Why Do You Get into the Same Kind
of Relationship, Again and Again?
by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.
I’m often asked the question, “Why do I seem to get into the same relationship, over and over?” This is a monumental inquiry and essential to all those leaving an abusive relationship.
Lesson Learned or Unearned?
You think that when you leave an abusive relationship, your lessons regarding domestic abuse are well learned. But then, you find yourself entangled with individuals that play many of the same control games as you experienced with the abuser that you left.
You see the power and control dynamics in play and wonder how did you get here...and what can you do about it? You’re a bit perplexed because you truly believe that you have evolved beyond being someone’s victim. However, there are people in your life who long to back you into their corner and hold you under their thumb.
I think it is part of life to encounter people who naturally interact through power and control dynamics. They may do this unconsciously or intentionally or both. You may spot the dynamics before you are too far entangled to “see the forest for the trees.” And should that be the case, count your blessings as you have learned some important preliminary lessons about avoiding another abusive relationship.
To Leave or to Stay
You know you are not up for another abusive relationship, so your instinct is to exit. And if you really learned your lessons, you may know that the safest way to exit is quickly and quietly. Doing so is your choice.
However, you may be in a relationship that is not one that you wish to simply surrender …because it is your own flesh and blood. And your compassionate side seeks to surround the conflict with your understanding and love.
But this does not mean you are willing to indulge in another abusive relationship. Since you have learned your lessons, you refuse to enable the same dynamics that sent you running last time. So what do you do?
Can Abusers Change?
At the core of your being, you hold the belief that once an abuser, always an abuser. And you know how silly it was of you to think you could change your former abusive partner.
But something is different now. What is it? Maybe you know your don’t have to reflexively play the counterpart of this abuse dynamic. And you reach for the wisdom within to share with this person to help you break the cycle. Can that be done?
Some people will tell you that this cannot be done. Others will tell you that change is always possible, if a person desires change for himself or herself.I am a firm believer that people have the capacity to change, if they authentically seek something other than what they are experiencing and creating. That being said, what can you do to inspire breaking the cycle of abuse and interrupt the control dynamics in play?
Change Starts from Within
You are quick to recognize the whole gamete of battering tactics used to establish and maintain an unequal distribution of power in the relationship. For example, let’s say that you encounter the control tactic called “gas-lighting.” This person is telling you something occurred despite your knowing it did not.
When you reject the notion, you are badgered further with a verbal rant regarding your cognitive abilities or your moral principles. It goes on and on until you begin to question your own memory. But lucky for you, the light comes on and your memory serves you well. You know your truth and suddenly you see the control tactic in play. What do you do?
You could be the old you and agree to buy this person’s perspective so as to avoid the consequences of posing your objection. Be mindful that doing this is a ticket into deepening the developing abuse dynamic.
Or, you could state your truth without being attached to the outcome. Your job is not to convert the person to your way of thinking. Instead, you seek to clarify your truth and merely share it, as you know it to be.
If you seriously fear the consequences of doing this, you could state that as well, along with your current feelings about being entangled in a dynamic that fails to honor and respect who and what you are. This is effortlessly communicated when you ask for what you want…what you need in this moment from that person.
Battling the Bully and Saving Your Soul
Now, I am not saying you will want to jump into the ring with every bully that comes your way. There are those that reek danger no matter what. If you believe that you are interacting with someone for whom change is possible, you could foster a secure setting in which to speak your truth.
This may be in the presence of a trained professional that is familiar with abuse dynamics or a trusted family member or friend. Nonetheless, your mission ensues...you will not be battered again by another.
If the person hears you, then you are probably dealing with someone who, too, wants to change. Should that be the case, you have set in motion new direction for this relationship.
If that is not the case, and your truth falls on deaf ears or inauthentic “understanding,” expect the control dynamics to remain intact...if you choose to play the part. Another option would be that you pursue an unexpected detour and leave one hand clapping. That is, you withdraw meeting the person with your resistance and instead leave them—in pursuit of control—alone, all by themselves.
For more information about breaking the cycle of abusive relationships, visit www.preventabusiverelationships.com/ebooks.php and claim your Free Instant Access to Survivor Success eInsights. Psychologist Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people nationwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse. © Jeanne King, Ph.D. — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention
Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.