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Fighting Fair

An interesting title for a blog, isn’t it? I’m borrowing this title from a Ph.D. friend of mine who held corporate workshops with this title in order to attract individuals living with various forms of emotional and physical abuse. It worked; many wanted help.

Since 24.3%, or nearly 1 in 4 women experienced severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime and about 13.8%, or about 1 in 7 men, this topic is worth a blog.

I feel qualified to write on this subject since I lived with someone who was emotionally abusive for a number of years. I was also the programmatic architect for an extraordinary women’s resource center, with a client population, 54% of which, were living with or recently lived with physical or emotional abuse. A Ph.D. group and I developed programs to empower these women, as well as others, and the results were amazing. The first full year we accommodated 30,000 visits from women seeking to empower their lives. I also commissioned and oversaw the first domestic violence research study ever done in Arizona, which was executed in the 1990s. The results of that survey revealed surprising statistics that enlighten not only law enforcement but the interfaith community, as well – and changed many policies, as a result.

With that said, I hope you’ll find this blog helpful if you happen to be in a challenging relationship or know someone who is. We’ll only be skimming the surface of this very complicated issue but you might find my perspective unique.

The reason we never seem to solve this massive problem in our society is that we keep on doing the same thing, over and over – and you know what they say about that. We talk about “breaking the cycle”, which we never break; we order abusers to anger management classes – only after the abuse has made it to a court date; and we help women escape, generally when it’s reached the life-threatening stage. That’s what we’ve done for decades. We do little to prevent this dynamic and the concept of educating anyone prior seems to have escaped anyone’s radar.

This education should begin in the home since young adults generally mimic familiar behavior. Every set of parents should realize their dysfunction will eventually affect their children and therefore should try to improve the way they manage their own conflicts – since kids witness everything. Behavior everyone should avoid is the “silent treatment”; no door banging or head banging; no yelling and screaming, no name calling and anything with intent to cause crying. There should be no threats, no intimidation and certainly no pushing or shoving – nothing physical. If problems are avoided in face-to-face discussion, that’s a mistake, too. And, if your family doesn’t possess good listening skills – get counseling, people! If not for yourself, for your children. Meanwhile excessive alcohol or drug use exacerbates everything – so be aware of that, as well.

Well before teens begin dating, parents should begin two talks. Of course, the birds and bees talk, which will be old news to your kids but the second part about morals and respecting your own body as well as that of your partner’s could also be introduced. Believe me, that will be really enlightening. Then, you should talk about abuse – for girls as well as boys - what it looks like, how it destroys lives and marriages and what the signals are. Let me help you, if you haven’t considered that avenue.

If your teen or young adult is a male – talk about anger issues. You know if your child has withheld anger throughout his childhood, has a flash temper and seems to be full of anger, inside. Warn him that unless he gets help with that, his anger could eventually ruin the relationship with a person he deeply loves. Some counseling would help here. Additionally, if he has low self-esteem or always feels like victim in life – frustration can build there, too, and it’s too easy to take it out on the person closest to him – his girlfriend or spouse. That issue is also solvable, especially at a younger age – by considering counseling help. Tell him that he will lead a much happier life and avoid problems down the road, if those issues are solved early. Kids won’t ask for help with any this even if they recognize they have the issue, because they don’t think there will be any consequences to their own private feelings. But, there will and It’s up to parents to point out those consequences.

For girls - caution them to watch for control issues. If a boy wants to own 100% of their time, limit their access to friends, distance them from family and hold them accountable for where they go, who they see, who they text, etc. – is a big red flag. Granted that type of behavior is minimized early in a relationship but girls have good antennae, and they’ll pick it up, if they are on the lookout. Another danger is with girls who think little of themselves, don’t think they deserve much and feel ugly and unloved. Those girls need a good dose of help from their family, too. Parents can start by not having such high expectations no one can’t meet them, stop telling their kids they’re worthless or ugly, or be verbally abusive with constant criticism. Neglect can also come in the form of giving little or no praise, when it’s deserved. Girls who think little of themselves will take the first guy who shows interest. That’s when good judgement flies out the window.

Churches and other religious institutions should hold workshops on Fighting Fair and Relationship Tips for Young Couples. I can’t possibly provide a complete syllabus in a short blog you must see where I am headed with this? Education is the key to prevention. Setting a good example is the key to prevention, too. So, parents are in the driver’s seat – even when kids are grown. Talking about how they could have had a healthier family dynamic might help enlighten their son and daughter when they are in theirs. But just, remaining silent and hoping a school, church or perfect stranger will solve the problem won’t help one bit. Staying silent and simply crossing your fingers is a lousy action plan.

Finally, if you’re living with emotional or physical abuse, yourself, my most important advice is find a friend or two in whom you can confide. You’ll be surprised how many answers come to the person talking when they can actually talk about an issue out loud. The other person doesn’t have to say a thing, just be a good and loving listener. Some friends are also wise and can help. Most importantly, don’t sweep the problem you’re living with under the rug. Educate yourself about your options, realize one person cannot a problem between two people and recognize that at some point you may have to leave. Having your eyes open and acknowledging reality is the first step.

Statistics show that women return 7-times before they finally leave for good – ever wonder why? It’s always for emotional reasons: guilt, fear or need. You can figure how any of those apply to you. Still, the entire dynamic surrounding living with abuse of any kind is tremendously complex. The first step is just to recognize there might be such an issue in your present relationship. Then, remember that what you are experiencing is not what God intended for anyone. For life is meant to be filled with love and joy. There can be other options down the road, even for you.

If you focus your mind on the fact that one day you will live a life that’s filled with peace and love – not fear, you eventually will. The power of knowing what you will eventually have, being determined inside and never losing focus is how you will attract answers and change your circumstances. Then, watch the way life unfolds for you, the way opportunities present themselves and good advice surfaces.

It will be miraculous. That is the way all healing occurs.

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