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The Hit that Reverberated to Adulthood

April 28, 2022

Trigger warning. This post describes domestic violence.


She said she only saw her dad hit her mom once.

With that she dismissed the impact of domestic violence and downplayed the fact that with that hit, she and her mom learned never to cross him again. They acquiesced to his demands and forever walked on eggshells.

He continued to be a mean bully, but never did have to hit again because the fear from the one episode was enough to maintain his control on them.

She didn’t think this all affected her but called herself a people pleaser.

What she hadn’t realized is that people pleasing was a strategy learned beyond her awareness to keep others happy so she never again had to deal with the fear of another’s upset. A fear that included things escalating to physical violence.

That disposition of hers maintained her in a position where she could be easily exploited by others.

Indeed, she was with a man who did just that.

She tolerated far more than most others would and always felt the need to accept and tolerate the abuse of the man she was with.

It wasn’t until we put it all together and she recognized the connection to the abuse of her father did she realize she didn’t need any additional excuse to leave her partner. She had wanted to do but felt she hadn’t tried hard enough or given enough chances.

Those feelings were also the result of her father’s abuse, making everything feel like her fault and responsibility.

She only saw her mother hit once.

She hadn’t figured in all the demeaning, put downs, yelling screaming , slamming doors, throwing things, name calling, stinginess, jealousy… all other forms of domestic violence too, had also affected her.

In a sense her set point for what is unacceptable behavior was skewed much higher the result of having to tolerate and live with such behavior.

Because of that she then tolerated more than others would without even realizing it.

She only saw her mother hit once.

Indeed others haven’t seen a parent hit at all.

However they may have witnessed the aftermath: the walking on eggshells, the acquiescing of a parent to the rigid demands or mood of another, the bruises or broken objects.

All these things affect the child developing in that environment.

They learn skills to survive in the moment.

Those skills applied in adulthood though, often work against their favor by maintaining themselves in new but unacceptable situations.

She did learn. She did leave. It was a challenge.

In the end, she was grateful.

Domestic violence. It has long legs and can carry the effects into adulthood.

If you are in such a situation, please get help.

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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by video conferencing.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW for counseling and support – to build your successful practice

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, former parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

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