Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships and How To Defeat Each One of Them

by John Shore on April 6, 2010 · 182 comments

Since its publication thousands of women have used John Shore’s revelatory Seven Reasons Women Find Themselves in Abusive Relationships to completely and permanently turn around their lives. Penetratingly clear and breathtakingly insightful, Seven Reasons is a must-read for any woman ensnared in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. Such a relationship is like a frighteningly dark cave; Seven Reasons carefully, directly, and lovingly walks any women trapped in such a cave back out into the light. As surely as any abused woman will recognize herself in the seven reasons Shore gives for why people first get attracted to and then stuck in such relationships, she will find salvation in his prescription for defeating each one. A women in an abusive relationship has lost something core to herself; Seven Reasons restores it to her.

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Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How To Defeat Each One of Them, paperback edition, 6 x 9 in., softcover, signed by John Shore and inscribed per your request. (Each book also comes with one of John’s utterly bookmark-worthy business cards, signed and dated on back.) $7.99.

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Praise for Seven Reasons:

This is a very detailed and extremely supportive article about the reasons women tell themselves they need to stay put in abusive relationships. — CreativeConflicts.com

An excellent piece of writing that speaks very practically about the reasons someone stays in a bad relationship. Worth looking at, even if you are not someone, nor do you know someone who is abusive. The answers John gives helps us understand how it is that we may do things that do not seem like it’s in our best interest. It is a wonderfully well written, easy to understand and non-clinical approach to answering the question, “Why do some women stay in abusive relationships?” — RealHope.com

Whether this is a problem for you now, or for someone you know, it impacts people too often. There are many reasons we stay in abusive relationships. Shore’s insights, understanding, wit and humor can help all of us—male and female. — MenAlive.com

From readers:

“Thank you…your post has helped me finally leave a emotionally abusive relationship with a man. Thanks for describing this dynamic. I’ve never heard it done so eloquently.”— Heather.

“I credit 7 Reasons with changing and saving my life” — Lisa E

“John, as someone who works with DV (domestic violence) victims, I’d like to thank you for this great resource. There is an amazing amount of good, solid information out there on emotional/physical abuse. But your short blogs go right to the heart. Thank you so much for caring about women, encouraging us, and sharing your ideas. You’re right on.” — Anonymous

“Bless you, John Shore.” — Mindy

“John Shore – what comes through the most in these writings is your love and tender-hearted care for women. Wow. It’s amazing. Thank you.”— Rkerstetter1

“I sit here with my mouth wide open in amazement at the way John describes to a ‘T’ the reason why I cannot move “him” out of my life … I don’t really know if I am glad that I have read this or if I am in shock …” — Anonymous

“This is fantastic. Thank you. Mr. Shore, please keep up your beautiful, empowering, compassionate, thoughtful and passionate advocacy of women!” — Lara

“Thank you so much. You deserve an award for posting this info! Great info indeed.” — Anonymous

“I have really, really appreciated finding this.” — christinej

“BRILLIANT! Oh bravo, bravo!!!” — Freda

“Thank you John, for opening your heart to take in some of the pain of we who carry such vile memories deep inside our still struggling and shaking psyches and emotions. You’re a true brother.” — Anonymous

“Are you really a woman? LOL You nail abusive relationships. Thanks for getting it.”– Strong.

“This article is just what I needed to read, just when I needed it! Thank you.” — TS

“Most helpful, strong stuff I have read in a long time. Very sobering.” — Anonymous

“BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO!! Just had to shout.” — Laura W.

“This is an amazing article that I have to view as an answer to prayer. I’ve never before seen your blog or articles and was amazed at the clarity of the truths you’ve written about so well.” — Anonymous

“I posted the link to this wonderful article on my Facebook page, and my son (20) sarcastically commented … ‘I think you should listen to that dude, Mom.’” — Anonymous

“I wish I had discovered your article years ago.” — Sylvie.

“John – Thank you so much for this! I really related to Reason #4 – Old Family Tapes. This site is extraordinarily helpful and I will recommend to my friends dealing with the same issues. Thanks so much!!!” — Maren S.

“I agree very much with what you have said here John.” — Anonymous

“Thank you for posting this information. Thank you a million times. I read it almost daily to keep myself out of the “marinade” that my soon-to-be ex-husband tries to douse me with constantly.” — April

“Having worked in a local women’s shelter, I absolutely applaud your latest opus!!!” — Anonymous

“Wow. Thank you. Thank you for your affirmation.” — Deb.

“Really empowering. Life changing. Something I’ll come back to again and again.” — Anonymous

“Rereading this today, and sending it out to any woman having trouble saying ‘Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.’” — Helen Winslow Black

“Wow. Great stuff. This will be worth several reads.” — Erica H.

“Thank you SO MUCH for posting this … funny stuff, but oh-so true! I’ve only scanned over the article once, but I can already see there is SO MUCH GOOD STUFF that will help me and I think will also help my kids!” — Anonymous

“I just discovered this this morning and I honestly can’t tell you how much they mean and how serendipitous it was that I found them today of all days….Thanks again for your help in all this, it is greatly appreciated.” — Anon.

“Thank you very much for such an insightful article.” — Jose

“WOW. Amazing. So true.” — CJ

“Once again, John, you have truly and bravely spoken words that many are afraid to voice. You can’t even imagine how much your blog-site on this very subject is ministering to women in this situation.” — Anonymous

“John, What a wonderful article and there are so many women going though the deep angst you talk about.” — Lain

“Powerful and profound insight into the nightmare of abusive relationships and the people who inhabit them…..the most loving and thoughtful exposition I’ve ever read about the dynamics of domestic abuse.” — Not AVictim

“John: thank you thank you … so needed to be said.” Anonymous

“Very good summary. I left my 15 years of hell 5 years ago. You WILL survive. You WILL feel better than you ever thought possible. This article is insightful and accurate.” — Flanders

“I very much approve of your way of writing things. I very much approve of your common sense and the priorities you set.”— Jule

“Thanks for the part about power. It has explained a lot.” — Diane

“This is one of the most powerful bits of writing on abuse I’ve read.” — Anonymous

“Thank you for this.” — MHD

“Oh my goodness you couldn’t be more right! I’m going through this right now. Thanks for the help” — Anonymous

“I found your insights helpful in my counseling service to battered women. You are doing amazing work here.” — Greta

“I love the comparison of an abusive man to a rabid dog, it is an excellent one. I have a friend who was in an abusive relationship for about a year. This series has helped me understand her better.” — Melinda

“Wow! this is what I needed to hear, right now. stuff I haven’t heard before about men & power in this context. really, really thank you. only wish I’d known it sooner. thank you John, this has given me new understandings I can really use NOW.” — Merk

“Words can not express how proud/happy/beaming I am that you said what you said John. Just wanna fly to America and give you a big hug!!! Keep preaching preacher, we all love you.” — Anonymous

“Your comments here are sure to help a lot of people, not just women.” — Anonymous

John, why do you understand this subject so well? It’s hard to believe you’re not really a woman.” — HJ

“Thank you John, gonna download this now, know a few people who need to read it. Thank you so much for these posts, you have hit the nail on the head so many times, something I have to say I have never read/heard/seen a man do effectively on this topic before.” — CB

{ 182 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna February 9, 2011 at 11:03 am

I have to say as a domestic violence service provider, this post pushes my buttons. Here are some reasons I know:
1. Because she is afraid he will kill her if she leaves. This is often a very legitimate fear, in over 60% of cases where women who are killed or severely injured by their partners they are either trying to leave, or have recently left.
2. Because she is financially dependent on him.
3. Because she has been socialized to believe that her children need their father, and fears being shamed by her community and/or her family if she leaves him.
4. Because her religion tells her that marriage is for life.
5. Because her mother stayed with her father despite abuse, because her grandmother stayed with her grandfather despite abuse, because every model she has seen in her life tells her this is normal.

Please, please, please start asking a different question. Why do batterers do this? Why does abuse continue? Why does society allow it to happen? Why don’t community members and family members stand up against abusive behavior?

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John Shore February 9, 2011 at 11:07 am

Man. Did you ever clearly not read the piece.

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Anna February 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm

You caught me. I didn’t, actually. I read the headings, they pushed my buttons, I posted in an agitated state. I’m sorry, and I am admitting it publically because it is a good lesson for me, and probably for some other people too… woops.

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Lille February 24, 2011 at 10:18 am

Another point worth considering: women traditionally achieve status in our society through marriage. Their social standing is largely determined by the financial status of their husband. A lot of women will put up with quite a bit before letting go of that status. This aspect of society is lightening up a bit now, but it used to be iron-clad, folks.

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Mandy January 9, 2011 at 5:01 am

I think my biggest problem is confusion. I’ve lived in chaos for so long, I don’t even know what’s right and wrong anymore. Sometimes I feel like I should leave my marriage for the sake of everyone involved and sometimes I feel like I’m supposed to stick it out until something changes and that it is allowing God to develop me and him. But then I think if things don’t change and he EVER makes my girls (who are 1 and 3 years old right now) feel the way he has made me feel, then I couldn’t handle that.

I can honestly say I want out of my marriage. I don’t want to have to live in this kind of pain anymore. I don’t love my husband as a husband anymore because of what he has put me through. But I don’t feel “allowed” to leave my marriage. Like I don’t have biblical grounds and that is all that is holding me back. It would be so much clearer if I were being physically abused then I would know and I would leave. I have become so bitter and hard, that I am starting to become a little like him, towards him anyway. And that to me is the scariest part. I have been married for 6 years and they have been the most painful years of my life. I have never had support or understanding in any way from him. Everyone around me besides maybe a handful of people tell me to leave him.

For the first few years I was so blind I just took it because I loved him. I believed everything he said about me. He would call me lazy, irresponsible, stupid, an idiot. Anything he could think of at the time really. Then there were the actions and the faces that he would make. Many times if things weren’t or aren’t to his pleasing he would dump it on my side of the bed or anywhere and I would just cry and clean it up, whether it was trash or dirty laundry. He always makes me feel so worthless and like there is something so wrong with me. He is manipulative and he lies, but claims he would never do such a thing. He claims to be this organized and clean person, but he plays video games and does nothing while I do everything for our girls and the house. Then once in a while if I haven’t got things done yet he’ll get up and start ranting and raving and pretty much saying any other woman would be doing what he’s doing right now and how I’ve never been much of a woman anyway. Then he even takes it back to my childhood and makes me feel like I was a bad child even though he didn’t know me then.

Then there are those things I just can’t seem to let go of or move on from no matter how hard I try. Like when I lost my cousin and how the day he died when I told him he acted sorry to hear it, but then a little while later he called me back and told me basically to leave him alone and let him do his thing and I’ll do mine. That was in the first year of marriage. He still hurts me every single day in some way or another, but I don’t let it affect me in the same way. I act bitter and mean just like him. When I told him I was pregnant the first time we were getting ready to leave for a bible study and he said that I told him at the wrong time and basically made me feel like I was a bad person for getting pregnant. There are countless stories and things I wish I could share from over the years just cause it feels good to have someones understanding, but my biggest dilemma right now is the confusion. I walk in confusion everyday…saying yes and no to myself about leaving. I pretty much live in a daze. I can’t concentrate or operate like I used to and I am depressed. I don’t know I just wish someone could make sense of things for me even though many have tried and I believe them for the first hour or two and then I’m back to questioning. Is that normal?

Also, my husband told me in our first year of marriage that if he had it to do all over again he wouldn’t have married me and from that point on he stopped telling me he loved me. I haven’t heard those words again until within the past year and that was because I left him for over half a year. He told me on our one year anniversary that he had feelings for someone else and that it wasn’t necessarily a sexual or physical attraction, but a spiritual one. He has told me countless times over the years that he doesn’t believe I’m saved or that I need to get saved because I don’t “bare fruit”. Almost a year ago he said God changed him and he told me he loved me which to me was such a big change that I believed him, but on day one he was already back to making me feel so stupid. I just feel like I’ve lost who I once was and that it’s almost impossible (except for a miracle) to ever even know who I really am again. I do feel stronger because I don’t take it like I used to, but then I feel weak because I am acting like him. It’s just so much to deal with and sort through. I really appreciate this blog and I can identify with so much of it. I know it is the truth for other women, but sometimes for some reason I feel like my situation is unique and that I am supposed to deal with this somehow. I don’t know.

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Birdie January 9, 2011 at 7:49 am

Mandy, if you won’t leave for yourself, do it for your children. They are learning from you what to expect in their marriages. This is the template for their future. What do you wish to instill in your daughters? They need to see you respect yourself, take control of your life, and work toward a happy future. Your happiness in only your hands; that will always be the case.

You don’t seem confused at all, honestly. You close with the realization that other women should leave in similar circumstances. Why are you different? The real question is: what do you fear? Is the awful present really better than an unknown future? Every city has an agency to deal with domestic abuse—and make no mistake, that’s what is happening in your marriage. Call them. Talk to them. Find out your options so that the fear can be faced. Having done it, I can tell you that the fear does not go away until you step through it and act. We’re rooting for you and your children, honey. You know what to do.

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Megan February 12, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Mandy,

Birdie has already made some wonderful points, and I hope they’ve helped support you in making this very important decision to act on behalf of yourself and your children. I would like, however, to briefly address your concern about allowing God to develop you and him and not having a biblical reason to leave. My sister’s Catholic priest expressed this very clearly in a consultation he had with her very troubled close friend who was also confused in an abusive relationship. He said, “The Catholic Church does not condone divorce. But it also doesn’t condone a husband abusing his wife and family members. Leave him, and become safe. Divorce him or not, whatever you feel is right in your heart. But leave, live safely somewhere else, and have nothing more to do with him.”

So many people talk about the covenant of marriage. They talk about “in sickness and in health” and “for better and for worse.” These are true things, valuable things. Marriage IS a covenant. But it’s also a covenant that includes clauses to “love, honor, cherish, and protect.” A husband (or wife) who abuses their spouse has already broken that covenant long before you learn to stand up for yourself. You leaving AFTERWARDS is just a matter of logistics.

Good luck, sweetie. We’re ALL in your corner. We’ve never even met you, and we love you more than your husband ever had the capacity to. Not because you didn’t deserve it, but because he’s just too broken. Don’t try to own his broken, or fix it, or feel sorry for it. Just handle your own. On that note, let me leave you a bit of the text of my favorite song on this subject:

Doing 80 miles an hour, I roll the window down
And with freedom heavy on the air, I feel like I could drown.
And everything is different, and though freedom had its price
Like a poor man’s Joan of Arc, through the ashes, still I rise. . .

‘Cause I did wait, for you to come around
And I did wait, for you to change your mind
And I did give you your “one last chance,”
Over and over a thousand times

And I will live out of love, and I will act out of fairness
And I will be the richness that lies, beneath the surface of awareness.

(Jennifer Nettles – The Awakening)

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Silly Girl December 16, 2010 at 7:36 am

I am a college girl living with my boyfriend. I don’t know if I am being emotionally abused or neglected, but I feel like it and don’t know who to ask. The first thing that really gets my goat is that I have had to support him for over 2 years now. He just got a decent job, but is still relying on me to pay the rent, power, etc. He never helped around the house when he didn’t have a job and still doesn’t unless I ask. He got arrested over the summer for something really stupid and didn’t even say thank you when I offered to pay his bail/court fees totaling over $1,700. The night before I finally got to go see my parents for Thanksgiving(I live in 2 states over), he stayed out until I told him to come home because his friend got a PS3, and then got upset with me because I was upset over that fact. He uses my car everyday and complains about it just as much. I have a part-time job and 17 credit hours at school. I shouldn’t be responsible for him, but I have been. I should have told him to live with his friends that are obviously more important than I, but I haven’t. Am I just being childish, or is this a bad relationship?

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Suz December 16, 2010 at 11:58 am

Good heavens! For him it’s a GREAT relationship! You support him just like Mommy and Daddy did, but you don’t have the authority to require him to behave. He spends his money and his time as he pleases, and he gets sex whenever he wants it! Is he abusive? I don’t know, maybe in a passive way. He is definitely immature, irresponsible and selfish, and contributes nothing to the relationship. Why? Because you let him. He will do it as long as you allow him to. I doubt that there is room to compromise here; if you start making demands, he will do as little as he can get away with to accommodate you, and expect you to be grateful for his effort. Kick his sorry ass to the curb NOW, or you will spend your entire life apologizing and making excuses for him. Save your mothering skills for your own child, not somebody else’s overgrown baby. You will DEFINITELY be better off without him; he’s a loser. Maybe someday he’ll grow up, , but not until he has to.

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Strong April 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Ditto. And please use birth control.

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DC December 13, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I know this is kind of an old post here, but are you saying that it’s okay for a woman who was in an abusive marriage to get out of it and to get remarried?

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Rkerstetter1 December 8, 2010 at 3:24 am

John Shore – what comes through the most in these writings is your love and tender-hearted care for women. Wow. It’s amazing. Thank you.

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Anonymous December 8, 2010 at 6:35 am

What a lovely comment. Thanks, Rk.

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NowIknow November 21, 2010 at 2:05 am

Karen, I agree with you. While I love the seven reasons given here, my reason was almost like that of a slave in the early 1800′s. None of my support systems endorsed leaving a marriage – in fact, it never even crossed my mind that I could leave. Of course my own ex made it clear that I couldn’t – it scared me to disagree even in small matters, I didn’t know how I could even tell him I wanted out of a marriage without suffering severe repercussions. But he didn’t have to be physical, his psychological hold on me was so strong that I found it hard to even have my own opinion or believe that my opinion could be right. When I finally felt that it was the right and rational thing to do, several people of authority told me I couldn’t and shouldn’t, which put me right back where I was. It took a womens worker who said, “What’s stopping you from just walking out?” that I realised I was a free agent. It didn’t matter what anyone said, and even if I was doing the morally and ethically wrong thing, who’s to stop me? Sociopaths don’t care if they do the wrong thing, and they get away with it. So who could stop me if I decided to do what I wanted to do?

So while all seven reasons were applicable, there was an eighth one that ultimately stopped me – I didn’t know that a person could legitimately leave a marriage.

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christinej October 21, 2010 at 10:38 am

I have really, really appreciated finding this blog. I am currently in what I think is the beginning of an abusive relationship but perhaps I have managed to ‘cotton on’ early enough that I can leave…. I am typically not drawn to men, not ever looking for a relationship exactly but a certain type of man is drawn to me and I have difficulty in saying no if someone is persistent. Why this is the case I can’t exactly understand but perhaps it comes from being a ‘people-pleaser’.

(This whole post is likely to be me, analysing me – apologies! I am just so glad to have this chance to think it through, so much rang so many bells in the above blog :-))

I am someone who is most happy when I am doing things for others. It gives me a sense of validation. Does that mean I feel unworthy or that I am taking up space unfairly or unjustifiably if I am not doing for others…? I think so. This is perhaps what it means to be a co-dependent.

I am not ambitious. I do not have goals for myself. I like to help others. To help others gives me great satisfaction and a sense of worthwhile-ness. So, as a matter of course, I seem to attract those who are extremely ambitious and who are looking for a helpmate, I guess… So far, so good – quite a good match, except that somewhere it seems to shift and the balance moves from being a helper to being expected/demanded/aggressed at/and then (as happened a few weeks ago) the threat of violence. Exact words being “If you don’t shut-up, I am going to smack you.”

I will leave. It is just it is so complicated. At least we don’t have children. I thought I was pregnant – my period was so late, I am so relieved that that is not the case. Why do I still remain?

It is all of the above in the blog – excepting the fear of death, he won’t kill me if I leave that is certain. For me more, it is the emotional attachment. Abusers are clever, they will never make a false move until they KNOW they have got you hooked emotionally. It is like my achilles heel. How I love to be loved –

- And also to love, and isn’t there a lot to love about him. In practical terms very much to be loved about him even – successful (hence the aggression, I suppose in business one is less likely to be successful without that aggression anyway) – but extremely mean with his money and calculating down to the last penny – although that could be seen as being prudent/financially sensible and a good quality but it isn’t because he argues and argues with everyone – a taxi driver/someone presenting a bill/a friend/his renters from his properties it doesn’t exactly matter, he will try to shout them out of any penny he can. But here we are with a good-looking, ambitious, mid-thirties man who dresses well, is cosmopolitan, has houses in London, New York, India, South of France and LA. He is a hard-worker too – he is NOT lazy. He wants me – should I not be happy, be flattered? He is a catch!

Yet he is controlling, unfair, aggressive and beginning to be threatening. Everything has to be done according to his wishes (which is easy for me generally as I easily fit into other people’s plans – having none particularly of my own – hence his attraction to me on one level, the other being purely physical — he just fancies me. I think that annoys him, too!)

I need to leave, I know deep in my heart it will only get worse. I know he will have no compunction about physically hitting a woman, I know that. I know he will be able to blame it entirely on me “provoking” him, on his anger which apparently I know he can’t control…. that’s the way he is.

He is committed to me, he is not one to play around – I am fairly sure of that. But it will just get worse, I know it. I need to leave.

Why are we all such fools?

Thank you for the article. I do need to stop being such a co-dependent. I need to try to take ahold of my own life, instead of constantly offering it to the nearest person who will take it and subsume it. C’mon, c’mon, c’mon. Oh!

Ah well.

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Jule October 5, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Dear John,

I'm an atheist for many many reasons. One of them is that Christians often make the impression that they would stop at nothing to prove their faith in the bible (in the literally sense). Even if it means that somebody will get hurt or die.

I very much approve of your way of writing things. I very much approve of your common sense and the priorities you set. And I am impressed how you manage to walk that thin line (does it have to be that thin?) between your faith and common human decency.

I hope I'm not too harsh.

I don't have faith in Christ, but you give me faith in Christians.

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Diane October 4, 2010 at 9:19 am

Thanks for the part about power. It has explained a lot. While I am lucky to have a fantastic husband my boss last year was a nightmare! He was the principal/assistant pastor at a church school where I taught. I went from being "independent" (not said as a compliment) to being "offensive" and "having a problem with submission" in 6 months. What you said about these type of men harboring resentment is so true! When I resisted the verbal insults he would get me in passive/agressive ways for awhile and then later the verbal assults became worse! For the last 2 months since I quit I have been doubting my decision because I loved teaching the kids so much! I kept thinking that I should have just walked out of the office after 5 minutes and he would have stopped. My husband tells me that it would never have stopped but just would have become worse. Your explaination of my boss's drive for power has made it clear to me. I only regret that I could not stay and be a support for several of the young male students that he also abuses verbally. One has an ulcer (his son) and several have had emotional breakdowns. Luckily, since I was an employee I was able to file a complaint against him with our state department of human rights and the EEOC! To bad there is not a complaint department that would work on husbands for the women who marry these monsters!

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Jacqueline September 13, 2010 at 7:38 pm

God hates violence. Psalm 11:5. Jesus is love.

I am an overcomer of domestic violence, generational. The Lord saved my life from being shot at, brutally beaten, raped, hand cuffed behind my back and held hostage—the Lord miraclously enabled me to escape. The precious Blood of Jesus healed me, and continues to heal me. I thank Jesus for His love and breaking the deep roots of self hate, low self esteem and denial. Jesus is my husband and I love walking with Him, raising my daughter to love Jesus, and never be a victim and we love worshipping Him. By Jesus Stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5.

my web site is
http://www.changedwomanoutreach.com

God bless you

Jacqueline

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Freda August 25, 2010 at 4:35 am

BRILLIANT! Oh bravo, bravo!!!

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Angie August 25, 2010 at 2:21 am

Nice! I totally agree with your reasons – lived a few myself. And I think it's important to note that abuse isn't always beating or verbal. Some women stay with men who just flat out don't love them or don't treat them like they should. After my fill of bad relationships, I've decided to walk with God and take a minimum of 12 months off from dating. I'm also blogging about it as I learn and grow in hopes of helping others going through the same scenerio. Maybe this will spare me another bad episode and teach me what it is that I lack. One day I will find a relationship that holds merit. I'm tired of the dead end ones…this world is too focused on self and we've forgotten what true & real love is all about. But I haven't given up; I'm just taking a break. Reason #1 for stopping the maddness: I'M JUST PLAIN SICK OF IT.

:) Peace & Love.

http://angnic.wordpress.com

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Craig Benno July 30, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Hi Strong. I am sorry to hear your story. How horrible for you.

I am a 43 year old male and was married for 12 years. My ex wife used to often threaten to stab me with a knife or hit, kick, bite, verbally abuse me etc….

And because I was a man was told, because your a man, you just have to suck it in, and don't ever retaliate…

Abuse is not a gender issue, its an issue of broken humanity struggling for identity.

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Strong July 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Are you really a woman? LOL You nail abusive relationships. I am just coming out of one. I was with him for 31 years total, 24 married. One child, 19. Your comments about "they live a lie" is so true. We were called "Ken and Barbie", people at church thought we were the "perfect family." Well, if total control, mean "joking" and finally black eyes, broken rib, and being thrown to the ground in your business is "perfect', then I guess we were.

Abuse doesn't get better, it gets worse. And children see that is how you handle life. Boys learn to abuse, girls learn to take it.

And yes, church members CAN be the worst. I had a snot-nosed 20-something tell me, "He has changed. You are giving up on your marriage." Well, then, you go send your sister, mother, girlfriend, wife over to live with him! And when he hits her, I will say, "But he's changed! Don't give up!" If you have never lived in fear of being killed, you won't understand it.

Forgiveness is another thing. I completely agree with your view. I can forgive, let go of the anger, bitterness, etc. But that doesn't mean I have to go back. Someone said, "God is never glorified by a woman submitting to beatings."

Thanks for "getting" it.

There are so many woman/girls in our country that think this is what life is. No it is not! I am late 40's, divorcing only man I ever "knew", no job, lost my business, will file bankruptcy this year, and am losing my house to foreclosure. Doesn't get harder than that. But I am SAFE, HAPPY and have SELF-RESPECT. I am down, but all there is is UP!

Keep telling woman/girls: a real man never hits a woman, he would lay his life down for her.

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T July 18, 2010 at 8:23 am

This article is just what I needed to read, just when I needed it!

Thank you

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Barb June 29, 2010 at 3:08 am

I am currently in an emotionally abusive relationship, but it is one where he wants me to work and make good money and have good benefits so he does'nt have to and so he can spend anyway he wants. He tells me get a job bitch. He is mad because I don't have a job right now because he wants to take a lay off at work and get some training so he can get another job.I really don't have friends I can go to or stay with. I have a 17 and 18 year old and they have no means either. I have isolated myself from shame and depression. I had a good job but I messed that up myself.I am just one big screw up and have no where to go and nobody for support. My relatives have all passed away and I am ready to run out of unemployment soon. We can't afford to live with or without my husband when the unemployment runs out. I have allowed him to run up a bunch of debt and we are screwed without me working. My kids are a mess and our lives pretty much suck! Any suggestions? I am barely functioning right now.

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randix June 29, 2010 at 3:23 am

Barb, you may be the one that John's original post was directed to. There are a lot of organizations out there that can help you. Don't become desperate because you think you are trapped. Evaluate (perhaps with a good counselor (if you can find one!)) your situation, whether the two of you can be helped together. If you determine that there is no hope, then find a place to go. Re-read John's post and go find the help you need. If you break an arm, maybe it was your fault, but you still go to a doctor. If you break yourself psychologically and/or spiritually, you have to go find help. You cannot set your broken arm and are probably not able to get back on track spiritually and psychologically without help. Go get it!

A 17 and especially an 18 year old are too old to be involved in the parents issues. They will have issues of their own, direct them to get the help they need, too. But the finances cannot be the final issue that keeps you or them trapped in an abusive relationship — just don't let finances be the cage that hold you.

I think you are among friends here. There is lots of information available on the internet, start searching. John has a lot of tips above.

If you can find the help you need as a couple, and recover your relationship, that is preferable, but that requires two people who truly want to, and can admit they don't know how, and are willing to get outside help. A very rare set of "if"s.

I wish you the best.

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David E. Brown, MS, LMHC July 7, 2010 at 9:56 am

Barb,

The most hurtful part of all abuse is the emotional part, the sense of betrayal we experience when someone who supposedly cares about us uses or otherwise hurts us without regard for our feelings. You are in a very abusive relationship, and it is not your fault!

I would suggest that you consider calling the national domestic violence hotline (1-800-799-7233) so you can find a program in your vicinity. When you call them you will find that they are very supportive and can help you decide what the best solution to this situation is.

If you are reluctant to call them, please consider calling them anyway, not necessarily to make a decision right away, most people aren’t prepared to decide what to do right now.

Instead, at least call to get information on what options are available to you. The reason you’re feeling helpless right now is not because you are helpless, but because you aren’t aware of some of the options that will be available to you. The local program can help you identify them.

No matter what obstacles you are experiencing, they will be able to help you overcome them, and will not suggest you do anything that you can’t, or don’t want to, do.

My best wishes to you, we’ll be thinking of you.

Dave

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Craig Benno May 29, 2010 at 4:31 am

I am a 42 year old make and a victim and survior of spousal abuse. I collapsed at work on the 17th october 2007 paralysed on the right side and hospitalised for 2 months. Upong coming home I was denied a shower chair so had to shower sitting on the floor…and my wife would barrage me for not being a real man able to stand up for myself.

I was hit, punched, spat on, had stuff destroyed, threatened to be stabbed with a knife, was disbelieved by my church and pastor, finally had to move out after being bitten on my wrist to the bone…had no where to go and lived in my car for 6 weeks.

You can read a poem I wrote called "words that cut deep" and more of my story here http://mencanbeabusedtoo.wordpress.com/2010/05/18

There was no help for me as a male victim…and one service provider after I told them my story of abuse wanted me to join a anger management course because the abuse was my fault.

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David E. Brown, MS, June 1, 2010 at 2:32 am

(Craig, I posted this initially on your site, along with a couple of issue specific comments, but will repost it here so that others may derive any benefit it proffers.)

Craig,

I am profoundly saddened and appalled at your story, and can appreciate what a devastating experience it has been for you. No one deserves to be treated like that, let alone experience the suffering you report.

Thank you for telling your story and helping the many men who may read this who have similar stories to tell, so that they can begin to escape their horror, rebuild their lives and begin the process of healing which can bring you and them to a place where you will find yourself better off than you could have ever been without these experiences (what some people refer to as a “thriver,” the stage following “survivor,” which in turn follows the “victim” stage).

For the sake of yourself and others who are still out there in the lonely state of continued victimization, I want to assure that there are some people out there who can help you and others.

I’m not sure of conditions in Australia, or anywhere besides here in the US and in Canada, but I can predict with some assurance that while male victims may meet with initial skepticism, most programs which provide services primarily for women, have encountered cases similar to yours and can provide support and assistance. If you have more than one in your area you may need to shop around until you find the best one. If none of them are receptive, this may be an opportunity for you to help educate and sensitize them.

Also, aggression towards another individual is a crime in most jurisdictions. Sometimes it is necessary to gather significant amounts of evidence to support charges against someone who commits their crimes in private, but it can be done.

As you have found, churches are an iffy proposition so it is important to seek out one which is focused more on supporting those in need than in judging them or requiring them to conform to some preconceived model of behavior. And never assume that a pastor is qualified ex-officio to be a counselor in anything.

I would guess that you have a government sponsored family services program in your area. Many programs like that, while they focus primarily on children’s issues, also have an adult services section which is accustomed to helping protect adults from abusive behaviors.

Most disability advocacy organizations also are accustomed to dealing with issues of abuse and can provide important support, no matter the level of the disability.

Finally, there are the counselors. As a member of that profession I am acutely aware that the quality of services available is too often appalling. Most counselors believe that if they mean well that’s all they need to help people. Thus when they encounter issues such as intimate violence, which they never studied in school, except perhaps in passing and very superficial detail, they are not only ill-equipped to help, but often cause more damage than they help heal.

I have been working with intimate violence issues for over 14 years, have countless hours of very specialized training, and am still learning new and often vital information nearly every day.

In choosing a counselor, as with doctors, one way is to ask a few counselors who they believe are the best practitioners in the area with respect to these issues.

In any case, while it is customary for counselors to see both partners together in the initial session, anyone who continues to see them as a couple after that first session doesn’t know what they’re doing. It simply isn’t safe for the clients.

They need to receive very issue specific individual counseling for a considerable period (often a year or more), and group (not couples) counseling for their respective issues, if available, before, if ever, they can be brought together safely (and that rarely happens).

My best wishes to you as you continue your struggle.

Dave

PS: You are likely to attract a number of people who are aggressors, but want to be seen as victims. One way I approach that issue is that I focus on the impact this problem they have in their lives is having on their feelings and their behavior, without automatically validating the details of their story.

No matter the truth of their situation they are wasting time if they focus on someone else’s need to change, regardless of how appropriate or beneficial such change would be. That’s for agencies like the legal system to deal with.

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lucky May 23, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Thanks so much David for that clear response, which ultimately comes back to my conclusion that it's not so important what's "wrong" with him, as long as I protect myself and my child.

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David E. Brown, MS, LMHC May 23, 2010 at 11:30 am

Thanks all for these useful comments and links.

I do not (nor does anyone else, so far as I am aware) consider me a trained diagnostician, even though diagnosis plays a part in my practice. I am a psycho-therapist, and while I try to emphasize the second half of that title, I suspect that many think the first part more accurately describes me. The bottom line is that I urge you to use great caution when listening to people like me.

That having been said I believe I can contribute a couple more thoughts to the discussion, then perhaps it would be helpful to others for us to close out this thread, and refocus the discussion on helping people free themselves from abusive behavior. Perhaps someone else could contribute a “DV 201″ thread to supplement this.

While I just skimmed the articles linked above, they appear to be very good, but my impression is that they don’t really help Lucky as much as they could.

My sense of this, gained primarily from my relatively limited exposure to both disorders, is that the bulk of borderlines, if not all, are primarily a product of severe trauma, perhaps aggravated by other issues, such as sensitivity, a generally less than optimal childhood environment, marginal socialization skills, etc.

One way I have described it which has registered with many, is to characterize it as a product of the internal tension between wanting to be connected to someone for the security that condition promises, and fearing that connection because of the increase in vulnerability that accompanies it. As a consequence, in close relationships, especially with family and partners, the borderline is simultaneously experiencing a sense of being too close, AND, being too far away from someone, as well as a sense of not being close enough, OR, far enough away from the person in question.

As you might imagine this produces considerable volatility in both the individual and their relationships and is not easily addressed.

If you think about the dynamics of childhood sexual abuse, a lot of this makes sense. A high percentage of childhood abuse evolves from what, initially, at least, can be a relatively benign and even healthy relationship. As an example, we might have a lonely child who comes from an environment where the parents are so preoccupied with their own desperate struggle for emotional and/or physical survival that they are not able to adequately tend to the needs, let alone the nurturing of the child.

Then someone discovers, or is discovered by, the child, and a relationship begins which may well, initially at least, be mutually beneficial in that it serves to meet some of the emotional deficits in each.

At some point, however, the relationship becomes exploitative on the part of the emotionally, socially, and/or physically more powerful of the two. Exploitation, no matter how otherwise benign, is inherently harmful, because it sends the message that “your needs are insignificant compared to mine.”

Thus we have a child learning that “in order to have a relationship, which I desperately want, especially because I don’t feel whole within myself, I have to subject myself to harm, and the harm cancels out the benefit, but I need the benefit, etc., etc.”

This is a classic approach/avoidance conflict. As we fast forward to adulthood, any significant relationship evokes echoes of this internal struggle, because of important parallels with that childhood experience. So that, regardless of the objective realities of this relationship, the echoes have been so reinforced, and are so powerful, that I feel the internal conflict and have to respond to it.

In treatment, it is only when we can begin to drive a cognitive wedge in between the echoes and the reality, that we can introduce the possibilities of choosing alternative behaviors. In order to do that work we have to undergo a very painful reexamination and reframing of those past experiences, understand that regardless of how real they feel, the echoes from the past are not real, then slowly, painfully, begin learn how to challenge the reality of our feelings and choose different outcomes, that we can truly begin to see the light.

While this synopsis hardly does justice to the magnitude of the struggle for borderlines, NONE OF WHOM CHOSE THEIR PAST, there is always the hope that, if and when they are successful in their internal struggle, they will come out of it a better person than they could ever have been without all of these factors in their history.

The other somewhat less dramatically hopeful characteristic of Borderline Personality Disorder is that there is considerable evidence that regardless of the presence or absence of any treatment, the condition moderates over time. I suspect this is a natural product of the importance of our experience in shaping our view of the world and our attendant interactions with it. As we build a greater fund of experience, if the value of those experiences differs with the consensus of our previous experiences, our world view will tend to shift a little more in that direction, all other things being equal.

I’ll only make a couple quick comments about Bi-Polar Disorder, and then let you go.

My understanding is that this disorder has a very strong bio-chemical component, and may be a product, in part, at least, of a dysfunctional bio-chemical regulation mechanism. Understanding it is complicated by the many forms it takes, and by all accounts it is every bit as formidable a condition as Borderline Personality Disorder, for all involved. The good news is that medications appear to have been of clear value in most cases, especially when compliance is strong (often an acute problem, in being lacking in many Bi-Polars, especially during the manic phase), and that when combined with cognitive-behavioral treatment aimed at helping the client manage the condition can often lead to a relatively normal lifestyle.

Finally, in response to Lucky’s specific case, it’s not impossible that your former partner might be borderline, but the behavior of abusers closely mimics the volatility of borderlines, even though it has far more elements of choice in it. I guess that I would describe it as less trauma based, even though it might often involve elements of that. Also Bi-Polar, especially the rapid cycling version, can resemble Borderline Personality Disorder as well as the Abuse Cycle.

Bottom line, just about every one of these conditions exist on a continuum which may well intersect with the continuum of other conditions, and, while I don’t want to minimize the impact of any of these conditions, there is good reason to believe that, at some level, all of us experience at least traces of each condition. Many see that as a very positive sign, in that we all share in each others’ struggle because we incorporate parts of their struggle in ours.

But in any case, each of us has more control over our choices than we usually believe we do, and it is well that we limit ourselves to trying to control our own behavior and take full responsibility for that behavior by trying to make the future better than the past in a manner which is consistent with respect of others.

By way of corollary it is well for us all to respect ourselves enough (we deserve to) to not cede control of any part of our life to others (not so subtle segue back to the major thrust of this blog).

End of the sermon of the day (AMEN! [old habits die hard]).

Best wishes to all,

Dave

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Rand May 23, 2010 at 3:44 am

Thank you, Dave!

Back to you John!

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Rand May 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Dave,

Thank you!

I notice one slight difference if usage of BPD between us: it can be Bi-Polar-Disorder or Borderline-Personality-Disorder. I am referring throughout to borderline, which, as you know, seems more to emanate from the combination of an over-controlling parent with sexual abuse.

Lucky: perhaps Dave can come up with a better direction, but I think a good layman’s introduction to the topic of these personality structures can be found on Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borderline_personality_disorder and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bipolar_disorder

I have delved into this deeply. As Dave has so clearly pointed out, something about these personality types attracts us (as they say: “Non”s). We then choose them. Dave didn’t explicitly say this: we then often enter into some sort of “co-dependent” relationship. It is all about our Choices.

I can whole-heartedly recommend Dave’s comments about determining your own part of the relationship. That is also what Christ would have us do, take the log out of our own eye before we try to remove the speck from the eye of our partner (or ex-partner).

Thanks again, Dave for the comments about my daughter. I am also fully aware of what you pointed out. I was just expressing the pain of watching a human being harming another, who is very close to me, and being powerless to intervene (as so often happens in life). My daughter has loudly expressed, as well in court, that she wants to come live with me, and she herself has a high level of fear, both of her mother, and now of the authorities, who force her to stay in a situation that is clearly unhealthy. I agree that it is just a matter of time. My “duty” is to get as healthy as possible. In that regard, I will refer this back to the fact that this is John’s web site, and getting healthy has a lot to do with getting into the hands of the Healer.

Rand

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David E. Brown, MS, LMHC May 22, 2010 at 10:37 am

Rand,

Sorry to be so long in responding to your well-articulated and understandable concerns.

Men have no monopoly on power and control behaviors, let alone abusive behaviors.

Your experience appears to have been a nightmare for you and your daughter both, and closely parallels in substance, if not in detail, the experience of many women dealing with these issues in a legal system where the myth that men and women have equal power before the court has led to countless tragedies that mirror your own.

Also, having fallen prey to this bias myself, at times, I recognize that those to whom men sometimes reach out for help are, sometimes at least, slow to recognize the validity of some of their complaints. There are a couple of reasons (not excuses) for this.

The vast majority of intimate violence is characterized by male aggression (a chosen behavior, which is not a product of mental illness, but rather societal training and values, and connected male myths and associated belief systems), therefore in the relatively infrequent instances where males present as the victims there is an unfortunate skepticism, which often results in delays in, and/or denial of, the provision of appropriate services.

Another factor is that, as I noted in an earlier post, every abuser I ever met characterized himself as a victim of his partner. After a few of those complaints prove to be untenable, it is easy to dismiss, without the necessary careful assessment, male complaints as without credibility.

As you rightly point out it is imperative for service providers to be rigorous in examining cases with an objectivity which will accurately identify the aggressor and victim and render the appropriate assistance.

There are a couple of factors which complicate this process. First, almost all domestic violence programs began when women, who had been directly or indirectly touched by this violence, banded together to help their sisters in need. This was given a tremendous boost by the feminist movement. Related is the fact that intimate violence is so widespread across the world (even in our relatively “civilized” nation, studies have suggested that 1 in 4 of our women are, have been, and/or, will be, a victim of intimate violence). It is understandable, as a consequence, that some bias might infect the process. However, the bulk of programs do a pretty good job of assessment of new cases.

It is true that there have been some studies which have suggested that the perpetration of intimate violence is roughly equally divided between male and female aggressors. That is, in my view, at least, a product, however of the superficiality of those studies, which have almost invariably depended on self-report.

One of the confusing dynamics of intimate violence is a strong gender bias regarding acceptance of responsibility for the violence. Men tend to minimize their own responsibility for the violence and exaggerate their partner’s responsibility for the violence. Women, on the other hand minimize their partner’s responsibility for the violence and exaggerate their own responsibility for the violence. As a consequence, we can’t determine responsibility solely by self-report.

If I may indulge myself here parenthetically, an interesting and ironic consequence of this in my work was that I had to begin by helping women understand that the violence in their relationship was emphatically not their fault, but once they had attained that understanding, I had to then begin helping them to understand how they were responsible for getting themselves into the relationship in the first place, and for extricating themselves from the relationship as soon as possible, if they wanted a chance at safety for themselves and their children.

Another complicating factor is that, while there are similarities between male and female aggression, particularly in the devastating harm they do to others, there are often important differences also.

As I indicated, male aggression is almost always a choice of behavior, without any significant, or at least direct, involvement of mental illness issues. On the other hand, female, unprovoked, aggression, while it is still, in large part a choice, it is also, often at least, driven in large part by a diagnosable mental illness, e.g.: Bi-Polar Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder (the later of which is almost always a product of being a victim of sexual violence).

This enormously complicates both the diagnosis of, and the response to, female aggression.

So what is the answer? I have not yet discovered definitive and/or effective answers to all of these issues, but in the meantime, my approach seems to be pretty effective at cutting through some of the confusion and providing a promising path to a safer life and the healing that safety can support.

There are two pillars upon which I base my work. Respect and Choice.

Most of us think of respect in terms of the respect others have (or don’t have) for us. My emphasis is on the respect we have for others and ourselves, which, not coincidently are the only forms of respect we control. The key to my view of the role of respect in our lives was turned when I realized that the people I respect most are the ones who appeared to respect me. The corollary was that if I respect others (no matter how they respond to me (see, for example, Martin Luther King, Ghandi, and Jesus of Nazareth) I improve the chance that they will respect me.

Self-respect became a key factor when I realized that, for all of the regrets, mistakes, harm, etc. for which I have been responsible, I am, in my core, a good person, and my interests are best served when I accept that and seek out ways to free up and express that core reality clearly instead of distorting its expressions with the products of misunderstandings of what my historical, let alone present, experiences have appeared to tell me.

As for Choice. All of my choices are solely my responsibility, in large part because they are the only parts of my life over which I have sole control, and while I cannot change my historical choices I alone determine what choices I make in the present and the future (unless, of course I cede control to some external person, cause, or other entity, in which case I damn well better make the right decision). That means that I am best served if I seek out all potential choices so that I can approach my future with the best information I can gather about what my options truly are. Knowledge is power.

Finally, it is important to recognize that each moment I spend complaining about the choices of others, or wishing that they would, let alone depending on them to, make different choices, is time better spent on discovering, choosing, and implementing the choices available to me.

But I’ve rambled on far too long. Fortunately (for me at least) it was your choice, not mine, whether you read this far.

I hope that some of it may be of help to you, and others like you, Rand.

Dave

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Rand May 22, 2010 at 5:04 am

Dave,

Just a quick response first, I may have more to say after thinking about what you wrote. In essence, I can agree completely with what you have said. I am quite well aware of the background of particularly the BPD syndrome — my wife was apparently raped by her brother and one or more priests. How extremely sad. I am sure that was not her choice. Yes, my choice was in going way to far in trying to "help" her. The first threats of suicide came within weeks of our getting to know each other. There was an actual attempt shortly after we married.

This, too, is all water under the bridge for me. Now my concern is for my daughter. I am living in a society that seems to come straight out of the '50s, this society's judicial system is apparently totally unaware of essentially all that you wrote above, and has given custody to her mother, and very limited visitation to me. My daughter is now being raised mostly alone by this woman, and has been at times left alone with a 40 year old male babysitter (I am sure that you are also informed about how BPD is often propagated). My choices now available to help my daughter are very limited. As far as for me, I think that I have come a long way through all of this. You won't see me trying to "help" needy women anymore, in fact, I am convinced that they (at least the BPDs) are seemingly blind to their own situation, and thus (since they don't recognize any need for help) are not help-able, even by the professionals.

Yes, knowledge is power. I think I am in the process of learning to make better choices. Thank you for your detailed and enlightened comments.

Rand

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David E. Brown, MS, May 22, 2010 at 7:17 am

You're very kind.

One of the hardest tasks in life is letting go of our "need" to take care of those about whom we care. It may help us when we can examine carefully, and often challenge, our perception of exactly whom we are trying to help, them or ourselves. All too often we are primarily trying to assert control over a situation which triggers our feelings of being out of control. Any such effort is inherently counter-profuctive.

It may help also to realize that often our continued involvement in this loved one's life may actually retard the process which they have to undergo in order to be more open to help. Sometimes the best way to help is to let go.

You have encountered similar societal and legal realities to those which too often obtain in this country also. What becomes important in these cases is for us to hew to the most sound course possible and not let our frustration lead us to behavior which can distract those, who are in a position to help, from the opportunity to more clearly see the realities we're concerned about. Again, letting go is often the best way forward, no matter how counter-intuitive (and sometimes dangerous) it may seem.

I can appreciate the agony you experience about your daughter's plight. Again, this kind of situation can elicit feelings of profound helplessness, and often guilt, or even shame, about being unable to help someone we love, and for whom we consider ourselves responsible.

I can assure you, however that, regardless of what happens in the interim there will come a time when you can be reunited with your daughter, but I strongly urge you that, while it is well to make it clear that you invite such contact when it becomes possible to safely transmit that message, that you, nevertheless leave the contact to her initiative. In the meantime, you can best expend your attention and energy with the help of a good guide in sorting through the impact this, and any historical factors in your life which may be relevant, have had on yourself and your perception of reality. You need to be in the best position possible to be able to help both your daughter and yourself to heal when (not if) the opportunity comes.

I can assure you also that, regardless of anything which happens in the interim, your daughter's love for you, and the importance for her which you play in her life cannot be extinguished by anything that you, or anyone else, may do or have done. There may be anger and/or all kinds of other strong negative emotions on her part, but the love for, and the desire to safely connect with, you will still be there.

In the meantime you are more likely to trigger more complications in her life to the extent that you try to remain engaged with your ex. Let her go.

My best wishes for you and confidence in the opportunities which are and will be available to you.

Peace

Dave

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lucky May 22, 2010 at 8:27 am

I'm interested in this distinction between bipolar and borderline personality. My abuser has been diagnosed with bipolar (or so he said when I was with him. Now, in a custody proceeding, he denies it), but a couple of therapists my daughter and I have worked with (none of whom have met him) have suggested that according to my accounts it sounds like he may fit the borderline profile. I have bipolar relatives so I am fairly familiar with that disease, but I know little about borderline personality disorder.

Of course at this point my interest in what is wrong with him is far far below my interest in getting him out of my life and my daughter's life if at all possible (very unlikely now that I've been forced into the court system), but I'd like to know more about it.

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denver May 22, 2010 at 11:42 am

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/borde
Here is some information on borderline from NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health). Hope this helps!

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David E. Brown, MS, May 22, 2010 at 7:46 am

I just had another thought that I should transmit, perhaps more for the sake of others who read these posts than for any help it may provide for you Rand, except in trying to reach a better understanding of your experiences.

While mental health diagnoses like BPD (Bi-Polar Disorder) and Borderline Personality Disorder, can be very useful, particularly in looking for less obvious manifestations of the conditions under discussion and/or pointing to underlying causes, they can also be very misleading, especially in a couple of respects.

First, they are, to a large extent, still subjective judgements, based upon the presence of a certain assortment and level of symptomology, which, in turn are often more subjectively identified than we would like.

An example is the application of the diagnosis of Conduct Disorder which is often invoked in the case of juveniles who are exhibiting problematic behaviors. What is too often missed is that the diagnostic criteria is only to be employed when the behavior of the subject is not a response to environmental factors. When we miss that fact, subsequent treatment providers may well blame the child for choosing behaviors which, however counter-productive, are, nevertheless, very understandable, and even the best available response to the circumstances. This leads to treatment missteps which can have profoundly devastating consequences for the whole subsequent life of the youth.

In cases similar to yours, I have seen a number of occasions where there was an apparent confusion between a diagnosis of BPD and Borderline Personality Disorder. Both the etiologies and the courses of treatment are very different for the two disorders, but the mood swings can be very similar.

In my opinion and practice I spend much less attention to any diagnosis which has been attached than to what the behavior is and what is driving that behavior. In the most popular example, just because I have been diagnosed with paranoia doesn't mean that I don't have enemies who are out to get me.

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Rand May 19, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Why would anyone use ANY disordered behavior? It is all about power and control. This is by far not exclusive to men.

I think if you do any research, you'll find that what I described happens more than you seem to think!

Rand

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Rand May 19, 2010 at 3:02 am

This all very well and good. However, there are two threads through all of this which converge all too often in a total catastrophe. The first thread is that it is mostly women that are abused. But if the woman is the abuser, then the second thread may come into play. As John made very clear: the women’s shelters are extremely inviting, they are desperate to acquire new “clients”, to draw more women in. The system is so ingrained and thorough that it is easy to collude to a catastrophe.

As was ofter stated above, it is a process to decide to leave. When the abused man finally gets to the point of deciding to go, the women’s shelters can provide the most dramatic and effective weapon against him. The abuse from a woman on her partner tends to be less physical (let’s face it, most of the time he is larger). So she uses other weapons: threatening to kill herself, threatening to take the children and leave, etc.

When she notices that he is actually getting ready to leave, the final solution and weapon is presented nicely to her: take the children and go to a women’s shelter, claiming that she is the abuse victim. The simple act of going to the shelter convinces almost all of society that she is the victim, the shelters are not supposed to take anyone who is not! But they need and want new clients! And, as also pointed out manifestly above, the abuser is normally an incredibly good liar!

This resulted in my case in nine months of seeing my child every two weeks for two hours supervised. The financial burden, the automatic assumption in court that the woman is the victim (how many times have I heard, just before the verdict: “but she went into a woman’s shelter”???) is just too much. This going into the shelter removed what little protection the child had, both physically and emotionally, as well as psychologically. The child is now old enough to see the whole situation, but the mother has custody, full control (yes, power and control is what it is all about!).

There are better ways to protect an abused woman; going into the shelter generally only protects her from physical violence for a short time at most, and as is well stated above, abusers generally don’t change – so there is really no long-term protection.

If you want to see this topic elaborated on, search the internet for articles on Borderline Personality Disorder. You will find that this is a common occurrence. In fact, in the country where I live, and the language, there is a document that can be found online which details the steps a woman must go through to abuse the women’s shelters. Most abusive women are so disordered that they would not find such a guideline. But heaven help the poor man, if the woman finds an unscrupulous lawyer who knows about this document.

John, any comments from this perspective?

Rand

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r May 19, 2010 at 5:42 am

Wow, I don’t know what country Rand is speaking of, but there is no way most women would put themselves or their child through the trauma of entering a women’s shelter if the need were not very real. Having worked in one for years, I know they are always filled to capacity with a waiting list and experience desperate callers seeking entrance on a daily basis. Living in one is no picnic either and some form of counseling is usually a requirement.

I would also have to ask what would provoke a person to say she wanted to kill herself or leave and take the children in the first place.

I’m very sorry for Rand’s experience but surely don’t think this is a common occurence.

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John May 19, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Rand, would you advocate shutting shelters? If yes, then you think the potential for abuse of the system outweighs the lifeline it provides to some?

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Rand May 20, 2010 at 4:17 am

As with so many things, I think this is one of those untenable problems. I know that the shelters do help abused women. As you so well pointed out, though, John, the system provides a simple and certain “out” for women who are abused – the biggest problem is convincing them that they need to go and that the possibility exists. That you addressed that well in your original posts.

I’ll name the country where I am currently living. Germany. Here the law provides a better solution than to go to the shelters: a woman can go to court and within two hours have an order that her abusing husband may not approach within 500 meters of their home. This is very effective. Obviously, neighbors are on the lookout for him, if he shows, he will be quickly transported to jail. A good law, in my opinion. And if that law is abused, then there is a real judgement as to whether abuse really took place. BUT, the shelters here are openly inviting, as you described, and women are interviewed. Only abused women are to be allowed in. But the financial aspects of the shelter make it very convenient to let anyone in who can tell a good story. My wife is so good (at lying) that she convinced my pastor (she is neither a Christian, nor does she go to church). One day, she threatened again to leave (all about controlling my actions), and I finally said: fine, go! Instead she went to my pastor (after all, she says there is no God, so, if I myself believe, then I must have been brainwashed by this pastor, in effect: the pastor is then my god. So was her logic, then she just needed to convince my pastor to control me in the way she wanted!) The pastor convinced her to get counseling with me, and in the first private session, she convinced the counselor that I was physically abusing her. The pastor and counselor then advised separation! In order to “protect” her from me, neither the pastor nor the counselor told me anything about the abuse! I only discovered the lies about the abuse about seven months later. In the meantime (three years now), she has admitted to the court system that there was never any abuse!!! But the tracks were laid down by going into the shelter. The original abuse, by her against me and my daughter, continues now against my daughter, and I have been conveniently and consistently sidelined: “But she went into a women’s shelter!” She has custody and I have very limited visitation. My daughter desperately wants me to have custody (the court: “but she went into a shelter!”). The psychological damage to my daughter is being done. My only consolation is that, as you have so well stated elsewhere, we all have our injuries — this will be one of my daughter’s major ones. It is, however, painful to watch it happen. Obviously, God is teaching me something about trust.

As “r” just above stated, a shelter is no picnic. Counseling is not required here. The fact that my wife chose that route to accomplish her goals, and many other indicators, point to BPD. These people are very dangerous, and there are a lot more disordered people (including the abusers, either sex) out there than any of us tend to believe. You can not guess what they will do. I have long ago come to terms with what has and is happening to me and my daughter, I know God and that He is the one in authority. I was indeed worried the last couple of weeks before she went into the shelter that I might (or might not!) wake up one night with a knife in my chest.

So I guess we have something that is most of the time good (women’s shelters) but can be turned into a dangerous weapon. Is that cause to do away with them? No, of course not. But there should/must be a way of demonstrating that abuse actually is taking/took place. Shouldn’t the police become automatically involved after a woman goes into a shelter? Shouldn’t there be some sort of witness interviewing? Shouldn’t someone have come to me and asked?

Come on John, you are the blogger here with the good insights — what do you think?

BTW, I just found your blog recently, and I do appreciate it very much – indeed a lot of good insights. I especially appreciate the May 4th: Ten Ways Christians Tend ….

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Lara May 15, 2010 at 12:04 am

This is fantastic. Thank you.

Let me first correct one misconception, however: WOMEN DO NOT STAY IN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS.

If they did, we wouldn't have a divorce rate of 50%!

There's great research about this, and more is coming out all the time. The divorce rate of abusive couples is ten times higher than the general population. See John Gottman and Neil Jacobson's When Men Batter Women.

So from now on, when people ask the question, "Why do they stay?", we should all answer, "SHE DOESN'T!!!!"

That said, leaving is a process, and you have articulated many of the emotional and self-image obstacles brilliantly. I would rename your piece: "Seven Emotional Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships". Women stay in abusive relationships for many practical and material reasons. The best book out there about those practical issues (the legal system, their kids, material resources) is called "Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds Of Angry and Controlling Men" by Lundy Bancroft.

Abusers slowly and methodically destroy their victim's social support systems and cut them off from access to material resources. That is exactly their game–to make it impossible for the victim to leave. When women make efforts to remain or become more independent, abusers escalate their violent behavior, control tactics and threats. It isn't just "fear of the unknown" that keeps women where they are, it's fear of the known–him! When a man who has broken your jaw says he'll kill you (or himself, or the kids) if you ever leave him, the savvy and rational response is to believe what he says. Smart, self-protective women stay.

That is, they stay until it is safe to leave–especially for their children.

This is why researchers at the University of Illinois, Lyndal Khaw and Jennifer L. Hardesty, came up with a, excellent model of the process of leaving abusive relationships. People often get impatient and frustrated with abused women who seem to vacillate about leaving, or who leave and return, or who seem to "put up with" their abuser for way too long. But if we begin to think about leaving as a multi-stage process–one that nearly always involves trial-and-error–then it is much easier for us to be helpful and patient over the long haul.

The Process of Leaving a Batterer: Turning Points and Trajectories

1. Precontemplation: Women are often in denial about the abuse

2. Contemplation: Women begin to realize they are in an abusive relationship

3. Preparation: Women make efforts to become more independent, which makes abusers escalate violence and control tactics. This stage is often marked by a pileup of abusive episodes and noticeable effects of the violence on the children

4. Action: For which there are three possible scenarios or trajectories–

a. Empowerment and letting go: Regaining control of their lives and letting go of their desire to make the marriage work

b. Holding back: Regressing to the preparation or contemplation stages (may be necessary for success, but it often frustrates observers)

c. Leaping: Going directly from contemplation to action with little preparation (impulsive actions and little preparation can result in failure, and women often return to the relationship)

5. Maintenance: Women reclaim their identity and often continue to deal with an ex-husband's attempts to control them, especially through their children.

I am a doctoral student, and my dissertation looks at how women go back to school in order to cope with unsatisfactory or abusive marriages. Going to school is an extremely effective strategy.

So if you know a woman in an abusive marriage, suggest that she go take a class or two at a community college, or enroll in a Master's program! Being in an intellectually stimulating environment will accelerate her internal process and help her develop the material and social resources she needs before she can successfully make the break.

Now that we've solved the "why-does-she-stay" non-conundrum, we can turn our collective attention to the real question about abuse: Why do men kick the crap out of people whom they purport to love? I mean, what's up with that?

Mr. Shore, please keep up your beautiful, empowering, compassionate, thoughtful and passionate advocacy of women! Perhaps that is why God chose you (and me! and many others!). Maybe it wasn't just so you could tell Christians how they are getting it butt wrong…

Also, in another post elsewhere on your site I proposed marriage to you and your amazing wife. I was touched by your conversion processes and thought you two would make excellent spouses for me. Since the BIble is rife with polygamy, I thought, "What the heck!" I was just wondering if you had given the matter any thought.

(Do I need to add an LOL or a winky after that, or is it clear that I'm joshing? Well, kinda joshing, anyway.)

Sincerely,

Lara

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David E. Brown, MS, May 15, 2010 at 2:20 am

Very well said Lara, and right on target.

I agree that escape is a process for many women who find themselves apparently trapped in an abusive relationship (the fortunate ones disconnect at the first hint of abusive behavior, when it is easiest to escape, an important reason why all women would profit from learning the early warning signs of abusive behavior).

I have found in my work that the women who succeed in escaping have often made conscious and careful preparations and contingency plans, e.g.: deciding and preparing ahead of time for how to respond when the next abusive attack begins.

In aid of that, I have found it helpful, in discussing their situation with them, to help them examine the history of their abusive relationship in ways that make it clear to them how his behavior has escalated over time. By helping them identify, and understand the significance of, this escalation process as well as how it is an inevitable consequence of him trying to maintain control, we can help them see where that trend is heading, unless and until they can prepare themselves and their children to successfully leave.

This is something that they need to discover and decide on their own. We can only help them clarify their own awareness. If we substitute our "better" judgment for theirs, and try to tell them what is best for them, how are we any different than their primary abuser? They have to make these decisions on their own, because they are in the best position to take into account all the factors involved. Also they and their children (and pets) are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of their decisions, not us.

In this respect, I would observe that, while I agree that women will invariably benefit from self-growth inherent in activities such as getting a job, or a resumption of their education, their partners will almost always see such activities as a threat to their control over their partner. Even if they agree to and "allow" such activities, they will often undermine those activities in a variety of ways aimed at enhancing their own sense of confidence that their partner is still securely in their grip.

While it makes little effective difference for the apparent "prisoners" of abusers, for those who wish to try to work with abusers (and I would strongly suggest that you refrain unless you are well suited, and have been carefully and well trained, for that very specialized and challenging work) it is important that we understand that the behaviors abusers employ are not, for the most part, a product of malevolence on their part, rather, they are part of a process also, a process which starts from a base of learned behaviors, supported by an acquired, distorted, belief and values system, and which builds on that base, experiments with new behaviors instinctively aimed at helping them feel more secure, then modifying those behaviors over time (often via escalation) to make them more "effective" at achieving their goal, namely reducing the likelihood that their partner will "abandon" them.

One minor point. While it is often hard for all of us to remain clear about cause and effect in these relationships, the woman never "makes" the man do the things he does. His behaviors are always choices of responses to his partner's behaviors and other factors in his life. One of the keys to helping the men is to help them understand this point so they can begin the process of discovering and choosing healthy responses which will better achieve their true objective, achieving a future relationship (almost invariably with someone other than their current partner) which is mutually beneficial and secure because it is built on equality, mutual respect, and trust.

One last point. I would encourage anyone reading this to refrain from trying to diagram my sentences lest you severely injure yourself.

Good luck with your thesis Lara, sounds like you're on the right path.

Dave

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Anonymous May 12, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I am 18 months out of an emotionally abusive relationship. I grew up in the church, stable family. I married my high school sweetheart, and we continued in the church after our marriage. After we had our first child, things really started to go downhill. We went to counseling, but he refused to see himself as the cause of any issues in the marriage. We spent 5 YEARS in counseling through our church. After things turned physical and he raped me, I went to the church and they encouraged him to leave, and he did, we were supposed to continue in counseling. We did, but I saw no change in six months, so I filed for divorce 8 months after we had separated. This entire time I was encouraged to forgive and continue to work on “my issues”. Not claiming perfection but come on. I have stopped attending that church, any church at all really. No one could look me in the eye, most stopped talking to me after I filed for divorce. It is simply not done. I wish I had had the courage to start things earlier.

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Laura Williams May 11, 2010 at 10:03 am

BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO!! Just had to shout. This is the single best discussion I’ve seen on this subject in all of Christian blogdom. And for what you said to the churches who knowingly enable this sort of evil, thank you!!

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pennyleighg May 10, 2010 at 9:51 pm

I have to say that there are some reasonable points in this article. And I also have to say that I didn't read the entire thing — I am guilty of some skimming. But I don't see "fear of being murdered "or "fear of losing her children" among the top seven reasons — and really, they need to be the top two. The vast majority of domestic homicides take place while the victim is trying to leave or just after she has left. It's not an unfounded fear and there is no way to verbally "defeat" it as a reason. It's a reality. Also — unless the abuser has physically abused the children, he can count on getting shared custody. That means that the victim can't just be rid of the abuser. Further, once she leaves, goes into hiding, and gives up her financial security, it's not uncommon for courts to find the abuser to be the parent to be the one more able to care for the children. So sometimes he gets primary custody. Again — these aren't irrational fears that you can "defeat" with clever writing. You come close — but I'm not sure you entirely get it.

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robbi May 9, 2010 at 1:25 am

Thank you John and David for your true and encouraging words and the book suggestion. I shall order it immediately! It is somehow comforting to know others have struggled with these same things and found their truth and reclaimed their original selves. I'm very encouraged.

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