This article is extracted from “This is NOT a Second Honeymoon: Helping Couples Survive Spending A Lot of Time Together”, a book that was written by Christopher L. Smith to help couples during the COVID-19 pandemic. In his clinical work, he realized that couples being quarantined together have particular challenges. The book goes into a lot of these challenges along with strategies to survive these types of times and even to have their relationship thrive. We will be sharing a series of these extracts over several weeks to help you. If you would like to look at all of them together and get the book right away, it can be found on Amazon (Book).

As a society, we are not good about talking about domestic violence. It is not acceptable for one partner to use force on the other partner whether that force is related to sexual actions, physical acts of violence, or emotional harm to the other. While there may be times that one partner is less enthusiastic than the other about sex, or when one partner physically grabs the other to prevent them from doing something that is dangerous, or when one partner says something that hurts the other partner emotionally, these situations are quite different from situations about which we are talking. We are talking about situations where:

  • one partner forces the other person to engage in sexual acts when they do not want
  • when one partner repeatedly demands that sex be engaged in in the way they want without regard for their partner’s desires or pleasure
  • when one person physically hurts the other person especially in ways where they need medical attention but even in ways that can be dealt with at home
  • when one partner behaves violently when they are drunk or stressed
  • when one person continually puts the other person down or makes them think less of themselves
  • when one partner isolates the other partner from sources of emotional support

The list of these types of occasions goes on. These are still a problem, even when the person who is doing the acts of violence is apologetic afterward. In fact, a common part of the cycle of these occurring is that there is an act or acts of domestic violence that are followed by statements that sound as if they could be of remorse. These apologetic and expressions of sorrow frequently are followed by a period of time where things can be calm, good, and/or violence-free. However, things start to build up again, and this will then lead to the beginning of the cycle again. Similarly, it is still a problem. If the person on whom the domestic violence is occurring does not recognize that this is happening to them. It can be common for this person to provide excuses for the behavior because they know how the other person “really is.” It is also possible that both partners are both “perpetrators” and “victims.”

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Domestic violence is not acceptable at any time. Unfortunately, the pressures of being isolated at home together, combined with what is going on outside the home, have the possibility of making any form of domestic violence worst or for domestic violence to start even when it was not present in the relationship. If either of these is occurring for you, things need to happen to make it stop.

If you are the person who has committed domestic violence on your partner:

  • honestly assess how well you will be able to control it not happening again (if it hasn’t already)
  • seek outside support, accountability, and guidance
  • seriously consider reaching out to a qualified mental health clinician to help you
  • if there is any other chance of the violence recurring, find a way to remove yourself from the situation - go to stay with a friend or relative, even in the midst of everything that is going on in the world

If you are the person that has been affected by the domestic violence of your partner:

  • honestly assess whether it will be possible to remain in a safe zone so the violence will not happen again (if it hasn’t already)
  • don’t suffer through this alone – reach out to friends, your clergy, a counselor or therapist
  • create an exit plan so that you have the things that you need (papers, medicine, clothes, money, etc.) if you have to leave
  • if it is not safe or you cannot guarantee your safety, get away from the situation (even in the current world situation, you can go to stay with a friend or a family member, and there are still organizations that will help you have a safe place to stay)

Regardless of how much you are a “perpetrator” or a “victim”:

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  • if you are staying in the same space
    • seek the help of a counselor or therapist (they are available online)
    • seek the support of your close community (family, close friends you can share with, church or faith group)
    • be accountable about where the situation is at to another person, another couple or an accountability group
  • if you want to stay together with each other, seek out professional help now or after the stresses of the world situation subside:
    • to deal with the hurt that the domestic violence has caused
    • to work on regaining trust and respect for each other
    • to be proactive in preventing future recurrences

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