Every couple fights! Right? We hear this question almost every week. Our response to this is always a big “No”. Every couple disagrees. Absolutely. We are all individuals with our own thoughts and experiences. Disagreements will happen. And, disagreements can be talked about calmly and fairly and be sorted out in a way that is respectful and meaningful to both individuals.
Fights on the other hand are very different. Fights involve yelling, swearing, name-calling, accusations, blaming, put downs, etc. They can even escalate into intimidation, pushing and shoving, grabbing and shaking, breaking things throwing things, and even worse physical violence.
Absolutely nothing gets resolved, nothing is loving or respectful, and now things are significantly worse. When this becomes our pattern of behavior when we disagree with our partner, we learn that, even though we don’t get anything sorted out, we do back the other person off, distract them with something else, and finally shut off all chance of having a conversation. And, we get good at it. We learn what names hurt the most, that blaming and accusations will always work to change the subject, and we learn how to reduce our partner to nothing. All because they wanted to talk about something that we didn’t want to.
We often go off somewhere in a huff. Maybe that’s even why we created this fight-so we can leave angry, making her feel bad, so we can go do what we wanted to do in the first place, rather than stay home and be a meaningful part of the family we created. Or maybe we just don’t know how to resolve a disagreement in a good way and so we resort to finding a way to not even try.
It’s possible too that we are not even aware of the impact that we leave behind after a fight. And it is this impact that is the most insidious aspect of emotional violence. When violence is physical, everyone involved is clear what it is and who just crossed the line. It is a dangerous and illegal act that causes great harm. Bodies heal eventually and the violator faces some significant consequences, and the victim of the assault usually receives appropriate assistance to deal with the harm caused, including the emotional impact it has caused.
Emotional violence is very different in almost every aspect. The victim gets blamed for being verbally, emotionally, and psychologically assaulted. Not just by their partner either. Friends and family often get involved, taking sides, passing judgements and further violating the victim. There are few if any consequences to be faced by the violator and the victim often accepts the blame, so now has to also deal with the shame that is not theirs to carry. Their bodies don’t heal and they often don’t receive the appropriate assistance to deal with the harm caused.
And harm has been caused. The person at the other end of it all is left reeling; feeling hurt, angry, and confused. They start to question themselves and over time, they start to believe that they are really what you keep telling them they are. They lose all sense of confidence, joy, and self-worth. You tell them you are sorry afterwards, but then you do it again, and again, and again. You tell them that you love them but the things you say and do are not loving at all. And you blame them for that.
They become unhappy, maybe depressed, stop taking care of themselves, or angry all the time. They are often confused, sad, unable to make decisions for fear that they will make the wrong one, and go around feeling like they are walking on eggshells all the time. They may even begin self-harming behaviours. Cutting themselves, addictions, or eventually even completely give up and attempt suicide.
This harm is not always recognized for what it is in the same way that physical harm is. People can’t see the deeps wounds caused by emotional abuse, but they are there, and they life-long.
Stop the suffering. Tearmann Society for Abused Women and Pictou County Sexual Assault and Women’s Centre offer services to women and Pictou County Opportunity for Men-New Leaf Program offer group counselling for men who have abusive behaviours.
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