Secrets That Lead to Shame

Am I in an abusive relationship?

Most of us think of physical violence, when we hear about a woman who is in an abusive relationship. Yet, the term abusive can be expanded to any relationship that involves emotional cruelty, such as harsh insulting language. There does not have to be physical violence in order to categorize a relationship as abusive. More than likely, if you are in an abusive relationship, you know it. You feel trapped and/or frightened, so it is extremely difficult for you to reach out for help. Sometimes, there is a level of threat from a partner that is so severe, you may be terrified for your life.

A woman can be physically or emotionally battered, both of which present troubling circumstances, particularly if children are involved. If there is alcohol or drug use added into the mix, then an abusive relationship can be a ticking time bomb. There is a strong link between violence, anger outbursts and substance abuse. If you are hoping and praying for a partner to change, if you forsake your own personal limits, if you act out of compliance due to fear, feel constantly manipulated, or make exceptions for behavior you would not tolerate in anyone else, you may be in an abusive relationship. According to the CDC 2012 violence prevention report, nearly 3 in 10 women (29%) have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by a partner which impacted their ability to function normally.

Why do I attract partners who are abusive and what can I do about it?

The answer to this question is so significant to your happiness, that it is critical for you to understand. There are many factors that play a role in how we choose a mate. For example, did you grow up in an abusive family? Studies show that women who have grown up in families where they have been abused or have witnessed abuse, are more likely to grow up believing that abuse is normal behavior. Women who watch their mothers engage with a partner who uses anger, control or violence to solve problems perceives this relational pattern as acceptable. Women who watched their mothers take orders, or comply with someone out of fear in order to avoid anger soon learn that mother is riddled by self-doubt, insecurity or low self-esteem.

As children, we are like sponges taking in our experiences and making them a part of who we are. Our major caretakers are our special mentors. We depend on them to keep us safe and secure. When this doesn’t happen, we grow up not knowing how to care for ourselves, how to protect ourselves emotionally, and we do not have a “good mommy” inside of us that can help us make decisions and use good judgment about what is or isn’t right for us. There are many more complications if a woman is financially dependent on a man (particularly when there are children involved), or emotionally dependent on a man to provide the self-esteem and self-worth that she so desperately needs. This is where the term “co-dependent” evolves from.

Many women think that two halves make a whole. This may be true when we refer to cutting a piece of fruit, but not when it comes to having our own identities as women! You must have what you need for yourself before joining with someone else. If not, you may make your partner responsible for giving you what you need, when it is you who must look at your own internal unfulfilled needs. You are never responsible for violence. You areresponsible for taking the steps to free yourself from abuse of any kind. If you identify with any of these issues then chances are you are struggling in your romantic relationship(s). If you have already been through several failed marriages or relationships where you see the same patterns over and over, then it is time to reach out for help from a trained professional.

I will help you to develop a strong, confident sense of yourself whereby you can stand on your own two feet. When you finally feel strong enough on the inside, you will not tolerate abusive partners who treat you with disrespect and you will not fear leaving partners who cause destruction in your life. Your recovery depends on you seeking the psychotherapy that you need.

Is it too late to change?

 According to the March 2015 AARP Bulletin, 95% of women say it’s important to be open to change no matter what your age. The Domestic Violence Intervention Program in Iowa City states that more than 50% of women leave abusive partners after seeking help. There are many factors unique to women’s lives that play a role in whether she will develop depression. A woman who tolerates abuse in a relationship is more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

The prospect of change can be frightening when having to hold the unknown of the future. Not making a change can mean a life of generational abuse, passed on to a woman’s children, who then repeat the same patterns. Living a life that mostly approximates what you have always wanted for yourself increases your chance of happiness and longevity. Walking through a woman’s therapy with her so that she is not isolated and alone is the key to growth and change. I have walked with many women and I look forward to walking with you.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Despite our early beginnings, we all have the potential to grow...

Dr. Beth Siegel