Why do I always end up in abusive relationships?
First of all know that you are not alone, many people wrestle with this same predicament. One recent national study in Canada shows that one out of every four marriages or common law arrangements are harmed by physical forms of violence. This is just the tip of the iceberg because family violence incidents are under reported and when they are reported, the necessary law enforcement supports can be inconsistent.
How do you know if you are in an abusive relationship? Are you unsure about someone who is interested in having a romantic relationship with you? If you aren’t sure, consider some of the following red flags.
Are there determined efforts for a quick involvement?
Is he/she excessively possessive or jealous? (no, that is not love).
Is he/she unkind to children and animals?
Are you questioned suspiciously about who you talked to and your whereabouts?
Is there often harsh criticism, verbal abuse and the threat of violence….or even actual violence?
Does he/she try to cut you off from family and friends or deprive you from having a phone, vehicle or money of your own?
Is the person overly sensitive and quick to blame others for his/her problems and shortcomings?
Is your partner deliberately attempting to control or intimidate you through the use of some form of physical, sexual, psychological and/ or financial harm?
Do you frequently feel anxious, depressed or fearful since you began this relationship?
If the answer is yes to some or all of these questions, then you are in abusive relationship or at risk of getting yourself into one.
Often, there is more than one form of abuse going on at the same time.
People end up in recurring abusive relationships due to a number of factors. The first factor involves gender scripts that are communicated primarily by our culture, institutions and by our family of origin. Sadly, many children witness one parent being abusive toward the other parent or they see their parents acting in abusive ways toward each other. For boys, witnessing family violence more strongly predicts that they will become a batterer as apposed to an abuse victim because their controlling aggressive and even violent behaviour is supported and glamorized. For girls however, witnessing family violence increases their tolerance for abuse in intimate partner adult relationships because they are encouraged to be self sacrificing and acquiescing. Basically, when a child experiences inequality based family violence in the home it can condition them to accept this as normal.
A second factor involves what is known as attachment. We are biologically designed to seek and maintain attachments with others. Our earliest relationships showed us both how and how not to be loving, responsible, and accountable to others. Each time we enter into a new relationship, we make serious efforts to foster a close and healthy relationship. At the same time, however, we try to work out unresolved conflicts, fears, hurts and unmet expectations in the same relationship. Very often we are not aware of what is happening and our seemingly conflicting intentions.
It may surprise us to know that we partly co-create abusive, neglectful relationship patterns especially with our adult partners. This is because we have a powerful tendency to unconsciously attract relationships that re-enact past traumatic events in an effort to heal from them or because this is the only way we know how to be attached to others.
Some of the other major factors that foster repetitive abusive relationships stem from shame and addictions. Some people cycle through abusive relationships because they feel ashamed of different facets of themselves such as their appearance, their socioeconomic status or a history of childhood sexual abuse. The person’s own self loathing leads them to feel like they do not deserve anything better in a partner, so they continually settle for unhappy and unhealthy relationships.
Lastly, when a person develops an addiction to drugs or alcohol they can become dependent on a string of abusive partners in order to obtain the substance they are addicted to and may chose to overlook the abuse.
It is important to note that while the majority of domestic abuse victims are female, the abuse of men is on the rise and some reports indicate that one out of every three victims of domestic abuse is male. Females can be abusers as well as victims and it is the same for males. Often, males don’t get the help and support they need as victims in an abusive relationship.
If you are in an abusive relationship and feel helpless or stuck, therapy can help you to move forward. Give me a call or send an email or text and let’s talk. My number is 613 893 2184. Always remember you can call 911 to gain policing support in order to report a domestic violence incident and to help prevent another one from happening. These crisis numbers may also be helpful: Kingston & Frontenac Crisis Line (613-544-4229) or Lennox & Addington Crisis Line (613-354-7388).