What Are Abusive Relationships?

Are abusive relationships like all other relationships?

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Three characteristics of relationships

  1. They are an acknowledged connection between two or more people...
  2. They can be voluntaryor...
  3. they can be involuntary

An abusive relationship is most often involuntary (but not always).

As you might guess...most people will not allow others to abuse them.

And you're probably aware that the readiest example is child abuse...where you can appreciate that the child is literally the captive of the abuser.

Other involuntary victims

Other captive involuntary victims could be
  • the elderly who cannot care for themselves
  • the physically disabled who rely on others to move them
  • the mentally disabled those with alzheimer's disease
  • the incarcerated those in mental facilities or imprisoned

With the involuntary relationship...part of the abuse is that it is involuntary and the victim can do little to change the situation.

For example, abused adolescents often run away from their abusers...but they can't change things for the better. Because we all know...and the teenager finds out fast...that the world is just not set up to take care of a teenager's need for money...food...shelter and clothing.

So...the runaway teen might have to become a thief...a vagrant...a drug user...a prostitute. Forced choices that only add to the life-sapping injustice of the original abuse.

How do voluntary abusive relationships differ?

Voluntary abusive relationships are very interesting (and difficult to treat) because they continue only with the permission of the "victims" who stay with...or go back to...their abuser...even though they could leave.

That is to say...there is not really a victim in such a relationship...
only a volunteer
. For the true victim...one in an involuntary relationship...the abuser calls the shots...the hits...the emotional abuse, the sexual assaults. And the victim can do little else but tolerate it all.

Volunteer "victims" only play their role...and their "tormentors" only get to play the abuser role with the permission of...and at the pleasure of...the casting director...the volunteer "victim." The abuse only takes place while the volunteer "victim" allows it.



What's an example of voluntary abuse?

You ask a very important question because...whether you are a judge...a therapist...or a minister...you will intervene differently with a volunteer victim than you would with a non-voluntary or captive victim. 

And the volunteer 'victim' in an abuse and codependency relationship is the more difficult of the two to deal with.

With a volunteer victim...the usually understanding counselor...
therapist...or spiritual director should adopt a neutral posture of not being understanding and supportive when intervening in such a case because...



It's very important...when abused people ask a therapist or a minister to intervene in abusive relationships...to first establish whether the person is a victim or a volunteer. Because...your intervention will be completely different for each of these abusive relationships.

For example... A minister or a therapist who is 'supportive' of volunteers in such relationships...helps a competent person to act incompetently.

There is no psychological or spiritual benefit to the person by encouraging incompetency in relationships.


The counseling minister also needs to know the essential difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one.

From this abusive relationships page you can read about the a healthy relationship.

Or you can...



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