Myths vs. Reality
When I think of domestic violence (DV), I often think of physical violence between one member of a couple to the other. In fact, domestic violence (often referred to as Intimate Partner Violence) could involve physical violence, sexual violence, stalking or psychological aggression. Similarly, DomesticViolence.org onsiders DV to include any behaviors that one person in a relationship uses to control another in the relationship. These behaviors could involve: name-calling or put-downs, keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends, withholding money, stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job, actual or threatened physical harm, sexual assault, stalking, or intimidation. As you can see, domestic violence is so much more than physical violence in a relationship.
Take a few moments to stop and reflect: Do you engage in any of these patterns in your relationship? If so, get some support from a locally qualified specialist. You can get help so that you stop the pattern of abuse in your relationship and with your children. If you are in a relationship and are recognizing these patterns of domestic violence, if it’s an emergency, call 911. You can also contact a local specialist or the national hotline if you’re in the U.S.: 1-800-799-7233.
How does DV play out in couples healing from betrayal trauma?
Now that we’ve talked about what domestic violence is, let’s take a look at how DV patterns play out in couples healing from betrayal trauma. While any of these patterns can play out in couples that we see, more often than not we see patterns of psychological aggression displayed by those with compulsive sexual behaviors. For example, to hide their secret sexual behaviors, many addicts will lie, deceive and shift blame from their own behaviors to characteristics of their partners. Sometimes the betraying party does this consciously and sometimes unconsciously, but the result is still the same: The betrayed partner’s attention is diverted from the real problems in the relationship (hidden sexual behaviors and all the fallout that results from these behaviors) to other issues. This gaslighting often occurs through a pattern called “DARVO” which I’ve talked about in another article here. To learn more about gaslighting, click here.
Some couples healing from the impact of betrayal trauma face other DV patterns in their relationships. For example, some betraying partners may project their own behaviors onto their partner, feeling threatened by and restricting their partner’s friendships. Other partners report feeling financially trapped by their addicted husbands. Still others report name-calling or hostile/intimidating actions from the betraying partner in the throws of the addiction.
It’s vital in the recovering process that these patterns of DV are addressed, as they are integral to the relational wounding that some couples sustain going through this process. If you or your relationship is in recovery after the discovery of secretive sexual behaviors, to heal yourself and your relationship you’ll need to do 2 things:
1) Stop your secret sexual behaviors that are damaging yourself, your partner, and your relationship. That is, gain sobriety over your behaviors by entering into a program of recovery. You can find more information about starting a program of recovery here: https://www.banyantherapy.com/start-recovery-thing/. While gaining this sobriety is essential, it’s not enough to heal your relationship.
2) Address relational wounding caused by your deception, lies, gaslighting, minimization, withholding, intimidation, put-downs, or other patterns of DV that have played out in your relationship. For more information on building empathy for your partner, to help you start relational healing, read Julia’s article here: https://www.banyantherapy.com/building-empathy-partner/.