Counsellors seeing clients for couple counselling attempt to maintain hope in the room for the relationship to get back on track. But sometimes we are baffled as to what keeps an individual in a relationship that is clearly an abusive.
Abuse comes in many forms physical and emotional. Physical abuse should never be tolerated and anyone suffering such has to leave the relationship. Emotional abuse however sneaks up on partners, where confusion and disassociation takes place.
Confusion happens because the abused partner still finds positive things in the relationship. There is physical sex, a domestic home life and sometimes the expression of kind words but there is also overt abuse present. This emotional abuse is very evident when the abusive partner does not get his/her way or they have been found out about a deceit and defend it with a verbal tirade of abuse.
After the floodgates have opened the abused partner often begins to believe it is their fault for upsetting their partner. Eventually the abused partner has no self-esteem and little defense for reason or equality.
Disassociation, or not having any emotional understanding of reality, is primarily due to a childhood where abuse was common in the household. To survive avoidance of what is witnessed occurs. When abuse is replicated in adult relationships, this same coping strategy is used – disassociation of reality.
Abused partners can also stay in abused relationship because they fear being alone, they have a rescue complex where they believe they can heal the partner, the abusive partner insists they will be hurt if they leave them and finally the abused partner often starts to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to cope.
If you are in a relationship you will know deep down if there is abuse going on. You will know. Those that are not abused do not consider it as an issue. Finding a power balance and a sense of equality in a relationship is healthy thing to work on.
If you think you are in an abusive relationship it is worth exploring how serious it is and to what degree any change could occur. Physical abuse is just not on and I am sure you will agree. Lifeline is 13 11 14 and their counsellors are very well trained.
With emotional abuse exploring your childhood, or previous relationships, might provide awareness that disassociation is occurring where you are numb and confused about what is real and what is not.
There is also the possibility that a destructive dynamic has slowly developed in a long term relationships, where one person now accepts continual criticisms as normal and the other thinks they are entitled to speak this way.
If it hurts too much you will know where trying to work it out is pointless. Building up self-esteem with an abused partner is very important and can be done. To do this it is time to begin having a positive relationship with them self. Sometimes this means leaving the present relationship. There are wonderful supportive gay relationships out there where emotional abuse is not at all present.
Gerry North is a gay couple counsellor and also treats depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sexual matters and addictions.