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Success is not always what you can see

Please note - this article is written from my own professional experience, which has been with men who beat up their women partners. I have very little practical experience (less than 2,000hrs) helping people experiencing domestic violence within the LGBTQI community, so this article is for the men who beat up their women partners. Others write with much more authority on other types of domestic violence.

In medicine we are told repeatedly - "Do not treat the symptom - treat the cause!!" Yet with domestic violence, we treat the symptom - those on the receiving end.

I have seen so many women, so many children seeking help for the violence they've copped. I see fewer perpetrators. I'd like to see more of the people who are stuck in patterns of lashing out as a coping mechanism.

I have over 12,000 hours experience helping men (yes, specifically men) who are violent in some way, overcome the drivers of their violence. To regain their self control. To regain their dignity, their self respect.

If you're living with a man who's violent, you've likely forgotten how to access your own strength without feeling like you're betraying him. But you haven't given up on him. You have stamina. You need to remember your strength isn't attached to his. Do what you can to regain your core emotional strength.

If you're living with a woman who's copping your violence then you've likely got a bit of self stigma. Recently I spoke at a function about this issue, and invited the men in the room - "Stand up all the men in the room who beat up your partner."

Unsurprisingly, no one stood up. "Have a look around - who's standing up?" I asked.

If you're beating up someone who loves you, there are ways out of this lifestyle.

Here's some starting points:

1/ Firstly, consider what you want. Are you ready for something better? If so, go to the next question. If not, ask yourself how bad does this need to get before you stop this behaviour and regain your dignity? Remember you didn't stand up a few moments ago, so you're not exactly proud of what you're doing.

2/ If you're ready for a better lifestyle, consider what you'd prefer. Who has what you want? Think about this in terms of behaviour only.

  • Don't think about status or pecking orders, or possessions or glamorous bits. Just consider the felt experience of other people's relationships. If this is a bit tricky, consider who's wife looks at him in ways you wish your wife looked at you. Does she look at you with admiration and tenderness? Probably not, hey.
  • How do those blokes handle their anger? Their frustrations and disappointments? Hint: they have effective self-leadership techniques they probably learned really early in life. It's ok to ask them how they handle their stronger emotions and how they think about things going wrong with the people around them. Ask them the question - "How do you manage things when everything's wrong? What do you do to stay on track and not do things you end up regretting?" Most blokes are happy to be unofficial mentors, so asking the question is a bit of pub-appropriate respect. Don't be shy here - all good.

3/ What did you used to have? When did things change? Did something happen? Something definite, something a bit more intangible? Consider this bit extensively. There are probably important keys in this. It's not just about what happened - it's about how you perceived that to impact on you and your future as her partner. It's important to re-work your relationship to that initial event. It might've been something that happened, something you worry might have happened, something you realised, but whatever it was, it has stayed with you. Or maybe it just crept up on you - like how things changed when your first child was born, or second child…. Talk about this too. Talk to the guy standing beside you at the pub, or beside you on a particularly annoying commute. Maybe even talk about it with your partner.

4/ Between work and home you have time to prepare for the chaos of the home environment.

  • Use this time to consider that you're about to leave a relatively ordered work environment where you know where you stand and how things stack up. Consider that bit, reflect on it's predictability and challenges.
  • Then consider your home environment where everything is more messy, less predictable, noisy, overly stimulating even. Get prepared for arriving home not by exerting the strength of your manhood, but by exerting the strength of your gentleness. Men with significant personal strength are gentle. They can be tough and powerful, but they're gentle with those who care about them. Prepare your gentle side, your patience, your acceptance for the onslaught of home life.

5/ Acknowledge the difficulty of being a man in the modern world where everyone has 'special needs' of some sort. Acknowledge your own special needs. And most especially acknowledge the strength within your gentleness.

Lashing out at those who love you is not a legacy worthy of you. Freeing yourself into a life of self respect and dignity is about you changing. Not her. It's not her violence. It's not her behaviour. It's you with the force. If you don't think so, consider that you're not powerless, that her need for your love doesn't mean you have to become a caveman. Love calls us to step up within yourself, it's never about changing someone else. When you're living well you know this. Let's get you living well again.

If you want to talk - and if you are a good decent bloke at heart - let me know. I provide coaching sessions by phone, Skype and in person in Sydney's CBD. I've helped more than 500 blokes like you, it's likely I can help you out of this too.

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