There are four main attachment styes an individual can develop in childhood, which directly impact future intimate relationships. Those attachment styles are:
In this article I’ll be focusing on the disorganized attachment style, and how painful this inconsistent dynamic is within the context of relationships.
October is a big month not only for the Church (it's the month of the Holy Rosary, the feast of the Miracle of the Sun, and Respect Life Month) but also for everyone.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is fast approaching!
To prepare for the month of the Holy Rosary, Respect Life, and Domestic Violence Awareness, I've partnered with Laura Ercolino of Hope's Garden to create a Rosary Campaign to pray for peace in homes and restoration of hearts and families.
Participation is simple! We've created a digital packet of images you can share on social media, in your local bulletin, as flyers, and more. The ultimate goal is to get as many individuals and parishes as possible to pray a daily Rosary in the month of October for the intention of the healing of hearts, marriages, and families -- whatever form that healing may take.
One of the things I’ve learned after years of working in the field of domestic abuse recovery may seem surprising to many people:
Although individuals can admit they’re in a difficult relationship, they often don’t realize that what they’re experiencing isn’t ordinary martial challenges, but is intimate partner violence. This is especially true when the abuse is covert and there’s no physical violence present. However, “violence” doesn’t always take place on a physical level—as a matter of fact, aggression that’s sly and hidden tends to be more damaging than the overt, physical forms of violence.
Why can it so difficult to tell the difference between normal marital discord and domestic abuse?
Every marriage has challenges, and every couple will get into disagreements from time to time—perhaps even frequently. Disagreements, even if they get out of hand, aren’t themselves a sign of abuse.
The true markers of ordinary challenges versus coercive abuse can be seen in how those differences are handled and resolved, and whether or not mutual self-giving exists in the relationship. Situations of power-over—where one spouse attempts to dominate the other or consistently prove the other wrong—are both red flags. Remember, abuse is a pattern of behavior, not a one-time event.
We typically call someone who uses abuse to control or manipulate others an abuser. I certainly have, in countless previous articles, but perhaps there’s a different way we can view these individuals, one that gives us a more charitable perspective as well as relieves some of our cognitive dissonance.
At the same time, we must always remember that there is no excuse for abuse,and those who use such tactics need to take full responsibility for their choices and actions.
Part of my training to become an inner healing life coach has included the study of a therapeutic method called internal family systems (IFS). Developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, IFS suggests that within each of us are many sub-personalities or “families,” such as wounded parts, those parts of us that try to protect us from further hurt, and parts of us that we may not like.
Although our primary self—made in the image and likeness of God—was created as a cohesive whole, we live in a fallen world. We get hurt, we hurt others; we develop addictions or traumas, we feel anxious or ashamed.
Under the IFS model, we can now separate our core, primary self from our various sub-parts. For example, I’m not an anxious person at the core of my beinghood, but I do have an anxious part, a part that has tried to take over and run the show in an effort to alert me of the emotional danger I was enduring for so long. Now that I’m in a safe place, I no longer need that protector part to be so prominent; I only need her to step forward and alert me to real threats. Part of my own work in healing from trauma has been to create harmony within my nervous system by honoring that part, while integrating it to the background role it deserves—to come out only as a justified warning that something in my life is off-kilter.
Yet how does this idea apply to someone who is abusive in their relationships?
For the Q & A articles, I try to address questions I receive most often. Lately I’ve been getting emails from people asking about the various ways they can receive professional help as they navigate their situation. The questions usually go something like this:
"I’ve been having a difficult time finding a therapist who really understands my situation and is trained in domestic abuse. I also need someone who shares my morals and faith. I’m now thinking about finding a spiritual director instead of a therapist, or maybe a spiritual life coach. What’s the difference between a spiritual director, therapist, and a life coach?"
As a spiritual director, certified wellness consultant, and a trauma-informed Catholic life coach, I’ll do my best to answer your questions.
Forgiveness can be a tricky topic, especially when people are chronically mistreating us without any signs of remorse, repentance or change. However—and as always—Jesus shows us the way.
A good example what forgiveness is—and what it isn’t—can be found in the example of a someone who uses emotional manipulation as a means of control, yet who also professes to be a Christian. Such a person may claim: “Jesus said you have to forgive me, no matter how many times I mess up. I can do what I want, as long as I tell you I’m sorry afterward. And you have to forgive.”
This type of person uses a deliberate misinterpretation of Sacred Scripture as an excuse to continue their toxic behaviors.
It’s sad, and painful, yet it’s also true: a trauma bond is not authentic love. Authentic love is positive and transforming; a trauma bond is weakening, depleting, and confusing.
Yet that’s often not how it feels, at least when in the love-bombing phase of the abuse cycle. Excitement, giddy exhilaration, clinging attachment to regain a sense of safety, “soul mate” obsessions—these are all the hallmarks of a trauma bond, and they all mimic feelings of love.
A trauma bond is formed by the intermittent reinforcement inherent in abusive relationships. After being verbally battered, psychologically manipulated, emotionally attacked, or physically threatened, a victim of intimate partner violence is left feeling crumpled and broken. Often the silent treatment follows an abusive tirade, adding more pain and confusion to the swelter of trauma already swirling through the body, mind, and spirit of a victim.
And then the wheel revolves once again. Oh, blessed relief! Kindness has returned to the relationship. He’s being loving again, perhaps bringing home flowers or other gifts, maybe even apologizing for his behavior. The relationship begins to feel “normal.”
In this article, I explain how a victim’s attachment style, formed in childhood, may play a prominent role in the development of the trauma bond.
An abuser won’t exchange vulnerable intimacy for vulnerable intimacy. There’s no dance of mutual self-giving in an abusive relationship. He may share some things about himself, but when you really think about what he said, likely you’ll come to realize his words had no depth.
Even though, during the love-bombing stages of the relationship, he seemed to be sharing pieces of his soul, he wasn’t. He was sharing fluff, half-truths, and speaking words he knew you wanted to hear—all in an effort to draw you closer to him in an emotional bond.
One of the most common questions I receive from readers consists of a mere three words, but three crucial words:
Can an abuser change?
This is an unanswerable question, since everyone’s relationship is different. All I can say for certain is that for most abuser types (excluding Type I, generally violent/antisocial), change is possible. After all, everyone has been given the gift of free will.
The true question is: How will they use their free will?
Change isn’t common—but it can happen.
Trauma rips a person wide open and uncovers past wounds they didn’t even realize they had, while at the same time layering new wounds onto an already-wearied soul. When the trauma presents itself in the form of repeated relational abuse and marital betrayal, a victim’s entire universe continues to spiral madly. Nothing can stop this head-long dive unless the abuse is finally eliminated, to be replaced with healing love.
I often turn to Sacred Scripture for comfort and inspiration as I continue to traverse my own healing journey. When I recently opened my Bible at random, I came upon these words:
I'm Jenny duBay, a domestic abuse survivor and now advocate. My degree is in Christian theology with a concentration on spiritual direction, and my vocational emphasis is on helping those who have suffered from domestic abuse to heal and reclaim their true selves.