This article has adult content.
This is the 9th article in a series on understanding and coping with couple stress reflecting issues of interest in my community and private practice as a therapist. The intended audience was originally Oklahoma City, Oklahoma couples. Readership on Tumblr, Google+ and Twitter has strewn these articles across the globe. The purpose of these articles is to provide fodder for consideration, not so much to provide advice or answer a specific question.
Concepts between this series, and another series on teen dating violence have overlapped as readers are bringing forward questions that require reaching back to knit that information into the current articles.
One of my peers posted this very exacting observation on his blog, and on LinkedIn this weekend. http://garydirenfeld.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/the-five-best-friends-of-t...! I agree with much of this article, in terms of direct statements of accountability in naming behaviors. I am not convinced that these cannot be unlearned. I believe an abuser can learn to be different. I understand that if the abuser has no interest in adjusting, then being the player, (or as some of my friends say "NEXT VICTIM PLEASE"! ) that victimizing becomes a way of life and the person moves into the range of an opportunist, or some would say sociopathic behaviors..... where all others are ultimately chronically disregarded and only the bully/abuser's needs or desires matter.
Understand that the gender is not specific.... in reality women may be the bully or abuser. Women may have the abuse history. The point is more to consider what is happening, versus facts so specific it kills the conversation... elimination "not me, not me, not me".
Mr. Direnfeld's posting dovetailed with my prior posting of this information on developing perspective second to the Chris Brown disclosure http://www.examiner.com/article/stress-management-couples-this-ain-t-real
What I realized is that many readers may not have taken into consideration what also goes into abusive relationships... and that disrespect, abuse and full blown assault may begin as early as gradeschool... which is why understanding http://www.examiner.com/article/february-is-teen-dating-violence-prevent... about childhood experiences and events, abuse and maltreatment is important.
Understanding your own history is invaluable. It might be true that you have avoided believing or addressing abuse second to shame or bravado or merely bad information on abuse and trauma.
Owning your history is even more invaluable. Getting help as needed is imperative. Learn, act, keep track of the need to learn new things.
Explaining to your partner your history is part of how as a couple you account for your assets and liabilities as individuals. This weaves the greatness of your coupleship to commitments that have meaning and last. The couple has to have established trust, and an understanding they are not going to use the information gained as weaponry, but to strengthen their relationship.
Most of what these and other researchers are saying is two fold.
1). Empathy/Sympathy shortage. Empathy is when a person can experience or relate to another's pain in a given situation, and feel it too.
Sympathy, is when another persons situation generates a response of caring, but the person observing may not feel it too.
People who are aggressive and bullying in relationships are not absent of feelings.
Brain studies shown from about 2009 until now, that aggressive persons are triggered to generate MORE pain in a pained person.
ALERT ALERT ALERT In adult sexual relationships, this pattern may be part of the sexual arousal pattern for both the aggressor and the victimized. It may be part of what gets "turned" and results in the couple having sex. ie. making a partner cry, beg or experience minor or major stress. (This is different than "make up sex" )
So the "bully" or abuser HAS feelings about what is happening, but they seek to torque it, not STOP it. People who are aggressive in relationships lack skills both in empathy and sympathy. If they have them, they do not use them. http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2012/04/bullies-born-raised.html
This can be at the primitive neurologic level, and the person may be completely unaware or deny awareness of this pattern. It is not possible for one person to call the question, for this to stop, both people have to call the question of what is going on, which of the 5 things the abuser needs to stop first ( typcially it is all 5) and who or what will help them learn to do this.
2). Relationship violence in youth will show itself again in adulthood relationships and in parenting one's own children.
For parents, teachers and community and church leaders, the message is simple.
Providing education and guidance about healthy relationships early on, both by discussing healthy interactions and MODELING healthy interactions encourages your young person to give and expect respectful interactions with others
For couples, the issue is owning the history of each person, addressing how it needs to change in their relating to one another. I am not sure I agree with the author in the first article that it can never change, but a strong commitment to being a different person, in a different manner is imperative. Counseling, couples workshops and living in recovering communities can help cope, change and grow.