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"But I have such a Great Catch!" Treating Abusive Controlling Relationships
But I have such a Great Catch! Treating Abusive Controlling Relationships

Section 11
Intimate Partner Violence among Parenting Couples

Question 11 | Test | Table of Contents | Couples

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Rationalizations 3- 4

Rationalization #3:
"He Doesn't Mean It."
The third rationalization to stay in the abusive relationship in addition to Communication Magic and Hiding Pain is He Doesn't Mean It. An abuser may follow his abusive statements with, "It was only a joke," or "I was only kidding." I worked with Molly, a 36-year-old accountant whose husband, George, had been court-ordered to an anger management group. George would constantly belittle Molly in front of her friends and their child. Molly would laugh along with them rather than risk more painful verbal attacks later.

This rationalization is the result of the abusive technique mentioned earlier called, "Can't-You-Take-a-Joke." Molly made excuses for George's abusive humor by stating, "He doesn't really mean it." This is the abused person reaction to the abusive technique discussed in track 2 "Can't you Take A Joke." So one side of the coin is the Great Catch saying "Can't you Take a Joke." The other side of the coin is the recipient rationalizing, "He doesn't really mean it"

So what would you do when your client defends their partner's offensive remarks stating, "He doesn't mean it?"

Technique: "He doesn't mean it?"
1. The first step, I felt, with Molly was identification of the abusive statement.
2. The second step, Molly felt, was her stating this identification to George.
3. However, in order to get to the point of stating this to George, I needed to work with Molly on ways to increase her courage and self-esteem.

For her to reply to George, when he states it's only a joke, "It isn't a joke to me. To me, a joke is when people laugh. I am not laughing, and I don't think it's funny." To increase Molly's self esteem to get to the point to say this, I used self-affirmations that Molly created. Here's an example of one of Molly's affirmations: "I deserve to be treated well." Thus, if you are treating a client who uses rationalization #3, "He doesn't mean it," would affirmations be of assistance in your next session?

Rationalization #4: "I Am Just Too Sensitive."
The forth rationalization to stay in an abusive relationship, in addition to Communication Magic, Hiding Pain, and He Doesn't Mean It, is…I Am Too Sensitive. Mary, a 32-year old housewife, stated, "I am just too sensitive. These things Allen says and does would not bother other people. Like calling me slob while flicking his cigarette ashes on the floor and saying I need to clean them up. I should be able to get over it. He has lots of financial worries at work, and I feel I don't back him up enough. I feel I provoke him into yelling at me, and somehow, maybe it is me."

When Mary started crying, Allen would respond by yelling, "There you go overreacting again!" By Allen labeling Mary as "too sensitive," he was able to deny responsibility for his action. The fault was Mary's...she was too sensitive. Sound familiar? Thus, Allen does not have to change, because he doesn't think he is doing anything wrong. Mary's rationalization that she was too sensitive created a road block to the development of an emotionally supportive relationship. What would you do?

Technique: Making a Dispute List - 2 Steps
I felt a good next step to increase Mary's awareness of her negative self-talk was to have Mary make a Dispute List.

I told M
ary, "Have a debate with your self on paper.
1. First, think of something demeaning Allen said to you. For example, calling you a slob as he flicked his cigarette ashes on the floor demanding you clean them.
2. Then, on a sheet of paper make two columns.

In the first column dispute Allen's attack mildly. For example, I felt like a failure and unimportant. In the second column, dispute it vigorously. Be firm, yet rational, and don't move on until you believe what you have written in the second column." For example, Mary also practiced this method with irrational beliefs she held about herself, further increasing her self-esteem.

This track discussed... the rationalizations of: Communication Magic, that sudden, wonderful changes will happen if they can just get their Great Catch to understand; Hiding Pain stated, I don't want to give him the satisfaction of seeing my hurt; the third rationalization is, He Doesn't Mean It for which affirmations were used; and I'm Just Too Sensitive for which Dispute Listing was used.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Iverson, K. M., Gradus, J. L., Resick, P. A., Suvak, M. K., Smith, K. F., & Monson, C. M. (2011). Cognitive–behavioral therapy for PTSD and depression symptoms reduces risk for future intimate partner violence among interpersonal trauma survivors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79(2), 193–202. 

Jeong, J., Adhia, A., Bhatia, A., McCoy, D. C., & Yousafzai, A. K. (2020). Intimate partner violence, maternal and paternal parenting, and early child development. Pediatrics, 145(6), Article e20192955.

Kobayashi, J. E., Bernard, N. K., Nuttall, A. K., Levendosky, A. A., Bogat, G. A., & Lonstein, J. S. (2021). Intimate partner violence and positive parenting across early childhood: Comparing self-reported and observed parenting behavior. Journal of Family Psychology, 35(6), 745–755.

Marshall, A. D., Jones, D. E., & Feinberg, M. E. (2011). Enduring vulnerabilities, relationship attributions, and couple conflict: An integrative model of the occurrence and frequency of intimate partner violence. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(5), 709–718. 

Stephenson, J., & Renk, K. (2019). Understanding the relationship between mothers’ childhood exposure to intimate partner violence and current parenting behaviors through adult intimate partner violence: A moderation analysis. Journal of Child Custody: Research, Issues, and Practices, 16(4), 339–363.

Willie, T. C., Powell, A., Callands, T., Sipsma, H., Peasant, C., Magriples, U., Alexander, K., & Kershaw, T. (2019). Investigating intimate partner violence victimization and reproductive coercion victimization among young pregnant and parenting couples: A longitudinal study. Psychology of Violence, 9(3), 278–287. 

In "Dispute Listing" what are the two types of entries on the Client Worksheet? To select and enter your answer go to Test.
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