How to love a domestic violence survivor

Globally, an estimated one in three women have experienced violence at the hands of a male partner (MenCare, 2015). So the odds are pretty high that your current partner is a domestic violence survivor. Here are some core strategies to help your relationship flourish:

  • Be her partner, not her saviour
  • Deal constructively with conflict
  • Respect that you are both your own people.

howtoloveasurvivor

Know that it’s not your job to ‘fix’ her

Congratulations. You’re in a relationship with an incredibly strong and resilient woman, who trusts you and cares for you enough to let you in to her world.

But you know she’s had a rocky road to get to you, and may still be experiencing the aftermath of her traumatic past relationship.

When someone we love dearly is going through trauma, our gut instinct is to throw ourselves into the ‘Saviour’ role. Naturally, we want to protect them from harm and ease the hurt.

I get it.

The problem with this well-intentioned approach is that it can be overwhelming for those on the receiving end – and those that are trying to do the saving.

With our ‘Fix It’ hat on, we can be convinced that we have the solutions, if only the other person would listen. In so doing, we forget to listen ourselves and forget that our solutions may not be the ones that will work best for the person we love.

In the most heartbreaking cases, we risk alienating the very person we are trying to help, and burn ourselves out in exhausted frustration as we bang our heads repeatedly on a brick wall of resistance.

frustrated

Your partner is hardwired to be wary of other people trying to control her actions, however kindly their motivation. She is a survivor. She doesn’t need you to save her. She just needs you to support her as she heals.

Some of the world’s most successful females have overcame domestic violence / abuse – think Rihanna, Halle Berry, Madonna, Charlize Theron, Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Nigella Lawson and Tina Turner, just for starters.

So, take a step back and ask your partner what she needs from you. She may struggle to articulate this at first – she is accustomed to a relationship in which her needs are not considered at all – but be patient.

Do not sacrifice yourself to her recovery.

All survivors benefit from support to heal, but crucially, they need to know that recovery is a process that requires their full commitment, hard work and determination. Others can help, but they cannot do the healing for them.

If your partner expects you to fix her, she is asking too much of you and too little of herself.

Research other sources of support available to her, such as a local domestic violence service, a national helpline, a support group, or online forum – and let her consider the options for herself whilst encouraging her to invest in her own recovery.

Deal constructively with conflict

A healthy romantic relationship is not one which never has bumps in the road. A healthy relationship is one in which parties share equal respect and power, and where disagreements do not have dangerous consequences.

Your partner is likely extremely conflict-adverse, and may (a survival strategy she learned in the abusive relationship) ignore or deflect any problems that she thinks may result in a row.

This is one reason you must both nurture open and supportive communication, so you can both air and deal with any issues that arise in a constructive manner, before they become toxic.

When fallouts happen – which they inevitably do, even in the most happy of partnerships – your other half may be reacting to triggers you don’t even know about. So criticise the situation/behaviour – not your partner

“I hate that you do X, it makes me feel Y” is a constructive way in which to get your point across. “You’re a thoughtless idiot to do X,” will feel like a personal attack.

Your body language, tone and volume of voice, whether you encroach on her space or leave the room, can all speak volumes about how you deal with conflict. Adopt a non-combative stance in an argument, and your odds of successfully resolving the problem will skyrocket.

Be your own person – and help her do the same

Keep your own interests and interests, and encourage her to do the same.

She may need some help to spread her wings. Individuals that have been through domestic abuse are typically isolated by the perpetrator, who cuts them off from any support networks in order to consolidate and maintain control.

She may have lost touch with friends, and be unused to having her own activities without her partner looking over her shoulder. Help her reconnect with the things that once fired her up and got her grinning, or establish new outlets that enable her to have fun and independence.

Having a life outside the relationship builds trust, confidence, and excitement. It brings you closer. A happy you, a happy partner, and a happy relationship.

What do you want from a relationship, post domestic violence? What do you wish everyone knew about how to love a survivor? SHARE in the Comments.

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10 responses to “How to love a domestic violence survivor

  1. Pingback: Day 18 loving a survivor  | Loved Woman·

  2. Reblogged this on Lovely Wounded Lady Says … and commented:
    Amazing article about how to be in a relationship with a domestic abuse survivor. This is something that you can read and share with your partner if you are now in a relationship with someone who not abusive.

    The words in this post ring true and it is very well written. This article is a gift.

    Much love,
    Annie

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m going through emotional abuse. I can’t describe how bad it hurts when the person you would do anything for degrades you and puts you down. I’m in absolute hell and I can’t forget him so there’s no way out. I’d give anything to die and escape the nightmare. That’s how bad it gets to me. This is not a joke and not to be taken lightly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So sorry for all you’re going through. But I just want to say that I felt I couldn’t live without my partner, despite his abuse and violence. Then I managed to get free, and a couple of years later can see clearly that my life is a million percent better without him in it. Please do reach out, there is help for you to improve your situation.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I know how you feel – I felt that way, too. I left almost a year ago because I was afraid he would hurt my dog. And it hasn’t been easy. He’s playing all of his old mind games throughout our divorce, and has cut me off from his family. But I am living my own life now, and that feels amazing. You are stronger than you know. If you can find a therapist who understands abuse, he/she could help. Please hang in there. It gets better.

      Like

  4. Pingback: Day 18 loving a survivor  | Armd & Saucy·

  5. What happens when you do everything you can to help your survivor get set up for healing and she takes her healing “me” time and just goes further and further away? She won’t seek therapy and says you’re the one with the problem, she is fine doing her own thing. When she wants to be with you she will let you know, otherwise just let her be. Even if she is aware that is hurting you? But she can only think in terms of all or nothing.

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    • Communication is the only constructive option here. If your partner feels you’re pressuring her (ie. to seek therapy) she is almost certain to resist, and the same goes for if she feels you are boxing her into a corner. Step back, see if your good intentions may be coming on too strong in her eyes. Try to talk to her, to check if things are progressing at a comfortable pace for her. Remember Newton’s third law – everything has an equal and opposite reaction.And if it’s hurting you, be prepared that she may not be far enough along her healing journey.

      Like

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