Spouse Abuse

Relief from betrayal

Spousal abuse: it’s a nightmare, no matter when it happens, or to whom. Most often associated with the abuse of female partners, and with domestic violence, abuse is actually a complex behavior that takes many forms, and is present in both genders and all types of partnership. Finding a way to escape abuse, or to learn how to resist a pull towards being abusive, is a challenge that can alter your entire experience of your life.

Treatment for all

A Deep and Abiding Trauma

For many victims of spouse abuse, the experiences cause severe trauma. Victims are likely to feel guilt, shame, low self-esteem, and a conviction that they have somehow deserved their own damage or humiliation. Many feel a split sense of obligation, with their commitment to their abusive spouse overriding their original commitment to their own health and well-being. Even after leaving an abusing situation, the patterns that develop almost instantly when abuse is present linger on.

While some victims prove resilient, with unexpected emotional resources that allow them to rebound from abuse in surprising and healthy ways, the truth is that most victims suffer one form of dysfunctional reaction or another. This isn’t due to weakness, but due to the unnatural demands the abuse places on the victim. The intersection of love, need, hope, fear, anger, obligation, dedication – this entire tumble and more blend and jar against each other, often triggering reactions that are understandable but not very useful to the victim.

As a result, spouse abuse is a major reason for entering some form of counseling. The help of a trained, skilled counselor specializing in helping a victim deal with the many reactions and fears abuse causes can do much to improve the outcome for men and women who have faced spousal abuse.

Overcoming Abusive Tendencies

While few argue the value of therapy for the victim of abuse, many fail to fully understand the need for a repentant or unwilling abuser to get therapy. As the aggressor, there is a tendency to assume the abuser is in full control, and wishes to cause the kind of harm he or she commits.

Unfortunately, many abusers are a miserable blend of willing and unwilling, in control but not in full self-awareness. Many honestly don’t know how else to deal with feelings they’ve been taught to channel into violent behavior, and many more are reflecting abuse they themselves suffered in childhood. Still others – men and women alike – have been taught by their cultures or family environment to regard the rights and full humanity of their spouses as irrelevant or non-existent.

An abusive spouse is often best helped by counseling. With support, behavioral modification, the ongoing connection provided by 12-step programs, an abuser can gain the tools to recognize his or her own triggers, learn ways to break the pattern of abuse, and take responsibility for the choice not to abuse further.

Finding Help

With both victim and abuser in need of counseling help, and often all family members needing attention, it is important to find a skilled counseling resource to provide the necessary aid. In many instances, the court system, state and county family services departments, hospitals, religious institutions, and other community groups can provide superb local references. With first-hand information on which programs, clinics and individual counselors have provided good support and help to damaged families. In other instances, a good professional referral agency may provide the best source of counseling contacts.

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