Why is ”mutual” partner abuse a myth? 

by The Studio of Mental Health and Psychology

abuse therapy and counselling

Why is ”mutual” intimate partner abuse a myth? 

It is simple. 

Abuse is essentially about an imbalance of control and power. In an abusive relationship, one partner has more power and control than the other. 

Whereas ”mutual” intimate partner abuse is a myth, unhealthy behaviours from both partners may be a fact. These behaviours often manifest in concordant couples where both partners have issues with substance use. The consequences of unhealthy behaviours from both partners are often misinterpreted as non-existing ”mutual” abuse.

The psychological effects of real abuse on victims can be far-reaching and include mental health issues, such as

  • PTSD,
  • depression,
  • anxiety,
  • eating disorders,
  • substance use disorder, etc.

Among the consequences of intimate partner abuse on victims are also

  • suicide and
  • the development of personality disorders. 

Abuse can come in different forms in a relationship, including emotional/verbal, physical and sexual. A pattern of four reoccurring stages of abuse

  • tension,
  • incident,
  • reconciliation
  • calm

—can be often identifiable.

It can be hard to break the cycle of abuse, but it is possible, and the first step in breaking this cycle is acknowledging it.

Seeking help can ensure that you recognise the cycle and do the necessary steps to quit it.

abuse therapy and counselling

Couples counselling, however, is not a recommended setting for treating an abusive relationship.

There may be a huge risk for any person who is being abused to attend couples therapy with their abusive partner. 

Couples therapy can help partners better understand each other, resolve issues and even help them take a different stance on their situation. However, it cannot fix the imbalance of control and power. 

Abuse is not a relationship issue.

The abusive partner is not interested in equality; thus, most of the mutual therapeutic goals cannot be achieved in an abusive relationship. 

Furthermore, therapy is considered a safe and secure space for individuals to talk. For an abused individual, that security does not necessarily extend to their home. If the abuser is outraged by something expressed in couples therapy, they may retaliate later to gain back the sense of power and control. 

Thus, what needs to be done in the case of an abusive relationship is initially very different from the couples therapy approach. 

abuse therapy and counselling

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