Is there hope for a relationship afflicted with abuse? Chris Armstrong doesn’t think so, and here’s why.
As a relationship coach I have four standing rules outside of the coaching ethics I’m already sworn to.
Rule 1: I will only see a client four times.
Rule 2: I will only meet in a public place.
Rule 3: If I am doing a couples session and I ask a question, they must look at me (not their significant other) when answering. No seeking permission, approval or confirmation in my book!
Rule 4: I will not try and rescue a marriage or relationship if there has been abuse or cheating.
Let me repeat that last one because I am more adamant about it than any of the other rules.
I. Will. Not. Try. And. Rescue. A. Marriage. Or. Relationship. If. There. Has. Been. Abuse. Or. Cheating.
When someone decides to abuse someone, they have made a decision that:
- They will physically or verbally strike down someone that they recognize a love for. In this case, it’s not about their definition of love versus what love ‘really’ is. Instead, it’s the reality that they truly believe they love someone and, despite the sentiment or feeling, find striking them to be a viable action.
- This is a better step than things such as: communicating and mediating concerns, seeking their own treatment that would investigate the urges that even contemplate abuse, or ending the relationship!
As I’ve had and shared my rule for my nine-year duration as a relationship coach, people have challenged it in a number of ways. To which I rebut …
- Challenge: “People don’t always intend to abuse. While I don’t justify abuse, you can’t act as though it’s always conscious and deliberate.”
- Rebut: “I agree that sometimes the act itself is on the spot and not premeditated. But, there is an awareness of the issues, thoughts, and feelings that have built up and eventually drove someone to become abusive. This means that there have been opportunities to explore the issues that led to it and take better steps to address them.
- Challenge: “So if they didn’t take better steps than they deserve to lose their significant other? Why don’t you apply this same logic to other issues such as overspending or staying out too late?”
- Rebut: “As with everything in life, there is a list of wrongs, laws, violations, etc. and a seriousness level attributed to each of them. In the right relationship, companionship, trust, security, compassion, honesty and unselfishness are just some of the adjectives that are important. But which of those adjectives are irreplaceable and irreparable and why? In focus groups I’ve done outside of this topical area, security and trust are very consistently cited. From a very early age we identify with family, cops and teachers as people we associate with trust and security. When we no longer trust or feel protected by these people, we see it as egregious and nearly impossible to repair. For proof of this, right or wrong, just ask the police officers and priests in this country. That same security and trust has been compromised once abuse has entered a relationship. It is a deeper violation of the relationship rules than an unfair division of chores or forgetting someone’s birthday.
- Challenge: “Okay, so you will not help a couple get past this issue? Even with all of your training and all of your experience getting people through other tough matters?”
- Rebut: “I will not. It is for all of the reasons we’ve already discussed and one more. We’ve all heard the words through sickness and health, love and honor for all time, etc. What do those mean to us and how do we live up to those meanings? There will be disagreements. There will be fights at times. What we decide to do during those times is critical and says a lot about our capability and desire to persevere as two equal partners on this journey. Cheating and abuse are roads that violate the most basic principles of security, companionship, honesty, trust and unselfishness. They don’t violate one of them, they violate all of them. And, they say a lot about the abusers lack of capability or desire to sustain an equal relationship.
And although there was not a challenge question to these points, I will put forth additional rebuts. Abusers have a history of repeating the act. Abuse can lead to significant self-esteem and self-worth issues for they who were abused and thus the quicker the cord is cut, the quicker the healing can begin. Abuse can lead to dependency issues for they who abuse and find this to be an easier way to get their aggression out about other things in their life. I will not be an accessory to any of this. Ever!
Do I think someone should try to salvage a relationship in which they’ve been abused? No. You teach people how to treat you and acceptance of the treatment is teaching them it’s okay. No. You deserve an equal partnership. No. Remember, an abuser has resorted to this which says a lot about how they (don’t) value you and how they deal with challenges in general. Just no.
- Divorcing A Narcissist: Keep Your Expectations Low!
- Can You Recognize Emotional Abuse?
- Domestic Abuse: Are You in an Abusive Relationship?
- Zero Tolerance for Abuse
This article originally appeared on Divorced Moms.
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