What to do if a loved one is in an abusive relationship?

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If you have somebody close who is involved in an abusive relationship, I know how helpless it can feel to have to sit back and watch the destruction happen before your eyes.

You can see clearly what’s happening, but your loved one seems oblivious to what’s obvious to everybody else. And she defends him!!!

I was recently contacted by one of my subscribers (Lily) who was concerned about her sister Amanda, (names have been changed to protect their identities) and her two children.

Amanda was engaged to a man who was unemployed and living off her. He often lied about where he was and what he was doing, he was verbally and emotionally abusing her and was doing what he could to distance her from her family. Lily and her family could see it clear as day. But no matter how hard they tried to get through to her, Amanda refused to listen to them. She began pulling away from and eventually stopped most contact with their family over the course of a few months.

Amanda’s children were also suffering through all of this because they were rarely allowed to see their grandmother and they missed her.

Through all of this, Lily and her family tried everything they could to talk Amanda into leaving her fiance, but it was no use. She defended him despite the fact that his shortcomings were there for all to see…

Now, Lily’s intentions and that of her family’s were purely to take Amanda and her children out of what they considered to be a terrible situation, and they were desperate to help her.

The problem was, Amanda didn’t want their help, and all they were doing was prompting Amanda to defend her fiance and push her closer to him – not the result they were after! Also, her fiance was making terrible accusations about family members, making the situation so much worse.

So what can Lily’s family start do starting now, to hopefully turn this situation around?

Well… the first thing they need to do is to back off on talking the fiance down and trying to convince her to leave him, because the first thing Amanda’s going to do is jump to his defense. She’s proven this already.

As unfortunate as the situation is, Amanda loves her fiance (well… she thinks she does, despite how he treats her), and she’s not about to give up on him that easily.

When in an abusive relationship, even though you may know you’re being treated badly, you will defend your partner for many reasons. It could be because you don’t want the world to know how bad things really are between you, or you don’t want to admit defeat and make yourself wrong and your family right. There are also many women out there who are too proud to admit they’ve picked a “bad one” and to ask for help.

Also, when in an abusive relationship, you really do believe that leaving would cause a whole lot more trouble, pain and/or trauma than staying. So staying looks much more attractive than leaving does.

For Amanda, it could be that she’s used to the “stability” of being in a relationship (even a bad one – it is how she expects it to be). Ok, her relationship isn’t ideal, but she’s in one and doesn’t have to think about entering the dating scene which she may be afraid of having to face.

Or it could also be that she is hoping and praying that her fiance will eventually “wake up” and begin treating her better and she’s pinning all of her hopes on that. I know I did this!

But ultimately it’s not until she finally gets so sick of the bad treatment and sees all of the reasons why leaving is actually better than staying, that she will finally consider doing so.

This is the key: She needs to believe that leaving will be a whole lot better than staying, before she will actually leave him or do something to change her situation.

And this is where her family comes in. It’s time to stop putting Amanda’s fiance down (it’s clearly not working), and instead communicate from a loving perspective, rather than one of contempt and dislike or even hate.

It’s up to Lily and her family to help Amanda to see what a good relationship should look like, how wonderful it is to be a part of their family, and to know that they will be there for her, no matter what. She needs to feel that she is loved, despite her choices, good and bad.

Here’s how they can begin to achieve this:

  • Stop putting down her fiance – it’s only pushing her away and causing her to defend him.
  • Let her know how much she is loved – this is important.
  • Offer support, if and when she needs it.
  • Don’t offer advice unless it’s asked for – be diplomatic and do NOT make negative comments about her fiance while doing so.
  • If she makes contact, be open and loving towards her – don’t mention her fiance if you can help it and definitely not if she doesn’t.
  • Instead of saying “You should leave him because he treats you badly”, try using words such as “I would love to see you in a relationship where you’re loved, cherished and adored…”.
  • If somebody in the family or a friend finds themselves in a new happy and loving relationship, tell her about this new relationship and how happy they look together and mention how well he treats her. And leave it at that – don’t go on about it because she will know you’re up to something!
  • If they miss her children, say so. But don’t bring him into it. Just a simple “I miss X and Y so much! How are they doing?” will do for starters.

By trying to convince Amanda to leave her fiance, Lily’s family were only successful in pushing her away. But if they remained open and loving towards her and stopped putting her fiance down, then she wouldn’t be so resistant to them and may eventually turn to them when she needed help.

Also, they need to let her know that they love her and she deserves to be treated like a princess, but don’t go on about it. Say it once to plant the seed and then let it drop. Start helping her to believe that she and her children deserve the very best.

While these actions won’t change things overnight, Lily’s family may begin to notice gradual, subtle changes. They just need to remember to hold back and let Amanda handle things at her own pace and just be there for her. It’s difficult being patient, but one wrong move and they could find things back to where they were in the first place.

I cannot stress enough though, that if physical violence is involved, then Amanda’s safety (and that of her children) is of utmost importance, and appropriate advice should be sought from the police or other services specifically to help abused women, as soon as possible.

These steps are by no means guaranteed to succeed, but if what you’re doing now isn’t working, then it’s time to try something different.

My heart goes out to anybody in this situation because it can be extremely painful and the feelings of helplessness can be overwhelming, so please remember to come from a place of LOVE, and the chances for change will increase dramatically. xxx

 

Happy Mothers Day!

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Happy mothers day to all of you mothers out there (I’m not sure if Australia’s the only country celebrating this today, but happy mothers day anyway!)!  A little over 13 years ago I became a mother myself for the first time, and I distinctly remember feeling an amazing sense of unconditional love, for the first time in my entire life.

It was unlike anything I had ever experienced it all, and was so intense that I worried that when my second beautiful angel was born, that I wouldn’t love her as much.

But the moment I laid eyes on her, I experienced that same intense love all over again.

Even though I’ve had my challenges over the years, and although I have a lot of my focus on my career, business and relationships, being a mother to me has been (and probably always will be) the most important aspect of my life.  My children come first above all else.  But I still make time for me!

Being a mother is hard work, and it’s important you have time for yourself sometimes.  We often get caught up in all of the other aspects of our life, and forget that we need looking after too.

So if you’re on a mission to lose some weight for example, but you rarely have time to exercise, then today is the day that you schedule half an hour, three times a week to exercise – just as you would an appointment at the doctor.  If you made that appointment you’d show up right?  So treat your exercise regime the same way.  Book it in!

If your relationship with your significant other needs some work, book him in for a “date”.  Spend some time alone together.  Once you have children, this aspect of relationships often stops happening and things get dull.  Spice things up a little!

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, such as attend a Zumba class, hike up a local mountain, write your first novel or even jump out of a plane, choose today as the day in which you start planning this activity.  Set a date, find out the costs, work out how you’ll pay for it (if needed) or what you’ll need to get started.  And START!

If you’ve been wanting to return to work, change your career, or improve your skills, start looking at the job ads, update your resume, look into courses, see if your employer will pay for some additional study for you.

Choose today as the day in which you make at least one small improvement to your life!  That’s the first step towards living a life worth living!  :)

Dealing with abuse

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I know I’ve been kind of slack lately and I’ve not posted much, but after what I saw today, I knew I had to do something that would possibly help just one more person in this world…
I’ve just returned from an amazing trip to Los Angeles (more on that in a later post), and decided to take a day off to recoup and finish some Christmas shopping.
As I walked through the shopping centre, I overheard a man yelling at his wife.  I couldn’t hear exactly what he was saying, although the regular “F” words were strong and clear.
His poor wife looked miserable and like she wanted to sink into the floor.  My heart went out to her.
This was an older couple and I guessed that they had been together for many years.  So this poor woman had probably put up with her husband’s verbal abuse all of this time.
I received an email from a woman in a similar situation last week and I told her this:
You have three choices about what to do here:
1.  If you want to stay with your husband, then get help.  Go to marriage counseling (you can go alone if he won’t go with you) to help you to cope with and deal with the way in which he treats you.
You’ve probably done nothing about it for years, so have actually given him the message that his treatment of you is ok.
A counselor will hopefully help you to realise that you do NOT deserve to be treated like this, and what you should do if he does it again.  You will also be given tools to help you to help your partner to treat you better.
2.  Another option is to leave him.  If you’re thinking of doing this, you must make sure it is safe to do so.  If he has the tendency to become violent then you need to be extra careful and may need to get the police involved.
If violence isn’t an issue, start preparations beforehand.  Where will you stay?  What will you do for money?  Call on friends and family to support you – chances are, many of them don’t have a clue about the living hell you’re in right now and they’ll be more than willing to lend a hand.
3.  Finally, you have the option to do nothing.
I want you to imagine yourself 20 years from now, and living in exactly the same situation you’re in now.
How does that feel?
If you do nothing, then nothing will change.  He will continue to treat you badly, and by doing nothing, you are telling him it’s ok to keep doing what he’s doing.
Do you really want that for yourself??  Do you really want to spend the next 20, 30 or even 40 years like this??
I know I’d rather be dead than have to live like that…
The first thing you need to do right now is learn to love yourself.  You are a beautiful, desirable person, regardless of what anybody says.  You do not deserve to be yelled and screamed at, you don’t deserve to have somebody swear at you and in fact, nobody deserves that.   Especially not you.
Once you learn to love yourself, you will fully understand the value in doing so.  A person with high self esteem will not allow somebody to treat them badly and get away with it.  They will stand up for themselves, they will get themselves out of a situation where they feel they’re not being treated right, and they will do what’s best for them.
The first step towards loving yourself is seeing all of the good qualities you have and appreciating them.  Write them down so you have a written reminder about how wonderful you really are….

Domestic violence – What should you NOT do?

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I’ve been in a relationship where emotional and verbal abuse was on the menu, and for a long time there was something I was doing that was not helping anybody.

I was doing NOTHING.

I have had both a friend and family member confide in me about similar situations they are in, and as a coach I will not tell them to leave their husbands, nor will I tell them to stay.

But I what I did do was point out their two choices:

1.  To stay

2.  To leave

I also suggested to both of them that if they choose to stay, they must not assume that things will get better if they continue to do nothing!

What I mean by this, is that if they do nothing, then nothing will change.  They will remain in the same situation for as long as they allow it to continue.

Counseling might be what’s needed (even if she goes on her own!), or it might be that he needs to be given an ultimatum (that she is prepared to follow through with) to make him realise just how miserable he is making her by treating her that way.

Only she can decide what is the best action to take, assuming her safety is first and foremost in her mind too – verbally abusive men have been known to move onto physical abuse, so it’s important that safety is a main factor here.

Doing nothing means she will look back in 5 or 10 years time (or even longer!), will have no feelings at all left for the man who has emotionally beaten her down over all those years, and regret that she wasted so much of her life on somebody who wasn’t treating her right.

Do you really want to spend the rest of your life feeling miserable?  Do you really want to give up your best years for somebody who doesn’t want you to be the happiest you can be?

Could it be that your husband/boyfriend/partner is feeling so bad about himself right now that he is clueless about how to treat you and make you happy?  Many of these men do want you to be happy.  They do want to be happy themselves, but they just don’t know how.

By taking some action, you’re giving him the chance to become a better person, you’re giving him a chance to have you around for life.  If you do nothing, you are not giving him any chance, because one day you’re going to wake up and realise that you can do better and that you deserve so much better than you’re getting…

By putting up with my ex husband’s treatment over all of those years, I was giving him “permission” to keep treating me that way.  I know he loved me and I loved him.  But because I did nothing about his treatment, I lost my love for him and he lost me.

You deserve to be treated well and you deserve to be happy. But if you’re in a similar situation, then you’ve got to change it first if you want things to be this way.

Domestic Violence – Should I get out?

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Being caught up in a domestic violence situation is not a situation anyone wants to be in.

I have found over time that my articles on domestic violence receive a lot of views and this concerns me in a way because it probably means there are people in this situation who are looking for answers.  It could also be that the friends and family of those caught in an abusive relationship are searching for ways to help their friends.

I came across a forum post from a woman was telling us that as she typed, her husband was lying unconscious and drunk in the bathroom and it was only 7.30pm.  What really made her angry was that they had a young son together and he had witnessed his father coming home drunk, then vomiting everywhere.  Not very nice at all.

The number of responses from women who had all been in similar situations was astounding, although one response in partcular I found to be very valuable.

All of the women suggested that this woman put her foot down with her husband and tell him that enough was enough (he was doing this regularly and after apologising and telling her he wouldn’t do it again, was continuing on the cycle – this is also typical of abusers) and give him an ultimatum.   But the last response was probably the most important of all.  While this was in response to a question around an alcohol problem, this could be applied to abuse situations, or drug addition.

She offered the following advice:

  • Her son’s safety had to come first, regardless of whether she left him or stayed.  If he wasn’t abusive before, he could become abusive if he felt his way of life was being threatened.
  • Get as much support from family and friends as you can – you’re going to need it!
  • Be sure that you have copies (and originals) of all important documents, such as bank account details, birth certificates, marriage certificates, etc and have a friend or relative keep these safe for you.
  • The same goes for photos and other sentimental items – things could get ugly, so it is best to be prepared.
  • Contact your local support group (there are plenty around that support the families of abusers, alcoholics or addicts)

Getting out of any relationship is always difficult, but if you have the right support around you, then the load will feel significantly lighter.

You know deep down inside whether you should stay or go, but always remember to consider your safety and that of your children (if you have any) first.  I cannot stress this enough.

Why do people hurt their children?

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Yesterday and today I read of two horrific stories of fathers killing their children. One shot his entire family (including himself) and another threw his young daughter off a bridge and drove away.

What on EARTH would possess a man to kill or even hurt an innocent child???

We can all draw assumptions about why, such as “he was in the midst of a custody dispute and didn’t want his ex to have the children, so that’s why he killed them”… but regardless of the reasons behind why a parent would kill a child, I can say with absolute certainty, that in all cases these people have a low level of self esteem.

If they had a high regard for their self worth, then they wouldn’t put themself into a situation where they could be locked away for life.

If they had high self esteem, they would face the challenges in their life head-on, knowing that they would come out at the other end in one piece.

Their view on life would be a positive one.

When I hear stories such as the stories I mentioned above, I am saddened to know that if only they had received the right help to boost their self esteem, then maybe this situation would not have happened.

If ever you’re in a relationship with someone who has violent tendencies, both verbal and physical, I cannot stress enough that your safety and that of your children must be of paramount importance.

Get help from a professional who has skills dealing with situations such as yours and protect yourself and your children in every way you can.

Talking about your ex in front of your children

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Since leaving my husband over eight years ago, I’ve made a point of never talking in a negative way about him in front of my daughter.

The reason I have done this is because she had nothing to do with what happened between us, so therefore why should I involve her in the issues we had?

I feel really strongly about parents who try to hurt their ex through their children – it really is a form of child abuse in my opinion.

Of course there are some cases where a child is not safe to be around your ex partner, and I’m not referring to people in this situation, although I do believe the problems associated with this situation really should be dealt with professionally.

In most other cases however, your children probably feel a sense of love and loyalty towards your ex. In my situation, my ex was still my daughter’s father, and nothing I could do or say could change that.

By saying terrible things about him to her, I would have done little more than create confusion for her and I really don’t think that is fair to her at all.

Yes, he treated me badly, but what right do I have to make her sad and confused because of what he did to me?

The other day she asked me why I left him all those years ago. I didn’t want to lie to her of course, but I did have to say something, so I told her I left him because he didn’t treat me the way I deserved to be treated and that I hoped he had learned to treat his current partner well.

She told me he had learned his lesson and they were no longer fighting all of the time (yep, it took him a while to wake up to himself!).

Trying to put things in a positive way to her has therefore meant I have a beautiful, well-adjusted daughter who knows she is loved by a lot of people in various families!

Are abusive relationships worth saving?

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When I talk about abusive relationships I refer to both physical and emotionally and verbally abusive relationships because although the action of the abuser is physically different, the emotional effects for the victim are actually very similar.

So if you’re in an abusive relationship, should you stay and try to work things out?

In some cases, if both parties get help (both will definitely need help!), then of course there may be a chance the relationship can be saved, but in many cases, the relationship is doomed from the moment the abuser started abusing.

I might talk of my own experience as the "victim" (I hate referring to myself as a victim, because I now choose not to be one in any situation, but for simplicity I will use this term), to explain what I mean.

I found that from the first time my former husband started verbally or emotionally abusing me, I began to build an emotional wall.  Each time he abused me, the wall grow by another row.  This wall was my protection.  It helped to reduce the hurt every time he called me a name or yelled at me. 

By the time our relationship had neared its fateful demise, I no longer felt anything at all.  I didn’t feel hurt when he abused me, and I most certainly didn’t feel any love for him whatsoever.  I was completely detached emotionally from the entire situation.  He called me a "cold hard b*tch" once, and that’s probably how I appeared to him, because I was no longer crying, begging him to stay with me and I most certainly wasn’t showing any emotion towards him!

When he suggested we seek counseling (this was after I told him I was leaving him) I only agreed because I had been begging him to go for a long time and until this point he’d always said we didn’t need it (yeah, right!).  To say no at this stage would have made me a hypocrite.  Problem was that I really didn’t see how going to counseling was going to help us, because emotionally I had left the relationship several years ago.  My body was just waiting to follow.

The counselor picked up on what I was feeling and also pointed out how he was trying to manipulate me into feeling guilty about how I was feeling.  She was sooo right!  It was at that point that I knew I had to do what was best for all of us – and I left.

Now, if you’re in an abusive relationship, I definitely suggest you seek help NOW.  Don’t wait.  It’s just not worth it.  You only have one chance at this life, so wasting it on the life you’re living now isn’t really "living"!

You might already know what you should do, but you’re yet to actually do it.  What’s holding you back?  What are you afraid of?  What do you hope to gain by staying?  What could you gain by leaving?

There are a lot of questions you need to answer – many of them not even mentioned here, which is why it is so important you seek professional assistance to help you make a decision then act on it. 

No matter what you decide, you must consider your safety, and if you have children, their safety too.  I cannot stress this enough.

Domestic Violence – Horrible Stuff

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I have a friend who contributes regularly to a website for women in business and that is how I came across the story I am going to talk about today.

Other contributors to this site talk about anything from fashion, to weight loss, to business (amongst many other things), and today I came across a story about domestic violence where the author (Rachel Kayrooz) talked about how she finally escaped her domestic violence situation.

What is unfortunate for Rachel, is that she had to almost lose her unborn child first.   This story brought tears to my eyes.  I am the mother of two beautiful daughters, and can’t imagine what it would have been like to wonder if my child was going to live or die – before they were even born!   If you’re living in a domestic violence situation, then you need to read her story NOW.

If you’re in a similar situation and can’t do something about it for yourself, then you MUST protect your children and do something for them!!  You might save their life in the process…

Check out her story at http://www.babesinbusiness.com/bib/prod/content/gui_bib_may08_shout.cfm

Why won’t she leave him??

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Have you ever wondered why women suffering from verbal or physical abuse stay with their abusive partners?

I can’t speak for all women who put up with such treatment, but I can speak for myself.

If you’ve not read my previous posts, then you may not realise that I was verbally and emotionally abused for around 9 years by my former husband.

It wasn’t constant, but it was enough to push my self esteem so low that at times I wondered if I would be better off dead.

So why did I stay?

There were a number of reasons (and yes, if you’ve never been in a similar situation you may wonder about my intelligence here!) which I will cover now:

1. I felt I had nowhere to go (despite the fact that my parents lived nearby and would have been there for me no matter what).

2. I didn’t want to admit I had "failed" to myself or others.

3. Financial reasons – if I left, then there would be a huge financial mess to clean up.

4. I was afraid of the unknown – my self esteem was so low that I really wasn’t sure I would be up to surviving on my own (what the..?).

5. I didn’t think I would cope as a single mother.

There were plenty of other "excuses", but as you can see, the reasons above were either not justified or they were just plain lame.

Looking back I know these excuses were lame but at the time, they were very valid and a strong reason to stay.

Another thing our marriage counselor said to me was that because the abuse I suffered wasn’t physical, I felt I didn’t have a tangible reason to leave. I suppose if he had hit me (several times I tried to get him to!), I would’ve been out that door in an instant! (I hope!)