• Robin Parry

The Role of Stress in Abusive Relationships

Like animals, humans respond to stress in a variety of ways. For instance we can fight by lashing out physically or by becoming aggressive and quarrelsome. We can take flight and escape the scene or escape by withdrawing emotionally. We can try to defuse the situation by eliciting care and attention. We can also submit. I once witnessed an irate householder chasing a fleeing thief who unexpectedly dropped to the ground and rolled onto his back in a posture of surrender. The householder stopped in his tracks. He stared down at the thief gave him a kick for good measure and walked off in disgust, his angst now gone.

Is it any wonder that abused women having tried variations of fight and flight without success, and with abuse continuing or even intensifying despite all their efforts, that they submit to the perceived hopelessness of their situation? Is it any wonder then that abusive men keep repeating what works for them? What they fail to see is that treating their partner badly is the surest way to drive her away for good when that was never their intention.

Many abusive men want to change, they want a loving relationship but they don’t know how to achieve that. To establish an enduring relationship, abusers need to develop skills in managing their stress levels, resolving problems, rethinking negative attitudes and learning to listen, even under the most trying conditions. These can be learned. My latest book “After the Honeymoon: Why treating women badly ends badly” outlines those vital skills. Also, joining a men’s behaviour change group program is an effective way to learn and consolidate these skills and change unhelpful attitudes and behaviours.