How Many Times Should Abuse be Tolerated? – the question revisited
In a post three months ago, Jeff asked “How Many Times Should Abuse Be Tolerated?”
Here is part of what he wrote:
Let’s limit a hypothetical example to physical abuse. Slapping across the face, knocking the victim down, that kind of thing. I may be wrong here in not considering all kinds of abuse – which are equally evil – but I am just trying to clarify our illustration. Here is the question then – How many times should a woman (for example) forgive her husband for slapping her across the face? By “forgive,” I mean, he says he is sorry and she says ok, and she stays with him – end of story.
I’d like to revisit this question, and I’ll start with a true story.
A couple who I know have a committed relationship which is not abusive. The man committed adultery some years ago, for a brief period. The wife found out, and hit the roof: she was furious with him. She made him leave the family home but allowed him to have frequent access to their children.
This couple have told me that some time in this period when the proverbial had hit the fan, he hit her once. Now, they didn’t give me details, but I can imagine it was in the context of her accusing him of the infidelity, and him being angry at being found out. And he hit her. But it wasn’t and isn’t an abusive relationship. It was, at that time, a plain old case of simply adultery. And the guy has now fully reformed – he did his time in the dog house, pulled his head in, ate lots of humble pie – and his wife learned forgiveness, and they are now re-committed and stable and happy.
I guess there are a few points to this story:
1. It seems to be possible to have one incident of physical violence without that constituting an abusive marriage. Physical violence may sometimes occur without the relationship having all the power dynamics and covert aggression that are the markers of domestic abuse.
2. This wife threw him out of the house not because he’d hit her, but because he’d been unfaithful and done his best to cover it up.
3. Domestic abuse is much more than physical violence (and doesn’t have to include any physical violence).
Domestic abuse is a pattern of conduct over time, where one spouse intentionally (and usually covertly) maintains power and control over the other spouse.
So I’d like to suggest that the question Jeff asked in the earlier post: “How many times should abuse be tolerated?” can be answered like this:
If you are detecting a PATTERN of conduct that shows power and control – even if it’s hard to be certain about whether it’s intentional, because the tactics of control are so covert – then you are detecting abuse, and you shouldn’t tolerate it. It’s not a matter of asking “How many times should I tolerate this if it re-occurs?” because it’s already been repeated probably more times than you can count, since most of it is so covert, so disguised, that you haven’t been able to see what’s been really going on.
But once you have detected that you ARE being abused, then, by our definition of abuse (the pattern of conduct) you don’t have to tolerate it any more. You would be wise to start planning how to get free and build a new life.