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There are many reasons why physical abuse happens in a relationship. Dr. Scott pinpoints areas and gives you advice on what to do.

There is help for those in abusive relationships

Why do I use violence against my spouse?

Letís start with the conclusion: hitting your spouse is never okay.

Got it?

Good! Now, letís talk about physical violence in relationships, and what can be done about it. There are many reasons why one person hits another, and usually the decision to strike a blow is the result of not having the ability, or the desire to employ a non-violent alternative.

Being married bestows on you the blessing of having one person by your side through life. Thatís great when things are going well. But one of the realities of life is that things donít always go your way. And when that happens, if you donít have good skills for dealing with stress, thereís a fair chance that youíll start to express your negative emotions through less adaptive techniques, such as raising your voice, sarcasm, hostile gestures or violence.

When you start to feel resentful for the role that you feel your spouse plays in your problems, youíre especially prone to lashing out. Resentment leads to anger, and anger can quickly lead to violence if you donít have a better way to deal with it. This type of violence is often quick, not planned, and can sometimes be engaged in by both partners simultaneously (such as shoving matches).

In some cases (experts think itís about 20 percent of the time), physical violence does not stem from the inability to manage emotions; rather, itís driven by a desire to control or dominate a spouse. In cases like these, the abuser employs a form of mental dictatorship, in which his or her mate lives in fear of the next assault, and walks on eggshells to avoid confrontation. Often, the victim of such a relationship feels less and less confident in his or her own self worth, and begins to believe that the abuse is somehow deserved.

Solving the problem of physical abuse differs based on the origin of the problem. If you hit because you just donít have a better way of coping with pent-up hostility, and youíre aware of a growing sense of resentment toward your mate, you need to shift your attitude, and learn how to join with your partner, be open to understanding the world through his or her point of view.

If you can feel genuine compassion for someone, you canít, and wonít, bring yourself to harm that person. Take the time to focus on the positives that your mate brings to your life. It may be necessary to take a marriage education course, or start therapy. But you definitely can learn better ways to deal with negative feelings in the marriage.

If you use violence as a way of dominating your partner, then there are no shortcuts; you need to get yourself to a therapist trained in domestic violence now! There is no way of solving this problem simply through marriage therapyósince the behavior of the abuser isnít driven by family dynamicsóbut through his or her personal emotional problems. Domestic violence classes are more specifically geared for this kind of abuse, since they deal with helping individuals learn how to protect loved ones, and channel their "power" toward positive aspects of the marriage.

In all cases, the use of physical force has the potential to devastate a family. Itís a big red flag that your relationship needs some professional intervention. So, what are you waiting for?óreach out and get the help you need!

The National Domestic Violence Hotline or 1-800-799-SAFE
United States Department of Justice: Domestic Violence
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Dr. Haltzman is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University. He is the author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Men: Eight Ways to Win Your Wifeís Heart Forever." You can find Dr. Haltzman at www.DrScott.com

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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