**WARNING** The content in this topic could trigger you. Domestic violence can be a highly emotionally charged issue.
This information is meant to educate those who have experienced this type of abuse and for those who have witnessed loved ones go through this type of toxic relationship?or may still be in the throes of a relationship involving domestic violence. It is not my intention to add my voice the countless others who disparage domestic violence. There is a time and place for that but that is not here.
If you?re in a relationship where domestic violence has or is occurring or if you have watched or are still watching a loved one in a bad relationship and don?t know why they stay, this if for you.
First, it is essential to identify where the abused person is mentally
Here are the 5 different stages people experience with domestic violence:
Stage 1 Stage of Confusion
Stage 2 Stage of Grace
Stage 3 Stage of Acceptance
Stage 4 Stage of Unacceptance
Stage 5 Stage of Action
First is the stage of confusion which is typically the shortest stage. Depending on one?s unique set of circumstances, this stage could last an hour to several weeks. Typically, the confusion occurs after the first incident of domestic abuse. In this stage, you typically ask ?why??; Why did they hit me? What did I do? Or other questions to that effect.
Next comes the stage of grace. In this stage, one has typically asked the ?why? question. They may not actually know why they are being abused and generally, they still believe that their abuser is a good person. They are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
?He was probably tired? or ?I really pissed her off so of course she took a swing at me?.
In this stage, one honestly believes that the abuse was a one-time event or that the violence will dissipate on its own. Typically, people in this stage do not share that they are being hurt. If they truly believe it will end soon why make trouble?
Eventually they stop believing it will ever change.
At this point, the abused enters stage 3: acceptance. People in this stage may have some understanding that they don?t like what is happening but the abuse makes sense to them. They have been manipulated to believe that their abuse is logical. Typically, people in this stage want to talk to friends or family about the abuse but, when they do bring it up, no one accepts their reasoning as to why the abuse is acceptable. The most common advice they receive from those in whom they have confided is to leave.
However, they generally find this advice unhelpful. Because even at this stage they want to stay in the relationship. They don?t want the abuse, but at the same time, they don?t want to get rid of the abuser. This is a double-edged sword. This lack of understanding causes them to stop talking about it to anyone. People in stage 3 typically do not want someone else to interfere which can be incredibly frustrating if you are a friend or loved one of the abused, because this stage can last for a very long time.
Once the victim finds a supportive yet challenging voice to help them see that they are in fact being abuse and that it won?t change, they will eventually move into stage 4: unacceptance. In this stage they know that at some point the relationship must end.
?But what if there is a kid involved??
?Or they couldn?t financially support themselves at the income level they want??
People in this stage will stay with the abuser until it just becomes so unpleasant that its no longer worth the benefits of staying with the abuser. To help someone in this stage is to give them opportunities to leave. Help them learn about safe houses, resources, support groups (online or in person). Help them to physically get out of the situation. People in this stage are usually willing to rely on people who have earned their trust.
Then comes the last stage: action. A person at this stage recognizes that nothing is going to change unless they leave. They also have decided that the relationship it is no longer worth the price they are paying. This is the final stage.
It?s important that you are aware of these different stages, because if you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation you need to understand that it is a process to get help. People don?t typically leave domestic violence in one go.
If you need help, please contact someone you trust or seek the counsel of a professional. We are here for you.
Many times,?I have sat with couples?who have told me that they?ve lost their romantic spark. They say that attraction that drew them together is gone. When I ask them to describe their marriage as it currently is, I often find that one of them?or both?lacks personal friends and hobbies.
Having a life outside of your marriage is vital to the health and attractiveness of your marriage. Don?t believe me? Think about this, when you were first dating your spouse, they had a life without you. They had fun, made friends, and spent their time and money without consulting you, yet despite all of that, you still were attracted to them.
How often did you love to hear them talking about one of their cherished memories? Or cheering with them as you watched their favorite sports team together? Remember when they took you to their favorite?and quite personal?spot?
It?s interesting how those same couples who found the other?s strength and independence SO attractive have lost the fire in their relationship. Now the individuals see themselves married to a partner with whom they have shared almost all the same experiences together. They live in the same house, they go to the same shows and restaurants, they attend the same church and hang out with the same people, and then they wonder why the other person seems so dull: familiarity breeds contempt!
Breathing by yourself is okay! Having a life outside your marriage allows you to grow as a person. Spending time with yourself is good for your health. You then take that healthy individual back and share it with your spouse. Then, you get to share new memories and experiences with them that they don?t know about?that makes you attractive. They get to see your skill-sets grow in hobbies from an amateur level to an expert. They get to share your highs and lows; this too makes you more interesting.
Here?s the million-dollar question: what if your spouse doesn?t like your hobby? This can be tricky, but it?s essential to learn to communicate with each other about your interests and the things you don?t like.
What if he doesn?t like to dance?
What if she doesn?t like to play video games?
What if he doesn?t like to drink?
What if she doesn?t like to go to sports games?
It may be beneficial to?seek a counselor?s assistance?to help with communicating with each other.
When it comes to recreation, it is the person who is left out?or at home by choice?that can develop resentment or a poor attitude about ?the hobby.? However, this can often be rectified with improved communication.
Ask yourself, ?why is it an issue that your spouse has a friend/ or a hobby that you can?t participate in?? The answer may involve jealousy?? I don?t get ?me? time, why should you???or it might involve fear/worry??You aren?t spending enough time with the kids or me.? These are valid concerns that are not problems but are opportunities to grow the marriage even stronger.
A couple needs to come in for counseling to help work through their issues when either individual feels frustrated. Frustration is the most common emotion that I have seen expressed in my sessions with couples. Frustration is what you feel after getting angry didn?t fix the problem.
Fixing problems in marriages is like trying to open a jar with a stuck lid. At first, you might assume it?s no big deal that your spouse said or did something hurtful. Then, when you try to resolve the issue, it doesn?t go away. Then you start putting to put in more effort?you talk to friends, read counseling blogs, buy marriage books. When your effort fails to produce change, you start getting angry.
Finally, when anger and tears and yelling don?t work,?you collapse in exhaustion?having not achieved your goal.? That feeling you experience in that moment is frustration (what many couples come into my office feeling).? They?ve tried being nice, they?ve tried compromising, they?ve tried not letting it bother them, they?ve shouted and cried and?nothing changed.
Couples in a healthy marriage feel that?they can influence one another?and they can.? Maybe you can?t change their behavior, but if only you could, at the very least, help them to understand your perspective,?that would bring satisfaction to your soul.
A couple?s frustration often stems from fights that continuously go around and around in circles. Each fight looks and sounds like the previous one and nothing is accomplished?NOTHING CHANGES.? Counselors are trained to help couples not only improve their communication but also?help each person identify why?they are fighting.? Having an expert in the room who understands the dynamics of communication can offer both sides a new perspective and keep emotions from getting out of control.
So, if you have reached a point in your marriage where you don?t feel like you can get the other person to change, you don?t feel understood, or if you are close to giving up,?schedule an appointment with a therapist, you?ll be glad you did.
Depression is tough.?Having a depressed spouse is also hard and can prove to be a difficult and arduous road to travel. That journey can become a balancing act like walking on a tightrope (except it?s your marriage, not a circus act).
Depression can create communication barriers?in that the depressed person may become extremely self-critical and more depressed when their spouse tries to talk about what is frustrating them. On the surface, the depressed person may appear to agree with their partner?s irritation, but rather than channeling their energy towards finding a solution;?they often direct the power of frustration?negative energy?towards themselves which causes even more depression!
I have treated many couples?that have struggled with one of the two being depressed. These couples have become?emotionally drained! Depression in a marriage?or relationship?presents unique problems that the average couple will not experience nor understand.
For instance, a spouse with a history of suicide may have depressive episodes that are scary and, at times, keep their partner in a state of fear and anxiety. It seems unlikely that a person would want to share this type intimate issue with anyone. This type of concern can be a?massive weight to carry.
If you or your spouse is currently battling depression,?seek professional help immediately!?Contact an expert depression therapist or?licensed professional counselor in your area who has a proven track record of treating mental afflictions and solving marital issues.
Here are four tips for those suffering or those who have a partner suffering from depression:
- Ask for help.?You cannot (and should not) healthily carry this on your own. Without the proper approach, you may end up wasting a lot of time and energy trying to ?cure? it in the wrong way. A person who struggles with depression will only fight their depression so many times before they give up and lose hope.
- Acknowledge that depression is there.?Don?t call it something else, don?t say, ?It?s just who (s)he is.? No one wins by pretending.
- Understand who/what the real culprit is?beliefs in your (or your partner?s) mind.?It?s not something you did, or they did. Depression is a combination of many things. Don?t feel guilty and don?t make your partner feel guilty; it?s not your fault, and it?s not their fault.
- If your spouse does not go to counseling, then you should seek help for yourself.**Original article was written on October 27th, 2017
Early on in my career as a?marriage counselor, I noticed that in a majority of couples I saw, there was mental illness present in one or both parties.? I also noticed that in those marriages, progress was incredibly difficult if the illness was not?addressed and treated.? I learned to shift focus to the illness temporarily.? I would offer that person to come and?see me individually?for treatment or I would make an appropriate referral.? I have continued that practice to this day, and I have had tremendous success in marriage counseling, particularly when the mental illness is treated, and the couple is able to move beyond it.? Below, I will highlight one common mental illness:?Major Depressive Disorder, and I will discuss its implications in marriage.
Having?Major Depressive Disorder?does not mean that one is depressed all day every day.? The person is usually depressed for certain periods of time called major depressive episodes.? They last anywhere from two weeks up to several months, or even years in rare cases.? During the episode, people typically have a?depressed mood?for most of the day and most days of the episode.? They often experience feelings of?hopelessness, sadness, and emptiness.? They typically?lose interest?in activities that normally bring them pleasure.? They may?sleep much more or much less?than usual.? Their?appetite may increase or decrease, causing their weight to fluctuate.? They may also become much?more irritable and want to be alone.? They often?lose energy, and their movements become very slow.? They may even feel?completely worthless?and have?desires to end their life.
In light of the description above, it is easy to see how depression can complicate marriage.? It can be fairly easy in the beginning of an episode for the partner to be supportive, but it doesn?t take long for them to feel?resentful?once their?needs are no longer being met, and to make matters worse, the depressed person often outright?rejects their partner.? It makes little difference whether the rejection is intentional or unintentional because?rejection always hurts.? Also, the negative mood of depression tends to?drag the mood of everyone else down, especially that of their partner.? Over time, the resentment their partner feels can begin to?harden them, and if that continues, the partner can?lose the ability to feel anymore, having been?rejected one too many times.
It is important to understand that?no one chooses to be depressed, and when they are,?they don?t like it, and?they don?t want to stay that way.? Their attitude may suggest otherwise, but that is merely one of the symptoms.??We shouldn?t blame the person for being depressed.? Instead, we should?offer support and encourage them to get help.??Depression is treatable. ?When depression is successfully treated, the marriage is relieved of a large burden that can provide new hope.
When the burden of depression is lifted,?the marriage is free to progress.? The entire?landscape is changed.? The couple is then free to?connect in ways never before possible.? This happens because the partner is no longer experiencing a high level of rejection, and the natural defense mechanisms of the brains aren?t being engaged so often.? This allows for?emotional safety, which can lead to?vulnerability, which leads to?intimacy.? If you or your partner are experiencing depression, please reach out to a?trusted counselor.? It can help you get your life back.? It can save your marriage.
I assume that both people are good at heart
This is an important assumption because it allows for?each person to feel loved and valued.??No one wants to be the problem, and it does no good to anyone if one person is singled out. Even in cases where all signs appear to point to just one person, marriage is never that simple, and many problems only appear to weigh more than others, when in reality, they don?t. There is simply no way to accurately keep score in this way, nor would it do any good for the marriage. ?It is much better to assume that each person is good at heart and wants the best for the other and for the marriage. ?This assumption makes people feel good, and it lays the?foundation for an environment of growth.
I?distinguish between what can and cannot change
There is nothing more disheartening than to be rejected for who we are deep inside, and there is nothing more satisfying than to be truly accepted and loved for who we really are. ?For this reason, I assess for personality type?early on in counseling.
We need to know which parts of our spouse we should accept and embrace and which parts we can expect to change over time. ?Until we see our spouse for who they are deep down, it is a near impossible task to distinguish between the two.
I cannot count the number of?powerful and life changing sessions?that have come from assessing personality type, sessions in which two people look at each other for the first time with?wonder and understanding, the kind of understanding that brings both?forgiveness and hope. ?The forgiveness because of the realization that so much heartache over the years has simply come from not?truly understanding each other,?the hope because of being on new terrain where wonderful growth and intimacy are now possible.
I educate people about the other gender
Yes, men and women are?actually?different. ?What men and women?need?in a relationship is also different. ?In fact, the most important needs of one gender are almost never the same for the other.
When we assume that what we need is the same as what our spouse needs, we often focus on giving the wrong things, and we can become disillusioned when those things don?t seem to invoke much emotion. ?We then often begin to assume that something is wrong with our spouse and our marriage, when what is needed is to learn spouse?s needs and fulfill those needs, which are almost always completely different from our own.
Since we do not receive an instruction manual when we say, ?I do,? this is something we simply need to learn. ?I also have each person give an honest assessment of how the other is meeting their needs. ?This is very important because we need that information to make the needed changes.
I look for signs of trauma
Recognizing trauma when it is present in a marriage is vital.??Even the most experienced marriage counselors struggle to help couples in distress when there is trauma present.? Many counselors fail to identify trauma, and very few take steps to see that it is treated.
The essential feature of trauma is a system (body and mind) that is in a?continuous state of arousal,?prepared to defend?against any threat.? This is very effective for keeping one safe, but it also makes it?very difficult to be in healthy, intimate relationships.
Many incidents that occur in every day married life can be incorrectly identified by the traumatized system as?potential threats.? When this occurs regularly, the marriage is in continual chaos.? Whenever I recognize that trauma is present, I explain what I see and make appropriate treatment recommendations.? As the trauma begins to heal, the marriage improves in ways that would never be possible without the trauma treatment.
I get to the root of the issues
Most couples new to counseling first report their main problem being lack of communication. ?This is a reasonable way to conceptualize the issues because most couples don?t understand the root of their own complaints, much less the root of their partner?s. ?For this reason, it just feels like a lack of communication.
I move couples quickly beyond seeing the issues as simply communication issues and help them to see them for what they are. ?This is a tremendous help to couples because they gain the correct language to discuss the real issues and the ability to change what is truly ailing them.
I foster an environment of intimacy
I am not cupid. ?I cannot create love. ?I can only foster an environment where love can grow. ?The majority of couples that come into my office already have deep love that has developed, even if it is buried under a mountain of hurt and anger.
For love to develop, or for forgotten love to return, there must be intimacy. ?For intimacy, there must be vulnerability. ?For vulnerability, there must be trust. ?When trust has been broken, I help couples regain it. ?Where trust has never fully been achieved, I help them achieve it. ?Once trust is felt, couples begin to relax; vulnerability begins to set in, and in time, intimacy is gained. ?This must be done delicately, and this is one reason marriage counseling is so important.
I trust my gut and my skill
It is a true statement that nearly anyone can DO marriage counseling. ?That is to say that nearly anyone can learn the techniques and perform them. ?In the same way, nearly anyone can learn to shoot a basketball, give a massage, or design an office space. ?This doesn?t mean they have the talent to play professional basketball, the special touch to give healing massages, or the creative eye to design an office space with character.
In the same way, marriage counseling requires true?talent and instinct.??I know that?I have it, and I rely on it.?I can?t begin to plan for every possible scenario in marriage counseling, nor would I try to. ?Because of that, I often find myself in situations where I have no plan and nothing in my notes or research articles telling me what to do. ?I don?t worry when this happens; I trust my gut and my skill. ?This is when the true?magic in counseling?happens, when I have no idea what I?m about to do or say, and then after a long and very successful session, I look back on it and I think,?Did I really just do that?
I?m sure other professionals often feel the same way, the basketball player who marvels at how they just made an incredible shot, the massage therapist who just sensed what was ailing their client and sent them away dramatically better than how they came in, the interior designer who just designed an office space that magically transformed the office space into a haven of peace and productivity, none of these professionals having seen the outcome ahead of time, all of them amazed at what they somehow just accomplished. ?The talent and instinct of the marriage counselor is paramount. There are libraries of books filled with great marriage advice; it takes a great marriage counselor to?transform a marriage in need.
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