Are you a woman who is determined to have a relationship filled with mutual love, respect and trust and is not willing to settle for one of manipulation, disrespect and abuse? In my last article we looked at ways of recognising signs of abuse in relationships, now, let’s look at how to keep yourself safe in your relationships and how to know when it’s time to move on from one.
It’s hard to end any relationship, and an abusive one is no different. It’s important to remember that relationships don’t usually start off being abusive. Why would anyone enter into one with someone who treats them badly? Most of us would say we’d send that person packing without a second glance, yet abuse can sneak into a relationship day-by-day, step-by-step in a way that can leave you confused, blaming yourself and working your butt off to recreate the amazing union you entered into. When you take into account the time you’ve invested in it, how committed you are, children and other family relationships, leaving isn’t always the simple scenario you might think it is, and if your self-worth is suffering, the scenario becomes even more complex. If statistics are anything to go by, it takes women on average eight times to finally leave an abusive relationship. And that’s exactly what happened to me – I fully took on the responsibility to stay in an abusive relationship until the sh*t finally hit the fan and I’d had enough.
A question I’m often asked is whether you should always leave a relationship if you recognise signs of abuse, even small ones. And the tough answer is, it’s entirely up to you. Remember, you are the mistress of your life, and whether you like hearing it or not, we are all responsible for our own actions. There are many cases where difficult relationships can be turned around for the better, just as there are many that end tragically.
If you stay, you may do so because you think the relationship is worth saving. Fantastic, you can try to improve it by seeking professional guidance like counselling or mediation for yourself or your partner or both of you. If things continue to go askew, you’ll honestly be able to say you didn’t give up without trying. If you want to leave but feel you lack the strength and courage to do so, urgently seek help. Even one tiny step forward is a step towards freedom. If you leave and then go back that’s ok too, it may just not be your time. Whatever decision you make, stand by it, learn from it and take it from there.
Wherever you are in your current relationships, whether you’re still deciding if a new relationship is the right one, if you’re dealing with an abusive co-parent and figuring out whether it’s time to take steps to address it, or if you’re going on a date with someone you don’t know, it’s important to always keep your safety and your family’s safety top of mind. To do so, I’ve created a SAFE acronym as an easy to remember safety plan:
See, Speak up and be aware of what goes on around you
Ask for help from your community
Freedom is a basic right for you
Experts are always available to help you
1. See, speak up and be aware of what goes on around you
Whether you’re dating or in a relationship, be aware of what constitutes an unsafe situation for you. Listen to your intuition and don’t talk yourself out of it if you feel uncomfortable. Always have a back up plan in mind when entering a situation that could potentially be unsafe and remove yourself immediately if it starts to escalate. If you can’t remove yourself, call a friend, neighbour, family or even the police and if you fear being followed, go into hiding until you can speak to professionals. And if you do experience a situation like this, document it thoroughly; it may come in handy when talking to authorities or in any subsequent legal proceedings.
2. Ask for help from your community
If something isn’t feeling right to you, don’t hold it in, reach out for support from or talk to friends or family to get another perspective to help you keep your judgement balanced. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to friends or family, there are 24-hour help lines for women or DV Crisis/Support Services you can call for support and guidance.
3. Remember that freedom is a basic right
Remember that no one has the right to control you. You are allowed to avoid or limit contact with your abuser, you are allowed to change your mind, and you are allowed to say no or leave a situation when you choose. Freedom is also a basic right for your children. You can start to educate your children about how to protect themselves in an unsafe situation as far as their ages allow. There are resources to help you do this if you’re not sure how to, and this is something I’ll cover more in my next article.
4. Experts are always available to help you
Whether you’ve decided to leave or stay, there are a range of professionals available to support you, provide you with options and help you take the next step. There are lawyers, legal aid or free women’s services for legal support as well as a range of community counselling services, either for you alone, with your partner or a combination of both.
If you’re currently at a time in your life where you’re single, it’s a great opportunity to sit down and think about your personal ideas of relationship balance and what tips the scales for you. Only you can know that point. Only you can pick the thing that is a deal breaker for you. A great way to do this is by identifying your values. Write each of them down and keep them in mind when observing other people’s actions. Then clearly identify what behaviour in a partner, potential partner or even ex-partner makes you feel comfortable and uncomfortable. Decide now what you will accept and what crosses your line of safety, comfort, self-worth and happiness, so if the situation does arise in future you’ll be more aware of the right moment to take action, walk away or get help.
Now, I’m certainly not writing this to alarm you, and by no means am I suggesting that all men are going to abuse you or lure you into a manipulative relationship, but statistics show that one in five women will experience domestic violence and abuse at some point in their lives; so it’s something to be aware of, it’s knowledge to empower yourself with and something to hold firmly in the back of your mind for you and your family as you venture off in search of new and nurturing relationship horizons, because we all deserve peace, freedom, empowerment and health in all of our relationships.
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