Coun­selling can help end life­long cy­cle of abuse

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - GARY DIRENFELD Have a parenting or re­la­tion­ship ques­tion? Send it in a brief email to ques­tion@your­so­cial­worker.com. Due to the vol­ume of mail, not all ques­tions will re­ceive a re­ply.

Q: I am in a sit­u­a­tion where my ex­hus­band does a lot of eye-rolling and sigh­ing and turn­ing his back on me when I ex­press my hurt and fears. We have a 10-year-old daugh­ter who thinks he is ag­gres­sive and cold. Pas­sive ag­gres­sion is part of his be­hav­iour. Stonewalling for three months at a time. He tells our daugh­ter bad things about me be­hind my back and she tells me. I’ve even had to pay him to take his only daugh­ter. My mother is also abu­sive and has beaten me since age 2. I also have can­cer and he of­ten says “Haven’t you died yet?” Please ad­vise.

A: So sorry to hear of your sit­u­a­tion. The be­hav­iour you have de­scribed from your for­mer hus­band is re­mark­able emo­tional, ver­bal and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse. What you have de­scribed from your mother is re­mark­able phys­i­cal abuse.

Given the abuse you suf­fered as a child, it is not un­com­mon for such be­hav­iour to, in a sense, be nor­mal­ized. As a mar­ried adult, ab­sent the phys­i­cal abuse, you may not have fully rec­og­nized your hus­band’s emo­tional and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse early on. Thus child­hood abuse can have life­long im­pli­ca­tions and in­ad­ver­tently cre­ate the con­di­tions for en­trap­ment in adult­hood through an in­ti­mate, abu­sive re­la­tion­ship.

At 10 years of age, you daugh­ter rec­og­nizes the in­her­ent abuse and ad­vises you ac­cord­ingly. Her fa­ther doesn’t ap­pear to want to see her vol­un­tar­ily and your pay­ing him to take her in­ad­ver­tently cre­ates the con­di­tions where she is sub­ject to his abuse. As he bad­mouths you, he is abus­ing her too.

Con­sider coun­selling for your­self — ex­plore what keeps you so in­volved with a fel­low who is abu­sive and seeks lit­tle or no con­tact with his daugh­ter and, when he does see her, speaks poorly of you. Rather than seek­ing to un­der­stand his be­hav­iour, the chal­lenge in these sit­u­a­tions is to look at the ba­sis for your own de­ci­sions.

In so do­ing, you may find your­self mak­ing dif­fer­ent de­ci­sions — par­tic­u­larly in light of the im­pact of his be­hav­iour on your­self and your daugh­ter.

In seek­ing a coun­sel­lor for your­self, find some­one knowl­edge­able about vi­o­lence against women and child­hood abuse. Such coun­selling is of­ten avail­able from a lo­cal women’s shel­ter. You don’t have to re­side at the shel­ter to make use of their outreach ser­vices.

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