It is difficult to change a mutually abusive relationship

As I mentioned earlier, about 45% of abusive relationships are bilateral, or mutually abusive. One of you may ultimately feel that you cannot go on living like this, and perhaps begin the process of trying to change the abusive relationship. This is a major task, and it is unlikely that you would be able to do it on your own. A counsellor would be vital to help you find your way through a process of changing your relationship to a non-abusive one. Beverly Engel offers a way of doing this, which would involve a great deal of communication on your parts. This will not come easy, because abusive people do not listen, and always want their own way. And, there are two of you with similar tendencies, so the counsellor is vital in teaching you how to listen and communicate. You will have to decide if your relationship can be saved, and agree to stop abusing each other. It involves both of you committing to change, and exploring the past with open minds. You will have to commit to stop blaming each other for relationship difficulties, and to be willing to change the abusive dynamics of the relationship.
If you can agree on this, you can share your life stories, and begin to understand the influences that bred the abusiveness, such as childhood, neglect, abandonment, and abuse as outlined in this blog. Allow time for each of you to tell your story without interruption, and you can begin wherever you wish. You should also look at the interaction between your parents, as well as how they treated you. Was there an abusive atmosphere in the house with much blaming, fighting, shouting, or long silences! As you later discuss each story see how it affects you, and see if you have any empathy for each other. This is probably unlikely at this stage, because feelings do not suddenly become unfrozen.
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press


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