(Please note that even though the two cases mentioned are concerning women abused by men, abuse is not gender specific)
I am unfortunately dealing with a few messy divorce cases at present. I say unfortunately because it is never positive when a marriage breaks down. In these cases, however, positive will come later when the effects of divorcing extremely self-centred people subside. I am working with two ladies battling to keep their head above water and despite advice from me and attorneys, trying not to be swayed by the obvious attempts by their partners to portray a “nice guy” image to get them back in the relationship, where control can once again be exercised fully.
I have dealt with many of these cases over the years and they follow very similar patterns and it always astounds me how the lure to return to such relationships is often greater than the need to protect self and move on. It does indicate the level of control and trauma bonding that is prevalent in these relationships and if children are involved, it can be catastrophically worse and an avenue for further abuse.
The abuse and trouble that happen after the split are often indicative of the way the relationship went as a whole. In both of these cases, the control and aggression increased as boundaries were attempted, leaving the woman no choice but to leave to protect herself. As in many other cases, this was not the end and the abuse goes on from afar. It must also be said that attitudes from law enforcement and some attorneys hardly helped. In one case, the police were reluctant to be involved and an attorney consulted used an appeasement approach so as not to “poke the bear”. Thankfully, the lady concerned found an attorney with a zero tolerance stance to domestic abuse.
Dr Nicholas Jenner is a counselling psychotherapist in private practice working with individuals and couples with a speciality in integrative psychology techniques. Dr Jenner runs a thriving online therapy business bringing help to those who find taking therapy online as convenient and tailored for their needs. He has been offering online therapy for over 15 years. During that time, he has built up a speciality in many areas of psychology and helped many clients move forward.
Both of the women concerned can be seen as codependent to varying degrees and enablers of the treatment handed out to them in the relationship. Both cases took many years before awareness was had and action taken. Only after a significant event that drove them over the edge such as violence, they had the aggressor removed and started work on recovery.
This is where a familiar pattern has emerged which could be deemed as just as dangerous as living with the egomaniac. The abuse and manipulation continue generally from afar including constant texting and harassment, making child handovers difficult, cutting off financial means (the abusers often have total financial control), making excessive demands for time with children and logistical factors. The worst case scenario is that the children are used in one form or another to exact revenge (though this can also be from both sides).
So what should anyone in this situation do? The ideal case would be not to be involved with them in the first place. However, we all know how seductive they can be at the start of a relationship. Often the abuse starts after the victim is already “hooked in”. While it is never too late to leave an abusive relationship, codependents especially, tend to overlook the abuse hoping the earlier version will reappear. The control aspect of the relationship often means it is difficult for a victim to leave financially, emotionally and physically.
Once that move is made, it is important to keep the abuser out of the picture. Many victims feel obligated through guilt to keep contact and this is consolidated by that earlier version suddenly reappearing. Here are a few fundamentals if you find yourself in two minds about staying safe or going back to an abusive relationship:
1 – It is advisable to block all avenues of contact while you recover. Too many victims will leave one door open almost expecting contact. If children are involved and the aggressor is granted access, create an email address especially for contact concerning the children. This can be checked when needed. This avoids “text terror”, which is much more prominent and present and the aggressor will often use to manipulate.
2 – Be aware of “Prince Charming” suddenly appearing. Many abusers are very skilled at manipulating their victims into returning with promises that they have changed after their “one session of therapy”. Nobody who chooses to abuse changes that quickly and one might doubt that they could ever change. In cases I know where this has happened, it has not taken very long for the abuse to re-emerge. Fight those urges by reminding yourself of all the reasons why you are apart. Talk it through with a professional.
3 – Create a support team. Recovery from such an experience can very rarely be done alone. A network of trusted friends, family, an attorney and a therapist sympathetic to the cause, is generally needed. Attorneys and therapists engaged should be experienced in dealing with such cases and ideally take a zero tolerance stance towards domestic violence and abuse.
4 – Be safe. Make sure you are never alone with the abuser or anyone sympathetic to them. They could take the opportunity to manipulate. Conduct parental handovers of children in public or with a trusted friend. Never allow your abuser access to your home! Be prepared to call the police if this is attempted.
5 – Believe that things can be better. Eventually, a point will be reached where things will start to take a better turn. This will only happen if resolute action is taken and maintained. Abusers will eventually look for easier targets.
6 – Always remember that controllers, abusers, manipulators, narcissists and egomaniacs never question themselves. They will always find a reason to blame others. The question of their own responsibility never enters their head. The minds of such people are not the same as their victims. This is an important distinction to remember.
7 – In recovery, learn to set boundaries and keep in mind that the only people who dislike them are the ones who benefit from there being none. Don’t let someone who chose to abuse you make you believe there is something wrong with you.
Please feel free to ask Dr Jenner a question about any mental health issues using the form below:
Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.