“The guarantee of safety in a battering relationship can never be based upon a promise from the perpetrator, no matter how heartfelt. Rather, it must be based upon the self-protective capability of the victim. Until the victim has developed a detailed and realistic contingency plan and has demonstrated her ability to carry it out, she remains in danger of repeated abuse.” – Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery

Abusers come in a variety of genders and races. It isn’t easy to identify an abuser. In fact, people with abusive personalities can generally be very charming, self-assured, sociable and well-respected. When allegations of abuse are made people who know the abuser or the partner can be shocked and may not even believe the victim. Women are equally capable of carrying out abuse, but this is often not recognized as generally men rarely report suffering abuse within their relationships. Male abusers are usually attracted to women who like to please others, are vulnerable or easy to manipulate. Women who fall prey to an abuser may look at a man’s flaws and think they can change him with enough love. While it is often said many women in abusive relationships have previously experienced abuse from a family member or in previous relationships this isn’t always true. Women who were raised in a healthy emotional environment or enjoyed normal relationships in the past can also become a victim of abuse within a relationship. They often assume that if a man loves her he will treat her with the care and respect she deserves and return her love. When the abuse appears some women may try harder to make the relationship work, yearning for the ‘honeymoon’ phase at the beginning of the relationship which usually leads to a downward spiral of increasing domestic abuse.

After the incident the abuser will often apologize, seek forgiveness and promise it will never happen again. The apology may even be tearful appearing to be genuine and he will quickly switch back to displaying all the positive qualities the woman fell in love with. The partner often believes (or wants to believe) this side of his personality is his ‘true self’ and the verbal abuse or violence won’t happen again but inevitably it does. Abuse can also occur as a result of the emotional weaknesses of the abuser who demands control of his partner which can provide feelings of security or fulfillment.

Abusive relationships destroys lives. If you are currently involved in a relationship be honest and ask yourself how you really feel most of the time. Examining whether your beliefs, expectations and choices actually match up with your actions along with your partners behaviour can provide invaluable insights. Greater self-awareness can be the key to understanding yourself and your relationship.

Nigel Beckles – Author