Avoiding Abusive Relationships
Only another ‘victim’ of domestic violence knows how hard it is to get away from an abuser and some of these women, despite best intentions, may get into another abusive relationship. I used to watch Professor Sumner Miller giving physics demonstrations on television and I can still hear him say, “Why is that So?” In applying this question to domestic violence we have a lot to say about abusive and dangerous men. Ask any abused woman and people working in the domestic violence sector and they can readily explain what is wrong with abusive men and about the changes in attitude and behaviour they must make to be safe people to be around. But other than avoiding men who are obviously aggressive, controlling and dangerous, little is said about what women might change about themselves to ensure that they aren’t lured into another similar relationship. Self-examination is possible without accepting responsibility or blame for another’s atrocious behaviours. It is not ‘victim blaming’ to reflect on the characteristics and behaviours that the abuser found so appealing in you. I have reflected on that a lot as I myself struggled in an abusive relationship and as I worked and listened to women struggling in the same space. We are all different but also the same. Some of the common threads were an unexamined and deep sense of unworthiness, another a desire to avoid conflict coupled with a tendency to fit in when not doing so would be in our best interests. Forgiving too easily, empathy, mothering behaviours, expecting too little of one’s partner and too much of oneself both attract and imprison women in unsatisfactory and abusive relationships. In moving forward it is important to balance the give and take in all your relationships and to hold people accountable. It will be uncomfortable to ask for more, to expect what is fair and to not be so quick to respond to another’s wants or manipulative suffering. In essence it means that first and foremost you need to treat yourself as an important and valuable human being and that is the platform on which you will step. Learn more about respectful relationships so that you know what you must change and what is reasonable to expect of any new partner. Knowing this is one thing but doing something about it is difficult. Fortunately there are many books including mine to help you on this journey.