When To Forget Or Forgive Domestic Violence And Abusive Relations
After all is said and done, there will be those moments of doubt before closure not only closes but locks that door. You hear about married and unmarried couples breaking up then getting back together again then breaking up one more time. If either partner had taken time to rationally pinpoint reasons to forgive or forget, they could have saved themselves another bucket full of heartache and misery.
A Case for and Against Misunderstanding
Before you entertain the idea of forgiving, let’s talk about whether or not a case could be made for misunderstanding. Don’t jump to any quick conclusions or pick up the phone just yet!
Your understanding of a love interest and his or her behavior is highly subjective. The nature of your love, outlook, bias, familiarity, personal motivations, and perceptions color your interpretation of events that are seemingly ambiguous to you.
However, the more you know someone, the less likely it is that you are guilty of a simple case of misunderstanding. Alan L. Sillars of the University of Montana found that innocent misunderstandings in which there are no personal motivations behind them normally result from a lack of information between couples who don’t know each other well.
So if your ex was a long-term lover, be leery when he or she pleads you got it all wrong. Don’t take kindly to the notion that a serious infraction or an unforgivable act was simply a case of misunderstanding!
If you need it spelled out for you, unforgivable acts are ones that:
Intentionally attempt to control you.
Harm you physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Diminish your stature or self-esteem.
Purposefully encourage unhealthy dependence.
Demean you in any conceivable way.
A discussion of these behaviors and when and how they are acted out will leave no doubt when you are up against a love interest or partner that should not be forgiven.
Abusive Behavior Among Married and Dating Couples
Domestic violence falls squarely into the category of unforgivable! It is not limited in scope to married couples or socioeconomic groups. You can be involved in a dating or cohabitation arrangement and be the victim of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. The punches do not have to land a black eye and broken arm to count. Oftentimes the harm perpetrated is invisible to the naked eye. Nonetheless, emotional battering is just as serious an offense.
Sometimes the abuse starts with an emotional jab or insult, then escalates into a slap, and culminates in a severe beating. Despite the severity, the end result is always the same. The victim is diminished in statue and fearful of the abuser. Indecision, lack of confidence, financial hardships, fear, and love cause women in violent situations to leave their abuser on the average of seven times before they make a final split.
Abusers are out to win control over you. They do this by:
Playing mind games.
Making all decisions.
Causing you to feel guilty, inadequate, and undesirable.
Inflicting bodily or emotional harm.
Separating and isolating you from family and friends.
Taking charge of your daily life.
Preventing you from working.
Handling all money matters.
Threatening violence, suicide, or murder.
Talking you into doing things you normally would not consider.
Determining where you go and who you see.
Blaming you for eruptions of their anger.
Claiming acts of abuse never happened.
Abuse in Dating Relationships.
There has been some research done just on abuse in dating relationships. Still, all of the information pertaining to domestic violence applies here, too. If you skipped that part, go back and read it. Even if it doesn’t apply to you, chances are you will have the opportunity to help someone else. Whether you are aware of it or not, each of us regularly encounters situations of abuse among family, friends, roommates, acquaintances, or coworkers.
In dating relationships, anything done by your partner to reduce your status is considered abuse. Coercion plays a big part in that and is reportedly done through slamming doors, insults, swearing, or forceful language.
Average reports of physical violence in dating relationships range from 20 to 50 percent. Both men and women suffer this form of dating violence; however, women are more likely victims. Thirty one percent of women and 15 percent of men suffer major trauma. Reports of sustained injuries are 18 percent for women and 10 percent for men.
Sexual Abuse, Absolutely Unforgivable
The statistics are staggering! A national study revealed that 15 percent of college students had suffered rape. Some estimate that one in four women will be raped. Most women who are raped know the rapist. Among college students, 50 to 80 percent of the women knew the offender; he was either a date, an acquaintance, or a steady beau.
Force does not necessarily have to be exhibited in order for sex to be considered abusive. Sex that engenders sexual humiliation or denigration and is performed out of fear or emotional coercion is every bit as abusive as rape, note Neil Jacobson, Ph.D., and John Gottman, Ph.D., authors of When Men Batter Women (Simon & Schuster, 1998).
A Case of Twenty-Something Cohabitation Abuse
Molly was 26 when she moved in with Michael and walked into a dangerous three-year nightmare. Raised in a protected, upper middle class, suburban home, she ignored her family’s advice and fell prey to Michael’s charm and looks. She could hardly believe that he was interested in her. I would have gone to any lengths to make sure we were together, she admitted.
Moving in together was her game plan for keeping him under wraps and away from other women. Supporting him was her way of making him dependent. However, the tables turned quickly.
Michael worked on my self-esteem, Molly revealed. He told her enough times she was crazy and unappealing and ignored her sexual advances that she began to question her own sanity and doubted anyone else would want her. Every time she made the attempt to throw him out, Michael would change her mind by making love to her and giving her the attention she needed.
One night he began yelling, screaming, and hitting. He socked Molly repeatedly and knocked out several of her teeth. She was bruised all over and had to be taken to the hospital. When he threatened to kill her, she called her parents and got a restraining order. Later she found out that she was the sixth woman to file a domestic violence complaint on him.
I still can’t believe I allowed this to happen, Molly said six years later.
Sexual Coercion, No Forgivable Matter
Ladies, sex that has been coerced in any way violates your personal boundaries mind, body, and heart. It is not to be tolerated.
Gentlemen, sex that has that been initiated by a woman who thinks she can suck you into a relationship you won’t feel right leaving is not worth the second helping.
Persuasion, pressure, persistence, and deception are measures of entrapment used to coerce a person into sex. Techniques include untrue confessions of love, false promises of engagement and marriage, and other lies. Additional techniques involve making the unwilling party feel guilty or inadequate.
Coercive sex is premeditated primarily by men who press for intercourse early on in a dating relationship. Alcohol plays a big part in this type of sexual encounter.
Getting and Staying Out of an Abusive Relationship
If you have encountered any forms of the emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse described in this article but have had difficulty getting out and staying away, pay close attention to the advice that follows. No one should have to subject themselves to another individual who compromises their physical, mental, or emotional well-being. That’s not what love is all about.
At the same time, I will acknowledge that it is difficult to extricate oneself from an abusive relationship. That is why the most prudent thing you could do the first time you are abused in any way is to leave that guy or gal behind. Abuse is notorious for escalating. It is not a behavior or problem that resolves itself. If you are unsure whether or not your love interest or partner has performed in an abusive manner, call the National Domestic Violence Hot Line at (800) 799-7322, consult a local expert, and refer back to the way abusers seek to gain control described earlier.
If you are stuck in an abusive relationship and can’t get out, you are not alone. There is a consensus of opinion among those who work with victims of domestic violence that women who are battered are inhibited to leave because of:
Fear of death, injury, or separation from their children.
Emotional and financial dependence.
Shame and embarrassment.
Hope and wishful thinking.
No where to go.
Belief that they caused the abusive behavior in some way.
Women who have found themselves in this predicament admitted that they had to face the harsh facts of reality before they were motivated to leave. They had to acknowledge and accept that their relationship was not going to improve, that their abuser was not going to change, and that it was time to give up that fantasy. Once they adopted the conviction they were going to leave, most set about making a plan. Others have left under immediate threat of bodily harm.
Interestingly, researchers have found that women who leave impulsively incur less success staying away than do those victims who carefully plan their exit. Your plan should include:
A family member that will provide shelter, protection, and understanding.
A shelter for battered women if you need to go into hiding.
An agency that can assist you to find work and permanent housing.
Someone who can validate that your feelings and actions are justified.
Ways in which you can build your self-esteem, become employed, and remain independent.
Infidelity, a Serious Infraction
There are some individuals, both professionals and novices, who claim that it is unreasonable to think you could make a lifetime commitment of love to one person, let alone remain sexually faithful. They use the argument that the notion of monogamy, fidelity, and lifelong love belonged to an era of lesser life expectancy. But then that throws out all we have learned about love namely, that love grows and intensifies over time.
A fundamental element of true love is trust. As long as infidelity is considered as breaking that trust, infidelity will remain a serious infraction within your married or dating love relationship.
Is Infidelity Forgivable?
Although infidelity is widely practiced privately under the covers, there is little public tolerance for it. Only about 35 percent of marriages within the general public survive extramarital affairs. Women are more likely to forgive their husbands than husbands are to forgive their wives. Women who stay are those females who perceive themselves as having more control over their lives and who don’t accept the victim mentality. Generally they have a higher level of self-esteem and a better sense of self.
Infidelity the first time around is easier for women to forgive than repeated subsequent transgressions.
Forgive Yes, Forget No!
The women who forgive but prudently don’t forget are wives whose spouses’ infidelity was:
Not overly exposed and did not cause them a great deal of public embarrassment or humiliation.
More of a sexual nature and did not involve love or emotional attachment.
Caused, they feel in part, by unrecognized and unsatisfied sexual needs on their behalf.
Other women are motivated to give their cheating spouses another chance because of:
A long marital history.
A promise to remain faithful.
The desire to raise their kids together.
Does Forgiveness Last?
Forgiveness can and does last, especially in those cases where the guilty partner is truly repentant and feels the pain caused to family members. In long-term marriages where some degree of love, trust, mutual respect, and passion remains, the odds are pretty good for a permanent reconciliation.
Forgiveness is short-lived when men put the blame for their philandering on their wives and often engage in further betrayals. This results in a complete and irreparable loss of trust. At this stage, women frequently become angry with themselves for staying in the first place and leave immediately.
Questionable Reasons to Stay
There are those women who will stay in a relationship no matter how they are treated. It isn’t my position to place a value judgment on their reasons for staying or how they rate their priorities in life. Nonetheless, anyone who stays for questionable motives ought to make sure the trade-off is a plus in their favor. Too often these women are suffering in silence.
Questionable motives include:
Protection of financial and social status.
Punishment by evening the playing field through their own affairs or costly shopping sprees.
Men Are Unlikely to Forgive.
The idea of a woman having sex with someone else drives a man crazy. It attacks the very core of the male ego. Sixty percent of men in a survey said that sexual infidelity was more disturbing than emotional betrayal. Unfortunately, the two often go hand in hand for women. Sexual infidelity by women is most often born out of marital dissatisfaction and combines sex and an emotional attachment to another person. Men are even less able to handle the surprising discovery that they are not the biological father of their supposed child. Approximately 13 percent of all children have incorrectly identified biological fathers.
How to Forgive and Forget Infidelity
If you do decide to try and forgive a partner’s infidelity, you will need to work at it. Emotionally it can be a struggle, but one that can be overcome. Living examples of happy couples who have done it are all around you. Here is a prescription of forgiving and forgetting:
1. Determine each and every cause of a partner’s cheating ways.
2. Deal candidly with all the causes of the indiscretion.
3. Work on marital dissatisfaction together.
4. Don’t put your head in the sand.
5. Go slowly.
6. Expect trust to build over time.
7. Try to put aside the pain.
8. Do not punish a partner by withholding sex or love.
9. Reaffirm the love you hold for each other.
10. Work hard to eliminate anger.
11. Focus on the future life you want together.
12. Appreciate the family and history you share.
13. Root out any seeds of jealousy.
If you are having difficulty following this prescription and are unable to forgive or forget, you may have a case of unresolved jealousy.
The Jealousy Factor
Jealousy is frequently a reflection of an individual’s sudden or sustained lack of self-esteem, unworthiness, inadequacy, incompleteness, and insecurity. Romantic jealousy is associated with the fear of losing the exclusive attention of a love interest. Therefore, some say romantic jealousy is based on some degree of possessiveness.
The Jane who exhibits romantic jealousy will look over her shoulder for the woman who is prettier, smarter, or more successful than she and who she thinks might be able to steal her playmate away. The jealous Joe will do the same thing. When Joe and Jane become jealous, their happiness melts into anger, fear, brooding, sickness, worries, and sadness. They feel a loss of control, uncertainty, and betrayal that can spark dangerous emotions, aggressive behavior, argumentative communication, belligerent actions, and revengeful acts of retaliation. Hardly the stuff that forgiving and forgetting are made of.
Unresolved jealousy shatters any hope of trust, adds suspicion, and stands in the way of normal problem solving. In the extreme, jealousy is the major cause of murder among marriage partners.