Have you taken the Am I a Good Partner? quiz or read What is Abuse? and realized that the way you treat your partner is considered abusive? Recognizing that your behaviors are unhealthy and need to change is the first step toward building a healthy relationship, so congratulations on starting your journey. Moving forward, it is crucial that you accept responsibility for your actions and under no circumstances deny or minimize what you have done, or blame your partner for the abuse.
It can be overwhelming to apply the word abusive to yourself, but don’t panic. The first question to ask yourself now is can I stop being abusive? And as long as you want to and are willing to seek professional help, change is possible. Violence is always a choice and it’s one you can choose to never make again. There are many things you can do to change your behavior, starting with understanding what makes a relationship healthy.
Keeping a control log that a therapist can use to hold you accountable is one way to remain aware of abusive behaviors. We know that abuse is all about having power and control over your partner, so when you’re alone and calm you can sit down and make a list of ways you try to control your partner, what you would want to happen in the situations where you have behaved abusively, what excuses you use to justify your actions, what are the effects of your behavior, and most importantly, what you would do differently now that you’re looking at things with a clear head.
While a control log can certainly help you rethink abusive behaviors, professional counseling or therapy is necessary in changing the thought processes that lead to being abusive. We don’t recommend couple’s counseling if there has been any kind of abuse in your relationship. In many areas across the U.S. there are programs specifically designed to help people who are abusive change their behaviors. These programs are called Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs, or BIPPs. Even though “battering” is specific to physical abuse, many programs work with people who are emotionally abusive as well. Chat with an advocate now and we can see what help is available in your area.
Until you can get professional help, if you are in a situation with your partner and find yourself triggered to behave in a verbally or physically abusive way, there are some simple things you can do differently. Think “STOP” over and over, take a few deep breaths (inhaling for a count of five and exhaling for a count of five), designate a person you could call to help you remain calm, sit down, or walk away. A Peer Advocate can put you in touch with a professional who can help you create a personalized plan (to keep in your wallet or purse) with specific steps you can take to unlearn being abusive.
Understand that if your partner is too scared or doesn’t want to be with you while you’re going through this process, they absolutely have the right to end the relationship. While breakups can be painful, this is a great time to focus on yourself and become someone who is capable of having a happy, healthy relationship. It’s important in a healthy relationship for both partners to have friends of all genders and to make time for their families and hobbies, so if you do those things before starting a new relationship you’re going in the right direction. If you’re considering getting back together with someone you once abused, make sure they can check off everything on this list before you commit. Remember that everyone deserves a healthy relationship based on trust, honesty, respect and equality!