Dealing with Abusive Relationships

Sep 05

A friend asked, “What if people have done something very unacceptable or hurtful to me, I tell it to them and they deny, their reply is that ‘it is just my shadow’ without acknowledging my feelings or truth (other people see their behavior is not right), how can I solve the situation? Perhaps let go of resisting their behavior, heal my negativities and probably they will stop? But shall I also walk away from those people? Aren’t they using the fact that “it is my shadow or projection” to throw crap at me?”

I empathize with my friend’s questionings. What to do about ugly or abusive relationships has been one of my lifetime challenges.

Yes, we are all absolutely entitled to healthy relationships. So how do we get them? We simply choose the relationships that support us and walk away from the ones that don’t. We don’t need to justify our actions. We don’t need to explain unless we want to. All we need to do is walk away.

Nobody deserves abuse. Nobody. But as long as we stick around, we are enabling the abuse and it is likely to continue. If we simply walk away, there is no one left to abuse. Our power lies in changing ourselves.

I first learned about the power of walking away from a very dear friend of mine, a judge who had offered me a job when I first graduated from law school. I should have taken the judge’s offer. Instead, I decided to work for a very large, prestigious law firm.

The partner for whom I worked had me working 80 hours a week. He would send me off on one research project only to change his mind and send me off on another. He never seemed to be able to decide what he wanted. Worse yet, he always seemed frustrated, angry and irritable.

One evening, at a bar dinner, I was chatting with the judge and began complaining about this abusive partner who was totally exhausting me. After about a minute, the judge simply excused himself and walked away. My tirade stopped immediately. I had lost my audience and rightly so. I was wasting both my time and the judge’s with ineffective complaining.

What I should have done was quit the job. I did that six months later, willingly taking a pay cut to gain the advantage of better working hours and respectful treatment.

If you’re like me, walking away is not easy. After all, we’re strong, right? And smart, right? And committed, right? And we can handle anything, right? Well maybe the shadow we don’t want to look at is our own vulnerability and pain. When we notice these and don’t want them anymore, it’s quite easy to change. The power lies totally with each of us. While we can never change another person directly, if we change ourselves, the dynamics of the relationship change. Sometimes, the other person changes indirectly as a result of our own direct change.

11 Responses to “Dealing with Abusive Relationships”

  1. Dealing with Abusive Relationships « Janet Smith Warfield : : says:

    […] I empathize with my friend’s questionings. What to do about ugly or abusive relationships has been one of my lifetime challenges. Yes, we are all absolutely entitled to healthy relationships. So how do we get them? …Go to Source […]

  2. carol chandler says:

    never heard “the shadow” answer. by shadow, do you mean that it is you yourself at fault, not just the person poking at you?

  3. janet says:

    Your shadow is that part of your personality that you don’t want to look at and accept as part of who you are. It is different for each of us.

    Abusive situations are created through relationships. They have nothing to do with fault. Each person in the relationship plays a role in the abuse and each person has the ability to stop it.

    On one side, you have the angry, controlling personality who lashes out when things don’t go his way and blames everyone else for his problems. He can change the abuse by becoming aware of how his actions are affecting his relationships and choosing to take responsibility for his own needs and actions.

    On the other side, you have the strong, silent partner who makes the abuse possible by sitting and accepting it, over and over again. This partner is the enabler and codependent. Why does she remain in such an abusive relationship?

    Maybe she believes it really is her fault. Perhaps her perception of herself is that she is strong and fully committed to the relationship, regardless of the pain to herself. Perhaps she is financially dependent on the abuser and afraid of having to support herself economically. There are all kinds of reasons why people stay in relationships. Most of them are unconscious.

    It is vital for our own personal empowerment and spiritual growth that we become aware of our own shadow side so we can notice our fears, overcome them, and make conscious choices about where we want to put our time, energy, and other resources and what relationships we want to maintain and why.

  4. Darrell Borza says:

    This reads like so many other articles regarding abuse. HE- in the abuser category, SHE in the victim column. So many assumption in this arena of human abuse. I am a man that was abused by women most of my life, starting with my mother, then my ex wife, now I have a son sitting in jail for domestic abuse. When he was arrested the police did not even ask, they just cuffed him and took him, while the other officer ‘ comforted ‘ her. He was taken into custody where he was booked and photographed the bruises on his fist where he had punched a wall – the bruises and scratches on his neck and chest were not even photographed, they were his defensive wounds from her.
    She was the one that began throwing things at him in the argument, then strangled him while pushing him so hard through a door that it broke the frame, then tried to cut him with a piece of broken glass. A few months before that she blackened his eye and also tried to cut him. His lawyer said truthfully, doesn’t matter what she did, their going to believe her. The prosecutor will parade statistics before the court about men that abuse women, and many do and deserve prison or worse, but these statistics are so unbalanced as this side of the abuse world remains to this day a urban myth, with no-where for men to receive help or support, they like I was, are on their own and can only hope for the best in this situation. I have scars from his mother and mine, but so what? Like my son, if I had bruised her defending myself, the court would see a ‘ history of abusive men ‘ in his family, because I would have been arrested.
    Why do men stay ? For the same reasons women do. I stayed fro my kids, then finally divorced her. She is on her fourth marriage, where the third was arrested for ‘ domestic violence ‘ this is a travesty. Men should come forward more, but most that could are in jail, and the others are still looking for someone to take them seriously.
    Darrell Borza

  5. janet says:

    Darrell, you are absolutely right. Men, too, can be abused.

    Unfortunately, when you’re using third person singular, you’re stuck with making a choice between the words “he”, “she” and “it”. I could just as easily have reversed the pronouns, making her the abuser and him the victim. Would I then I have received a stream of outraged emails from women?

    I certainly did not intend to imply that men are always the abusers and women, the victims. The point I was making was that either person in the relationship can end the abuse, simply by becoming aware of his or her own role in the abusive relationship and making different action choices.

    Warm regards,


  6. Darrell Borza says:

    I apologize – the content of your article is quite correct. This is an issue I feel deep passion for and have been fighting my whole life. Abuse in either side of the gender fence is an abomination. I recently listened to a talk show on NPR about this topic and called in, the guests was a judge, a counselor and lawyer.
    The only response was that men are ‘ randomly ‘ abused. Yet it is as deep a problem as women suffering.
    I am an admirer of you and your work for good reason, it is superb work.


  7. janet says:

    Hi, Darrell,

    No one deserves to be abused. No one!

    So how do we stop the abuse? Stopping it lies in the minds, thoughts, and actions of each one of us.

    If we shift that thought just a bit – from stopping the abuse or fighting against the abuse – to standing firm for and living mutual respect, tolerance and non-violence, maybe, just maybe, we could all be living in a peaceful, powerful, prosperous world.

    The concept is the same. The words are different. The energetic difference is huge!

  8. Stephanie Bennett Vogt says:

    Walk away.

    Those two words are so simple, yet profoundly empowering.

    Thank you, Janet. I needed this (lightning bolt) message right now.


  9. Savina Cavallo says:

    Very good article on abusive relationships. Most of us have experienced this, unfortunately. We may think there is a victim and an abuser, and in a way I feel there is. But I also now know that everyone is damaged in this type of relationships.
    Breaking free is not as easy as it sounds, just like breaking any habit. IT’s simple but complex. Abuse is like a drug addiction. We know it’s killing us but we can’t stop. It takes something from within to make us wake up. I don’t know what exactly made me aware, but it happened. I took the step to stop the abuse. I was sick of it. After that, it was a long process of knowing myself and trying to understand why I allowed myself to be abused, and for so many years.
    I’ve done the work, I understand now. But, it still remains a mystery why it took me so long. I am grateful to God and myself for having the courage to break free.

  10. janet says:

    Hi, Savina,

    I began waking up when the pain (directed inward) turned to anger (directed outward) and I decided I deserved better treatment than I was receiving. As soon as I made that decision, the abusive conduct stopped.

    Warm regards,


  11. Roy Smith says:

    Everything that we experience in life is by our own choice, perhaps for reasons of spiritual growth or perhaps because of karmic payback. Recommended reading: “Your Soul’s Plan” by Robert Schwartz and “A Course in Miracles.”

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