Contrary to what people may think it is not easy to identify an abuser or to believe that you are in an abusive relationship. We all behave badly at times and this makes it difficult to know what constitutes a domestic violence relationship. How many of you have never made derogatory comments, never withdrawn into bitter silences, never thrown or smashed anything, never threatened, never hit out, never used sarcasm, never told a lie or done something sneaky or mean? Probably everyone has behaved like this on occasions, with occasions being the key word.
What are different about abusers are both the ‘package’ and the ‘repetitiveness’ of their abusive behaviours. Abusers use a package of abusive behaviours including, hostility, put-downs, criticism, contempt, threats to harm, smashing things, refusing to talk, punishing, disloyalty, shoving, pushing or causing physical harm. This is not an exhaustive list of abusive behaviour and nor is it definitive, but abusive people engage in a package of abusive behaviours that cause unhappiness, distress and despair in their partners and children. Abusers can also be charming, loving and even sensitive on occasions but when things aren’t going their way they repeat this abusive package of behaviours over and over again.
The good news is that abusers can change. They need to change and they need to learn how to change. My latest book, ‘After the Honeymoon: Why treating women badly ends badly’ outlines and describes how to make the change from an abusive relationship to a respectful and enduring relationship. It is relevant for abusers of any gender.