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.
I know that’s quite a forward question to be asking, particularly if we haven’t yet met or spoken but it’s something I’m interested to know. How kinky are you in your relationship?
A general definition of the term ‘kinky’ refers to anything that is quirky, a bit different, offbeat but more usually this refers to sexual acts or practices that are seen as weird or odd. For example, many would consider a foot fetish to be kinky but to others that is perfectly normal. Many people believed E L James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” Trilogy promoted kinky sex but many others found it just too tame and ‘vanilla’.
From my point of view kink is a perfectly acceptable part of any consensual relationship and kinks are as wide and varied as us humans. As long as both parties are comfortable with the kink then that’s absolutely fine.
However, when I ask the question ‘How Kinky are you in your relationship?’ I’m not actually talking about sexual kinks here. When I’m coaching I use the acronym KINKY to identify areas to work on when establishing or re-establishing a robust, healthy relationship. Here’s what the acronym stands for;
Kindness – how kind are you to your partner?
Interested & Interesting – how interested are you in your partner and how interesting are you?
Nurturing – how do you nurture your partner and your relationship?
Keen – how keen are you in your relationship?
Yourself – how much of yourself do you bring to your relationship?
These may seem really simple questions at first glance but delve a little deeper into the world of kinky and you’ll be surprised at what comes up – every pun intended!.
Over the coming weeks I will be exploring each of these questions further and elaborating upon them and the impact they have but, in the meantime, I ask again, How Kinky are you in your relationship?
For those of us old enough to remember the furore surrounding the release of the film, and that iconic scene when Mickey Rourke fed Kim Basinger food from the fridge in a manner that sated sexual hunger more than physical hunger, it will have created a desire for adult relationships that are far from the reality of the lived experience of many of us.
Raised on a diet of Disney princesses, fairy tales and happy ever afters and growing up as Thatcher’s children when we were told we could have it all, we left home bright-eyed and bushy-tailed expecting to be the CEO by the time we were 25, have a man as both our equal and our provider and look fabulously fit and perfectly groomed all at the same time.
We also expected our sex lives to be sizzling hot. Our parents had after all lived through the swinging 60’s and the 70’s years of free love. In the 80’s and 90’s we were going to be performing sexual acrobatics, experimenting with all sorts of toys, bondage and aphrodisiacs whilst wearing lingerie that only has one purpose (to be removed) and now, thanks to 9½ weeks we were going to be getting really down and dirty with food too.
How many of us have had one or more foods consumed from our bodies? How many of us have experienced the thrill of an ice cube being traced over our nipples and between our breasts? How many of us have been seductively fed food from the fridge without worrying about the mess it was making on our clothes or the floor? After that, how many of us have had searingly hot sex that left us breathless, sweaty and aching just a little bit in all the right places?
Then our 40’s and 50’s hit us with the speed of an Intercity 125, and a couple of children later, we’ve climbed that corporate ladder, we’re financially secure, we’ve got the house and the car and the only thrill of excitement remotely near what 9½ weeks promised us comes after a period of teasing anticipation when we finally seal the deal, get the client and sign the contract.
We return home, hoping to prolong the excitement, high on the endorphins coursing through our veins and knowing that RIGHT NOW we could be having the most incredible mind-blowing sex, a la Basinger and Rourke only to find our partner slumped in front of the TV in a scene akin to The Simpsons, mug of tea or a beer or wine close at hand, wondering ‘what’s for dinner?’ and ‘where are the kids?’
We roll our eyes, take a sharp intake of breath and burst the bubble, filing away our fantasies and desires for another day wishing they would understand. The harsh truth is, they do and they’re feeling the same about you!
Then we make dinner, load the dishwasher properly, sort out the tangled mess of clothes and dirty underwear in the laundry basket, pour a glass of wine, and before we know it the bottle is empty, the TV is mindlessly churning out the latest detective series and you and your partner have barely spoken all evening. The kids have finished their homework and put themselves to bed and now it’s midnight.
The opportunity for lust-fuelled sex with the one we promised to love and honour, ‘til death do us part’ has passed and we fall into bed, ready to repeat it all again the next day, and the next and the next, like some sort of Groundhog day, a film not known for fuelling wild sexual fantasies.
But it doesn’t have to be like this, it is possible to have a seriously sensual, loving and orgasmic relationship with your partner, regardless how long it’s been since those days were the norm and it’s possible to get that back, in as little as 9½ weeks.
So, what have you done in the past 9½ weeks? What are the next 9½ weeks going to look like, feel like, sound like or taste like?
If you’d like to get your best relationship ever in the next 9½ weeks book a call with me here and let’s find your sexy.
Many of us are often told we look like or resemble famous people. Over the years I’ve been told I look like Sigourney Weaver, a young Helen Mirren and Tori Amos (that’s definitely the hair colour!) at the time I recall feeling embarrassed by the likenesses. Who was I to be likened to such amazing glamorous and talented women?
It took a very long time for me to accept compliments without telling the compliment-giver that they were mad, wrong or blind!
As I’ve got older I’ve learned that my difficulty in accepting compliments stemmed from the poor relationship I had with myself.
How many of us treat ourselves in ways we would never treat friends, family or loved ones? The negative self-talk; “you’re so stupid” “you’re so ugly, no-one will ever want you” “you’re so fat” “no-one’s going to want to listen to what you have to say” and so it goes on.
And as we get older that negative self-talk batters our confidence and self-esteem and we end up in relationships that just reinforce our messaging.
A healthy and robust relationship starts with the relationship with have with ourselves. Only when we recognise our own self-worth can we let others know what is and isn’t acceptable to us in intimate relationships.
More often than not, relationship problems start long before there’s a problem in the actual relationship and I work with many clients to help them create a strong, healthy and robust relationship with themselves so they can create strong, healthy and robust relationships with others. Learning to take a compliment is often one of the things we cover.
How do you handle compliments? How do you feel when someone tells you that you remind them of someone famous?
Nowadays I love the fact that I remind people of Sigourney, Tori or Helen. Strong, successful, talented women who look gorgeous too. Thank you, I’ll take that!