Sanctuary for the Abused
Saturday, May 03, 2014
How Abusers Stage Their Returns
While the smooth talk that it takes to get an abused spouse to take them back varies from person to person, there are five major "strategies" that seem to cover most of the wide range of tactics used by abusive partners:
The Honeymoon Syndrome
Also known as "Hearts and Flowers", this can include any bribe that will get you to return - and the sooner the better. Common bribes include promises to get therapy, promises not to be violent again (even after a long history), and even calculated doses of praise for you; saying things like "I know I don't deserve you, but if you'll take me back..."
Super Parent Syndrome
This is a very common ploy, especially if your partner has neglected the children in the past. An abuser might promise to start being a good parent, or might remind you how good they already are with the children. Many victims stay in abusive relationships because they believe that it's better for the children, but children are more aware than we give them credit for - and they know that abuse is occurring.
In healthy parenting, children get to see both parents working together toward positive interactions for the whole family. When you stay with an abuser for the sake of the children, you are really slowly destroying one half of their parenting system - yourself - thus robbing your children of the true and healthy "you" that SHOULD be in their futures and replacing it with the you that continues to be abused over time. Additionally, children depend on you to be able to do your job where they are concerned. This means they expect you to nourish them, protect them, and properly socialize them. Part of protecting them not only means DIRECTLY protecting them, but also protecting their protector - YOU. Finally, a parent will always be a parent - even in the event of seperation or divorce. A truely loving parent will continue to be a truely loving parent regardless of the shape and structure of the family. So before you cling to the promises of super parent abusers, consider carefully what is really in the long term best interests of your children.
"I have been going to church every Sunday since you left." "I have accepted religion into my life." That's great, but so what? The real question is: has the violence stopped? Don't believe that just because someone spent an hour with their butt in a pew on a Sunday morning that violence and other abuse can't still be right around the corner. If you look at the massive amounts of literature directed at faith groups teaching them how to identify and respond to abusive relationships in their congregations, you'd quickly realize exactly how many "god-fearing" persons abuse, rape, beat and murder their partners. Even pastors! (Oprah did a great show on domestic violence featuring a pastor who murdered his wife of 22 years because they argued over money and his unwillingness to get treatment for depression.)
Whether it's drugs or alcohol, abusers have a higher incidence of substance use than the general population. Most substance-using abusers know that they have a substance abuse problem, or, they are aware that YOU believe they have a problem, even if they are in denial themselves. In the panic of facing losing their relationships, many will suddenly "see the light" and swear to you that they'll never touch it again. You'll want to hear it. You'll want to believe it. You'll want to support this effort. And you should! BUT...don't just hear the words and breathe a sigh of relief. Actions speak louder than words and substance abuse and addiction is one of the hardest things to overcome by oneself.
Withdraw from chronic alcohol use, heroin, cigarettes and even caffiene can cause vomiting, nausea, paranoia and other unpleasant symptoms. When an abusive partner opens the door to getting sober, stick your foot in that door and help them to get MORE help - encourage them to talk to their doctor, to join a support group, to get substance abuse therapy, etc. Counseling, support and therapy for substance abuse problems will address underlying problems and issues and help abusers to substitute healthier behaviors for their destructive coping mechanisms. Unless and until you see a substance using abuser actively participating in sobriety with OUTSIDE HELP, don't fall for just the promise! (this applies to sex addicts as well - PSYCHOLOGICAL/PSYCHIATRIC help is a MUST with an addiction!)
This is both a tactic to get you to stay and a tactic to maintain control and intimidation. On this web site and others, you'll hear over and over again that abusers don't just stop their behavior without assistance to overcome issues and replace destructive behavior with healthy ones. Therapy is no exception.
Friends, family, pastors and even abusers might suggest couples counseling to you. Although they may have the best of intentions, couples counseling is NOT the solution to combat the behaviors of an abuser! Many abusers actually like the idea of couples counseling because it means that THEY don't have to take responsibility for their actions- instead, they get to drag you in as part of the problem.
With your abuser sitting next to you in a counseling session, you are not emotionally free to say what you think without fear of repercussion, without the abuser twisting your words, and without them trying to coach you along as what to say or not to say. Safe, effective and appropriate counseling for batterers and abusers must be done WITHOUT the victim present. Batterers must take responsibility for their actions, must understand and admit that THEY have a problem and be dedicated to the self-examination process to make positive long term changes possible.
Couples counseling to combat domestic violence SOUNDS like a great idea, but it's false advertising and can prolong and expand the emotional abuses that already exist.
The problem with all of these things is that in no case, no way, no how, does ANYTHING excuse or "make up" for the fact that a partner batters you! If you donate a million dollars to charity, it doesn't give you the right to go out and shoot someone. Similarly, don't fall into the trap of letting a partner BUY their way out of violence in the relationship. Unless and until a battering partner owns up to their responsibility and gets some outside help to change their behavior, your relationship, your children, and your family are neither healthy nor SAFE.