In this episode of Frank Relationships, Frank Love and Dr. Gayl are discussing the ABCs of breaking up with Ellyn Loy, Director of Clinical Services, House of Ruth. Want to know how to end it with ease and what to do when things aren’t quite going to end so easily? Check out this week’s episode of Frank Relationships.
FRANK RELATIONSHIPS: ABUSE AND HOW TO EXIT RELATIONSHIPS
Guests: Ellyn Loy
Date: November 09, 2012
Frank: This week we’re discussing ABCs of breaking up. Want to know how to end it with ease and what to do when things aren’t quite going to end so easily? Stay tuned.
Welcome to Frank Relationships where we provide a candid fresh and frank look into relationships with the goals of acceptance, respect and flexibility. I’m Frank Love and you can find me, my blog and my various social media incarnations at: franklove.com.
Once again I’m joined by my co-host, Dr. Gayle. What’s up, Dr. Gayle?
Dr. Gayle: What’s up, Frank?
Frank: She’s got a doctorate in psychology and she’s not afraid to use it. This week we’re joined by Ellyn Loy, the Director of Clinical Services at the House of Ruth. A 35 year old non-profit that’s known throughout the country as the leader in the fight to end domestic and interpersonal violence.
Ellyn is in charge of programs that provide counseling, shelter, telephone-based counsel, abuse intervention training advocacy and legal and extended residential services. So, if you want to know a few tips on getting out of a relationship with ease, what abuse is and how the House of Ruth provides protection, ladies and gentlemen I suggest you join Ellyn Loy, Dr. Gayle and myself as we explore the topic of my book, How To Gracefully Exit A Relationship and issues pertaining to abuse when the break up isn’t so easy. Welcome, Ellyn. How are you?
Ellyn: I’m great, thanks. How are you guys?
Dr. Gayle: Good morning.
Ellyn: Good morning.
Frank: Alright, question number one. Breaking up, is it a bad thing?
Ellyn: Well, it depends on how the relationship is going. If it’s a good relationship and both people want to say in it, that sounds real good. If it’s a good relationship and one person wants to stay and one person doesn’t, then you have to figure out how to end it gracefully. If it’s not a good relationship, then it’s probably better to end it.
Frank: Is it attempting to end it gracefully, even if it’s not a good relationship?
Ellyn: Well, you can always try, but when it’s not a good relationship and when I say–there’s a difference between something being not a good relationship and something being an abusive relationship; relationships where people have some problems communicating or they really don’t have the same values all the time or they just don’t really like each other that much anymore, because people change. That’s one thing. But in a relationship where there’s abuse, it really changes the rules. Like when you’re in an abusive relationship, the only thing that’s really important is safety: physical safety, emotional safety, your safety, your children’s safety. You can’t look at it all the same way.
Frank: I think that there are a lot of people that would disagree with that.
Frank: If we’re in an abusive relationship, clearly there’s some other things that are important to the players, whether it’s the person being what we call abused or not. Otherwise, they would just leave. So, clearly there may be some financial issues. There could be some commitment issues. There could be issues around wanting companionship. So, it doesn’t sound like people who are in, what are considered abusive relationships are only thinking about safety.
Ellyn: I totally agree with you. I totally agree with you. There are all of those considerations and all those considerations are really important. And in a lot of abusive relationships, a lot of the relationships we deal, people still very much care for the person who’s abusing them and they have children together and they have a life together. But in the end, if someone is hurting you physically and emotionally and sexually, you have to balance out in your mind. You do a plus and minus, a spreadsheet of, “How am I going to figure out for myself and my kids?” It’s not healthy for yourself or your children to stay in a relationship where someone’s being abused.
Dr. Gayle: Mrs. Loy, I’m glad you brought that up about people staying in relationships, regardless of the fact that they are being abused sexually, mentally, physically. Could you speak about your experience with that?
Ellyn: This is my personal belief from my experience. It’s that mostly people fall in love with the loving part of somebody–
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Ellyn: They don’t fall in love with the abusive part.
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Ellyn: Like so, they’re waiting for that person that they fell in love with to come back. And they’re holding in their mind what’s good about that person, what’s good between them. Like they have children together or they bought a house together or they’ve had wonderful times together. But now, they’re having to kind of balance that out with, “He calls me a fat ugly bitch,” or “He smashes me against the wall,” or “Every once in a while he forces me to have sex.” So, she’s trying to figure out in her mind which of those is the most important at this point
Dr. Gayle; Kind of like the lesser of two evils. Right?
Ellyn: Well, in some ways. People who are in abusive relationships sometimes have to make really hard choices, really hard choices.
Frank: How do you deal with the transposition of values? So, if you believe you, being Ellyn–
Frank: Believe that a person should not be willing to be treated a certain way or talked to a given way–
Frank: And another person believes, “Hey, I’m fine with being talked to that way as long as the bills are getting paid.”
Frank: You may feel as though the situation is abusive. The party that you may be speaking to may say “Hey, it’s worth it as far as I’m concerned.” How do you balance the two in your counsel, in your services or even in your conversation?
Ellyn: Well, that’s a good question, because lots of times, you don’t–when you’re–Gayle, you know this. Lots of times you don’t agree with what a client is saying or what they’re doing, but this really isn’t about you. It’s about them and you have to allow people to make the choices in their life that they feel are the best for them. And especially with dealing with people who’ve been abused, because abuse is about control.
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Ellyn: So, you have a person who’s in a relationship and I’m going to say this is true whether it’s a male victim or a female victim. It’s about some body trying to control you. So, if the issue is there’s somebody in your life who’s trying to control you, either by hitting you or calling you names or threatening you, you’re really losing your sense of that you know who you are and that you can make choices for yourself.
So, when you go to somebody to get help, it’s really important that, that helper understands that part of what would has to happen is, you’ve got to get your autonomy back. You’ve got to let a person realize they can make decisions for themselves and that you’re there to help them sort through. You’re there to help them know resources that are out there.
They might not know that there’s legal things that they can do. They might not know there’s places they can go to get housing assistance. They might not know there’s places they can get free therapy for their children. They may not know all that, so just knowing that information might help them make a choice. But it’s a very rare case where I would tell somebody what to do. The only time I would tell somebody what to do is if I felt like–if they had told me a story about like, “He’s sitting at home with a gun and a six pack of beer.” I might say to them, “You know, I really don’t think its safe for you to go home today.”
Dr. Gayle: Exactly Mrs. Loy. We call that patient our client-centered therapy.
Dr. Gayle: Right. We meet the client where they are–
Dr. Gayle: We don’t provide any of our personal opinions. Whichever direction they want to go in, that’s where we help them with that.
Frank: You mentioned autonomy. Some say, and I’ve heard different clergy, and people of all walks of life, say things to the effect of, “You lose autonomy when you get in a relationship.”
Ellyn: Well, I think a healthy relationship really helps each partner maintain their autonomy. I mean, we try to teach people and talk to people about, “There’s me, there’s you, and then there’s us.” But don’t ever want to lose you. Right?
Frank: Some would say, “So, why being a relationship if you’re not interested in losing you?”
Ellyn: Well, because first of all, it’s a rough world out there. Don’t you think?
Frank: Oh, yeah.
Ellyn: So, like having partners in life, whether as really good friends or intimate partners or families, I feel like it really helps people keep connected to the earth. It’s really hard to be out there without feeling connected to other people. It’s part of our humanity.
Dr. Gayle: Right, and we’re social beings.
Frank: But when we talk about relationships most of the time, particularly marriages, we’re general talking about what–and nothing is, no relationship is infinite. They’re all finite. But we’re generally looking at it in an infinite prospective, as a relationship that doesn’t end by a way of someone calling it quits. We’re talking about relationships that stay–
Frank: Indefinitely. So, when we’re talking about those types of relationships, again, how does the autonomy of it play out? Because, when we’re looking at other friendships and other, let’s say business relationships, most of us look at those as finite. They will end at some point.
Frank: How do you balance the two? And mind you, I’m not saying that–if you’ve listened to the show, I’m pretty much clear you know in the way I do things, in my presentations that all relationships are finite. But everyone doesn’t agree with me, so how do you weigh in on that?
Ellyn: Well, I think you go into it with the hope that this is somebody that you’re going to grow old with and that your family’s going to grow old with. That’s the hope. But I think what happens in a relationships is people change, first of all. Right, like I’m not the same–like I’m over 60. Right? I’m not the same now as I was when I was 27 and I got married. And my husband isn’t the same either, and we’ve been married 35 years. And neither of us are the same, but we’ve allowed each other to become who we are now.
Dr. Gayle: Uh-huh.
Ellyn: So, that’s the autonomy, but then also we still are who we are together.
Dr. Gayle: Uh-huh.
Frank: Okay. You–
Ellyn: So, I think part of it is allowing somebody to be who they are. One thing, a lot of people go into a relationship and they think, “Well I really like this person. If they would just get a better job, it would be good.” So, then their thought is, “Okay, we’ll get together and then I’ll help them get a better job.” Like you’ve to go into a relationship with, “You know what? Basically, what you’ve got is what you’ve got.”
Frank: Here, here.
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Ellyn: You can’t make somebody be something that you want them to be. That’s a set-up.
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Frank: Indeed. Now, we-you alluded to it a bit when you said that abuse is about control, but you didn’t nail it. I want to know, what is abuse?
Ellyn: Okay, so I’m going to give you what our standard definition would be. Right? That abuse is a pattern of coercively controlling behaviors, whose intent is to exert power over someone else in an intimate relationship. And that kind of controlling behaviors can be physical, they can be sexual, they can be financial, they can be emotional, they can be–we would add technologically now to that. You could just be trying to control some body through electric media; that kind of thing, which is really emotional abuse. So, the three words that are really important are patterned. Right?
Ellyn: You’re in a relationship, you get angry at one another, you call each other a name, and maybe you even push somebody or grab somebody. If that’s the only thing that’s going bad in your relationship, you probably need some help. You probably need to figure out how to communicate a little bit better. You probably need to figure out how to deal with anger.
But abuse is about a pattern. It’s happening over and over again. It’s not just that you’re calling him, “A stupid ugly slob and that he’s terrible in bed,” but you’re also throwing things at him. You’re also stealing money from him. You’re also threatening to take the kids away from him. That’s a pattern of behaviors and it’s coercively controlling. It’s what happens if you don’t do what I want you to do? Like let’s say–the example I always use this is, let’s say you’re in a relationship, your girlfriend or your wife wants to go back to school and you really don’t want her to go back to school, because you’re afraid that if she goes back to school she’s going to get a better job, she’s going to make more money than you, she’s going to think she’s all that and you’re not going to be able to control her anymore. But you don’t want to tell her that she can’t go back to school, so you do things like this. You don’t bring the car back–
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Ellyn: Or you say to her, “That’s alright. You can go to school, but I’m not taking care of the kids.”
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Ellyn: “You better find out who’s taking care of the kids.” Or the night before the exam, you keep her up all night trying to get her to have sex with you. Or you show up at the school and make a scene in front of her other classmates. So, that’s what you do to get what you want. “How can I get her to do what I want her to do or not do what I don’t want her to do?” So, it’s got to be coercive, it’s got to be controlling, and it’s got to be–mostly it’s a pattern of behaviors.
Frank: Some would say our attempts at monogamy could very well be categorized under what you just said. Certainly a pattern is attempts to get someone to do what you want them to do. How do you weigh in there?
Ellyn: Well, the whole thing around cheating and stuff like that, it’s so, it’s really, really hard to talk to people about making a commitment to a relationship and what that means. And so for me, it’s kind of both people in a relationship have to have kind of a similar value around that; like they have to both be able to define the relationship in the same way. So, like we we have an abuser intervention program, so we work with a lot of men who have been court ordered to attend a program. And they’re really honest about what they feel and what they think and that’s really a good thing. But they’ll say, “Well. I grabbed her phone, because I thought she was talking to someone else.” “Well, so when you grabbed her phone was she talking to someone else?” “Yeah.” “So, what did you do?” “Well, I broke the phone.” “Well, do you ever talk to someone else? “Yeah, of course. Sure.” “Well, is that okay?” “Well yeah, it’s okay if I do it, but it’s not okay if she does it.”
Frank; What if the two of you all do not have the same agreement or long standing agreement–
Dr. Gayle: Statement of values.
Frank: Yeah, one that exists today. It could have been you agreed yesterday, but today you don’t agree about monogamy.
Frank: Again, under the definition that you gave, the actions that we take fall under abuse.
Ellyn: Well, you’re going to a problem, of course. If one person believes that they want to be monogamous in a relationship and the other person believes that they don’t want to. You’re going to have a problem, because there’s different expectations, and people are always going to get hurt and then both people have to make a decision. “Do I want to stay in a relationship?” Or “My partner and I are not defining the relationship in the same way or not,” and unfortunately people get hurt in relationships all the time.
Frank: All the time.
Ellyn: But there is a difference between getting hurt and I mean, we see women all the time with their faces bashed in, with their skin burned, with their hair cut off, with their arms broken, with their legs broken. Just horrible. Their eye sockets broken. That’s different than hurting somebody by disappointing them, by leaving them, because you’re not in love with them anymore. I mean, they’re both serious hurts, but one is life threatening.
Frank: Some would say both are life threatening; people who are in situations where they’re being broken up with and we’re about to talk about that very soon. Some feel as though their life is ending. It’s I mean–
Frank: I’m, I’m the first to say, “Hey, take a close look at that,” to someone who may be saying that to me. However, it is said and it is seriously felt.
Ellyn: Right, and so what do you do? You acknowledge that, “Yeah I know it feels like your life is over. I know it feels that way. So, let’s try to figure out to help you realize that, that may not be true.”
Frank: I want to take it back a minute, because we didn’t quite get to the heart of it. And I asked you about the person who wants to be in a monogamous relationship and the things that they may do to try to make it happen. Is that considered abuse?
Ellyn: Well, it’s considered abuse, like we normally think of abuse as being something that has an element of harm in it. Right? Like it’s one person doing harm to the other and are they doing that harm in an attempt to control that person?
Dr. Gayle: Right. I would think your definition Frank, is more manipulative, rather than abuse.
Ellyn: Yes, I agree.
Frank: Well, it’s my definition is actually her definition, but given the definition that she gave me, it was it went to the heart of the things that we often try to do when we want our partner to be monogamous; a pattern of course of controlling behavior whose intent is to exert power over someone in an intimate relationship.
Dr. Gayle: Well, I completely disagree. Monogamy is something that’s different verses abuse. Abuse is you’re putting someone’s life in danger, you’re threatening them. As she said it earlier: physically, sexually, financially. Just stating that, “I want a monogamous relationship,” most people wouldn’t think that you’re trying to coerce someone into doing something negatively. You know what I mean? To be monogamous in a relationship.
Ellyn: Right. Well said.
Ellyn: Exactly, I’m with you.
Frank: I didn’t say that monogamy and abuse are the same thing. I said that–
Dr. Gayle: I disagree. You said, “Is monogamy the same as abuse?”
Dr. Gayle: Monogamy is not is not the same as abuse.
Frank: That’s not what I said. I said, “The things that we do in an effort to have monogamous relationship are they abusive? So, they’re not–
Ellyn: Like what? Like what?
Frank: Well, often when we want monogamy. Let’s say, me and my wife, I get the inclination that she may want to date someone else. Well, I may very well take the credit card. I may go upstairs to my room and cry and say, “She doesn’t care about my feelings.” Well, and I could create a pattern of doing things like this or I could say, “Hey, you don’t care about me or the kids. You’re just willing to go out here and do anything that you feel like without regard to how it affects us.” Well, that’s a pattern of being coercive and controlling–
Dr. Gayle: Which is leading to abuse, but it’s not the same as / abuse.
Ellyn: / Right.
Frank: Who’s intent is to exert power over someone who I’m in an intimate relationship with. There’s no way–neither of you have said anything that points to that type of behavior, not fitting that definition.
Ellyn: Okay, but see to me, I would ask you like, “Why do you want to equate monogamy with abuse?” I don’t understand how that’s helpful in helping people try to understand, which I think your show is about; helping people understand that relationships are difficult. And how do you know when you have a healthy relationship and how do you know when you don’t and how do you know when it’s time to not be in a relationship? So, trying to define monogamy as abusive and there’s probably lots of people that think that, they think, “Wow, having to stay with one person your whole life? My God, that’s really abusive.”
Dr. Gayle: Right and if you don’t want it, just exit the relationship. Don’t call it abuse. That doesn’t make sense.
Frank: Well, the reason I brought that up was really not to challenge monogamy. It was to really go to the heart of the looseness of the term abuse. And it is a loose term, but we can move on.
Ellyn: But you know what? I want to agree with you there though. I do. I think a lot of people are quick to say, “That’s abuse. That’s abuse. That’s abuse.” And that’s probably not a good thing, because then it does make it hard to distinguish what’s just problematic, what are problems in relationships that are real and have to be addressed. And what is abuse? It’s actually more likely that people don’t call things abuse that are abuse.
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Ellyn: Like people say, “Oh, that’s just a communication problem.” Well, putting your hands around somebody’s neck is not a communication problem.
Dr. Gayle: And particularly, I think that when its other things other than physical abuse, as you stated earlier, like financial, withholding bank statements and letting people know how much you make–and particularly emotional abuse, calling someone names and coercively as you stated or being very passive aggressive about it–those are the things that people don’t typically tend to pinpoint as abuse.
Frank: Passive aggressive. What’s that? What in the world are you talking about?
Dr. Gayle: Go on with your next question.
Frank: No, we’re not–I mean you, you may be talking to me in that exchange right there, “Go on with your next question,” but our audience wants to know, “What is passive aggressive?”
Dr. Gayle: Let’s say in laymen’s terms, doing something indirectly in order to gain control. So, rather than stating that, “I’m going to take away all the credit cards or you’re not going to have any money, because I don’t like you because you did something to hurt my feelings,” you do it indirectly. You know what I mean? On your own terms. While you’re at work you take someone’s name off the account or you close all the accounts down, so that when they get to the grocery store they don’t have any money at the grocery store. That’s a similar way of being passive aggressive.
Frank: Okay, moving on. In a relationship and I want out. What do I do?
Ellyn: Well, I think there’s some general things that are there. But again, if you’re in a relationship that’s physically dangerous, you have to add some other things in there. Because in a physically abusive relationship or sexually abusive relationship, because abuse is about control, when one partner decides they want to leave the relationship, what does the other partner feel? That they’re losing control.
Ellyn: Right? And so, generally what people do when they feel like they’re losing control, is get even more controlling.
Dr. Gayle: Uh-huh.
Ellyn: Right? So, if she’s in an abusive relationship and she says, “I’m leaving.” That makes him feel like he’s losing control of her and so he gets really, really more controlling. And this is where in some ways it becomes the most dangerous time for women.
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Ellyn: You know, where he may lock her in the house, where he may take her phone, where he may say, “If you leave me, I’m going to kill you.”
Frank: So, she should do what?
Ellyn: Well, she’s got to make a plan. She’s got to make a plan. She’s got to look at what her circumstances are and this is where working with somebody from the House of Ruth or somebody else, is really helpful. Like are there legal things that you could do that you feel comfortable with that might give you some protection. Are there things that you want to get out of the house, before you tell him or her that you’re leaving so that they don’t destroy them?
But some, some general things that we tell people is–first of all, people should generally know what’s going on in a relationship, right? So, if a relationship isn’t good, you should be talking about that all along. The hardest thing is when it’s a surprise out of nowhere, like, “I had no idea that you didn’t like me anymore. I had no idea that things weren’t going well.” So, it’s really good if people kind of generally know. “Well, we have problems in this relationship. I’m not happy. You’re not happy. We’re not after the same things.” You got to put it in a way that creates the least amount of drama–
Ellyn: Because that’s when the danger starts. And I tell people, “You have to make sure that you give somebody one message and one message only.” Do you know what I mean by that?
Frank: Here, here.
Ellyn: Yeah, so like you got to say, “I want to break up, because our relationship isn’t good for me,” or “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore,” and no matter what the other person does, don’t get engaged in a conversation. Just say, “I’m sorry, the relationship is over. I do not want to be in a relationship with you anymore.” And when he says or she says, “Can we just be friends?” Say, “For right now, this relationship is over.” I wouldn’t even say for right now. “This relationship is over,” because any indication that you give that you’re willing to let this person back in is going to probably be problematic.
Dr. Gayle: And it also sends mixed messages to the other person.
Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships with Frank Love and Dr. Gayle. And we’re talking to Ellyn Loy, Director of Clinical Services at the House of Ruth about getting out of relationships with ease.
So, Ellyn are you saying that there should be no discussion when a person says that they want out of the relationship?
Ellyn: Well, I think if someone is sure that they want out of the relationship and they’re really trying to break-up with somebody, it’s best to say, “You know what? This relationship is over for me. I do not want to be in a relationship with you anymore.” And that is a different message than saying, “I’m unhappy, let’s talk about our relationship.” You’re at two different places.
Frank: In my book, How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship, one of the things that I propose is written agreements before the marriage or before taking steps where you can’t go back such as having children. What are your thoughts on having written agreements on how the relationship will end, how stuff will be divided, how custody would go, before even beginning the concrete pieces in a relationship?
Ellyn: Well, I mean none of those things are binding, are they?
Frank: Sure they are.
Ellyn: You mean like a legal document?
Frank: Absolutely, pre-nuptial–
Ellyn: Oh, well I think if people want to do that–I mean, I think it might save some arguing and stuff like that if the relationship does end. And I think discussing things like that in the front-end can help really clarify things for people. But it’s probably a pretty difficult discussion. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have it.
Frank: Here, here. I’m going to read to you a quote from a blog that I wrote some time ago, and I like to know what you think. It may challenge some of your thoughts on abuse and it certainly challenged mine and let’s see what it does for the audience, too.
“I recently spent time with the brilliant Byron Katie. During that experience one participant stood up and asked “how to come to peace with physical abuse.” Katie masterfully described a fenced yard with a dog and a sign that says, “This dog bites.” She explained that if you don’t want to be bitten, you simply walk away from the yard. However, if you enter the yard and get bitten, the dog didn’t bite you, you bit yourself.”
Ellyn: Well, there’s some parts of that analogy that could hold on, but really–and a dog is different than a person, because the person who does the harm is always responsible for doing the harm. Right?
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Ellyn: They’re always responsible for doing the harm, so she may have made a bad choice of going in there, where there was a dog that bites, but the dog bit her. She didn’t bite the dog. And the other thing is that with people and human beings like sometimes there are warning signs, sometimes there are not warning signs, so, most of the time you don’t fall in love with the abusive person. You’re not walking to the place where the biting dog is, you’re walking into the place where the dog is really nice when you pet him and they lick you and they love you and they’re giving you joy. And then, six weeks after you’re in a relationship, or eight weeks after a relationship, he starts monitoring your phone calls and then three weeks after that when you don’t want to have sex, then he forces you to have sex. And you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t know. It’s still pretty good most of the time.” And then, the next thing that happens is you want to go out bowling with your friend and he doesn’t want you to go and so he bashes your head against the wall. But that’s not how it started.
Frank: Well, much of what you said is actually supportive of what Katie says. You said, “The first step is, he starts monitoring your phone calls.” Well, that’s the sign that says, “This dog bites.” And then you said, “He starts forcing sex.” Well, she’s gone back or he’s gone back. Let’s make it clear that here are both sides. This just doesn’t affect one sex. And then she goes back or he goes back. Then he wants to go bowling, she wants to go bowling and maybe he bashes are head in or she takes a knife to him. Well–
Dr. Gayle: The difference though is–
Frank: As we look back at monitoring phone calls, again, “This dog bites.” What do you do when you see the first sign that “this dog bites?” That’s part one of my question.
Ellyn: Okay, right and you know what? You’re actually right, because people do see signs and sometimes they don’t recognize the signs and sometimes they don’t want to recognize the signs.
Frank: Uh-huh. So, if you don’t want to recognize the signs, are you absolved of all responsibility for the situation you might find yourself in?
Ellyn: No, well of course not. Grow-ups are always responsible for the situations they’re in, but that doesn’t mean they’re responsible for the abuse. They’re responsible for the decisions they make around that–sometimes. Because we always say, “If somebody wants to kill you, they’re going to kill you.” It doesn’t matter what you do.
Dr. Gayle: Right, and Mrs. Loy as you stated, both persons are responsible where the human beings are concerned, but with the scenario that you stated Frank, the dog is not as responsible as another human being is. You understand what I’m saying?
Dr. Gayle: Both parties are responsible. Yes, the abuser has a responsibility as well as the victim has a responsibility.
Frank: But that does not support the statement around the responsibility always falls on the person doing the harm. And what you just said, the responsibility falls on two places.
Dr. Gayle: It does.
Frank: But what Mrs. Loy said a few minutes ago, was that the responsibility falls on one place and that’s on the person doing the harm.
Ellyn: Well, each person has–
Dr. Gayle: I don’t think that’s what she said.
Ellyn: Has their own sense of responsibility. So, yes, she is responsible for making choices around her life. And there factors that influence that, that we’ve already talked about, right? Like trying to figure out, “Okay, so now we just bought a house together and he’s beating me up. And so now, I have to decide, should I be homeless or should I get hit every once in a while.”
Dr. Gayle: And oftentimes in abuse, it doesn’t initially start with physical abuse.
Dr. Gayle: So as you stated–
Frank: That’s the sign, “that says this dog bites.”
Dr. Gayle: No, no, no.
Frank: It’s not.
Dr. Gayle: Because oftentimes, you don’t realize the subtle signs, like monitoring calls or withholding information or stating that it maybe said in a different type of manner. “I would like for you to stay home, but a passively aggressive way, the person wants them to stay home. Why? Because they want control and they don’t want them to be out with their friends.
Dr. Gayle: And so later on it could lead to physical abuse, but–
Dr. Gayle: You already been emotionally in this relationship or emotionally involved in this relationship where, boom, out of nowhere, you’re physically abused, but you’re already engaged and engrossed in this relationship emotionally.
Ellyn: So, Frank, let me as you a question. Do you believe that abuse is an acceptable behavior?
Frank: Do I believe? Well–
Ellyn: I told you I was going to push back.
Frank: I love it. The thing is, I don’t use the term abuse, so, in order to even answer that question we have to nail–we have to get to an agreement around what abuse is. Number one, which I’m okay with, we can go there. The other is I also don’t think that there are any victims. I believe that we all have power and that every situation that I find myself in is a learning experience.
Dr. Gayle: I completely disagree with that.
Ellyn: Yeah. Me too.
Dr. Gayle: And just because you don’t believe in abuse doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. You could believe that the sky isn’t blue. That doesn’t mean that the sky isn’t blue.
Frank: Well, I didn’t say, I didn’t believe in abuse. I said I don’t use the term.
Dr. Gayle: Well if you don’t use the term that means you don’t believe in it.
Frank: I don’t use the term, is specifically what I said.
Dr. Gayle: So what term do you use?
Frank: Well, it depends on what the situation is. So, let’s say–and I’m glad you ladies are popping this out here. I was watching a re-run of “King of Queens,” where the wife was upset at the husband and she belted him. And I’ve seen this happen on several episodes. But she nailed him right in the gut and he keeled over and fell to the ground and the audience laughed. He looked stupid. She looked like she was angry and like she had dealt with the problem. Well, that could be considered abuse
Dr. Gayle: Yeah, but you have to think about the context of it. Was that? That sounds like–I don’t watch that show, but it sounds like it’s a comedy, so it could have meant to be for the use of being a comedy to gain a laugh out of it verses when someone purposefully punches someone hits someone to evoke anger and pain
Ellyn: Right, and see the thing is that’s a really good example, because what she did was not okay. You don’t hit people that you love, so that I think we probably all agree on. But is it a pattern of coercively controlling behaviors in their relationship? That’s what makes it abuse.
Her hitting him once means, “We’ve have a problem in this relationship. I get angry. I hit you. That’s not okay. I don’t want our children to see that. I don’t want to believe that’s the way we’re going to solve problems. I want to be able to communicate with you.” But that is different than if that whole show was about all the awful things that she does to him
Ellyn: Including punching him in the stomach when she’s angry at him.
Frank: Going to the–
Ellyn: But that show isn’t about that.
Frank: Well, going to the heart of the pattern of coercively controlling behavior. So, she didn’t like what he did, she has belted him in more than one episode. So, it is a pattern. She didn’t like what he did and she doesn’t want him to do it again. It certainly could be considered abusive–
Ellyn: Yeah. Yeah.
Frank: Now, let me be very clear. I am not saying it’s abusive. I’m simply saying, the nuances that go into this are exactly why I don’t use the term. Instead, I would say something to the fact of, “She belted him. She hit him in the stomach and she does it regularly.” Now, if you call that abuse that’s your business, but I would not call it abuse. I would give it color.
Ellyn: / Okay, but see there’s also–
Dr. Gayle: / But you can say what you–
Ellyn: But the two things falls from that is, “What’s the impact of the behavior?”
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Ellyn: And that’s a lot of why we feel like it’s important to name something that’s abusive, because there’s a particular impact. It has an impact psychologically and emotionally on the people that it’s happening to. It has an impact on the people who are around it, specifically children. And also, those kinds of things can create trauma for people and trauma has an everlasting effect. It changes your brain chemistry.
Dr. Gayle: Exactly.
Ellyn: There’s physical changes. There’s a lot of things that happen at the result of that one behavior.
Dr. Gayle: And there’s longstanding effects and it’s simply providing insight for the person. By giving it a definition and saying what it is, you’re providing insight. Because, as you stated–I’m glad you bought up the fact of trauma. Because let’s just give a scenario. A family: mom, dad, kids. And the kids are brought up in this abusive relationship or an abusive household, then that trauma–being exposed to trauma that early on in life, that leads to the children either being an abusive relationship themselves in the future or being the abuser in the future. That’s typically how it works.
Frank: I want to point out that we have amended the definition of abuse in the last few minutes. So initially, it was a pattern of coercively controlling behavior whose intent is to exert power of someone in an intimate relationship. Now, we’ve added where there’s a longstanding impact. I just want to point that out and we can move on.
Now, Mrs. Loy–
Frank: Give me some history on you. We’ve been going into the meat and potatoes of all this; the issues of breaking-up and discussing abuse. I want to know you. Tell me about yourself.
Ellyn: Well, okay. So, I’ve been at the House of Ruth for 35 years. I’m a clinical social worker–
Dr. Gayle: Uh-huh.
Ellyn: I’m going to give you my flavor, which is, I grew up in the 60’s. I was a political activist. I consider myself with strong feminist gleanings. I consider myself definitely to the left of the left.
Dr. Gayle: Uh-huh.
Ellyn: And I’ve been in a happy stable marriage for 35 years,
Dr. Gayle: That’s amazing.
Ellyn: It is. Maybe I can tell you about the fight we had about the phone earlier this morning. But my work at the House of Ruth has really just been really a privilege. I’ve met so many incredible people–men and women. Just courageous, strong people really dealing with difficult things. And the thing about domestic violence right now in Baltimore city, is that it’s compounded with so many other problems.
Ellyn: Incredible poverty, lack of resources. We all know, there’s no low income housing, right? Where are folks going to go?
Frank: It’s phasing out. Yes, it is.
Ellyn: Where are folks going to go? Jobs, the public school system continues to fail people. People can’t get jobs. There’s a lot of substance abuse. There’s a lot of untreated mental illness. There’s a lot homelessness. There’s still a lot of divide between people in Baltimore; this kind of divide between east Baltimore and Baltimore and west Baltimore. They might as well be a different country over there. You know?
Ellyn: So, I think there’s lots of the problems that compound this issue of domestic violence. And plus, violence in the community that we continue to do harm to one another in ways that is really starting to affect our population as a whole. We have a large traumatized population. Don’t you agree with that, Dr. Gayle?
Dr. Gayle: I completely agree with it.
Frank: If anybody cares. I agree, too.
Dr. Gayle: Really? Wow.
Ellyn: Of course we care.
Frank: You got a lot going on in our communities, for sure. For sure. And there’s trauma and pain all over the place.
Dr. Gayle: Uh-huh.
Frank: You’ve listening to Frank Relationships with Frank Love and Dr. Gayle. We’ve talking to Ellyn Loy of the House of Ruth. Ellyn, Would you tell us how to get in touch with you?
Ellyn: Yeah. The House of Ruth has a 24-hour crisis hotline, so there’s counselors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And that number is 410-889-7884.
Frank: We’ve been talking about getting out of a relationship with ease and issues pertaining to abuse. I’ve had a ball and have been thrilled at the opportunity to explore many of the important issues that affect our families and communities. We’ve discussed making a plan to get out of a relationship when it isn’t working, the definition of abuse and the need to talk along the course of a relationship about its state.
I hope you’ve had as much fun as I have chopping it up with my guest and co-host. As always, it’s my wish for you to walk away from this conversation with a heaping, helping of useful information that will help you create a relationship that is as loving and accepting as possible. Let us know what you thought of today’s show at facebook/relationshipflove, on twitter at @mrfranklove or at franklove.com. Until next time, keep rising, This is Frank Love.