Out with old, in with the new! You’ve courageously stepped away from a painful relationship and are now creating an amazing life, one where you are in the driver’s seat. You are steering and you have the power. Well done, chicky babe, step out and shine!
So, now you think you might be ready to tackle the dating scene again. Let me be your ‘sister-friend’ who can tell you anything just because you’re my ‘sister-friend’, okay? I know you don’t want to get burned again. However your previous relationship ended, I know it still shattered you to bits and it can take a great leap of faith to go there again, but there are things you can do, or should I say, things you can be aware of, that can help turn that leap into more of a skip.
When you move into a new relationship after recovering from a painful end to an old one, it’s natural to want to protect yourself and your children. If you were abused previously that instinct should be heightened even more. No one has the right to abuse someone else and no one should live in constant fear of being abused. While relationships have their challenges and require negotiation and compromise from both sides, there’s a difference between healthy challenges worked out together as a balanced partnership and abuse where that partnership is unbalanced and one side is threatened or controlled. But how do you know where the right balance lies?
It took me 18 years of marriage to realise I was living in an abusive relationship. Incredible! Even more incredibly, it took me another five years to actually leave for good. I remember sitting at my computer one night after a friend of mine tipped me off about this ‘domestic violence’ (DV) thingo. Tapping away on my keyboard and entering search terms, I discovered a checklist. It read ‘If you are experiencing or have experienced any of the following things, then you are a victim of domestic violence.’ I ticked every box but one, and even that one was debatable. Did you know that it takes women on average eight times to finally leave an abusive relationship? I think I must have hit that mark easily.
So, before you sign up to that dating site or say yes to the cute guy in the coffee shop who’s asked you out for dinner, make sure you read this to the end. Promise me, because education and awareness in the early stages of a relationship are the best ways to make sure you don’t start justifying things that instinctively feel wrong.
DV or family violence/abuse is an alarming global epidemic under the watchful eyes of the world, in every government right up to the World Health Organisation. Statistics show that one in five women will experience DV at some point in their lives, and violence and abuse from intimate partners spans all cultures and economic spheres. The Victorian Law defines ‘family violence’ as harmful behaviour that occurs when someone threatens or controls a family member through fear.
Whether you’re single, dating or even if you still have contact with your ex-husband or partner as a co-parent to your children, being aware of the signs of domestic violence can not only prevent you from entering into an unsafe relationship or tolerating unsafe behaviour, but give you more confidence to move into a healthy and happy one. Even if you recognise just one sign, the alarm bells should be ringing loudly and clearly.
Tell-tale domestic violence signs:
1. Physical abuse:
This can include beating, hitting, kicking, choking, punching and pushing or use of objects/weapons to hurt you or your children. It can also include harming pets, locking you and your children in the house or preventing you from getting proper medical assistance. And remember, the threat of any of the above physical abuse can be a precursor to it actually taking place. Damaging property or threatening to damage property, while not strictly physical abuse, can also be a sign that if left unchecked may one day be turned towards you or your children.
2. Emotional and mental abuse
Emotional and mental abuse, along with most forms of abuse, stem from one person trying to shift the balance of power to their favour. Sometimes this can be done in an obvious way, but sometimes it can be more subtle. In fact, emotional abuse can be a hard form of abuse to detect when you’re in the thick of a relationship.
It can be those things when you find yourself thinking ‘Oh, but that’s such a little thing, I shouldn’t make a fuss’ or ‘Perhaps he didn’t mean it like that’, but something inside you still feels wrong all the same. You could be feeling stupid, worthless, humiliated or fearful. Emotional abuse could include things like name calling, putting you down, yelling at you, playing mind games or making you feel guilty for looking after your own needs. Other signs of emotional abuse include:
– Threats or revenge or suicide if you try to leave the relationship
– Controlling behaviour including checking what you do, where you go, demanding to look at your smart phone and emails or doing so without your knowledge
– Accusing you of things that aren’t true, for example: flirting with others
– Not allowing you to use family possessions like the car.
– Treating you like a servant and demanding you do what he wants you to do
3. Economic abuse:
Everyone has the right to be aware of their own financial situation and that of their family. While you may come to a mutual agreement with your partner to not have a key role in the day-to-day managing of your family finances if you’d prefer not to, no one has the right to make that decision for you. Economic abuse can include having money kept from you, not being allowed to spend money or being told how to spend it, being made to account for everything you spend, or having a set allowance imposed upon you.
4. Sexual abuse:
Whether you’re dating, in a new relationship, married or de facto, no one has the right to force themselves on you without your permission. Nor do they have the right to coerce you into having sex or performing sexual acts that you do not want to engage in.
If you recognise any of the above signs, you have a few choices: you can ignore them and remain in a potentially unsafe situation, you can take steps to improve the situation or completely remove yourself from it. The key to making this choice is having your own stable inner balance. If you know your self-worth and you value yourself, you will instinctively be able to find the balance between normal relationship challenges and behaviour that you will not tolerate.
In my next article, I’ll give you some tips on how to protect yourself and your loved ones if you have recognised any of these tell-tale signs, but for now, remember that no one deserves to be abused and YOU are always in charge of you.
Note to article: If you or your loved ones are unsafe, in Australia call 000 or 1800respect (1800 737 732) 24/7 or visit the Australian National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service at http://www.1800respect.org.au
If you are in a country other than Australia, make yourself familiar with the local emergency numbers and/or websites, and remember that calling friends and relatives first will delay the attendance of emergency services. If you can, remove yourself from the situation, do so immediately, safely and without antagonising the perpetrator.
About the author
Women all over the world experience challenging relationships. Some are ready to step into their personal power and embrace their own WOW-Factor. Some are rebuilding their life after leaving. Others are stuck in the void of “I’ve left, now what?”
Founder of Focus on Balance, Ruth is an empowerment coach, mentor and speaker who has translated her life experiences into powerful strategies that now help women all over the world move forward with confidence and calmness to allow them to make healthy decisions for themselves and for their families. She is an expert on Domestic Violence and How to Rebuild your Life after Leaving, and incorporates The Law of Attraction into her coaching programs.
Ruth is also an experienced practitioner of Reiki, NLP and Hypnotherapy. Her other interests lie in reading, yoga, cycling, walking and running. She is proud mother to three gorgeous children and lives on the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne, Australia.
To be part of Ruth Stuettgen’s tribe go to http://www.facebook.com/focusonempowerment