Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Take any type of abuse in a relationship very seriously
Still Holding My Breath: My fiance threw a lamp at me. It missed me and hit the wall, leaving a big hole. I don't know if he was aiming for me. He would say he wasn't, and that he was just mad. We'd been fighting a little that night and he was trying to go to bed when I interrupted him.
He told me to sleep on the couch, which I did. He also told me to "get the &-$. out!" And even took the doorknob off the bedroom door so I couldn't come to bed. To be fair, I did call him an expletive before he threw the lamp.
I packed up my things and left his house the next morning. It's been seven days now, and he has not called me to apologize, or anything. I'm almost 40, he's 46, and I really wanted to marry this man, who I still love very much. Should I forgive him, should he eventually call me to apologize profusely? Is a first-time violent offense forgivable?
Carolyn: When bad aim (or good, for that matter) is the only reason you escaped serious injury, you need to bypass the informal remedies and go straight to professional counseling. It's not just the seriousness of his resorting to violence, it's that you're aching for him to come back to validate you.
This puts you in both a physically and emotionally precarious position. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline toll-free at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network toll-free at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) to talk to someone right away, and also to get names of people you can see on a more regular basis.
Please take care of yourself.
Anonymous: Re: First-Time Violent Offense: Every abusive relationship starts with a first offense. As someone who has worked at a women's shelter, I cannot tell you how many women, if they had just walked away after that first incident, we wouldn't have ever had to see there. This is how people end up in abusive relationships that last for years. They forgive that first act of violence.
Carolyn: And as a reminder of why loving someone, even "very much," isn't a reason to stay: The people who turn up in shelters were in love, too, or else they wouldn't have been in these relationships in the first place.
Washington, D.C.: So what about verbal or emotional abuse? Is that always considered a gateway to physical? Should one also never forgive those first offenses? I once had an ex tell me — in response to my telling him that we didn't have any rope when he needed to tie his car trunk — that I was completely worthless, and he walked out the door. I was devastated. Later on, he said he didn't even recall saying it.
Carolyn: Verbal abuse doesn't need to be treated as a gateway to physical abuse in order to be taken seriously. Verbal/emotional abuse that never "escalates" beyond that is devastating to a person's self-worth, especially since it's much easier than violence to rationalize away.
"Should" you forgive? Sure. That's different from staying, or even wanting to. Just knowing people have it in them to call you worthless, to my mind, kills the pleasure — and point — of being with them.