How many times have you said, “I didn’t have a choice?” This is a phrase that is uttered by many to justify their behavior or complain about their life circumstances. Surely, we can continue to believe there are no choices, but it is my belief that kind of thinking is what greatly contributes to our frustration and limits strength and amount of personal power we experience.
Whenever you are in a situation where you believe there is “no choice”, remember that there are always at least three choices. Every situation has at least these three possible solutions: you can leave it, change it, or accept it. Each option will look different in every situation.
Let’s examine options of a woman in an abusive relationship. I am concerned that women in abusive relationships have no safe place to seek help or to talk about their issues. There is an embarrassment about sharing what is happening in their lives. An abuser will convince his victim that she is in some way to blame for his abuse. This, often, will cause a person in an abusive relationship to suffer in silence. I want to provide a safe place forum for women needing to share and to learn that they are not alone.
I, in no way, mean to imply that there are no men living in abusive relationships. This can create a seriously demoralizing situation for a man. How does a man explain to his friends that his wife or girlfriend beats him up or is constantly verbally and emotionally abusive? I believe there are many more men in such relationships than we think. Because they carry a special stigma if they admit what is happening in their lives, most stay silent. There can also be domestic violence in same sex relationships. However, for purpose of this article, I am writing as if perpetrator is a male and victim is a female.
The first choice in a situation such as this is to attempt to change situation. Many women will try to have everything perfect for their spouse or partner. They walk around on egg shells, believing that if only they are better, more loving, more submissive, quieter, more invisible, then their man will not hurt them. Many women in abusive relationships are willing to put in a lifetime attempting to change their partner’s behavior. Of course this is a futile attempt because people do not change for someone else. They change when their current behavior stops working for them and sometimes not even then. I might ask a woman, “How long are you willing to wait for him to change? You’ve already spent 10 years, are you willing to spend 10 more?” This is a question only woman can answer because she may be willing to wait her entire life. It is not for me or anyone else to decide what is best for another person. After all, we are not in her skin. We can only presume what we may do in same situation but right answer for us may not be right answer for person going through it.
The second possible outcome is to leave it. In an abusive relationship, this would mean ending relationship. Many women in abusive relationships are afraid to leave because they believe their partner will hunt them down and possibly kill them or at least claim their “property” and force woman to return. Statistics tell us that more women are killed in abusive relationships who remain in relationship than who leave but tell that to family of one woman who left and was killed by her husband. Statistics don’t do much then. Again, it is easy for us to decide it would be best for a woman to leave her current situation but do we really know what’s best for another person? Do you want to be one carrying that responsibility? Leaving is definitely a viable option but it should only be made by woman who is in relationship. There are organizations set up to help victims of domestic violence escape violence of their situation but laws become very tricky when there are children and custody situations involved. Some women stay because they won’t leave their children. Many stay because they are committed to their wedding vows that said, “In sickness and in health. Till death do us part.” No one can decide for another person that she must forsake her vows if keeping them is her highest value. I might ask a woman if she has considered all of her options and thought of consequences of each choice. Then, I would ask if she believes that leaving is best option and is she willing to pay possible consequences of that choice. Is paying possible consequence of leaving preferable to staying in current situation? Is risk worth it? For some, it definitely is.