Abusive Relationships: How Friends and Family Can Help

Table of contents for Abusive Relationship Help

  1. Abusive Relationships: What if You Still Love Them?
  2. Abusive Relationships: Situations-Symptoms of Stockholm Syndrome
  3. Abusive Relationships: How Friends and Family Can Help

This is Part 3 in the series. If you missed Part 1 and 2, please click the above links to read first.

Dr. Carver states that Stockholm Syndrome develops involuntarily-the victim does not purposely develop these feelings and responses. They are done to survive a threatening and controlling environment and relationship.

The victim’s self-worth and emotional health is so tied to the relationship that they believe that they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended. The more dysfunctional the situation, the more dysfunctional the victim’s adaptation to survive and make the relationship work. When the victim reaches the point of realizing that the relationship doesn’t work and can’t be fixed, they will need to loving support of family and friends to return to a healthy, positive lifestyle.

While each situation is different, Dr. Carver provides these guidelines for friends and family:

-Your contacts with your loved one may be met with anger and resentment. This is because each contact may prompt the abuser to attack them verbally or emotionally.

It’s often best to establish predictable, scheduled contacts. Calling every Wednesday evening, just for a status report or to go over current events, is less threatening than random calls during the week. Random calls are always viewed as “checking up on us” calls. While you may encounter an answering machine, leave a polite and loving message.

Remember that there are many channels of communication. It’s important that we keep a channel open if at all possible. Communication channels might include phone calls, letters, cards, and e-mail.

-Importantly, don’t discuss the relationship (the controller may be listening!) unless the victim brings it up.

The goal of these scheduled calls is to maintain contact, remind your loved one that you are always there to help, and to quietly remind the controller that family and loved ones of the victim are nearby and haven’t disappeared.

The victim needs to know and feel they are not rejected because of their behavior. They know they are being treated badly and/or controlled by their partner. Frequent reminders of this will only make them want less contact. We naturally avoid people who remind us of things or situations that are emotionally painful.

Victims may slightly open the door and provide information about their relationship or hint they may be considering leaving. When the door opens, don’t jump through with the Marines behind you! Listen and simply offer support such as “You know your family is behind any decision you need to make and at any time you make it.”

Try to remain calm and await an opportunity to show your love and support when your loved one needs it. As relatives or friends of a victim involved with a controller or abuser, our normal reaction is to consider dramatic action. We become angry, resentful, and aggressive at times. Any aggression toward the controller/abuser will result in additional difficulties for your loved one.

Click Here to Read the Full Article by Psychologist, Dr. Joseph Carver, Love and the Stockholm Syndrome.

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2 Responses to “Abusive Relationships: How Friends and Family Can Help”

  1. Laurie Says:

    My daughter is the victim of a verbally abusive relationship with her husband. They have 2 small children. This article describes to a ‘t’ the situation we are facing. I’m so grateful that I came upon it in my researching of tbe issue. I have done a bit of reading about it and I feel I have a basic understanding of it, but I am having a great deal of difficulty on a daily basis knowing that at any given moment there could be a very serious situation occuring. This situation, to me, is an emergency much like a house on fire and I can’t say or do anything to get my daughter& grandkids out. It’s as if she runs from room to room avoiding the actual fire but suffocating in the smoke and it’s only a matter of time until there are no more rooms to run to. I could never simply stand by if there were a physical fire and I don’t know how to just stand by and watch as she & the kids are consumed.

  2. R.H. Says:

    Laurie,
    There is no doubt that it is a difficult situation to observe with those you love, knowing that life could be different. As Dr. Carver mentions in the articles referenced, a person who has been in the situation for a long time often is no longer aware that life could be different or more normal because, to survive emotionally, the person has begun accepting the way things are as the norm. The truth is too painful to face. Your daughter does need you to stay supportive; there will be windows of opportunity for you to express your love and support in ways that do not make her feel condemned for having chose that relationship, as well as in ways that does not focus on criticizing her spouse, but dreaming of “good things” for her future. In manners such as these, you work to keep communication open between you and your daughter. Then, where the moments come where she snaps back –for lack of a better term– and is able to admit to herself that things need to change, she will know that she can come to you for help. As much as it hurts, we cannot help a person when they are not ready to admit they need help. It is also helpful to already have thought through a protective plan of action for the day that your daughter does admit that she needs outside help; depending on the anger responses of the spouse, it may be necessary to have other living arrangements for her and the children that would be non-accessible to the spouse while things are worked through. It would be helpful to talk to a local women’s abuse shelter just to get their input on potential responses of the spouse and what provisions you would need to make; they also usually provide free counseling and may be able to provide your daugher and her husband a nuetral location to meet with a qualified counselor to keep things civilized as they discuss their future. Trust this helps and we pray that you will soon see opportunities to bring health and healing to your daughter’s life. –ReceiveHealing.com

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