Are You and Your Partner Free of Relationship Violence?
Key Feature #3: Do you both adhere absolutely to the belief and practice that in a loving relationship that feels good there is never any relationship violence? If there is violence of any kind, then by definition it is not a relationship that feels good.
For those of you who believe you would never be violent toward your partner, and would never accept relationship violence from a partner, I say, “good for you.” Really good for you.
Perhaps you believe that relationship violence is a deal-breaker. Any lover that gets violent with you, then they are out! You’re 100% sure of that, too. At least about physical violence, anyway, right? Emotional violence–that’s a little more slippery, isn’t it? More about that in the next post.
But, back to physical violence. How easy is it for the two of you to fall into getting physically violent with each other and to start acting as if it’s normal, an expected part of your relationship? How often can you put your hands on her before she stops loving you and starts fearing you? How many times does your partner have to hurt you before the love is gone, the trust is gone, and you’re just surviving instead of living? Tough questions, if you’re living it. And just to be clear–there are no exceptions to the rule about no relationship violence. If there is violence, your relationship is doomed if you don’t change, and that means both of you. Both of you are involved in relationship violence, either as perpetrator, as victim, or as both. So both of you must be involved in changing the pattern of relationship violence.
It’s a cycle, you know. It’s called “the cycle of violence.” First the blow-up, the violence occurs. Then comes the shame, the apologies and the promises that it will never happen again. Sometimes the regret is so real, the making up so tender and heartfelt, that the victim actually feels closer to the perpetrator. Life is good again. All is forgiven, if not exactly forgotten, and normal life resumes.Read on...
But the same issues and stressors that created the first blowup begin to build again. Tension increases and tempers flare–and the violence happens again. And the vow to never do it again is like so much dust in your bagless vacuum. Go ahead, open that little door and pour it into the trash, because that’s about what that promise is worth. Without a concerted effort on both parts, and professional help, there is not an ice cube’s chance in hell that such a vow will be kept, regardless of intentions.
An added whammy to this situation is that the perpetrator will often blame the victim for the fact that relationship violence happened again–“if you hadn’t made me so mad, I wouldn’t have lost it…” or “You know I can’t control myself, so why do you make me so mad? You know what happens…” and blah. blah. blah.
If you stay together, there will be apologies and make-up sex, and it will all begin again. It’s a sure thing. You could bet the farm on it.
If you aren’t sure whether you’ve actually experienced relationship violence with your partner, this next section is especially for you. This is vitally important information, so let me make it crystal clear. It’s pretty straightforward–ask yourself this: Do both of you refrain from physically hurting, threatening or controlling each other? This includes any efforts to cause physical pain or to assert the will of one person over the other for any reason. This includes sexual abuse and rape. Any non-consensual sexual activity is violence. Period. Marriage or domestic partnership provides no privileges that override a person’s consent.
Some may want to argue semantics regarding the use of the term “rape” between two women, so let me clarify and simplify for these folks: no means no. Freely given consent is required before sex. If you don’t have freely given consent from your partner, and you insist on sex or force it on her, you are sexually abusing and violating the woman you supposedly love.
Violence is never justified. Never. Even if she hits you first. Even if she sleeps with someone else. Even if she lies, betrays or destroys your most valued possession. Violence is never justified. Get a divorce. Break up. Take her for everything she’s got in court. But no violence. It is beneath you and it will destroy you in the long run because there can be no good outcome if you choose violence.
If you don’t like these statements, think about why that is. What have you felt justified to do, or what was done to you that you feel (or were told) was justified? What were the motives behind the violence? What was the intended outcome? Really look at the situation and be honest with yourself about it, whether you were the perpetrator or the victim. You serve no one by lying to yourself about the damaging nature of violence in your relationship.
Any violence done to pets and property, or anything done to purposefully frighten or terrorize the other person is included in relationship violence. Unless you both can say emphatically that there has not been any, then you have experienced relationship violence. Reality check time.
Oh, and by the way, practical jokes are included in relationship violence. They are neither practical nor funny. In fact, they usually hurt, frighten or humiliate the recipient. Therefore, practical jokes have no place in a relationship that “feels good.” If you have a partner who does mean things and then says, “I was just joking–where’s your sense of humor?” please refer the person to this item after you find a way to be safe. Safety is an act of self-love and takes priority over anything demanded by the other.
An overarching aspect to physically violent relationships, even when it’s between two women, is control. If you are mutually violent, you are likely mutually controlling of each other. However, what is usually the case is that one partner is more powerful or more dominant that the other. Perhaps she is bigger, stronger, more used to being physical. Or perhaps she has control of the money and uses that to control the other partner. Or perhaps it is neither size nor money but is instead her need to direct and control her partner in order to soothe her own anxiety and insecurity. In other words, it isn’t about who is bigger, more butch, richer, louder, etc. It is about the need to control her partner and other people, too. A woman can be controlling without being violent, that’s true. But thwart her ability to control what she feels she needs to control and she may pull out all the stops, up to and including violence. It is a huge red flag.
When one partner uses violence or the threat of violence to control the other, that is domestic abuse. If she demands the passwords to her partner’s phone, FaceBook, etc., but doesn’t give up her own, that is controlling. When one partner prevents the other from seeing friends and family without interference, or makes rules about what the other partner can or cannot do, go or be, and enforces them with threats of violence, this is controlling, it is domestic abuse and it is relationship violence. If you have been the victim of such behavior, you are a victim of relationship violence, and your partner is the perpetrator.
Can I be any more clear about the definition and parameters? I want to be clear about something else, too. If you are just coming to grips with this and you’re feeling alone, you are not. There are many in your shoes, and there is help for both of you.
If violence, property destruction or terrorizing has happened in your relationship, this cannot feel good, even if the non-violent times feel pretty good after going through the violence. If you have responded to a violent episode by claiming, “But I love her,” this is not even remotely supportable.
Love has nothing to do with the violence that’s going on. Sorry. Still reality-check time. You may be with each other for reasons other than love, certainly. Need, maybe. Habit, definitely. Familiarity, fear, low self worth, abusive childhood—yes, yes and yes.
Get. Some. Help. There is nothing good that will come of this kind of interaction, because like other bad habits, it gets progressively worse as time goes on. And please try to hear me on this: it never, ever gets better without help. Someone has to tell you the truth. Get some help. You can’t manage this on your own, whether you are the perpetrator, the victim, or both.
You can get help and information from the national 24/7 hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (1-800-799-SAFE) or if you prefer, www.thehotline.org. If you want to figure out why you end up in hurtful relationships, get yourself a coach or a therapist who can help you uncover what’s influencing your choices. Nobody—I don’t care who you are—but nobody deserves to be treated with cruelty, for any reason. All you do when you allow such behavior in your life is teach your children, if you have any, to follow in your footsteps.
Listen. Whether you are the victim or the perpetrator, there is help for you. You don’t have to keep living in a relationship that doesn’t feel good, and in fact probably feels pretty bad most of the time. You deserve to feel good. You deserve to be loved without pain. And if you don’t believe that, you are hurting yourself with your beliefs. Get some help. You will be amazed at how quickly you can leave the pain behind.
A final caveat for those who are currently in a physically violent relationship. If you are in a relationship with a physically violent, controlling partner and you are considering leaving, it is vital that you make an exit plan. Get some help making the plan from a friend who knows how to do this, a therapist with the appropriate background or an organization such as the one listed above. Why is a plan so necessary? Unfortunately, research has shown that a woman’s risk of injury or death at the hands of her partner actually increases for a while just after she leaves the relationship. It’s called the separation assault risk. Having a plan in place allows you to exercise a greater degree of choice and safety during the transition because you’ll have your resources lined up and won’t have to try to pull them together when you’re in a crisis.
This was a lot of information, and if it opened your eyes to something you hadn’t been willing to see before, that’s all to your benefit and to your partner’s, as well. Denial is not a successful long term strategy, so you’ve just done yourself a big favor.
If you don’t have any relationship violence in your life, you now know enough to prevent yourself from ever having any. You’ll be able to see it coming a mile off.
Part 4 is coming, so watch for it soon…