11 Dec Why do people allow it? And who does it?
Why do people allow it to happen?
Having a boyfriend/girlfriend can feel great in so many ways, especially if you are looking for reassurance that you are “OK.” But that’s exactly why dating abuse is so dangerous, in the short-term and in the long-term. Often, people will put up with dating abuse because they want the good side of the relationship – they want to feel loved even at the expense of their freedom and health. In the short-term, that means staying in a relationship that can be harmful. In the long-term, that means contributing to a weak sense of self. When our self feels weak, we allow others to be abusive and the cycle continues.
But it’s not like people just allow it to happen. Sometimes caring behavior can slowly turn into controlling behavior and recognizing that that is happening or has happened can be challenging. Rarely do people consciously seek out an abusive relationship.
In addition, strong role models of healthy relationships are hard to find these days. Reality television programs, soap operas and drama shows all highlight dysfunctional ways of behaving. How are you supposed to figure out what is normal and what is healthy? Please check out “Healthy Relationships” to explore what is healthy.
Who does it?
Dating abuse goes both ways, meaning that both boys and girls are being abusive. However, boys almost always report that they are not hurt by their girlfriend’s abuse. This might be due to a stigma that boys are supposed to be able to “take it” and not look like a “wimp” in a relationship. (Stigmas are myths about situations that eventually hurt people.) Adults report more abuse coming from the male partner.
But the question of “who does it?” ultimately comes down to why because when we unpack the variables (meaning the pieces) that go into a person who abuses, we see many reasons.
For instance, Tommy is abusive. We see him push around his girlfriends who are too afraid to do anything about it. But when we take a closer look at Tommy we may see a few characteristics that stand out among other people who abuse:
A history of abuse – Tommy witnessed abuse by his own father towards his mother so he’s just doing what he knows.
Difficulty managing his emotions – Tommy never learned how to spot or label an emotion so he lacks the ability to manage his deep rage.
A lack of empathy – Tommy can’t imagine what it is like to be in someone else’s shoes so he doesn’t really care how what he does makes others feel.
These variables (remember that means parts or pieces of something) that make up people who abuse are general. GENERAL. That means that this example about Tommy may not totally fit everyone who abuses. For instance, some abusers do have empathy – they do feel guilt and can imagine what it must feel like for the other person. Heck, they may have been there themselves, but that doesn’t excuse their actions. None of these variables are excuses. They are common reasons and characteristics of people who abuse.
The next section unpacks these issues even further.