How Abuse Affects Relationships

How Abuse Affects Relationships
A child, who has been abused by their parents, learns to survive the abuse on a daily basis. They learn how to get through the chaos of their days. The abuse they endure has a great effect on their relationships with their parents, as well as others as they get older.

Prime examples of this are the behaviors of a child in school when being abused at home. There are many telltale signs when a child is being abused. For instance, some abused children completely withdraw, while others bully their classmates. Some abused children will react hastily in times of conflict, while others will allow their classmates to walk all over them. In all of these examples, none are healthy reactions.

Many child abuse victims run away from home to escape the abuse. I remember when I was about six years old. I packed my tiny little suitcase and headed out the door and down the many stairs to the downtown area. I had no idea where I was going, I just remember wanting so desperately to get out of the home. Ironically, as I was heading down the stairs, my mother was on her way up the stairs after working all day. I saw her and high tailed it home.

While my story can be viewed as somewhat comical, it truly isn’t. Our home life was so terrible, that at 6-years-old I simply wanted out of it. There are many pre-teens and teenagers that are successful in running away from home. However, what they face on the streets is often times just as terrible, if not worse. They leave their homes, in the hopes that they will find peace and acceptance. What they often find is more danger.

One way that the abuse affects one’s relationship is during times of conflict. The individual has learned, as a child, how to avoid conflicts at all costs. They did whatever was expected of them and weathered the constant beatings, whether they were physical, mental, or emotional. Don’t be fooled into thinking that physical abuse is the worst kind of abuse. I believe that mental and emotional abuse is worse because it affects how you cope in life. Verbal and emotional abuse can cripple a child and leave them in a constant state of depression or anger. Yet, they internalize everything. They trust no one.

During times of conflicts, some survivors of child abuse will run away from the conflict at hand and avoid the person that is creating the conflict. This person will tend to be the one that is emotionally battered and beaten yet will say nothing in return. They will not take a stand on their behalf; instead, they allow the batterer to continue berating and intimidating them.

Other survivors of child abuse will become aggressive during times of conflict. They will show their aggressiveness either in their physical actions or through the words they speak. This is why some child abuse victims go to school and bully others. It is the only way they know how to deal with conflict. They live this behavior at home and repeat the vicious cycle at school with their classmates.

Another way in which childhood abuse affects relationships is when the victim or survivor will not allow anyone to get too close to them, whether it is physically, intimately, or emotionally. This type of individual does not trust anyone and will not take the risk of building a relationship, in case they get hurt. When someone tries to get physically close to them, they will take steps backwards to create a certain distance between the other person and themselves.

This individual will not allow anyone to get too intimate with them either. I believe this is because they are unsure of how to handle an intimate relationship, since those types of relationships are based mainly on trust. If this person is hurting, they open up to no one. Again, they internalize everything. They will not allow themselves to love anyone and will not allow anyone to love them. This, I believe, is so that they do not get hurt.

All of the behaviors I have listed above are done in order to protect one’s self. The child abuse survivor does not want to be hurt in any way. They don’t want to feel anything emotionally, because it often hurts when they allow themselves to feel with their heart. Instead, they function in life solely with their mind. They have learned to stay one step ahead of their abuser, as a child. They go through life trying to stay one step ahead of everyone else. I know, because I practiced that behavior for many years.

I believed that if I stayed one step ahead, I could prevent myself from getting hurt. I was also not good with conflicts. I would break down and cry in the midst of a conflict. Or, I would simply walk away and avoid it altogether. I did this even with people that I knew loved me. I simply wanted no part of a conflict. I did not want to feel the pain that came with conflicts.

I believe that therapy is a great tool when trying to heal from past abuses. I believe very strongly that one can find peace as an adult, after having survived the horrors of child abuse. During therapy, the patient can practice role playing. There are also conflict resolution classes that the individual can participate in, as well as anger management classes. Participating in a group setting, such as a support group for survivors of child abuse is another great way to gain healing.

If you are struggling with conflicts in your life, please know that it is a normal factor in one’s life when they have experienced child abuse on any level. There are resources available in your community to help you. I encourage you to reach out for help, in order to heal from past abuses.

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This content was written by Kelli Deister. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Erika Lyn Smith for details.