While neither the victim nor the alleged perpetrator may like to hear this, any reunion rests mainly on the shoulders of the perpetrator. Reunion depends on wanting help and getting the right help. And that wanting means that the perpetrator finally comes to a place of recognizing and taking responsibility for his abuse. He may have refused to admit to his destructive behavior or that he needs help. His friends may egg him on, escalating the abuse. He may dismiss the seriousness of his actions, belittling her for being “weak.” Perhaps no one will intervene. He will not be contradicted in his positions. Until he can come to terms with the reality of what his partner has been suffering, reunion is unrealistic.
The victim does not carry the responsibility for the actions of her partner. There is no excuse or supposed reason for abusing anyone, at any time, under any circumstances. As we have said in the pages, Abuse is NOT a mistake. It IS a choice. The victim will have her own work to do in terms of becoming free of fear, implementing strong boundaries, handling the guilt she may feel at separating, recovering from the degrading shame she has experienced, and coping with all the consequences of the primary trauma or Double Abuse she has suffered, as well as the consequences of her decision to stay or go.
The perpetrator has deep, consistent, and profound work to do in recognizing his long-held patriarchal belief systems, becoming accountable for the purposes he had for the abuse, learning how to treat a partner with equality and in mutually beneficial ways, repairing damage, making amends, and learning how to be emotionally present and responsible for his own internal life, mentally and psychologically, and its expression. Without this work, any thought of reunion is fraught with potential danger.
We, as founders of The MEND Project, have gone in different directions concerning reunion. For one of us, divorce became the inevitable result of separation, because not only was the partner unwilling to do the work involved, he refused to recognize the problems that existed as he continued the abuse. After her own rigorous process of clarification, struggling with the decision to separate, coming to terms with the heartbreaking fact that her husband was unable to recognize the damage he was doing or engage in repair, she made the difficult decision to divorce. Eventually, after her own internal work, she was able to marry again now with a husband who is reciprocal and respectful, supportive, loving, and her best friend. For the other one of us, both she and her partner fundamentally wanted to save the marriage, despite its many challenges. In order to find clarity, gain perspective, create safety, and establish boundaries, she separated, continuing to do her own individual therapeutic work. Her partner, struggling to give up the destructive relationships with certain friends and affiliations who were double abusing, and with a great deal of help in skilled and effective therapy and programs, came to the place where he could finally recognize the covert abuse that he engaged in and do the long and grueling work to find a completely different way of relating. They have reunited and are enjoying their life together in ways they never thought possible, while continuing to do their reparative work individually and together.
We hope that these pages will help you sort out what is happening to you in your primary relationship and support you on your journeys to clarity, courage, hope, and health.