HOW VICTIMS RECOVER AND WHAT THEY CAN EXPECT Your recovery begins with the recognition that: • You can make your husband feel loved, but only his own behaviour can make him adequate and worthy of love.
• You have the power to make yourself feel adequate and worthy.
• You can develop a powerful self by doing what you deeply believe to be right and developing your own intellectual, creative, spiritual, and healing capacities, regardless of what your husband thinks, says, or does.
‘honeymoon’ periods in the past when, driven by remorse, he seemed to change and everything was fine. The following will help you know that your partner is in the process of permanent change. You will feel that he consistently (every day): • Values and appreciates you – you are important to him.
• Listens to you. • Shows compassion – cares how you feel, even when you disagree with him.
• Respects you as an equal and doesn’t try to control you or dismiss your opinions.
• Shows affection without always expecting sex.
• Implies that you’re not competent, smart or resourceful enough to do it on your own.
• Makes it clear that your perspective isn’t important. If he’s trying to support you, he:
• Helps you find what is best for you to do and stands by you if what you decide doesn’t work.
• Respects your competence, intelligence, creativity and resourcefulness.
• Values your opinions, even if he disagrees.
TIPS FOR HUSBANDS TO RECONNECT If you’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship you almost certainly have developed habits of emotional disconnection. For instance, touch and eye contact are usually the first things to go in distressed relationships. Because your husband has to overcome a
nagging sense of relationship inadequacy, he should initiate all of the following for the first months of recovery. Establish a daily routine of brief
but consistent moments of emotional connection with your wife: • Hug at least six times a day and hold each hug for at least six seconds. (Hold them that long to overcome any initial awkwardness.)
• Take at least six seconds six times a day to appreciate her.
• Have a weekly date night with just the two of you. (Inexpensive activities or just going for a walk alone together will do the trick.) This has to be as important as an appointment with your boss.
As you feel safer and more confident, you
will most likely experience abrupt periods of anger and anxiety about past abuse, coupled with the natural fear that it could resume. This is a normal step in the healing process, as your central nervous system recalibrates to life without constant stress. These are temporary symptoms, much like the periods of exhaustion that occur during recovery from a long illness. You must see this residual anger and
anxiety, which can come out of nowhere, as: Temporary remnants of the past; not a
judgment of the present. Physiological in nature, without
psychological meaning – they don’t mean anything bad about you. A sign that you are healing.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR HUSBAND HAS TRULY CHANGED If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship you have no doubt experienced
22 NOVEMBER 2014
• Regulates his guilt, shame, anxiety, resentment or anger, without blaming them on you.
LOOK FOR COMPASSION AND SUPPORT; NOT REMORSE AND CONTROL Most abusers feel guilt and remorse, at least in the first years of the abuse. Far from encouraging signs, guilt and remorse can actually lead to more abuse, as they: • Focus his attention on how bad he feels. • Make him insist that you ‘get over it’ so he can feel better. In contrast, compassion:
• Focuses attention on how you feel. • Makes him want to help you feel better. It is easy to confuse control with support,
especially for men (and parents, for that matter) who feel protective. Here are some pointers to help you tell the difference. If he’s trying to control you, he:
• Tells you what to do and punishes you in some way if you don’t do it.
• Adopt a brief daily ritual that expresses your wife’s importance to you. For example, offer a single flower or a flower petal, light a candle, write a note or hum a few bars of a song you both like.
• Imagine a permanent lifeline – like the kind the astronauts use in outer space – connecting you emotionally, no matter how far apart you are.
• Take six seconds six times a day to think positively about her when you are not with her. This will make you behave more positively toward her when you are with her. n
Steven Stosny, PhD, is the founder of CompassionPower in suburban Washington, DC, and author of several books on improving relationships. He has offered hundreds of workshops all over the world and has
presented at most of the leading professional conferences. He has treated over 6,000 clients for various forms of resentment, anger, abuse, and violence. He will be presenting workshops in Australia in November, 2014.
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