In response to last weeks blog on Power and Control in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), I wanted to take a minute to discuss 8 aspects of non-violent relationships. When we are able to feel safe in relationships, we are able to create greater intimacy through vulnerability, which allows for a greater level of connection.
Non-Threatening Behavior- As previously mentioned, abusers will often make threats in order to gain power and control and frighten their victim. On the contrary, non-threatening behaviors include talking and acting so your partner feels safe and comfortable expressing themselves. In the context of healthy relationships, both partners are able to feel safe to communicate their emotions and experiences without the fear of being threatened or abused.
Respect- This includes listening to your partner and making space for both people in the relationships. Abusive relationships often feel one-sided and fragile. When both partners can be emotionally affirming and understanding, it creates an environment of safety and nurturing.
Trust and Support- This includes supporting your partners goals in life and respecting their right to have their own feelings, friends, activities, and opinions. Often in abusive relationships, abusers will attempt to isolate their partners in order to have control over them and keep them from leaving. In healthy relationships, both partners stay because they want to be in the relationship, not because they are afraid to leave.
Honesty and Accountability- We’ve all been around people who are unable to accept accountability or acknowledge their part in anything. This can be a frustrating experience. When we can accept responsibility for ourselves and our imperfections, we are able to embrace our humanity and live a more honest life. Being able to communicate openly and truthfully can lead toward feeling more connected to our partners.
Responsible Parenting- This includes sharing parental responsibilities, being a positive role model for the children, and creating an environment of safety and non-violence. Parents will disagree on things because we are all human but when we can model healthy and effective communication and conflict resolution, it was be a valuable learning experience for children.
Shared Responsibilities- This includes mutually agreeing on a fair distribution of work and making family decisions together. When one person is responsible for everything, this can create resentment and lead partners to feeling less connected. Creating a plan can be helpful in making sure responsibilities are taken care of.
Economic Partnership- Often in IPV relationships, the abuser withholds money or resources in order to have control over their partner. Healthy relationships allow for both partners to be involved in financial decisions together.
Negotiation and Fairness- All relationships will have some level of disagreement or conflict. Studies show that the healthiest relationships are not about not having conflict but rather having the ability to navigate conflict in a healthy way. This includes seeking mutually satisfying resolutions to conflict, accepting changes, and being willing to compromise.
When we are able to apply the above principles to our relationships, each partner has space to feel safe which allows relationships to grow. Effective communication involves allowing space for both partners thoughts and feelings and being able to share the talking floor. When there is mutual respect and safety, we are able to process struggles in a helpful way and move forward rather than staying silent out of fear and later feeling resentful.
Bio: Shannon McHenry is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a specialty focus in childhood trauma, rape and battering, and PTSD. She is a trauma therapist in Los Angeles and works with clients in her offices in Los Feliz and Torrance. Combining clinical experience with a passion to support women in repairing their relationships with themselves and others, she has supported many to create a long-lasting recovery from destructive behaviors. Call Shannon today to book your first appointment.