bruises or scars.

They may have very low self esteem, be restricted from seeing family and friends, rarely go out in public with their partner, be depressed, withdrawn, suicidal, anxious. They may have limited access to money, credit cards or the car.

Speak up if you suspect someone you know is being abused. Let that person know you care by expressing your concern. It may save their life!

If you are identifying with being abused, and feel your life is in immediate danger, seek help now! Call 911 if you are in danger of being physically assaulted imminently. Don’t wait! Seek help!

I will be discussing in a few weeks how to make the necessary steps to stop the abusive cycle and/or get out if necessary, but please don’t wait until then if you are in imminent danger! Call the police!

Stay tuned for next Friday’s blog on Sexual Abuse. Remember, no action is seen as agreement. If you know someone is being abused and you don’t speak up, you are silently agreeing that the abuser’s treatment of your friend is ok. You are unknowingly, but not deliberately participating in communicating that your friend does not deserve better treatment than the abuse they are putting up with. Say something. Remind them of how much they are worth. Their self esteem is low, you need to be the voice to rebuild their confidence and remind them what loving behavior looks like.

No one deserves to be abused! No one! We all have innate, God given worth. You ARE lovable! And worthy to be treated with love ad respect!

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

Verbal Abuse


Today I am continuing my latest blog series on abuse in relationships. Last Friday I blogged about Emotional Abuse, this week, I hope to unpack verbal abuse a little, which is a sub heading under the broader concept of emotional abuse, because verbal abuse affects us emotionally as well.

Before I get started, I want to discuss some basic rights we should expect in any healthy relationship, all of which are violated in a verbally abusive relationship.

These basic rights include:

The right to goodwill from the other.
The right to emotional support.
The right to be heard by the other and to be responded to with courtesy.
The right to have your own view, even if your mate has a different view.
The right to have your feelings and experience acknowledged as real.
The right to receive a sincere apology for any jokes you find offensive.
The right to clear and informative answers to questions that concern what is legitimately your business.
The right to live free from accusation and blame.
The right to live free from criticism and judgment.
The right to have your work and interests spoken of with respect.
The right to encouragement.
The right to live free from emotional and physical threat.
The right to live free from angry outbursts and rage.
The right to be called by no name that devalues you.
The right to be respectfully asked rather than ordered.

(Basic rights excerpt taken from The verbally abusive relationship by Patricia Evans)

Apart from the absence of the above list of items, how else can you tell That you have been verbally abused? Because verbal abuse is under the broader category of emotional abuse, many of the same factors play a part in verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is not only just someone raising their voice and yelling at you or calling you derogatory names, but can be much more subtle as well, involving sarcasm and criticism, put downs and manipulative, controlling speech, that if it has been a ‘norm’ for you all your life, can be hard to recognize and realize the difference between healthy interaction, and that which is abusive. You may think that verbal abuse is readily identifiable, but it can be very concealed, and the manipulation of it can even cause the one being verbally abused to feel as though they are the problem. Often times people don’t realize it is verbal abuse until it escalates and becomes more intense over time, or turns into physical abuse. Often, verbal abuse remains hidden and secretive from outside observation in the early stages of the abuse, often unnoticed by people outside of the relationship. They may even think the abuser is a wonderful person, because that is what is presented in the public eye, leaving the victim of the abuse isolated from outside support, and confused.

Here are some indicators that might suggest whether you are being verbally abused or not.

1. Does he seem irritated or angry with you frequently, even when you are not trying to upset him? 2. Does he tell you in some way that the way he feels is your fault?
3. Do you often wonder what’s wrong with you or why you feel so bad, but don’t know why?
4. Do you feel out of balance, caught off guard by her reactions?
5. Do you feel lost and aimless?
6. When you feel hurt and try to discuss your feelings with her, does she minimize your feelings, ignore them or refuse to talk about it, or outright blame you for something unrelated to what you are talking about to ‘knock you off course” to avoid taking responsibility for her actions?
7. Do you feel disconnected, isolated, confused, disoriented, or believe critical and condemning voices in your head that minimize and devalue your sense of self worth? Specifically messages of put down your partner has said repeatedly in the past?
8. Does he blow up at you and then pretend as if nothing ever happened, often seeming overly cheery later on without apologizing, or owning up to his behavior, as if nothing ever happened?
9. Does he apologize only when you are on the verge of leaving the relationship vowing he will change, but once you concede, he takes no initiative or action to correct his behavior and resumes his usual controlling and belittling behavior? Does he beg you not to leave?
10. You frequently feel frustrated, confused or perplexed by her responses when she doesn’t seem to understand your intentions?
11. She takes the opposite view on almost every opinion you have?
12. Do you feel like you are given double messages a lot? Ie. you express an opinion and the abuser takes the opposite position just to start an argument, or remain in a power position, only to hear the person agree with your opinion with someone else, and when you call them on it, they refuse to acknowledge it happened and blame you for making things up?

All of these things and more are indicators of verbal abuse.

Sometimes it is hard to believe that you are ‘not’ the things your partner accuses you of being because they are said so repetitively that over time you begin to believe the self-defeating messages. It may be hard to tell yourself:

I know that I am not critical.
I know that I am not competitive.
I know that I am not a bitch.
I know that I am not selfish.
I know that I am not ugly.
I know that I am not stupid.
I know that I am not always trying to start a fight, etc. because verbal abuse tends to diminish your self worth over time. So much so that you begin to believe it yourself and no longer need someone to tell you how worthless you are, because you believe it and tell that to yourself over and over. This is not beneficial nor helpful to anyone. You have innate value and worth and no one has the right to tell you otherwise or diminish your value. If someone has said these above messages to you, they are verbally abusing you.

If you believe you are being verbally abused, seek help immediately! It is likely to get worse not better. You need to get equipped with the right tools to help you not only build your self confidence and sense of self worth, but know how to address the behavior and require change to occur, and set limits on behavior that is abusive. If you feel fear about setting limits on abusive behavior, ask yourself why that is. What would happen if you set limits on the abusive behavior? Would you be physically assaulted? Would the abuse get worse? What is the reality of that fear? If you believe that you would not be ‘safe’, it may be time to break that relationship and get out, and seek counseling on how to break the addictive relationship cycle.

Stay tuned.. In a few weeks, I will have some answers on how to respond to the abusive cycle.
Next Friday I will blog about Physical Abuse. Stay tuned, as I will address how to break the abusive cycle in my blog on Friday May 25th. If you believe yourself to be in real and urgent danger, do not wait for my tips on breaking the cycle at the end of May, seek help immediately!

In the meantime, I hope and pray that you are not being verbally abused, and I pray for your safety and protection if you are, and for the strength to break the cycle and to build healthy patterns of relating to others, that you may enjoy real intimacy and respect within your relationships. Do not be deceived by the times the abuser is charming, and ‘intimate’. Real intimacy does not abuse. Real intimacy respects and cherishes the other always. Real intimacy involves the ‘basic rights in a relationship’ as mentioned at the beginning of this blog. If you are manipulated, if there are power plays, or control, aggressive and hostile speech and name calling, this is inappropriate in a relationship and harmful to the health of the relationship. The reality is, no relationship is perfect, and we all ‘lose it’ at times, or manipulate or control, but the question is whether it is habitual, the entirety of the relationship or is it as a result of a traumatic life experience that has brought harm to one or both members of the relationship, that is a mere season of the relationship, and when the trauma settles down, the relationship returns to a harmonious respectful flow, or is this anger and hostility a regular part of the relationship? I will eventually do a series on trauma as well, where I will unpack how trauma plays a role in changing our usual behavior, but for now, I am mentioning it only in reference to knowing how to identify between what is abuse, what is normal anger and what is happening due to a trauma induced life circumstance? A perfect example of how trauma can change one’s usual interactions I am taking from the newly released movie, “The Lucky One” with Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling. There is a scene in the movie when Logan (Zac Efron) comes back from the war, and is staying with his sister’s family, and his nephews come in the room to jump on him and startle him while he is asleep. But what happens is more than what they expected, and by the shocked reaction on his nephews face, you can tell that his reaction of jumping up and pinning hid nephew down on the bed in a choke hold is NOT Logan’s normal interaction with his nephews. This is an example of post traumatic stress disorder and how it affects someone’s usual interactions, and is not to be considered abusive. Being able to distinguish between normal and healthy anger in a relationship and abusive patterns, you may need some help to decipher that if you are unsure. I do not have enough time to get into that in today’s blog.

Remember, seek help if you feel you are in immediate danger!

If you’d like to look at a 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

Emotional Abuse


I am about to start a 6 week series on the subject of abuse. I will cover emotional, verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as workplace bullying and a final entry on breaking the cycle of abuse, the things you can do to change the way things are currently in a relationship you are in that you believe may be abusive. Today I will touch on emotional abuse.

But first, let us define emotional abuse. Emotional abuse can include anything that destroys your sense of self worth, causes anxiety, depression, fear of your partner (or parent, co-worker, etc that is the abuser), walking on eggshells, feeling stuck in the relationship, feeling like there is no way out, alone, isolated. It can include verbal abuse, such as name calling, and yelling, blaming and inflicting shame on the one being abused. It can include threats of violence if they don’t get their way, it can include belittling or attempts to control you. Emotional abuse tends to be looked at as the least important among the other forms of abuse, as there are no visible scars. But the emotional wounding it causes to one’s sense of self esteem and value runs deep. It can cause self-doubt, self hatred, feelings of being useless or worthless. None of which are true, because all of us are created with divine worth. Our sense of worth is NOT from any external source, such as the person you are in an abusive relationship with. If you used to feel better about yourself, and now you feel like you are weak and helpless and as if the abuser is the one belittling your worth, than this may be a sign that you are in an abusive relationship. However, many people caught in abusive relationships are actually repeating patterns from some sort of early childhood abuse, and may not even recognize you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, as your recollections of what “normal” is, looks like abuse. Here are some signs to look for to help you identify whether you are in an emotionally abusi e relationship.

Are you being emotionally abused?

1. Are you treated like a child? Do you feel you need to get permission before making even the smallest choices or decisions?

2. Are you being blamed for his/her problems? Do they make you feel responsible for their behavior, telling you it is your fault that they got mad and started screaming? Are you blamed for his or her drinking problems or inability to fulfill a dream in life? This is a prime example of a boundary issue -not taking responsibility for one’s own behavior and blaming or expecting others to be responsible for their bad behavior, projecting it onto you.

3. Are you treated as if you are “less than” your partner? Do they remind you and rub in all your mistakes? Do they look down on you if you make less money than they do or if you have a “lesser” degree in your education? Do they tell you how unattractive you are and that no one else would want you?

4. Do they make fun of you and put you down in front of others?

5. Do they regularly dismiss your feelings, preferences and choices, causing you to feel like you have no choice? Do they disregard your thoughts, opinions and suggestions?

6. Are they impossible to please? Do they complain about the way you run your life? Or something about your personality that causes low self-esteem in you?

7. Does your partner always have to be right?

8. Are you looked down on or belittled for your accomplishments, or your future plans? Do you feel like they are treating you like those things are unimportant? Even criticizing and discouraging you from doing anything different with your life? Do they tell you that you will fail at the goals you are trying to reach in an effort to control you and cause you to not believe that you can do it, to the extent that you shrink back and don’t even try?

9. Have you stopped seeing friends or family since being in this relationship? Do you feel emotionally isolated or cut off from outside supportive relationships? Are they jealous or get angry when you spend time with your friends? Did you stop seeing family or friends because you feel ashamed being in this relationship, even though you’ve complained many times about the way you are treated?

10. Are you accused of flirting with others or having an affair that you aren’t having by your abusive
partner?

11. Do they insist on getting their own way? Threatening to end the relationship if they don’t?

12. Do they punish you by withholding sex, or giving you the silent treatment or not giving you the affection you need if things don’t go their way?

13. Are you teased or made fun of, or do they use sarcasm to put you down?

14. Do they apologize when they are wrong? Or do they make excuses for their behavior?

15. Do they tell you that you are responsible for all the problems in the relationship?

If you answered yes to even half these questions, you may currently be involved in an unhealthy or abusive relationship.

The first step on the road to recovery is to admit that you are being emotionally abused and acknowledge the damage it has caused to your sense of self worth and self esteem.

A couple of questions for you to consider: Ask yourself why you chose an abusive partner? Can you ind the root cause? Can you trace it back to your childhood or see repeat abusive patterns in your life? Can you identify the voids in your life, the emptiness you feel and how this relationship fills them… Or doesn’t.

Why do you put up with the abuse? What are you afraid of?

Stay tuned for the full series, and see which of the categories you most identify with, as there may be more than one. Stay tuned for my last entry on tools to break the abusive cycle.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about how to overcome abuse in your life, feel free to browse through the topics in my one-on-one Personal Development Program.

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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

Identifying Safe People


Wounded by Relationship

Many of us have at best, been wounded in a relationship at one time or another, whether it be by a friend, co-worker, peer, boss, significant other or a family member or friend of the family. At worst, we may have suffered abuse or severe betrayal by someone. Sadly, what often happens as a result of ‘being burned’, we learn not to trust again, or to harden ourselves against further injury elsewhere and are constantly on the lookout for it to happen again. We have endured trauma. We begin to develop coping mechanisms and hiding patterns and build secure walls of protection around our hearts to prevent re-injury, all the while, looking around every corner expecting it to happen again and projecting past injury onto new people in our lives who are unlikely to be exactly the same as the person who initially injured us.

Why Does This Keep Happening?

While it is true that we do psychologically develop patterns that tend to draw the same type of people to us, because of that feeling of familiarity, the good news is, this cycle can be broken, and changed by identifying characteristics of both safe and unsafe people.

Now, before I go any further and dig a hole for myself, I have to clarify that there are no truly perfect people out there, and we all have flaws and potential to harm each other, which literally means there are no perfectly safe people out there. Everyone will fail you at one time or another. No perfect people exist. If you are looking for perfect, I recommend God.

Now that I have prefaced that, there ARE however, characteristics you can look for to find people who treat you differently than those who have harmed you in the past! This is the good news. The bad news is, you might possess characteristics yourself of an unsafe person. Because we all do, or have the potential to at some point or another. Reality suggests ‘hurting people hurt people.’ Meaning, if you are or have been hurt recently, you have the potential to cause injury to those around you while you try to heal yourself. But hopefully by the end of this blog, you will be able to identify several ‘unsafe’ characteristics and have tools to change them if you find yourself identifying with those patterns, and know what to look for to find the ‘safe’ people, and tools to know how to become safe yourself, for others who need you to be a safe person in their life.

Characteristics of an ‘Unsafe’ Person

Here are a few qualities and characteristics of an ‘unsafe’ person:

-People who act like they have it all together
-Self-righteous
-Demand trust without it being earned
-Controlling
-Treat you like you are less or one-down from them
-Abusive (I will do a series on abuse soon to further unpack what this means)
-Manipulative
-Unreliable
-Competitive
-Defensive, not open to constructive criticism or feedback
-People who ‘may’ apologize but never change their behavior, or who simply never apologize
-People who avoid working on and dealing with their problems
-People who don’t take responsibility for what is ‘theirs to own’ (see previous blogs on boundaries to know what each of us is personally responsible for in life)
-People who lack compassion, empathy or concern for others
-People who do not forgive others ever (we all know forgiveness takes time, I am referring to people who never let go of grudges and offenses and hold it over someone else forever!)
-Blame others for their problems
-People who live a continual lifestyle of lying
-People who are not growing, keeping the same unhealthy patterns and don’t want to change.

Characteristics of Safe People

Compare the above list with the characteristics of a ‘safe’ person:

-People who react to you differently than those who have hurt you, over a period of time (even unsafe people can appear ‘safe’ initially until the ‘romance’ phase of any early relationship wears off.)
-People who are loving and who have a good reputation for being loving over time. Watch their actions. Not just what they say.
-People you can watch and observe from an emotional distance and who are gentle with you during the trust earning phase
-People who are willing to earn trust, rather than demand it.
-People who can accept imperfections in others
-People who have grace for imperfections
-People who have endured pain themselves, but are recovering or have recovered, who can be empathetic to your pain
-People who can speak the truth to you lovingly
-People who bear good fruit in your life… If you find you are becoming healthier and are encouraged to grow and your identity and independence and limits are respected, these are good qualities to look for.
-People who can be intimate, who know the difference between intimacy and enmeshment.
-People who can confront gently, with compassion
-Honest
-Not controlling
-Views relationships equally, rather than a one-up, one-down perspective.

Some of you reading may say to yourselves “where are these people?” And you may be right. They are fewer and farther between. But don’t give up looking. Perhaps you should look in different places than you usually do to find safe people. If you still have trouble finding them, look for a support group you can join in your area in the meantime, so that you can learn to become a safe person yourself. “like attracts like” they say. If you become healthier and ‘safer’ in the way you interact with others, you will begin to attract safe people, and will become less attracted to the ‘unsafe people’ as you begin to value the attributes of what a safe person possesses within them.

How to Become a Safe Person

1. Learn to ask for help, ask for what you need. Asking develops humility, it develops the skill of taking initiative and ownership and responsibility for yourself. It produces an attitude of gratitude when we have received what we asked for. Asking also increases the possibility that your need will be met.

2. Learn to need. Confess how difficult it is, or your inability to express need. This next step is hard… But necessary. Confess the need. If you don’t ask, you don’t receive. People are not mind readers. Here are a couple examples to help you along:
I need to know I matter to you.
I need to know you love me.
I need to know you understand.
I need to know you won’t reject me when I express who I am.
I need to know you will accept that I have different opinions than you sometimes.

3. What evokes your hunger? What is that ache that is unfulfilled? Learn to identify your feelings so you can express your needs. Learn what you like and dislike, and ask for more of what you like.

4. Work through resistances. “Resistance is our tendency to avoid growth”. (Drs..Henry Cloud and John Townsend, authors of ‘Safe People’, where I have gleaned from for this material)
A) Identify your resistances to love. What are you doing when someone is expressing love to you? Are you diminishing it? Dismissing it? Disbelieving it? These are examples of resistances to love.
B) Bring these resistances into relationship.
C) Allow the needs beneath the resistance to get met.
D) do the opposite of what the resistance tells you to do.
Ie. the resistance says “handle it yourself. You don’t need help.” instead, ask for help. Delegate responsibilities, etc.
E) Be open to truth
F) learn to give and receive forgiveness. Both from others and yourself. Forgive yourself!

5. Give something back.
Understand what you have gained from the above exercises and learn how to identify your friends’ and family’s need signals. Ask to help others. Learn to ‘be there’ for others. Be a truth teller, and someone who loves truth.

Many thanks go out to Dr’s Henry Cloud and John Townsend for their extensive work on the subject of boundaries and healthy relationships. I have learned much from their resources over the years. I highly recommend their literature on these subjects.

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Need help with breaking the cycle and identifying safe people?

Check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program and bring control back into your life!

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach

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