When the world listened to Donald Trump on tape as he bragged about sexual assault, and then as a dozen women confirmed his assaults, echoing the disclosures (later modified under a legal agreement) of his first wife’s account of being physically and sexually assaulted, pundits fully expected women voters to reject him. We heard radio and television interviews, a catalogue of a life of insult towards women. Young women did reject him; women of color did reject him. Older white women did not. Why not?
They were voting for something that to them, was more important.
They have also normalized misogyny as the price of living in patriarchy.
They take for granted the relative safety they enjoy being white.

Normalization, Minimization and Internalization
“Hey, I’m not myopic; there are more important things in the world, like a good trade deal.”
“If he wants to grab me, go ahead! I like being grabbed!”
“Toughen up!”
“It is not as bad as getting tortured like the women in the night club in Paris!”

Older white women have accumulated decades of assaults, insults, slights, sexualization and aggressions by men. Many see themselves through the eyes of what is acceptable to a distorted abusive male lens. They stifle other women’s complaints by telling them to stop whining because really, our human rights have always been compromised on this front, so get over it, there are more important things than this. Trumps’ acts only echo what has been writ large across their entire lives. It’s disturbing, sure, but not enough to repudiate him.
Also, abusive men always compare their abuses favorably to others’ acts or their own possible acts. They minimize the impact of what they do by asserting:
“I only shoved you, I didn’t hit you”
“I only hit you I didn’t put you in the hospital.”
“I only put you in the hospital, I didn’t kill you.”
“I did not do what Jeremy did to Maria. Did you see her?”
Older white women who voted for Trump accept a version of this minimization. They explain, for example, that violent politicized Islamic extremists torture and rape Europeans, and have slaughtered Americans. They feel that Trump’s being a serial sexual predator who has emboldened abusive men does not present as immediate a danger to them as these extremists do.
Protections of Being White
“It’s not that bad; we’ll see where we are in a year or so.”
“We need to curb the illegal aliens.”
“Roe v. Wade isn’t changing. Gay Marriage isn’t changing. If he tried to change those, I’d be the first one to fight!”
“I do NOT share the values of those KKK people and I have nothing to do with those attacks. Just because other people who are sick and violent voted for my candidate doesn’t mean that I am like them. I am not responsible for what they do.”
Women of color, especially black women, are exposed to even more assaults, insults, slights, sexualizations and aggressions by men than white women are. Racism intensifies misogyny in a way that few white women can imagine. Why is it then, that women of color did not normalize, minimize and internalize the misogyny of Trump?
Over their lifetimes, many older white hetero cis women have found their wealth and well-being attached the wealth and well-being of a white hetero man. They bind their fortunes with his, according to what works for him. The few families left in America where one income is sufficient and a second partner and even children can rely on that income is found largely within white families where white males are earning higher incomes. This economic reliance can intensify the minimization and denial of misogyny. The degree to which women experience cumulative misogyny as more or less intense is the degree to which they are protected by their color and their relative access to resources that comes with their color.
If hetero white cis women don’t tie up their fortunes with white men, they still enjoy a layer of unearned access to wealth and well-being not systemically afforded to women of color. They can afford to distance themselves from the oppression of women of color, and many chose to during this election because they could hide in their whiteness from the impact of Trump’s courting racists.
Some of the white women Trump voters found their home in his birther racism. Many don’t even see the birther ploy as racist. In my conversations with them, they explain that Trump gave them permission to openly question if racism really exists in America, or even, if women of color are just reading the signals wrong and it isn’t really there at all. They do not see fear of immigrants of color, but not white European immigrants, as anything having to do with race. News sites that parade as journalism supported their hope that all the data was wrong, after all. Some have said to me that this idea of “institutional racism” is just made up; it is white “self-hate” and there would be no issue with, for example, policing in America, if people of color would just behave. For these white women Trump voters, they have found the platform to express the implicit racism they do not even understand as racism.

A Cause More Important Than Misogyny
“I did not like what Trump said or did, but Hillary would not protect the unborn children, so I voted for him.”
“She is an evil, lying murderer. She went after Bill’s mistresses. And Bill was a rapist. Pedophiles are the worst sexual predators, and she protected them, so she was a lot worse than Trump for women.”
“We need to bring manufacturing and good jobs back to this country”
“We should be living according to Biblical Law”
“Our dealings with Radical Islamic Terrorism are a mess. Clinton would bring us to war and Trump would prevent war. He recognizes the danger of radical Islam and she does not. That is where I find my voice in him. I don’t like the rest of it, but I’m not really worried that it will impact me.”

Religious Norms
Older white conservative Christian women found themselves in support of a rapist in Chief by choosing what they felt was a moral higher good: the protection of the unborn or the return to the idea of marriage as one between one hetero cis man and one hetero cis woman. For those who recognized that Trump did not do much of what Jesus would do, Clinton was a culturally untenable choice for they who had been raised on loving all thy neighbors, except her.
Others found their solace in Pence. If he could dismiss the facts of what Trump did and said, and maintain a centered practice in God and their faith, then they could, too. They could focus on the Supreme Court nominees which would be their just reward for overlooking Trump’s “faults” a.k.a. sexually predatory behavior, racist commentary, encouragement of violence and overt, continuous lying.
In conservative religious communities across traditions, women’s dignity and wellbeing is found in relationship to their roles as wives and mothers and within the faith. The faith and the males of the family purportedly keep them safe from the misogyny outside of the faith community. In this way, they could claim protection from Trump’s misogyny, and vote for common ground with him. Within the faith, all pains, punishments and shames heaped upon women are most often explained as deserved in some way. There is no clearly supported path for white conservative Christian women to stand up first and foremost for the dignity and safety of all women, including those outside the faith, when this is pitted against the rights of the unborn and the return to a conservative Christian definition of marriage.

Older white cis women described a lack of protection for women and the LGBTQ community from the violent acts of radical and politicized Islam as their primary motivator to overlook the courting of overt racism and the revelation of clear misogynistic acts by Trump. This fear is so encompassing that they have minimized his abusive values and his lack of preparation for the role he has assumed, in hopes that he will be able to protect them against attack. This can’t be underestimated as a motivator for the vote for Trump by older white women.

The most protected hetero white cis women are willing to overlook his ongoing contempt for women by shifting value to what they consider to be the more encompassing “global’ interests of trade. It is here that hyper capitalistic values, might most closely ally with the abusive values and privilege that Trump upholds. Hyper capitalism narrows the scope of its self-assessment to what benefits itself as capital producing, without calculating the impact to environment, the exploitation of people and resources, access to its products, or concerns for equity and safety. These are deemed outside its scope, secondary, just as Trump’s sexual assaultive behavior and racist remarks are secondary concerns to those who feel protected by trade concerns because of their privileged access to its products, namely, money.

We can, in a democracy, debate the role of trade, protections from terrorism, and the respect for religious norms within a free country as we jointly reject racism and misogyny.

But most older white women did not.

JAC Patrissi

Like many others, I have spent my career finding creative responses to oppression and the trauma left in its wake. Though I have worked with survivors of all kinds of violence and, neglect, and poverties, I have specialized in working alongside women and children who have survived domestic violence and sexual assault, and with men who use power and control tactics against them.

This election season has revealed that President Elect Trump has employed a set of Abusive Values throughout his business and professional dealings, in his personal life and in the campaign. Though Trump displays elements of untreated mental health issues that render him both destructive and self-destructive, mental health concepts are insufficient to understand and help anticipate his actions. It is more helpful to examine the values that govern the thinking of all abusive people.

There is a reason that domestic violence is a red flag for terrorists. The perpetrators of all acts of violence share these values. Sometimes they are overlaid or undergirded with religious beliefs, or racism or misogyny or heterosexism.

Most simply put, if a person believes these things, they are abusive:

“If I am uncomfortable, I can use intimidation, threat of violence or humiliation and retaliation to get what I want.”
Here are some Abusive Values to look out for:
• Believing that it is your job to accept me as I am, not matter what I do.
• Believing that I have the right to tear you down if you point out something about you that threatens my self-concept.
• Believing that it is your job to celebrate me, my s growth and change, and not mention how little I have actually changed
• Believing that I get to express disgust if you point out significant things that I forget or do not know
• Believing that I have the right to establish reality to my liking.
• Believing that I can be contemptuous or violent if you complain, because I should NEVER be answerable to you.
• Believing that I am inherently superior, or that men are superior as a gender, or other identities are superior.

These Abusive Values, how they operate and what curbs them, is the purview of those of us in the advocacy field who work with sexual assault and intimate partner violence. They are also easily recognized by people marginalized and oppressed on many fronts, across many identities such as race, gender identity, and physical ability.

They read as a playbook for Trump’s life and campaign. Yet they also read as a playbook for a great number of Americans. We see the acceptance of Abusive Values by the white male leadership of the Republican Party who have openly called for a rejection of “feminization” of discourse has been echoed by its base, now intertwining these values with a deeper race hatred, misogyny and heterosexism.
When people now talk of Trump’s actions as “campaign rhetoric,” I am reminded how survivors who are negotiating their safety with abusive partners go through the process of learning the limitations of their influence on an abusive person. It takes time to recognize the Abusive Values that endure underneath the actions some call rhetorical.
We can compassionately anticipate what is ahead, and offer guidelines gleaned from decades of helping people manage and escape oppression.

Recognize and Assess The Size of Our Unmet Legitimate Needs

People who are in abusive relationships are there in large part because they found something promising in the relationship. They were told they were going to get their legitimate needs met. They may get a few met, at a high cost. Over time, the size of the needs will increase.
This is true for large numbers of people who voted for Trump to get jobs, better incomes, security from threat, redress for their many woes. The slightly more than half of the voting public who did not vote for him also have these unmet needs. Keep your eyes on the size of this unmet need, as it will help you articulate what you are fighting for in a way that will help you garner larger support. You can join with others fighting for the legitimate unmet needs of the people.

Do Not Normalize the Abuse

Most abusers spend a great deal of time minimizing, denying and blame shifting the cause of the abuse. The survivors with them begin to focus on the positive aspects of the abuser. They look for cues of normalcy and focus on the strengths. This is a survival mechanism. However, it will not help you anticipate what will come. The way to freedom is to break from the isolation of perspective the abuser enforces. Write down the abuses when it is safe. Repeat them. Have others repeat them. Use descriptive terms; do not soften the images.
When it comes to Trump, you can hear his happy supporters now attempting to clean up and normalize his actions. They are saying that he never said he grabs women by the pussy. That must have been manufactured. It did not happen. When his racist or assaultive actions are admitted, they are admitted only as “rhetoric.” The racist call-outs and the life of assaults against women are not rhetorical. They are actions based on values and privileges that underpin rhetoric. Stay clear with these distinctions.

Do Not Share In Responsibility for the Abusive Values

Most thinking about negotiation of conflict is based on the assumption that there are two parties in roughly equal interaction. In Systems Theory, we could look at each party taking an equally important role in any tension. This is not an accurate framework for people or leaders operating under Abusive Values. I tell people in interpersonal relationship with someone with Abusive Values that you could be the Dalai Lama and the other party will still attack. Just ask the Dalai Lama about that. We must break out of the Prison of Goodness, that is, trying always to be “more good” in order to change the outcome.
In terms of responding to this election, we did not have truly civil differences in opinion as to how a country should meet the shared needs of its citizenry. Instead, Trump used threats of violence, assertions that he would limit the media, sue and jail his opponents and deport millions, following the Abusive Values throughout.

The degree to which we are threatened by his use of these Abusive Values is the degree to which we are not protected by privilege. We are to share the risk with others who are threatened in ways we are not, but never the responsibility for the risk itself. This is the responsibility of the Abuser in Chief and any abusive followers emboldened by him.
Assert Reality by Re-establishing Patterns of Fact
Most survivors spend their energy reestablishing basic patterns of fact to preserve their sanity. Help with this, for the good of everyone. Trumps own attorneys spoke of never meeting with him alone, in order to establish a record of agreements in light of the fact that he will easily deny them.

Conciliatory Behavior Only Consolidates Control

There are a set of negotiation skills, nonviolent communicate skills and mediation and arbitration skills that work effectively when you are not dealing with Abusive Values. When you are dealing with Abusive Values, your giving to get, your negotiation, consolidates the control of the person who is willing to destroy you or incite violence and contempt against you to get what they want. You must re-establish the minimum standard: Equality and Safety for all. Period.

What Changes People Living By Abusive Values?

First, we articulate the values of Safety, Respect and Equality. Often these are articulated by a religious faith, or a declaration of rights.
If the community and institutions surrounding the person insists on consequences to violations of those values of safety, respect and equality, this sometimes helps.
Mostly, when the person surviving the abuse gets their needs met outside of the abusive person, gathers with others who are safe, the abuse can be challenged from a safer distance. This is always dangerous. We measure when to challenge, and how.
This has always been the path. We have survived thus far, and we are legion.

For Women Questioning the Health of Their Relationships and Women Healing From Destructive Relationships


lowercoxbridgePlease join JAC Patrissi at the lovely Lower Coxbridge House in Somserset for a special 2-day retreat on November 7 through 9, 2016.

JAC Patrissi is a relationship expert and trauma therapist, advocate, and international author of “Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can—and Should—be Saved.

For questions and registration, contact: jac@GrowingANewHeart.com

COST: £360 British pounds includes meals, accommodations and program.


Together, we will explore…

What is Going On?

Is or was it abuse? Chronic immaturity? Did your partner have unresolved mental health issues? (like trauma or abuse) How about addiction? Were or are many of these intertwined, like a perfect storm? Find clarity.

How Abuse Has Affected Our Lives

By learning and safely sharing about the impacts of relationship abuse, we will move away from isolation and self-blame, and take the first step toward recovery.

Regaining Faith in Ourselves

Together, we will practice exercises to reclaim ourselves, feeling our self-confidence and self-regard grow. Destructive dynamics can silence us, so we will work on rediscovering our true voice and reclaiming power while learning and practicing healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety.

Regaining Faith in Others

Forming (or repairing) close connections to friends and relatives accelerates healing. We will learn how to make good decisions about which people to confide in, and then work on overcoming blocks to trusting again in the face of past betrayals.

Building a New Life that Works

Each woman will create personalized strategies for moving forward, including considering what it takes to enter into a new intimate relationship without ending up with another abuser, learning how to build and keep healthy boundaries. For those still in relationships you are questioning, we will identify a next step forward.

Leaving the Past Behind

We will learn strategies to heal the pain of abuse so that we can stop feeling confined by the wrongs that have been done, moving instead into freedom. We will learn how to begin to build a lasting support system to help us through this healing process, as we find joy again.


• Large and Small Group discussions
• Small Group planning for individual healing
• Structured emotional support
• Safe Movement Activities
• Art Projects
• Singing
• Laughing
• Relaxation Exercises
• Free time
• Shared Meals
• Walks
• Meditation or yoga (optional)

If you are struggling within a destructive or abusive relationship, or if you have left one and are still picking up the pieces, beware your therapist.

After more than twenty-five years in the advocacy field, helping women and children survivors of domestic and sexual violence, I went back to school so that I could dig into the latest trauma research. I wanted to come out better prepared to work with trauma survivors as a clinician, a therapist, rather than solely as an advocate. I went back to school already very well read in the field. Given that, I did not learn much new in the way of trauma research or about working with survivors. Instead, I came out much better prepared to warn you why you have to be wary of all those lovely, well meaning therapists you might turn to.

Chances are your therapist has been schooled in one of these ill conceived approaches to domestic violence that they tried to teach me in school:

Reenactment theory: a victim/survivor seeks out abusive relationships in an unconscious desire to resolve issues from her past.
Here’s the deal:
Sure, your awful relationship reminds you of your earlier awful relationships. And yes, you probably learned some survival patterns early on that suited you at the time, but are not serving you now. Yet consider this: do women have their human rights actively violated all over the world because they have mother issues? (You should be shaking your head and saying, ‘No, they don’t’.)
Also, importantly, all abusive partners present themselves as those terrific guys you know and love and admire (and maybe even cheer on the playing field.) None of them asks you on the first date to sign up for a relationship of humiliation, loss and degradation.

Family Systems theory: a victim/survivor is an equal partner in the abuse. Every member of the family plays a role in the system and is responsible for their role in creating abuse.
Here’s the deal: No.
Okay, this is a very helpful theory when you are looking at relationships that are not abusive. If you are thinking about relationships that are not based on one partner bullying the other to maintain power, family systems theory will take you far. In abusive relationships, research has shown that the more relationally skillful, communicative and conciliatory the abused partner, the more the abuser consolidates his control. The more you try–the worse it gets. “It takes two to tango?” It is not a tango. It is a train-wreck!

Low selfesteem: A victim/survivor feels badly about herself, which is why she seeks out the relationship, or stays in the relationship, perpetuating the abuse.

Here’s the deal: We’ve got cause and effect reversed here. Survivors feel their self esteem erode terribly when they live with a denigrating partner. They don’t stay to perpetuate abuse. They stay because it is dangerous to leave, because the partner threatens to take or hurt the kids and because of economic vulnerability or poverty. Many abusive people seek out women who have great ego strength because they see them as a challenge. In batterer intervention groups, these men talk of “taking her down a peg.”

What do these lenses for viewing domestic violence have in common? They hold the survivor responsible for the abuse. And that is just what the abuser does. If it feels comfortable and familiar–that is why. Also, we know that the first stage of response to a trauma is to blame yourself. There is some power in claiming responsibility–but it is the wrong place to take it. Where is it worth taking responsibility? Take responsibility for your healing path.

What should your therapist know about that would help you?
Conflict or Feminist Theory: The perpetrator of violence is exercising multiple forms of power over the partner and children he abuses. He often finds support for his choices in the media, his community and in our courts’ legal decisions. The victim is not responsible for the abuse perpetrated upon her.

This point of view relieves the survivor of the distracting and false burdens of guilt so that she can get on with rebuilding a life without the abusiveness or destructiveness.

Ask your potential therapist: what do you think causes domestic violence? Listen carefully to the answer. Having survived already and having read this, you are likely more savvy about the dynamics of domestic violence than many a therapist out there trained to blame.

By JAC Patrissi

The New Age Emotionally Abusive Partner is most prevalent among men who have spent a lot of time in therapy. They wear yoga clothes and often seem to care exceedingly about Mother Earth. They spend time in men’s circles, where they learn to weep and talk about feeling vulnerable. The many expansive and humbling gifts that can be found on the gentle path are not available to them because they do not truly seek these gifts. Instead, they cloak the dominance they crave in the yogic garb of spirituality. In the retreats I hold for women healing from destructive relationships, women involved with New Age Emotionally Abusive Partners are shocked and relieved to know they are not alone. Typical patterns include:


The New Age Emotionally Abusive Partner reserves special privileges for himself out of a belief in his own superiority. A mediator confided in his partner, “Those rules of mediation don’t apply to me; I was born with a gift.” The resources in the family, including time and spending money, are spent on projects, trips and items he feels represent a (his) superior set of values that can not be compromised, so they are not open to true negotiation. These men are good, even great, with apologies and self disclosing explanations. Yet when the guard is down, they will tell you that they don’t actually mean the apology, but that they were doing what was required by you, a being who they consider “lesser.” If you look at the behavior, and the power of choice in a disagreement, the power goes one way: his. These men also feel no requirement to adhere to the principles of honesty. The are liars who feel comfortable with the rationale that there is no “truth” only “perspective,” and so actual patterns of fact can be erased or altered completely. This may sound harsh, until you see it up close. Then it is chilling.

Rules That Reward Him

The New Age Emotionally Abusive Partner often ascribes to very specific preferences for communication. Instead of working to hear what you have to say, he is intent on correcting your method of articulation and detailing how it ultimately and invariably injures him. One woman described how her husband would describe the sexual responsiveness of his beautiful former partner. When she told him she did not want to hear these details, he responded with scandalized disappointment, tears in his eyes, “Is this how you listen to my feelings?!”

Another woman describes how her partner mused aloud, “You know, everyone says how beautiful you are, and I notice that from some angles, I find you repulsive. You see how sick my mind is? I have to work on my ego.” She was astute, so she replied, “You just insulted me while making it seem as though your spiritual awareness takes away the insult, but you still said it.” His answer? “Why do you always shut me out? This is about me, not you! Can’t you support my path?”

He makes up rules such as, “Therapists and friends must not judge,” so that if someone holds him accountable, he can claim an implied covenant (his) was broken, feel wounded, and distance himself from the challenge.

Back To Me

Spiritual principles are often invoked, mixing levels of meaning. For example, one abusive partner was confronted by his wife on his relentlessly controlling behavior. She used so many specifics, and followed the preferred communication practices to a “T”. “My abusiveness is just a projection of your own sick mind!” he shouted at her. In a neat, succinct twist, he both acknowledged the abuse and blamed her for its ultimate cause on a spiritual plane.

For many, there is a plane of meaning on which separation is an illusion and we write our own stories, so to speak. This level of contemplation is meant to dissolve defenses, not to reinforce them. With the New Age Emotionally Abusive Partner, all accountability is erased by these spiritual sleights of hand.

Why does he do this? Because if you follow these practices, you always get things your own way. It is ultimately destructive to all relationship, but the New Age Emotionally Abusive Partner will feel wounded by the ‘terrible women who let him down’, swear to himself that he will never allow himself to be ill-used again, finding the ultimate excuse to consolidate his power.

To you, the partner who has struggled to find the beauty and gentleness in the façade that attracted you to him in the first place: No matter how skillful you are, he will not significantly accept your influence. Small changes will cost you a great deal. You do not have to learn more about these lessons by being partnered to them any longer. Take the experience, and mine it for all the golden insight. And fly away wiser, when you can.

Written on November 3rd, 2015 , Conscious Uncoupling, domestic violence, relationship

Let’s talk about the Non Apology. The Non Apology does not discriminate by age or gender or class or race or physical ability. You can get one in any language, too.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” is the American Classic. It’s the Coca Cola of Non Apologies. The whole world sings that one in perfect harmony.

Once my husband gave me a Classic Coke Non Apology and a smile.

I’m not sure where it came from, but out did it come:

I’m not sorry I feel that way. It is a sign of my emotional wellbeing and good sense. It means I can tell when I’m being disrespected or when my boundary is being crossed. I’m actually glad I feel this way; I’m grateful. I’m thrilled.

I am sorry that you have not apologized for doing what you did.

I am sorry that you acted in a way that was so disrespectful to me and I wish you would apologize for that.”

I wasn’t really talking just to him, but to every Non Apologist I’ve ever heard. I realized I’m also not sorry when I get mad, which is the precursor to the Diet Coke of Non Apologies: ‘I’m sorry you are mad.’ I’m glad my emotional thermometer can register injustice and general douchery.

Husband paused for a moment and then laughed. “That is awesome. You are fantastic,” he said.

“That is beside the point. I’m still mad.”

And then he gave the real apology:

“I’m sorry I did the thing.

I should not have done the thing.

I’m sorry I hurt you by doing the thing.

If I could do it over, I would do the other thing.

And I hope you can forgive me.”

And because we are talking about things that don’t violate a person’s fundamental human rights, things that aren’t repeated endlessly, things that have no contempt in them and that are not destructive, I feel, after a good apology–closer to his humanity, closer to my own and I am not sorry I feel that way.

JAC Patrissi

Written on September 18th, 2015 , domestic violence, relationship Tags:

In the opening scene of the film, Gladiator, Russell Crowe’s character prepares his men for battle in the forests of Germania. As he enters the fray, he shouts to his men, “HOLD THE LINE! STAY WITH ME!”

When I work with people leaving abusive or destructive relationships, they are often shocked by the force with which they feel compelled to maintain or reestablish connection with the person who has harmed them. This is no ordinary break up longing. It cannot be attended to with a good movie and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.


Because of the way abusive or destructive relationships work, the person who was harmed is often isolated from other deep and sustaining life connections. This means that loss of the primary romantic relationship represents the loss of the most profound connection the person has, even if it was a damaging one. Often it is the only deep relationship occurring. Friendships and family are opfrequently distant or estranged.

Unmet Need

The survivor of these kinds of relationships has also usually built up a deep well of unfulfilled needs. To leave the relationships without real ongoing connection would mean feeling the depth of the unmet needs, which many survivors do not feel prepared to face. These are the needs for kindness, love, appreciation, sex, tenderness. With distance, the survivor recalls the whole idea that  a relationship is supposed to be good and loving most of the time. It is supposed to make you stronger. Facing that you have not had this and for so very long, is very painful.

The survivor longs for loving connection with the abusive or destructive person above a connection with anyone else. In part, this is because abusive person usually withholds affection or attention within the relationship, often denying the reality of the abuse or minimizing it. Over time, the smallest and often temporary acknowledgement of wrongdoing on the part of the abusive person begins to feel precious. A period of apparent peace, bought at the cost of the survivor swallowing or softening the truth, seems worth the price. The survivor wants acknowledgment, longs for respectful connection, even after leaving, in part because loving connection has been so hard to come by, so fleeting, especially from this person who meant so much.

Making Things Right

The survivor wants the abusive person to be the person who makes things right. You want the person who hurt you to do the apologizing. Survivors hope that if they maintain connection, that someday the abusive person will be able to see what they have done and to provide the much longed for acknowledgment. The sad truth is that the acknowledgement you seek most likely won’t be coming. And even if it is coming, it isn’t going to come as soon as you break up, and it won’t mend the harm on its own. The damage done by the relationship is still yours to nurse.

Sharpening the Intensity

If the survivor has a family of origin that was unsupportive or hurtful, this longing for reconnection to the abusive person can feel intensely compelling, nearly beyond description. When you leave an abusive relationship, a window into your own profound needs for a family is opened. By truly separating, survivors feel like they are rejecting the chance at having a real, loving family, a thing that they have longed for their whole lives. You are not rejecting that chance! By leaving a destructive relationship, you are opening the path to that chance.

What to do?

Establish a boundary. Get help with establishing it. Every time you wan to write or text or call, or stop by, call your helping people.

Grieve. You are in grief. You must respect the many losses you are sustaining. Grieve your isolation, as you work to fill your life with new connection. Grieve your unmet needs. Grieve the loos of having things made right the way you wanted it all to happen. Grieve the deeper wounds that may be there. Honor your soul through the process of grief. Find help for this integrative process.

Use your spiritual tools. Call in friends and new connections. Ask them to help you find the line. Ask them to encourage you, to call to you across the chasm of your grief:

Hold the line! Stay with me!

JAC Patrissi


Written on September 15th, 2015 , domestic violence, Grieving and Leaving, relationship, Uncategorized

I know I’m behind the times, but I just saw the movie Foxcatcher, the one that was up for all those Academy Awards.

It was great to see two men playing out just what an abusive relationship is like. They weren’t romantically involved, but the same dynamics were at play. Steve Carell plays the wealthy John du Pont. In the film, John invites the Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz to move to his estate so that he can help him prepare for the Olympics.

John has all the power and all the money. He appears to be an incredibly generous guy who just wants to help Mark achieve his goals. That’s exactly how an abusive relationship starts, with the abusive person posing as  selfless and supportive. I wasn’t surprised when, eventually, John introduced Mark to cocaine, isolated Mark from his brother, encouraged Mark not to work out, then  slapped him and humiliated him in front of the rest of the team, telling him that he never should have supported him in the first place.

That’s how it goes. Once you are depending entirely on the abusive person as your whole support, once you are isolated from your family and friends, the abuser undermines you and then humiliates you, blaming you the whole time for being a disappointment.

In the movie, John talks about Mark as having “psychological problems,” right in front of him, as though he were not even there. Abusive partners smear the psychological credibility of the survivor. What’s most acutely painful is that Mark’s self concept had begun to erode–it was this erosion that John exploited, even as he was the catalyst for John’s deterioration.

John wanted to own Mark—he wanted to own a trophy Olympic athlete that would make him look good. Abusive people feel a sense of ownership over their partners; it’s the underlying theme that enables them to do anything they feel is justified to act out that ownership.

When John couldn’t use the same manipulations successfully on Mark’s brother, Dave, also an Olympic gold medal wrestler, John shot Dave.

I wasn’t surprised. That’s exactly how domestic violence works. The abuser only uses the amount of force necessary to control the survivor. And often, physical abuse isn’t needed to get the job done; manipulation, isolation and psychological abuse work just fine. But when those tools fail, the abuser doesn’t hesitate to use force. And, he doesn’t hesitate to use deadly force over the object he’s lost control of. That’s when it’s most dangerous for a survivor—when the abusive person figures out they don’t control you, they don’t own you, after all. ”

It isn’t unusual for me to hear women I work with describe how it is that their partner used verbal abuse, intimidation and lesser acts of violence to get what they want. This is often followed by sexual assault or a near deadly escalation once the women move to separate for good.

The film noted that John du Pont made legal claim to being mentally ill. Whatever else he struggled with, it isn’t an illness to plan to use force when you don’t get what you want. It’s abuse.



Written on August 31st, 2015 , domestic violence, relationship Tags:

I used to work primarily with women who were trying to decide if they should leave their relationship. They’d read my book, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” come to my women’s weekend retreats, and somewhere in there, for a minute or two, each woman would really, really want me to tell her whether she should get a divorce or not. I would strive to be open and fair, but always respect that the final decision belonged to her. “You might not be finished and that’s okay. I’m not the Divorce Lady!” I’d say. And then a couple of ago, The Omega Institute asked me to help put on divorce conferences.

Now I’m the Divorce Lady.

The Relationship Just Didn’t Work Out or It Was Destructive

If you are seriously contemplating getting a divorce, you need to know what is coming. For your own sanity, safety and your future planning, you need to know who you are divorcing. The options for repairing a relationship and for divorcing from one are very different depending upon who your partner is.

There are two main categories of relationship demise: 1) Didn’t Work Out and 2) Destructive. Where does your relationship fall?

In the Didn’t Work Out category, you have relationships where skills and values become your primary concern. Were you skilled communicators? Were you self aware? Did you have compatible values? Do you wound one another repeatedly? Is the relationship painful most of the time or loving most of the time? When it doesn’t work out, you will experience pain and grief. You will also have significant options for the divorce process. You can explore a range of mediation options and custody options if you have kids. It’s not easy, but you will have less to navigate than your divorce comrades working through the aftermath Destructive Relationship.

In the Destructive Relationship,

ü  Your partner might be addicted to a substance or to a behavior, like gambling. This isn’t necessarily abusive behavior, but, unchecked, it can destroy a relationship no matter how hard the not- addicted partner tries.

ü  Your partner might be Chronically Immature. This also is not necessarily abusive, but being the “parent” to your partner who can never quite care for him or herself will erode the relationship.

ü  Your partner might be a bully who uses fear, intimidation, sexual coercion and other violence to get what he or she wants.

ü  Your partner might have unresolved mental health needs, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, one of the Personality Disorders or Major Depression.

And, most challenging, your partner might have a toxic mix of the Destructive options outlined above. This makes for a Perfect Storm of a relationship and it means you have to proceed with caution while navigating a divorce!

Learn more about Destructive Relationships before you weigh out your divorce options. Your wisest options are planned knowing exactly who you are divorcing.

JAC Patrissi



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JAC Patrissi's Blog – Growing A New Heart

JAC Patrissi is a Communications Specialist who uses writing, performance art, training and collaborative facilitation in order to support healing for women who are questioning the health of their relationships or who are healing from destructive relationships. This is her blog.