Today's post is part two in a series by counselor Allison Stevens. Read part one here.
We must be careful not to make sweeping promises never to abuse our partners again. When we do that, it puts the focus and pressure on your partner and the relationship instead of keeping it on you and doing the work of recovery for yourself.
The first step of doing the work of healing and recovery for yourself means that you can admit that your actions have been abusive. Have you acknowledged to yourself and to your wife/girlfriend that you’ve been physically abusive? Have you admitted to her that the pattern of calling her names, putting her down, trivializing her feelings and guilting her into doing things she doesn’t want to do have been emotional and verbal abuse? Have you apologized for the unwanted sexual advances, telling her no one else would ever love her? These are just a few examples of abusive behaviors in which you may have participated. It’s important, for the restoration of your heart, soul, and mind, to identify abusive attitudes and behaviors and admit them to yourself and to your partner.
Second, are you consistently seeking professional help from a trained therapist in domestic abuse? A therapist can help you identify abusive attitudes and behaviors, help you see the difference between relationships built on power and control and relationships built on equality, and show you how to develop empathy for your wife and children. Seeking help from a professional puts the focus back on you, which is where it needs to be, not on your spouse or girlfriend. An abuser, like most of us, cannot address his issues alone; he must avail himself to a therapist experienced in domestic abuse.
Third, support her decision to be safe. A separation is important so that you understand that she will not tolerate the kind of treatment you’ve given her and that you need help. Some husbands make it difficult for their wives to stick it out because they beg, plead, argue, and demand them to come home too early. They call the pastor and tell him that his wife is out of the “will of God” by not submitting to his “authority” by coming back to him. After all, the husband reasons, he’s remorseful, he’s come before the church, and now he’s ready to be a better husband. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some pastors and therapists fall for this manipulative strategy and join the abuser to put more weight on the wife to get back home before it’s time. Rushing the process of growth and healing is a sure sign that the abusive husband is indeed not interested in true growth or healing.
Any manipulation to get your wife back home or to let you come home too soon is a serious warning that you’re remaining in a place of power and trying to control her and the situation, instead of treating her with mutual equality, love and respect.
It will take a significant amount of time for you to address the reasons why you relate to your partner abusively. The road to wholeness requires that you stop making empty promises that puts pressure and focus on your spouse. Instead, focus on your healing by admitting that you’ve been abusive, get professional help, and support your partner’s decisions towards safety in herlife and relationships.