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Published: Friday April 19, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday April 26, 2013 MYT 12:14:47 AM

What leads to abusive partners

I USED to host a local talk show called Pillow Talk, where I interviewed celebrities in their pajamas on various topics revolving around relationships.

It occurred to me, that no matter how beautiful, talented or popular the celebrities were, if they had relationship issues, it is more than a nagging thorn in one’s side.

It can affect your entire well-being, from your appetite, to the quality of your sleep and your general sense of self-worth.

What became painfully clear to me was the fact that so many of our relationship issues date way back to where we came from and how we were brought up.

According to Vancouver doctor and author Gabor Maté, exposure to childhood trauma, as early as age four, can lead to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body and the brain, and these results show up on brain scans 14 years later.

Hence, children growing up in these abusive environments may also get into stressful situations or relationships without recognising them because they’re so accustomed to it.

In 2009, to everyone’s surprise and dismay, the world saw Rihanna, the pop singer returning to her abusive R&B singer boyfriend, Chris Brown, after he hit her face.

Rihanna and Brown both came from abusive families, where destructive patterns become learnt behaviours. We have all too often seen history repeating itself.

It is tragic to think that Brown became the very epitome of his horrific father he was so repulsed by, in his childhood.

Reportedly, Brown used to live in so much fear and hatred of his stepfather because he used to watch him bashing his mother up in front of him as a little boy, until she bled.

In fact, in an interview with Giant Magazine, Chris told his mother once, “I’m gonna take a baseball bat one day while you’re at work, and I’m gonna kill him.”

Closer to home, there was an actress I met on my travels who used to play very strong character roles and she was so convincing on screen, that you would almost assume she possessed the same strength off screen but she was one of the most fragile women I knew.

She grew up with a tyrannical, abusive father who had impossibly high standards.

Despite the fact he never hit her, verbal abuse is still an active form of abuse and he eroded away his daughter’s self-esteem over time.

No matter how hard she tried to gain his approval, it was embedded long ago, that she was simply not good enough.

She also lived such a strict, regimented life that she hardly had any time for play.

Any kid should have dedicated time to just be a kid and have unstructured, imaginative play time because it is so crucial for their cognitive, social and emotional development.

In fact, in a pilot study where psychiatrist Stuart Brown interviewed 26 convicted Texas murderers, he discovered that most of the killers shared two things in common. They were from abusive families, and they never played as kids (source: ScientificAmerican.com).

Fortunately, my friend did not grow up with any violent tendencies but she was drawn to men who treated her badly and consistently put her down.

She dated a string of possessive and controlling partners. It was fairly obvious when you started drawing the parallels, that she was attracted to men who reminded her of her father.

Somehow, she was always falling short of their expectations and craving their approval.

Abuse can be very subtle and prolonged, such that you may not even realise it is a form of abuse.

For instance, one of her partners was always quick to point out her flaws and compare her to other actresses, affecting her sense of self-worth.

She also had a partner who used to keep track of all her movements and even selfishly got her to turn down roles that would require her to shoot scenes overseas.

While he was firmly trying to establish himself as the centre of her universe, she started losing friends and acting roles because of the choices and sacrifices she made for him.

In all her relationships, she was always on the receiving end of abuse or control. Recurring patterns don’t get fixed by changing partners. It is you and your perception about yourself that must change first.

When she was finally single for a stretch, surrounded by supportive friends and able to really focus on her career, she started to heal.

Many abused partners feel isolated and alone because they choose not to talk about what they are going through.

It is so important if you know someone in an abusive relationship, to reassure them that they do not need to face everything alone.

When someone speaks up and is supported by friends or professionals they can trust, it may finally give them the strength to end the abuse.

So, always keep your eyes and your heart open to those who may need you in their darkest hour.

Jojo Struys is a TV host/director at kyanite.tv and an avid health enthusiast. You could follow Jojo’s daily inspirations on twitter @jojo struys

Tags / Keywords: Community, News, Opinion, jojo struys

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