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Violent relationship: Knowing when to take a walk

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Most people go into relationships with a view to enhancing their lives, finding greater fulfilment, happiness and companionship. But while some relationships become cordial with the passage of time, others wither and become toxic, as the parties involved grow apart. In such case, the relationship may degenerate to the point of becoming abusive physically and emotionally. For how long should one endure an abusive and violent relationship? Are there ways and means of managing it?

Dr. Raphael James, a psychologist, said misunderstandings are bound to occur in every relationship, as it involves two people from different backgrounds, environments and upbringing. This demands a lot of tolerance and accepting each other’s mistakes.

He said that a degree of toxicity exists in nearly all relationships, due to people’s imperfection, but it only becomes alarming, when it develops to the level of being a health hazard. But once a relationship moves from name-calling to physical violence or substance abuse, it has gone beyond the point of no return.

“Couples should feel contented with what they have,” he said. “Trust is basic because wherever it exists, jealousy cannot thrive. Studies have shown that when a partner starts to raise his or her hand to the other, it will never stop. And once a partner starts assaulting the other, there is no stopping. So, the best thing is to walk away.”

Grace Festus, a Certified marriage counsellor explained that a toxic relationship is harmful to either of the parties involved.

She said: “Any form of abuse, whether verbal, emotional, sexual, physical or financial, is harmful to anyone. When a relationship limits the affected partner from enjoying life maximally, the person diminishes emotionally and in other areas. Such persons won’t look their best and may probably look older than their actual age.

Their esteem may be affected, as they may feel they are not good enough to have attracted such selfish partner; or that no one may be interested in them, if they lose the current relationship.

“Let’s get married because we are committed to adding value to our spouse’s life and not for selfish reasons. And instead of abusing one another, let’s forgive, because great relationship is made of givers and forgivers.”

On her part, Mrs. Justina Udunna, a marriage counsellor and relationship expert, said when violence enters a home, that relationship becomes a place of death, a war zone and not a place that gives life.

“This is not God’s plan for any relationship,” she said. “Violence introduces fear, anxiety, instability, lack of unity and cooperation in handling family issues.

“Quarrelsome and violent husbands/wives are sad people, who need help before they do serious harm to their spouses and children. Our research revealed that some women stay in bad marriages because marriage is said to be for better or for worse. Others may not want to leave because of their children, while fear of the unknown prevents others.

“But women must realise that a violent man cannot change without therapy. If you are in a violent relationship, please report it to your counsellor or seek fprofessional help. Violent husbands convince their wives that they get beaten because they are bad wives, who fail to please their husbands. But this is not true. A violent husband or wife is someone that just likes to inflict pain on their spouse.”

So, when should one quit a violent relationship?
“It is advisable to stay away immediately the violent attitude starts and seek help from professionals before it gets out of control. Professionals may manage it, if help is sought on time and if the abuser is ready and willing to get help. This is to avoid the abused person losing his or her life or any part of the body before it gets too late.

“Violent men and women need professional help and those who live with them need to be counselled and supported. Everyone should join the campaign to eliminate violence in relationships,” she said.

Dr. Pius Adejoh, a sociologist lecturer at the University of Lagos said the word ‘toxicity’ has a negative connotation.

“Every relationship that will be enjoyed and bring good rewards must be founded on very strong foundation, which consists of mutual trust, mutual respect and compatibility principles. If the parties are not compatible, the relationship will only last for a while before the manifestations of conflicts, veering towards toxicity.

“Compatibility comes in different forms, but it is essentially inward. It has to do with character, attitude and value system of the two parties involved, who must enjoy communal values, beliefs, aspirations and worldviews. But the moment that fails, we begin to see cracks in the relationship.

On the management of a toxic relationship, Adejoh said: “There is no single template for everyone. It is essential to diagnose the particular situation and its cause before any prescription can be made.

“If the relationship is toxic because the woman is not submissive, then it is required that she has a rethink and do the needful. There are times though, when some men make their women not to be submissive. Some men treat their women as objects, animals or pieces of cloth to be used and dumped. There is a level to which you push a woman and she starts to show her other side. It is possible for a man to turn an ordinary wonderful woman into an animal and vice versa.

“The push for gender equality should be done with moderation. Gender study and equity must not focus only on men, but also on women. For many centuries, the society has been patriarchal. So, if this is to be changed, it should be a gradual process. Those championing women equality and empowerment appear to be focusing only on women, forgetting that women can never make any headway without men’s support. There must be a balance. As they are urging women to rise and up their game, let the men also feel there is also something for them to allow for compatibility.

When should an individual walk out of a toxic relationship?
Adejoh says: “I would natural have asked: ‘what is an individual doing in a relationship he/she is not enjoying? Would you wait until you are dead before leaving?”

“But it is not as easy as that. We are social, as well as spiritual beings. Many are influenced by religion. For instance, the Bible says divorce is the last thing, but only on condition of adultery or when you cannot forgive. If Jesus forgives you all, what can’t you forgive? This is why many Christians endure bad relationships. But my take on the religious view is: “if you discover that a relationship is threatening your life, religion does not say you cannot separate. Separation is a middle ground between divorce and staying in a bad marriage. If separation would help, why not opt for it? It is better to be apart and alive than staying in a toxic relationship

“Socially, I would say there is no point staying in a bad relationship, if you have done everything humanly possible to restore amity and it’s not working.

“This has, however, led some people into single parenting, which I must say is a challenge and burden to the society and the individual, economically, emotionally and psychologically. To reduce this, couples in a relationship must understand what marriage is. It is the coming together of people, who were hitherto different; agreeing to become one and this demands continuous working and mutual concession and compromise. Let our socialisation and that of our children be right. If they are well and rightly socialised, chances are they would be able to manage their relationship well.”


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