Thursday, July 18, 2019

Understanding emotional abuse and getting out of it. Part 4 "Will therapy fix my abusive relationship?"

Abused girl

This is the fourth post in a series of notes on how abusers work and how you can exit an abusive relationship. If you missed the other three, links are at the end.

Today we'll take a look at the question, "Will therapy fix my abusive relationship?"

It seems like the answer, right? Go and talk it over and it will all be resolved? But the true answer is that couples therapy won't work. In fact, it can be incredibly dangerous.

Couples therapy is based on the assumption that both individuals share the same goal: to be in a healthy relationship where both parties have equal input.

BUT abusers are not interested in equality or fairness. They want one thing: complete and total domination over their partner. And they'll do or say anything to get that.

It sounds simple enough but abusive relationships are widely misunderstood. Nice people have real difficulty understanding how predators work. They can't get their mind around it.

Therefore, there are horror stories of abuse victims going into couples therapy and being told not to 'trigger' their violent partner.

Consider this truth: you are not responsible for someone else's behaviour.

And consider this, too: There is never an excuse for abuse. NEVER.

So please, avoid couples therapy.

If you've been at the sharp end of this, go get help for yourself (More on this tomorrow)

We often love people, even though they hurt us. Therefore, I'm often asked, "But I want to help my abusive partner change. How do I do that?"

This is my standard response: "Sadly, we all have just one person in the world we can change: ourselves."

It begs the question, "Is it possible for an abuser to change?"

I don't like that one because I don't want to give false hope.
But here goes: in theory, anyone can change. We all have the capacity to learn new behaviour. In practice, it's pretty damn unlikely an abuser will seek help.

Programmes aimed at helping to change abusers tend to be prison-based or some other form of mandatory counselling. And from the reports, they're not very successful. It's not through lack of skill or effort: it's because abusers actively resist change.

In my practice I've helped plenty of clients recover from abuse but I've only had a handful of abusers reach out to me.

The ones I was able to help knew there was something wrong. They were aware they had frightened away their loved ones. They wanted to change.

The others were incapable of seeing that their rages, punishments, and terrifying attitudes were an issue. They blamed their partner for 'making them crazy'.

It became clear very, very quickly that they contacted me solely because they wanted me to call their ex-partners who had escaped and convince them to come back. And they were angry when I would not.

Which brings us to the other often asked question, "Do abusers realise what they're doing?"

That's a question I think about often. A handful, like career criminals, plan their abuse and are very skilled at controlling people. Just ask anyone who's been trafficked. 

The majority of domestic abusers appear to be carrying out a pattern of learned behaviour. They picked it up from their parents or if they were sent away to boarding school, from abusive teachers and fellow pupils.

And that's the very sad part about abuse. When someone has been taught to behave that way, they have a lifetime of behaviour to unlearn. It's a real challenge. And not many people have the strength to do it. Not many at all.

Worse, abusers often enjoy the results of their actions. They like having a partner who is anxious to please, who doesn't talk back, who obeys completely. That's why they get so damn mad if you walk away. You're ruining their good time.

FACT: many abusers have several relationships on the go at once, in case their prime victim walks. So if you exit, don't be surprised if a replacement pops up out of the blue.

Note: Image by cocoparisienne