Abuse in relationships is often obvious to one or both of the partners or, ironically, one or both partners are unaware that their behaviour towards or received from the other, is abusive. Abuse can be defined as behaviour, attitude or intention towards another that:
- Disrespects the other person
- Violates their rights, power or ability to be treated respectfully.
- Diminishes them in ways that render them powerless, in fear or that does not allow them to be treated equally or fairly.
- Diminishes their power physically, emotionally, psychologically or financially.
Often, it is more obvious that abuse is taking place when it is physical. However, abuse can be emotional, psychological or even financial, where the abused person’s power is reduced against their will – or in ways that is considered unfair or unacceptable to the majority of people. A coupld can be in an abusive pattern whereby each person goes through a cycle of abuse and reconcilation. The abuser often promises never to behave badly again and is remorseful or begs for forgiveness. However, without the pattern being identified and its purpose explored, abuse will continue time and time again.
It is not sufficient to rationally want abuse to stop since the dynamics between the couple usually exist to keep it in place (even if unconscious to the couple involved). Professional help is required to identify the abusive pattern in relationships and requires both partners to want to change. Without the desire and a willingness to take responsibility for one’s part in the relationship – as abuser or abused – the relationship will not change. However, with these ingredients, change is possible and a healthy relationship can be established.