Trapped in an abusive relationship
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Jill Mitev-Will BA(Hons) MBACP (registered)
7th December, 20140 Comments
Many people wonder why men and women stay in abusive relationships and don't just walk away from these toxic situations. How can we expect them to understand as they have never been in these situations? For the thousands of victims that have found themselves in these situations, it is not easy to leave as we find ourselves trapped inside our 'prisons'.
How did it come to this as we ask ourselves a million times over. How did our partner that was so charming, so witty, that we fell in love with, the person that we trusted and adored change to become so angry, demanding and controlling?
The very first time abuse happens in a relationship, one feels shocked, stunned, hurt, confused and many other negative emotions. The abuser appears to be sorry as he/she promises this will never happen again. As our partner shows remorse as they appear to share our pain and tears over the attack, followed by promises that this will never happen again. This attack was simply a 'one off'.
Sadly, as the promises are not kept and the victim becomes the innocent 'player' on the stage. The scene is now set for the dance to start. Unlike the actors that rehearse their lines, the victim has no lines rehearsed as he/she fumbles to find the right lines to use as their abuser showers them with questions, demanding why certain chores weren't done. Why the meals are not quite up to scratch, your clothes are too 'tarty', the children aren't in bed and so the list goes on. It's a long list...
As one struggles to meet the ever changing targets set by our partners, we exhaust ourselves as we try desperately to achieve the unachievable. The goal posts are ever changing. There again, we weren't ever meant to achieve them, but as we fumble through the confusion, the tears, the message is clear that we must achieve or face our 'punishments'.
The punishments of course are delivered in different ways. A verbal attack of how stupid and thick we are followed by echoes of swear words and the doors being slammed as we shake uncontrollably in tears from the unjust comments we have received. Then there's the silent treatment, the passive aggression where one is isolated, left feeling abandoned, ashamed and belittled as our self esteem and confidence takes another battering. This of course is again followed by withheld affection and sex. The physical punishments may mean a slap round the head, a punch, a kick on the legs, a beating or being thrown around the room like a rag doll desperately trying to grab hold of an object to stop us falling to the floor. The list again goes on and on.
The abuser rationalises his or her behaviour by passing on blame to the victim saying that he or she made them do it. They must have provoked it. So on top of the punishment, one is further belittled by being told they deserved it.
As one is pushed further into their 'prison', one may even start to find a little comfort there. As our abuser allows us the occasional treat or turn on the charm, we begin to even feel grateful for those moments. This is a chance to 'come up for air'. Maybe there is hope after all that he/she may return to the person we felt we had once known. However, as we realise we were 'set-up' for the next event we feel trapped as we fear another punishment.
Over time we become more isolated as the friends we had thought to be real turn away from us as we struggle to cope. It could be argued that the victims are the strong people in life with coping strategies in place ready for the next attack. Whilst the abuser is so weak and insecure that his/her behaviour is to simply control you. They recognise your strength and their intention is to 'bring you down'.
The cycle of abuse has no end until the victim leaves. For those that want to leave their situation or indeed for those victims that are not ready to flee yet, they need professional help. Above all, one needs to talk through your hurt, your secret pain to prevent further damage to your physical and mental well-being. Finding a counsellor that really understands the power of domestic abuse, that will listen and is non-judgemental can help you to unload your 'wheelbarrow' full of confusing emotions.
Why don't they just leave one may say, especially if it's that bad? These people that judge are those people that have not been in these situations. Packing a car with bags, children and family pets only to have no real future plans as to where to live can end with the victim returning back to the abuser. In addition, the abuser pleas for the partner to return, again with promises that things will be better in their relationship. Sadly, further punishments are served and the cycle begins again.
It takes planning for a successful escape. It takes energy and courage. It costs money for rent and bills. Without some form of support, especially when one is so low, so exhausted, it is so easy to understand why one returns to their abuser.
For those of you reading this that are experiencing these isolating 'nightmare' situations, a counsellor can offer to support you as they sit next to you in your 'prison'. A counsellor will understand your confusion, your feelings of being 'trapped'. Together, you can try to make sense of your feelings and there can be a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a life outside the 'prison' where you can be free from abuse. You can be like the bird that flies and soars high in the sky. A place where from a new height, you can look back at the situation for what it is and know in our hearts that we will never return to that place where punishments had become all we knew.
About the author
I have a delightful room in my home that provides a safe place for one to talk through their concerns/issues. I believe I can provide help you have a positive outcome. Jill Mitev-Will BA(Hons).
Related articles from our experts
- A brief neuropsychology of PTSD
Justin Lee Slaughter. Humanistic Integrative Counsellor. MBACP (Reg)8th August, 2017
- When the world spins
Jacqueline Karaca M.Sc. Hons Counselling Psych; MBACP Reg.12th July, 2017
- Understanding and working with spiritual abuse
Dr Kathryn Kinmond CPsychol; CSci; AFBPsS; Reg MBACP (Accred)8th July, 2017
Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.