How To Stop Being Abusive to Your Partner

How To Stop Being Abusive to Your Partner

How To Stop Being Abusive to Your Partner,Dear Enchanted, thank you for sending this letter. I want to applaud you for sending in this in because it takes courage to seek help on a matter like this. As you know, there is a strong stigma surrounding abuse, for both the victim and the abuser. Yet you have bravely sent in your question and I’ll do my best to assist you.

On #1, this is understandable. All relationships have their moments of frustration. My husband and I have moments when we frustrate each other too. Usually we handle these in a variety of ways from letting it pass to discussing to arguing, but we always try to resolve them and reach a positive place.

The good thing is that you recognize that (1) this abuse is a problem and (2) you want to stop it. There are abusers who feel that abusing others is okay and they are entitled to violence against their partner. These people have a separate problem altogether. You clearly do not think that way. So how do we tackle this?

Understanding the Source of the Physical Abuse/ How To Stop Being Abusive to Your Partner

First, let’s understand the source of the abusive behavior. As we have established above, the source isn’t that your partner frustrates you or her frustrating behavior (that she never seems to listen to you). There are many couples who face problems, including feeling that their partner isn’t listening to them, yet it doesn’t result in violence. Or you can put someone else in your position, in this exact situation, and he/she would probably feel irritated, but not get violent.

The source is something else, and we’re here to understand what.

Enchanted, you mentioned that you grew up in an abusive household and I feel this could well be a strong link to your abusive behavior. According to studies,

  • About one-third of people abused in childhood will become abusers themselves.[1]
  • Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of non-violent parents.[2]
  • Children of domestic violence are three times more likely to repeat this cycle in adulthood.[3]

Why is this so? That’s because our childhood years are our most formative years. That’s when we form a big chunk of our life scripts, what I call childhood stories, until we consciously rewrite them later. So imagine a child who grows up in an abusive household. The subconscious beliefs formed become something like

Even if the child is later educated in school/society that violence is a no-no, this will not override his/her fundamental childhood beliefs — especially if they are deeply embedded, especially if the child never got to work through these false beliefs.

is Not the Start of the Problem/Approaching Behavior Change

The first thing I’d like you to understand is that violence is not the start of the problem. Violence is the tip of the problem, albeit a very extremely serious tip with grave consequences.

The real problem started way before the violence surfaced. It could be when you witnessed or was at the receiving end of domestic violence in your household. It could be when you made certain conclusions about yourself and the world after experiencing the abuse. These incidences, combined with other issues/beliefs, brewed over time to give rise to abusive behavior.

Hence, when the abuse happens, it’s because there has been a certain build up of pain, angst, and grievances, as well as a lineup of preconditions (like abusive beliefs), that results in the lashing out. This is why the abuse occurs despite your best effort — it’s often the final display in a series of unresolved issues.

By saying this, I’m not in any way excusing the abusive behavior. Your partner has physical and emotional pain that she now needs to live with, as do you — but understanding this is crucial to get resolution.

As a result, working on the abusive tendency only isn’t going to solve the problem. You need to get to the root of the issue. Because of that, if you are abusive, I recommend you get professional aid as resolving this will take time. I will, however, keep writing this article to give you a general guide.

2) Understand What’s Triggering the Violence/

There are usually triggers to violence. If not, you would be violent to everyone 24/7 which isn’t the case. (There are people like that and they obviously suffer from a different problem.)

Our goal is to understand what these triggers are. It doesn’t mean that these triggers are the issue though. Like I mentioned, violence is the tip, not the start, of the problem. Likewise, these triggers are merely catalysts of the abuse. There are certain pre-existing issues causing the violence to occur. Knowing what these triggers are will give us insight into these deeper issues.

The answer is out: as it turns out, the person in this example gets abusive because he is screaming to be heard. If he is not heard, he becomes non-existent; a non-existent human being. This thought terrifies him and he cannot accept it. So he desperately lashes out in physical violence, screaming and crying for the one person who matters to listen to him: his partner.

Does this justify the violence? No of course not. Violence is not justifiable under any circumstances, unless it’s self-defense. The above is meant to understand the trigger for the person’s abusive behavior. Of course when you think about it, it doesn’t make sense because not only does violence not help one get heard, but it will make any trusted communication difficult in the future due to fear and trauma. But many deep personal issues are not logical and stem from emotional difficulties. It’s important to recognize and understand them to start the healing process.

3) Deal with the Root Issues

Depending on your results, you can have multiple factors driving your abusive behavior. These factors can be different or related. Each factor likely deals with a deep personal issue, possibly linked to the trauma you experienced as a child. Get down to the root of each root issue (yes, there are roots to roots) and understand how it came about.

Let’s say you have been using violence to get heard. Your reason is that if you don’t get heard, you feel that you don’t exist. Some questions to dig into are do you have this belief?

Or let’s say violence is your way to keep love by your side. You feel that you lack love and you cannot stand the thought of not having someone with you. Some questions to think about are

Tackling each root will likely open a floodgate of emotions: anger, bitterness, hatred, pain. It will also open up a flood of childhood memories and unhappiness. While uncomfortable, it’s necessary because this is the s*** that was not processed before, that subsequently led to your violent behavior today. What’s different is that you’re now an adult, stronger and more conscious of who you are. What was confusing before can now be properly analyzed as you are able to dissect and understand them.

The above will take time. You need time to work through grief, pain, anger, hate, and perhaps even loss. I recommend you to read my How To Deal With Anger (series), which is on removing anger from your life and identifying deeper issues that drive anger in us.

4) Use Coping Strategies in the Interim

As the healing will take time, it’ll be good to have coping strategies to manage the abusive behavior. I recommend the following:

5) Recognize the Sacredness of Your Partner’s Body

As you work on your self-healing, I want to bring attention to the sacredness of the human body. One of the factors of domestic violence is that the abuser feels like they “own” the victim’s body and they have the right to do whatever they wish to it. This belief is subconscious rather than conscious, especially if the abuser does not consciously want to abuse.

Understand why there’s a part of you that is okay with hitting your partner. You may have these answers:

Go through each statement one by one and ask yourself if it’s really true.

Because while she is your partner, that doesn’t give you the right to hit her or feel like you can “control” her. Your partner is an individual human being, as are you. Her body is sacred as is yours. Rather than subconsciously feel that you “own” her body because she is with you, you should recognize and treasure the sacredness of her body, as you would with any human being’s. Your partner is a separate human being and she deserves love, respect, and dignity as do you. To use violence on her would be to disrespect who she is and abuse your place as her lover and partner. This understanding is fundamental to breaking abuse patterns.

Wrapping Up

Abuse is a very deep topic and it’s not possible for me to cover everything in just one article. What I’ve done is provide some general pointers to put you in the right direction. I hope I’ve helped in some way.

This article is not meant as a replacement for professional help for addressing abuse. I highly recommend that both you and your partner get professional aid in addressing this episode. For your partner, it’s important because there is trauma associated with abuse. Letting this sit in her without dealing with it may result in a cycle of violence later in her life.

I did a Google search and there are many organizations that provide domestic abuse help. Here are some helplines to call; these helplines are 24/7:

Even if you’re not in those countries, I think you can just call them — I honestly do not think that they restrict help only to people in their locality. Skype lets you make international calls; just add the country code in front of their hotline number.

There are also domestic abuse counseling services in many countries and you can do a Google search for results in your locality. Just calling the helplines above will be a great start.

Please keep me posted on how this goes, okay?

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