Coordinated Community Response Column

The cycle of abuse, whether it is partner-to-partner or generational within the family, can be very daunting to change. It can mean stepping away from a partner you are comfortable with and have invested time with.

Each relationship begins in the honeymoon stage. In this stage everything is new, and usually partners are on their best behaviors. As time progresses, it’s about how the couple handles conflict together. Whether it’s in a healthy way or an abusive pattern where power and control is an issue and is characterized by blaming, apologies and promises to change. Each relationship has some sort of conflict at one time or another but it’s about how they handle that conflict.

The next stage is the tension-building stage. All relationships have tension that can eventually lead to an argument, but if handled in a mutually respectful way with compromise a couple can grow from the conflict and the relationship becomes deeper and more significant. In an abusive relationship it’s not the problem that’s attacked, it’s the other person. It can be described by put downs, blaming, yelling, swearing, intimidation, shaming, chaos and stress.

The third stage is where the violence – whether emotional, physical or sexual – erupts and one or both partners cross the line of appropriate and respectful. In a healthy relationship violence is unacceptable and respect is at the forefront. It takes a lot of effort and determination to change patterns that have taken a lifetime to imbed. For someone to change significantly they need insight into their issues and motivation to change.

It can be very difficult to leave a relationship because there are good points in the relationship and not all bad. Hopes that the partner will change and they mean it when their partner says their sorry and they just wish things could go back to how they used to be when they first were together. There may also be fear present depending on the severity of the abuse. One partner may believe that they can’t make it alone or has been told numerous times no one else will want you. A victim of abuse may also be fearful to leave if there have been threats of violence if they leave or threats of taking the children away. If a victim finally decides to leave an abusive relationship and the children have witnessed the abusive patterns of behavior and disrespect they may be affected and the relationship with their children can be affected longer term. They may treat the parent similar to the way the abusive partner did.

If you are struggling with abuse or know someone, call to set up an appointment to see a domestic violence advocate and discuss your options at HELP of Door County, Inc. at 920.743.8818.

This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Teams and the Door County Elder and Adult-at-Risk Interdisciplinary Team.