What story do they tell?
In my early days of talking about domestic abuse, people would always cite bruises as an indicator that abuse had taken place. But what if there are no visual clues?
I didn’t know I was in an abusive relationship until a policeman pointed it out to me. This was 5-years after I had left the relationship and was still getting hassle from the perpetrator. Even then, I didn’t believe it was abuse, I just thought it was a ‘normal’ acrimonious separation involving a child. Because to me it was normal, so I accepted it.
Many of my clients tell me about what is going on their relationship and I occasionally have cause to suggest to them that theirs is an abusive relationship. Usually their first response is ‘but he doesn’t hit me’.
We talk about it further and I explain that words and actions can be equally as damaging as physical violence.
Over time, I help them work out what they want to do in the future; some choose to leave the relationship, others choose to stay and develop coping strategies. It is always my clients’ decision and I support her appropriately. If however, I truly believe she is in danger, then I will intervene.
Over time we work together to fix those unseen bruises, the aches and pains that no-one else knows you carry around day after day, hiding them Behind the Mask.
Stepping Behind the Mask is scary, you never know quite what you’ll uncover. But when you know the underlying cause of any symptoms, you can start to fix them.
The bruise in the photo is of my hip. I was recently knocked off my bicycle by a car. That bruise and a bent and twisted bike are the only visible signs of the accident. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have damage and pain in other areas of my body.
Next time you ponder about your relationship, think about more than what you and everyone else can see. Download my e-book that tells my story about what it’s like living Behind the Mask: “Whatever it takes: Living with Leaving and Surviving Psychological Abuse”
It’s a bit of a milestone in anyone’s life and I was asked how I ‘really’ feel about turning 50. Well the truth is I’m really happy about it.
The first 3 decades of my adult life weren’t great; 2 abusive marriages, a failed business, personal bankruptcy, a stint working in the sex industry, a ‘Pretty Woman’ moment then led to a third abusive relationship before I hit rock bottom just after my 40th birthday. I was depressed, suffering panic attacks, on anti-depressants and beta blockers and was too scared to leave my home. I was terrified people would discover that I’d been a sex worker and I desperately wanted my life to end. I certainly didn’t want to reach 50.
I wanted my life to be over, the sooner the better. I didn’t love myself and I believed I knew, and had absolute proof, that I was unlovable – I believed I’d discovered the evidence for why people didn’t love me!
So what changed?
I lay on my kitchen floor in the foetus position, feeling sorry for myself and and something inside me snapped. I recognised that the only way my life would change is if I took responsibility for it. No-one else was going to change my life for me.
Within 2 years I had gained my Equity card and Spotlight membership, I was fitter and healthier than I had been for a very long time and I had reconnected with the love of my life whom I’d first met 15 years before.
8 years further on from that at the ripe old age of 50 I’ve used my experiences to create a business that is built around my SIM© Methodology, embracing the lessons I learned from the sex industry, and the knowledge I’ve acquired as a result of studying for a psychology degree with the Open University, and latterly training to become a certified Neuro Linguistic Programming Coach, certified Hypnosis practitioner and certified Time LineTM Therapy practitioner. All of which are tools I employ with my clients where appropriate.
At 50 I’m fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been before, in the past couple of years I’ve run a half marathon and I’m seriously considering running another one next year. I have a healthy relationship with alcohol which used to be my drug of choice and I have a healthy relationship with food.
My relationship and sex life is fulfilling, full of unconditional love, trust, respect and fun and I have an amazing relationship with my 16-year old son.
I have a growing business which is something I’d only previously dreamed of and I’m helping women Internationally to change their relationships for the better.
For the first time in my life I have a healthy bank balance and perhaps more importantly, now I’m 50, I have a healthy pension pot. In the past year I’ve taken more responsibility for my finances than ever before. I’ve worked out what I need to do to clear the last vestiges of debt from the 10-year legal battle to become my son’s primary carer.
We have the ability to change our life and our relationships. As soon a we start taking responsibility for ourselves and then taking tiny consistent action, things change.
This might be a bit controversial but bear with me.
Throughout life we are told we need to take responsibility for ourselves, our choices, our actions, our behaviour and so on.
So why is it, when there are problems in our relationships we are quick to apportion blame to our partner and stop taking responsibility?
No matter what is going wrong in your relationship, some of the reason for the issues will lie with you – there are after all 2 people in a relationship.
“How can you say that Deb, if someone is in an abusive relationship?”
Well, whilst I’m in no way saying anyone is responsible for being the victim of abuse, and we cannot be held responsible for the behaviour or actions of another, we are responsible for our choices.
Having had 3 abusive relationships I know I did not deserve to be abused however, I take responsibility by acknowledging I CHOSE to enter into those relationships, I CHOSE to stay in those relationships, I CHOSE to ignore the warning signs before and during those relationships, I CHOSE to allow the behaviour to continue without being challenged.
Likewise, when I had a partner who cheated on me, I acknowledged responsibility too – at the time I was more preoccupied with other things going in my life and not giving him the attention he wanted. We often take our partners for-granted and when I looked back I could see where things had gone off track.
This in no way condones any of the behaviour of my ex partners but it recognises that there were two of us in the relationship, each reacting to the other in one way or another, each believing that their reaction/behaviour is correct and acceptable so continuing to behave in the same way. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.
Most of our behaviour is learned from family and those around us, we have rules we live by on a day to day basis but in our own homes there is no-one, other than our partner, to challenge our behaviour. If poor behaviour goes unchallenged it becomes normalised and accepted, regardless whether the behaviour is actually acceptable.
What behaviour are you allowing to go unchallenged in your relationship at the moment?
What behaviour are you exhibiting that you could change to make an improvement to how you perceive your relationship?
On World Theatre Day (Saturday 27th March) I reflected upon why I named my coaching practice Not A Rehearsal. Whilst I truly believe life’s Not A Rehearsal, my coaching practice is alsonamed to acknowledge my love of the theatre.
As a teenager my dream was to become a professional actor. I was offered a deferred place at RADA but turned it down when my then boyfriend proposed. I was 19-years old and we’d been together for 6 years. The prospect of being apart for 3 years whilst I studied was just too long.
I settled in my relationship and I settled in life.
I settled for getting cast in leading roles in amazing productions in the local Amateur Dramatics community; from Irene Molloy in Hello Dolly! and Katie Brown in Calamity Jane, to Elizabeth Bennett in Pride & Prejudice, Lady Windermere in Lady Windermere’s Fan, Alice in a semi-pro production of Vinegar Tom, and the World Premiere of an opera, The Barber of Saville Row.
I learned to sing properly and to dance, I even learned to tap dance for Stepping Out and pushed myself beyond my comfort zone time and time again to deliver performances I could only otherwise have dreamed of.
My second husband wasn’t at all supportive of my acting passion and did everything he could to belittle me, mock me and destroy my confidence. But when I left him, I returned to the only thing I knew that made me feel truly alive – the stage.
Gradually my confidence increased and one-day I dared to apply for an audition in a professional touring production of a play.
I got the part and I knew my life would change from that point onwards.
It did. It led me to my partner, to the only unconditionally loving relationship I’ve ever had.
Following my dream, pursuing my passion, achieving professional status in my early 40’s enabled me to change my life.
It’s only right that my business name should reflect my belief, my passion and my desire to help other female professionals to create the relationships they truly want rather than simply settling; after all, life’s really Not A Rehearsal.
I don’t know about you but as a child I often heard the phrase “Wouldn’t it be nice to be a kept woman“. Back then I really didn’t understand what it meant but I recognised that it meant you would be looked after financially as you grew into adulthood and beyond.
Today I’m delighted to bring you a guest blog from Kelly East at Luna Financial Planning about the perils of being a kept woman and how you can start your path to financial independence.
Having spent over a decade in financial services, I have met countless wonderful, clever, intelligent women who still receive an ‘’allowance’’ from their husbands for housekeeping!
Some women still have no idea what it really means to be financially independent and why they should start this process NOW!
My role as a financial adviser is to help clients, (particularly women) to really come to terms with what it means to be financially independent. I help clients embrace their financial freedom and guide them step by step through all of the stages and obstacles life throws at them on a daily basis.
Depending on experience, my clients may need help understanding what their financial goals are. For some it could be a very short term goal such as saving to buy a car or maybe a long term goal such as saving for retirement. The key is to always be realistic and specific and to start as soon as possible.
If you plan to support yourself and maintain financial independence, you need a clear understanding of your personal finances. Start by looking at your bank and pension statements, tax returns (if you’re self-employed), and any other investment / savings accounts you may have. Knowing your figures is the first step to success.
According to Netwealth, it is the woman who suffers the most in heterosexual marriages following a divorce. They found that women are often the party with fewer financial assets. Women are more likely to take time off to care for family, and this can often result in lower earnings as well as a smaller pension pot in retirement.
Tellingly, nearly two in five divorced women regret not maintaining greater financial autonomy (39%) and greater financial engagement (37%) over the course of their relationship, according to the research.
Men fare far better, with 44% stating they have already saved or expect to save enough to achieve a comfortable retirement, for example, Netwealth found. I completely agree with Emma-Lou Montgomery, associate director for Fidelity International who said women need to start planning now and not wait until the worst happens. Giving some thought to what you would need in retirement should your marriage break down admittedly isn’t the most romantic of things to do, but it is important to be realistic.
Fidelity International found more than half (56%) of married women do not have a ‘Plan B’
arrangement in place. According to the Government’s own Wealth & Assets survey, one in ten married women admitted they plan to rely on their spouse’s pension in retirement, for example, even at a time where divorce affects around one in two couples. Worryingly, the same Government research found 17% of married women surveyed had no pension of their own at all.
Even those who do have much less saved; a typical woman has a pension worth just a third of a man’s, according to research by NOW: Women have pension worth £51,100 while men have around £156,500. Over-reliance on a partner for financial stability is all the more concerning with the rise of co-habitation, where those who are unmarried would have no automatic rights at all to the other’s wealth in the event of death or break-up.
A divorce can completely unravel both spouses’ finances for various reasons, which is why it is important you take control of your money after a marriage ends so that you can secure your own financial independence as soon as possible.
Budgeting is something each of us should be actively doing on a monthly basis no matter what our circumstances are. Why? because if you don’t know how much money you have coming in every month, how can you realistically expect to understand if you can afford to pay for the items you are spending on each month. Everyday expenses such as mortgage or rental payments, food, utility bills, children’s clothing, insurances, fuel, birthdays, Christmas, holidays etc etc . These are just a few of the expenses we may need to budget for …. the list goes on.
As a financial adviser I really do understand that the very start of a financial relationship with yourself is budgeting. I have created a FREE comprehensive budget calculator available for you to download and use at https://lunafinancial.co.uk/which covers items that perhaps you don’t ordinarily budget for, but nevertheless definitely need to be accounted for.
Our budget calculator will help you clearly identify if your current income is suitable to cover your current expenditure. It’s very easy to use and it’s there for you whenever you need it.
Budget for self-care.
It’s easy for anyone, but especially parents, to neglect their health and well-being during divorce. Self-care, particularly during a stressful transition, is critical. You can’t take care of your children if you don’t take care of yourself.
There are thousands of free yoga and exercise videos on YouTube instead of expensive gym memberships. Our local library offers lots of free classes including meditation and mindfulness as well as offering lots of free to rent books and movies.
Pensions on Divorce
Pension sharing isn’t always the first thing divorcing couples think of. Typically, most people focus on what will happen to the family home. But pensions are a huge asset and important when planning your future – so deciding what to do with them is extremely important.
There are three options for dividing up pensions as part of a divorce:
- Pension Sharing. Pension sharing is a formal agreement to divide your pension assets at the time of divorce. The courts work out exact percentages and the receiving party can become a member of the pension scheme or transfer the value to a new personal pension in their own name. This gives complete separation and is the most common option.
- Offsetting. The value of the pension is offset against other assets. For example, one spouse keeps their entire pension, and the other is given alternative assets (e.g., property or cash) of the same value.
- Earmarking. All, or part, of the pension is earmarked to be paid to one party when the other starts to draw pension benefits. There is no legal transfer of ownership.
LUNA Financial Planning’s approach is one of complete and genuine care for their client’s wellbeing. In our experience the financial and emotional challenges of a divorce require specialised planning. By planning before, during, and after the divorce you can achieve an objective, thoughtful and equitable settlement. We are happy to form a relationship with your solicitor and between us we can work together.
Your credit score reflects your ability to get credit. The lower it is, the more you may struggle to get approved by certain companies. If you have little or no credit history, this could negatively affect your credit score. You’re probably thinking that’s a bit odd. If you’ve never needed to borrow money before and you have no debt, surely, you’re the perfect person to lend to? The thing is most companies like to see a good track record of sensible borrowing – it helps them decide if you’re likely to pay them back on time.
Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to get a high score without having used credit – even if you’ve taken other steps to improve your rating, like registering on the electoral roll.
It’s worth noting that some people may have a low score because of negative influences on their credit report, such as late payments. If this is the case for you, there are ways you can improve your score.
Ways to help build your credit rating:
Opening an account or getting a credit card can lower your credit score initially, before helping it improve. Experian Credit Reference agency suggest:
Get on the electoral roll. It’s quick and easy to register on the electoral roll. Companies use this information to confirm your name and address are correct and up to date, so it’s crucial to building your credit history. If you’re not eligible to register on the electoral roll (e.g., you aren’t a UK national), you can add a short notice of correction to your Experian Credit Report explaining why.
Open a bank account. Having a bank account and managing it well shows companies you’re financially responsible and starts to build your credit history positively. If you have an overdraft, stay well below the limit (using no more than 25% of it is a good rule of thumb) and try to pay it off as quickly as possible.
Get a credit card. If you’ve opened a bank account and are managing it well, the bank may also be willing to give you a credit card to build credit. Paying it off on time and in full each month will help build a positive credit history and improve your score.
Take out a small form of credit. This might be a mobile phone contract. They’re usually easier to get accepted for than credit cards but can still demonstrate your ability to pay your bills on time and be financially responsible.
Manage your household bills well. Looking after your utility accounts (e.g., water, gas and electricity) can help build your credit history and show companies you’re responsible. Even rental payments can improve your score, provided you make them on time and in full.
Thank you to Kelly East for this informative and practical advice. I also come from the school of thought that it’s important to have more than one stream of income. If you’d like to learn more about one of my income streams, enter your details here to watch a short video.
Recently I have spent a number of hours each week working at my local hospital. It’s certainly been eye-opening and I have so much respect for my colleagues who have worked at the front line for the entirety of this pandemic thus far.
But what has struck me most, and something I’m privileged to witness, is the diversity of relationships that I’m party to during my time there.
There is the obvious patient/clinician relationship, and all staff are trained to help patients who are anxious and worried at this time, to ensure their visit to the hospital, however long, is as comfortable and stress-free as possible. Something that requires a lot of resilience in these testing times as procedures seem to change with each new news report.
Then you see the parent/child relationship. Where I’m working it’s often mid-life children accompanying their elderly parents. A generation who as war babies were the most vulnerable at the time of their birth and now once again, find themselves among the most vulnerable in our society.
Then there’s the couples; young and old, long and short term. The young couples barely seem to talk to each other, heads down glued to their mobile phones giving silent moral support in their joint isolation. And the elderly couples, worried about what news may be imparted to their loved one, looking after each other with an enduring love that so many of my clients seek for themselves. They will often have spent the entire day at the hospital for one short appointment with a clinician who could potentially change the course of their life.
And I see the couples where there is obviously conflict or abuse, often the individual won’t even recognise that the conflict is there but for someone finely tuned to detect it, it’s obvious. I see myself in the women or men who present scared of their own shadow, their partner doing all of the talking for them and complaining if their appointment is more than just a few minutes late because they, not the patient, are being inconvenienced.
I relish talking to the patients, giving a smile, behind my mask, ensuring it reaches my eyes. Making what I hope is a reassuring gesture to those who arrive worried and anxious. And doing all I can to make their brief interaction with me as pleasurable as possible. For those who can’t walk without assistance and have a long wait, I fetch water from the water cooler, and I’ve assisted those who can’t read or write to complete forms that are confusing enough for the most literate of us.
You see all of life in a hospital, the good, the bad and the ugly; but for me, the best parts of wearing PPE and having the constant sting and smell of hand sanitiser as company, is giving random acts of kindness to worried strangers, and observing the myriad of relationships that play out day by day in the midst of a pandemic serving as solid reminders that life really does carry on amidst the ebb and flow of whatever nature throws at us, and that strong, healthy and robust relationships can endure whatever adversity is pushed across their path.
Today is 4th October 2020. 17 years ago today I got married for the second time. We were blessed with a warm, crisp and sunny Autumn day and were surrounded by family and friends in the small country house hotel we had exclusive use of for the event.
Little did I know then what experiences that marriage would bring me. I’d been married before to a physically and sexually abusive man who had beat me up for the first time on our wedding night. I was adamant that my second marriage would be for life.
My husband had quite literally swept me off my feet, carrying me in his arms on our first date when I had my leg in plaster and we had to climb some stairs. He was tall, dark and handsome and that gesture won many smiles, comments and claps of approval as he showed all onlookers that he would look after his woman.
Less than 2 years into our marriage and I was feeling that something wasn’t quite right. It would be another 2 years before I left, a shell of the woman I used to be.
At first, I shrugged off his somewhat insensitive comments about my appearance, how he would belittle me in public or treat me with complete disrespect. I thought that I must be mishearing his outdated and misogynistic comments about women being second class citizens and belonging in the kitchen or the bedroom. And when I challenged him about it he would tell me I should be grateful that he didn’t beat me like my first husband had. What’s worse is that I actually agreed with him. Over time I had been indoctrinated to believe that he was right, I was wrong and that I couldn’t cope with day to day life without him guiding me.
When he sold our house without telling me and bought a new house, 30 miles away in the middle of nowhere, far from anyone we knew, I trusted him when he said it was only a temporary measure and if I was that unhappy we could move back. I trusted him when he told me that I was an alcoholic and needed help, standing over me as I called AA in tears, because I drank one glass of wine per night and on the nights I didn’t pour my own, he would pour me a large vodka and tonic, telling me ‘I needed one’. I believe him when he told me that I was incapable of looking after our son because I’d never had children before and didn’t know what to do. I believed him when he dissuaded me from cuddling our son because it would lead to attachment issues. And I believed him when he told me that him taking family photos or videos and leaving me just out of shot was accidental. All the while I was trying to keep a business afloat and a roof over our head because he wasn’t working.
When I left, I left our son with him and I believed that was the right thing to do. I also believed that I would be free of what I now know was psychological abuse or coercive control.
How wrong I was. That was just the start. The 12 years that have followed have been the years that I have had to pay emotionally, financially and metaphorically for having the audacity to leave him. And they have been far, far harder than the years I was married to him. Two lengthy and expensive court battles to prove that I was fit to be the resident carer of my son were the least of it. The staggering attempts at parental alienation to discredit me in front of my son, the social services and anyone else who would listen. The pursuit of my destruction, whatever it takes, to prove that everything he said and believed about me was right.
The two attempts to take my own life because I couldn’t take the abuse any more were long after I’d left him. I’d reached the end of my tether and I’d run out of energy to carry on fighting. Watching his father take metaphorical pieces out of me was damaging my son and I wasn’t prepared to put him through anymore. Thankfully, I didn’t succeed in my attempts but I was far from out of the woods and headed down some dark and dangerous paths before eventually I was fortunate to find a fantastic therapist adept at working with survivors of abuse. I met a partner who had first known me long before I met my second husband and who supported me in working through the abuse I had endured in both marriages and a subsequent financially abusive relationship.
Working through everything I’d endured gave me strength I didn’t know I had, it helped me to re-evaluate my life and redefine my relationships not just with myself but with my partner and my son who now lives with me. It gave me the courage to believe in myself and embark on a six-year psychology and counselling degree with the Open University. It opened new doors of opportunity for me as my self-belief, self-confidence and self-esteem returned. It made me determined that I would do whatever I could to try and ensure no-one else, regardless of gender, ended up an abusive relationship.
That’s a huge undertaking. There will always be those who abuse others. But if sharing my experiences and learning helps just a few more people, who go on to help others by modelling strong, healthy and robust relationships, then it will all have been worth it.
Change is scary, leaving your abuser is scary, the abuse never stops it just changes. It’s how you respond to those changes that matter. I still get ‘abuse’ every day, these days it’s usually sad attempts to discredit and belittle me in front of my son. I spend many days worrying about when ‘pay back’ is going to happen but these days I know I’m strong. I can take on any of the attacks that are coming because now I have a solid foundation built on trust, love and self-respect; all of the values that eluded me in my marriage.
Now I truly am FREE.
To help me share my story and give hope to millions of domestic abuse sufferers and survivors around the world please register to hear me speak at the Introbiz Global Summit alongside greats such as Les Brown, Brian Tracy, Sharon Lechter, Rob Moore, Lisa Johnson.
To learn more about my work please register for my FREE live training, 5 Days to Redefine your Relationships
Or join me in this workshop ‘From Surviving to Thriving’ on 19th November which I’m hosting with Suzanne Smart of Positive Imprint and Rachel Earing of Live 4 Energy.
I have a problem with the term ‘domestic abuse survivor’.
Bear with me on this. I’m saying this from the point of view of a survivor of domestic abuse. Most of my adult relationships have been abusive. I’ve been through physical, sexual, psychological and economical abuse so I tick the boxes.
I support all of the campaigns that help victims of domestic abuse regardless of gender, creed, colour or sexual orientation.
But I see the domestic abuse charities, the legal profession and numerous other companies vying for money and funding in the name of supporting domestic abuse victims whilst spending thousands upon thousands in advertising and marketing, aimed at helping women primarily, escape the terror they’re living with, to become a domestic abuse survivor.
What they don’t seem to grasp, at least from my experience, is that the abuse continues long after the victim has walked away from the perpetrator. Thankfully, there are a number of domestic abuse campaigners starting to change this perception.
Abuse is abuse. End of. There’s no one-upmanship amongst abuse survivors, if anything there’s gratitude from those who didn’t end up in hospital beds that they didn’t suffer as badly, but no-one keeps score.
Survivors know that when the abuse ends, the torment starts. Physical scars heal and fade but the scars you can’t see, the scars that linger in the depths of your mind and reveal themselves when you’re least expecting, those are the scars that torment abuse survivors.
But doesn’t seem to be recognised.
In the throes of rebuilding your life, protecting your children and trying to understand what a normal adult relationship should be, you are at your most vulnerable. Prey to those who recognise your vulnerability and those who naively offer help thinking they are doing you a favour. What they don’t understand is that a misjudged word or phrase, a boost up the ladder, a public declaration of your status or even just a paint colour in a room or office can send you back to a dark place in your mind, that forces you to relive painful memories as if they were actually happening again.
And when you mention it, when you react, you’re seen as being sensitive, irrational, unstable and incapable. And the very people who think they are helping you, layer on another coat of shame and lack of belief and low confidence until once again you start to believe that too and the helpers have become the unknowing perpetrators of a whole new cycle of abuse.
And the domestic abuse survivor gets stuck, not knowing who to trust, not knowing where to turn and when the legal profession and the domestic abuse industry turns them away because they’re not in immediate danger and don’t have physical injuries or scars to show the extent of their abuse, they feel lost, alone, abandoned.
This is when the abuse does the worst damage.
This is when the survivor gives up and believes that’s all they deserve. So they’re grateful for the unsuitable suitor who shows a little bit of compassion, they’re grateful for the employer who offers them a job that makes them feel a little bit worthy but pays them a pittance and treats them like dirt, and they’re grateful for every day they wake up without being attacked.
Eventually, if they’re lucky, they reach a point where they start to recognise that they really do deserve more than just settling and they start to question things around them.
But this means they have to put their head above the parapet, they have to have the audacity to suggest that yes, they deserve more, they deserve better and yes, there is more to life than this.
Gradually, they move through this phase, they reach forgiveness and acceptance and recognise that they can be anyone or anything they choose to be. They don’t have to rely on or depend upon a partner, they have a strength within them that they didn’t know they had, they have the strength to overcome any obstacle that gets in their way. They have the strength, the ability and the know how to create the life they want. Free from abuse, free from fear, fear from torment. Free from being labelled a domestic abuse survivor.
But the domestic abuse industry doesn’t grasp this. ‘Domestic Abuse Survivor’ has become a badge of honour to be worn with pride and used to justify behaviour and purpose.
Yes, I am a survivor of domestic abuse but to wear that as a badge or label that defines me just gives status to my perpetrators; as if I couldn’t have achieved a level of success without that badge, and it’s them who enabled me to win that badge.
So I’m going to stop calling myself a domestic abuse survivor. I’ll continue to share my story to help and inspire others but I’m so much more than a survivor of domestic abuse. It taught me so much more than how to define myself by a label bestowed upon me by a society that likes to label people and keep them in their boxes. The label isn’t fit for purpose anymore.
My experience of domestic abuse enabled me to have a greater understanding of human relationships. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Without the worst sorts of relationships I would never have been able to recognise a good relationship full of unconditional love. I would never have understood that abuse takes many forms, I would never have understood the power of the human mind, I would never have studied psychology.
But the best part of all, I would never have recognised how important it is to educate, coach and support people to create strong, healthy and robust relationships so that future generations can learn how to do the same from observing and learning from their parents and grandparents.
It has taken multiple generations to dilute the abuses that take place within the home, it will take multiple generations to replace that abuse by modelling strong, healthy and robust relationships across all social demographics but myself and countless others like me, carry on in the belief that one day, probably long after we’ve left this world, it will all have been worth it.
How often have you met someone who seemed perfectly lovely but left you walking away thinking ‘They seemed very nice but, I’m not sure, there’s something I can’t quite put my finger on’?
And how often do you ignore that feeling?
I can think of at least four occasions where I felt like that, ignored the feeling and it cost me dear. Twice it happened to me in business and in relationships I ignored that niggling doubt because so many other people were happy to associate with the individuals involved, so I carried on and just hoped that the feeling would go away, thinking ‘it’s just me’. The feeling didn’t go away and unfortunately, years afterwards I was proven right each time. I write about the impact of ignoring my gut instinct and suppressing my authentic self in my books (available here).
I’ve learned the hard way that when you get that niggling doubt about someone, no matter how lovely they may appear, it is usually because they are not acting with integrity or they are not being their authentic selves. It could be said that they are hiding behind a mask.
Many of us wear masks in our daily life, we’re not the same person in work as we are at home and vice versa. I’m not advocating that we should all go around wearing our heart on our sleeves and spewing forth all of our innermost thoughts or secrets to everyone we meet, unless of course you choose to do that and are entirely comfortable with doing so. Most people are not and that’s perfectly fine.
The term ‘authenticity’ has been bandied around personal development and coaching circles for a long time and it is no longer as effective as it once was. Many people now believe that if someone has to tell you they are being authentic, then the likelihood is, they are not. Just as many people start a sentence with “no offence” when they’re about to say something offensive, when someone tells you they are authentic it is often because they are trying to convince themselves that it is true.
It is human nature to present ourselves slightly differently in different environments. We wouldn’t turn up at the office in the same mindset as when we’re relaxing at home on a weekend. That doesn’t mean we are being inauthentic it just shows that we are aware of the ‘rules of engagement’ in those different settings.
However, what happens if you’re not being authentic in a relationship? What happens if you’re not allowed to be your true self in a relationship? What happens when you find yourself wearing a mask more often than not?
Suppressing your authenticity, or having to suppress your authenticity, for any length of time is detrimental to your mental health. It leads to frustration, resentment and anger and in the worst instances can lead to depression and significant other mental health problems. Hiding your real self behind a mask for a prolonged period of time is also exhausting.
In the work I’ve done with survivors of domestic abuse, very often they have lived in an environment where their real authentic self has been suppressed for a significant length of time and it can take many months or years for them to rediscover their authentic self but when they do, the transformation is incredible.
They report feeling much happier and more content than they have for a long while, they have a confidence and inner strength that makes them seem taller. With further work they go on to develop strong, healthy relationships where their authentic self is not only loved and cherished but allowed to flourish.
You don’t have to be a victim of domestic abuse to suppress your authenticity. There can be many, many reasons for believing no-one wants to know your authentic self.
Whomever and whatever your authentic self truly is, embrace it, enjoy it and bring it to the fore. The right partner will love you in all your authentic quirkiness and recognise that it’s what makes you, you. This applies to all relationships, not just survivors of domestic abuse.
If you need help to rediscover your authentic self why not book a no obligation discovery call with me to see if I can help you? You can book a call here: https://www.notarehearsal.co.uk/apply
I look forward to speaking with you.
How do you or your partner know if boundaries have been crossed?
A lot is said about the importance of boundaries. We live our lives within the boundaries of the law, we understand the societal expectations of how we should behave in public spaces, we raise our children with boundaries around bed time and how far they’re allowed to venture on their own. In school we have rules and regulations and likewise in the workplace. So why do so many of us forget about the importance of boundaries within our relationships?
Without putting boundaries in place, we set ourselves and our partner up to fail.
Imagine trying to play a game without knowing the rules? How could you possibly know if you were doing the right thing? How would you know who won?
In entering a relationship and not having a mutual understanding of each other’s boundaries, you are setting the relationship up for failure. That failure may not manifest in a break-up or divorce, but it will manifest some other way. Resentment builds, the couple drifts apart, resentment builds even further, you find fault with each other and start to despise each other, wondering what on earth you even saw in each other in the first place. One or both partners may start to look elsewhere for fulfilment, not just sexual fulfilment but emotional attachments, someone that understands them.
Yes, that classic line ‘my wife doesn’t understand me’ isn’t a cheesy pick-up line used by men just looking for a bit on the side, it’s a plea for attachment and fulfilment that is missing from the relationship and is equally applicable to women as it is men and to heterosexual and same-sex couples.
So, what are your boundaries? If your partner isn’t aware of your boundaries it is unfair to expect them to know when they have crossed them. It’s equally unfair to expect your partner to understand why you are so angry with them when they cross your boundaries, if you haven’t told them what your boundaries are.
Just as we live surrounded by the boundaries of law, rules and regulations with very clear consequences of what happens when those boundaries are crossed, so we need to create those boundaries within our relationships. Think about those little things that really wind you up and start to put boundaries in place to rectify them. It could be something as simple as asking your partner to put their dirty laundry in the laundry basket rather than leaving it in a pile on the floor or it could be that you have an open relationship but the boundaries have been crossed.
Whatever your boundaries, share them with your partner. When you both know and abide by the same rules of engagement can you have a truly equal relationship.
Book a call with me if you’re struggling with having a conversation around boundaries or if you need help to work through boundaries that have been crossed.
Book a call before you end up in the divorce courts. Let’s work out what’s not working in your relationship and why and create an action plan to get it back on track.