Relationships with violence don’t usually start out like relationships with violence. They typically start out as any relationship: there’s an attraction between two people, they spend time together, like each other and decide to spend more time together. Oftentimes it feels like a magnetic attraction, where they can’t stop thinking about each other and want to be together all the time.
At some point in the relationship, though, one partner (let’s say a male partner, although it can be male or female, gay or straight) begins to think that his partner isn’t exactly as he would like her to be, and he thinks that he can mold her and shape her into his ideal partner. Let’s take Kim and Steven (fictitious names, not based on anything more than composites of a number of clients). Their relationship begins with the two being happy, fairly content people. They meet at a party, through a mutual friend, and they start dating. Steven treats Kim well, tells her how beautiful she is, what a nice, special person she is, and how lucky they are to have found each other. Kim is flattered by this attention. Although she’s a little skeptical of Steven’s attention, she chalks it up to her own insecurities. She’s having fun, for the first time in her life.
Soon, Steven begins to say how disappointed he is that she showed up late for a date. He questions if she’s been seeing someone else. No, she hasn’t, she says. She was just late because she had to get gas on the way and it took longer than she thought. He doesn’t believe her and accuses her of being whore, a slut, a manipulative bitch. He points to other times in the relationship where she has not done exactly as he expected, and she thinks that maybe he’s right, and maybe she has been insensitive to his feelings. His words may have been kind of strong, but she’ll let it slide and try to be a better partner.
But the harder she tries to fit into his ideal of her, the more he criticizes her. And the more he criticizes her, the worse she feels and the harder she tries to please him. Sometimes he hits her; sometimes he just threatens. She cries. He apologizes and promises never to hurt her again. He does, though, invariably. The cycle repeats itself, and each time she hopes that he has finally changed, that this time he gets it. He never does, though.
Kim wonders what’s wrong with her that she stays with him. Her friends tell her she’s either crazy or a saint to put up with his abuse. She thinks she’s an idiot, and she is convinced that there must be something very wrong with her because she keeps choosing to stay. This is, in fact, how most people think. Not just Kim, but others like her, as well as those friends and relatives who feel powerless to help. When the friends, powerlessness turns to frustration and anger, Kim feels even further alienated and even worse.
So why does she stay? Because she’s hoping that he’ll “get it.” In the face of all evidence to the contrary, she still maintains the hope that if she tries a little harder, or if she approaches him in a different way, or at a different time, maybe when he’s in a better mood, that he will become the kind, compassionate man she fell in love with. “I know he’s capable of it,” she cries.
Her staying is based on a hope that something completely out of her direct control will somehow change. What she doesn’t get fully get is that he won’t because he can’t. Steven may not be able to change in relation to Kim, but Kim can in relation to Steven. Rapid Resolution Therapy, which communicates to all parts of the mind, helps people like Kim to see herself and her relationship clearly. Once clear, Kim is free. And with clarity comes strength.