I was sitting in a loved one’s kitchen one sunny afternoon and she says to me, “what are the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder because I think my husband might have that”. My stomach dropped. Their perfect life in their half a million dollar home in their expensive but quaint little suburb off the expensive city with the two kids and the dog and the cat suddenly didn’t seem so amazing. This led to a conversation which led to a year long process of trying to help this person escape her abusive and controlling and emotionally unstable husband.
Most people picture domestic violence as some guy who beats the crap out of his wife on a regular basis, and trust me, that happens far more than most folks realize. In fact, we recently saw a court case in the neighbouring city where some guy literally beat his wife to death (he was just convicted of first degree murder). But that is only one aspect of domestic violence. Domestic violence (aka partner assault) is far more complicated and much bigger than that.
According to the domestic violence death review committee (that reviews domestic homicides in Canada and make recommendations to help prevent future homicides), roughly 70% of domestic homicides happen in situations that do not have a history of physical assaults and many times the homicides seem to happen around child custody cases and family court issues.
How can that be?
Physical assault is one aspect of a pattern of behaviour that when put together makes up a picture of a violent and potentially dangerous relationship. Thinking of partner assault as the act of physically assaulting your partner is like thinking of a BLT sandwich that is missing the lettuce and bacon and mayo. There are a lot more parts needed to make the whole.
Sometimes, the constant threats and insinuations and manipulations are enough to keep the other person on edge and walking on eggshells. The name calling and put downs and insults wear even the strongest person down to the point that they eventually believe it. Seems unreal I know if you’ve never been there but the reality is that abusive partners are not abusive ALL THE TIME. They chose when it is most convenient or best for them to act that way. Other times they are perfect husbands or wives or partners and will act loving and caring and present as sincere. This makes it very hard to leave because once your partner is being nice to you, you believe them when they say things will be better or could be better.
When someone you love has you in a constant state of stress by their jeckyl and hyde behaviour of loving one day and evil “hate you” the next, you lose yourself and your own center because all of your energy is spent trying to keep your partner happy, safe, sane and hopefully from losing their temper. You spend all your time accepting what this person says to you because that is what a good partner does. You go into this like a normal person with good intentions who is trying to be the best partner they can be. Unfortunately, the abusive person manipulates that very thing until you don’t know anything anymore.
It took this loved one a full year of very careful planning to get out and believe me, she’s still not safe. Her now ex-husband has access to large sums of cash and has a tremendous amount of money. Crazy-psycho personality plus large sums of money is not a good combination but staying with him certainly wasn’t any safer by any means. Her road to recovery has been quite long with many disappointing stops along the way, sometimes from the folks who were supposed to be helping her. Still, she is free and doing the best she can and that is far better than where she was.