Domestic Violence 101

Domestic Violence 101

Domestic Violence? Me?

By now you’ve figured out that you are in an abusive relationship. And you’re begging for any sign that your partner can snap out of it.

You stick around because you hope your partner will eventually change. On good days it’s not hard to see the partner you fell in love with. But what if these “good days” aren’t a sign of change at all…what if they are just another stage in the abuse cycle?

 

Cycles of Domestic Violence

Tension-building Cycle: The abuser shows anger as stresses build. The victim concedes, and dyadic communication begins to break down. You can feel it coming. You smile. You placate. You wait…

Escalation Cycle: Increasing incidents of verbal, emotional and physical abuse compound. The abuser attempts to utterly dominate and control their partner.

Honeymoon Period: As the intimidation winds down, The abuser may show remorse, make profuse apologies, and solemnly promise never to harm their partner again. They also tend to deny or minimize the abuse, or they might blame the victim for provoking them.

Calm Period: Some couples experience a period of relative calm and peace with little or no incidents of abuse. Both partners might actually believe or act as if the abuse was a series of regrettable incidents, and is now only a memory.

How Can You Tell If They Are Serious About Changing?

If you notice your abusive partner acting in a more engaging way, ask yourself if you might just be in a Honeymoon or Calm Periods. Here are some fog-cutting facts from DV research.

  • An abusive partner who has really changed takes full responsibility for their actions and behaviors. They apologize, and they are open to experiencing the impact of the pain they have caused. Rather than becoming angry or wanting to just leave it all in the past, they are willing to truly listen to you and comfort you. Especially comfort you.
  • An abusive partner who has really changed now has a healthier way to show anger and other strong emotions. Habitually denying or ignoring emotions often leads to those emotions building until they burst out in unhealthy ways. Overcoming a pattern of being abusive means learning to recognize and relate to emotions in a more positive way. Hopefully, developing self-regulation. They can talk about their feelings without blaming others for their uncomfortable emotions. They are able to discuss their inner world and are no longer challenged by their partner expressing a difference of opinion.
  • An abusive partner who has really changed is patient as you work through your mistrust and fears. The partner understands their own part in instilling these struggles and so is supportive as you gradually work through them. Rebuilding trust takes time. They accept this.
  • An abusive partner who has really changed – or who is open to change – will be willing to go to therapy.  This is the holy grail of redemptive behavior. It is axiomatic for the abusive partner to first get Responsibility Therapy or Anger Management Therapy.
  • They must then establish a record of having curbed their abusive behavior before entering couple therapy with their partner for at least a year. The reason for this is that couple therapy cannot ever be effective if one partner lives in fear of the other.

So if you finally accept that you’re in an abusive marriage, and you want to try to repair it, ponder carefully whether you see any signs from your spouse that this is ultimately possible.

Saul to Paul Conversions Are the Exception…Not the Rule.

In many situations, it is very helpful to get guidance from a skilled clinician. You can do this by seeking out a therapist, or by reaching out to domestic violence services in your region. You might also want to check out the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224. Users of web browser Microsoft Edge will be redirected to Google when clicking the “X” or “Escape” button.

If you decide to stay with your abusive partner because they seem sincere in their desire to change, make sure you think carefully about your choice. Make sure that there are real indications that your partner is open to changing their behavior, entering therapy, and repairing the relationship.

About the Author Daniel Dashnaw

Daniel is a Marriage and Family Therapist. He currently sees couples at Couples Therapy Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts, three seasons in Cummington (at the foothills of the Berkshires...) and in Miami during joint retreats with his wife, Dr. Kathy McMahon. He uses EFT, Gottman Method, Solution-focused and the Developmental Model in his approaches.

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