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A Re-framing: When Love Hurts

Posted on Monday October 29, 2018 at 12:24PM

By:  Ruthann Weeks, CIRS
Founder, Harmony Training & Development

3 Minute Read


I had some training recently in my area of expertise. I have spent many hours researching and training on domestic violence, specifically related to it’s affects on the workplace. Last week I learned that I had to unlearn some things.

When Love Hurts: A Woman’s Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships is authored by two women who have worked with thousands of abuse survivors over decades. They’ve used that insight and experience to create a workshop where women explore their relationships over 16 weeks.

This train-the-trainer workshop I attended over two days was the most valuable insight I’ve received into the issue of violence against women in my career. The learning was practical, relevant, modern and timely. We are at the cusp of greater change that has been slowly creeping into the consciousness of our society, as what was once the taboo topic of abuse between partners comes into discussion more and more.

Some of the beliefs I held true that I’ve had to re-frame are:

  • Terminology around the topic. Replace domestic violence, family violence and intimate partner violence and with woman abuse, violence against women and women experiencing abuse.
  Rational: The coercive control that predominately makes up abuse between partners in a relationship is overwhelmingly directed towards women. There are men who experience abuse in a relationship, but 7 out of 10 times it’s women and girls who are experiencing abuse in family violence situations. 
  • Some women repeatedly choose abusive partners. No one ever chooses abuse. In the pattern of abuse there is a honeymoon stage, tension building stage and an explosion stage. cycle_of_abuse_from_WLHThese sometimes happen in rapid succession or can happen over months, or even years. The fact is though, that no one ever chooses their partner in any stage other than the honeymoon stage. While initially dating the prospective mate is charming, attentive and feels safe, and that’s what the woman signs up for. 
Rational: So then how do you explain that woman who repeatedly ends up with men who abuse her? Abusive and controlling men will either seek out a woman who is vulnerable and “easy prey” or one who is powerful and perceived as a “challenge”. With woman abuse occurring in 1 out of 4 relationships, it is prevalent enough to happen more than once, particularly to young women, aboriginal women or disabled women who are more likely to experience abusive partners.


  • Immediately do a risk assessment and safety plan. Not necessarily.
Rational: Women who are in an abusive relationship already understand the risk they are in for harm and violence. They live it every day. They are already experts in trying to keep themselves and their children safe.  Conducting formal plans may further scare them or stress them. Rather than haul out a form to start filling out, build relationship and get them talking about their partner and how they currently handle situations when escalation occurs. Chances are they are already doing lots of things right. If you do have suggestions they may not have considered, bring them up and let them decide whether it’s something that may work in their situation.


  • That relationship in my 20’s that I called toxic was really textbook woman abuse.
What I learned from these women during training, both the facilitators, and the stories of their clients and other participants, gave me insight I never had before about an unhealthy relationship from my past. As a young adult, 19-year-old me was wooed by an older man who was very attentive, charming and seemingly stable. We moved in together quite quickly and moved away from my neighbourhood, friends and supports to an area where he had lots of friends and supports. I knew our decade-long on-again-off-again relationship had been toxic, but I hadn’t recognized it as coercive control. He’d gotten physical only once when he threw me on the ground at a party and pinned me in our tent later that same night. There were lots of instances though where he would come home drunk late at night and pick a fight, give me seemingly trivial and endless tasks to do for him while I was at work, told me what to wear and otherwise dominated our entire relationship. Looking back, I can clearly see the cycle of honeymoon, tension building and explosive events during those years.

I am grateful for the experiences that make me better at the work I do. I can empathize and understand some complicated issues in a way I may not have been able to otherwise.
As a workplace trainer and policy writer, my passion is to help keep people safe at work from physical and psychological trauma including domestic and sexual violence, bullying, and sexual harassment. My challenge is to train employers, supervisors and human resource professionals that they are not only legally obligated to understand the complicated issues that can threaten safety in the workplace, but that they have a moral and fiscal obligation to take a holistic approach to the people they oversee at work.

I press on with a fresh perspective.

Shared with permission:  When Love Hurts
Author Contacts:  Karen McAndless-Davis:  karen@mcandless-davis.com
     Jill Cory:  jill@jillcory.com


Harmony Training and Development is a social enterprise offering workplace training, tailored to business and industry via presentation, lecture and/or interactive workshops. 
Call 780-460-1019 or email info@harmonytraining.ca today for your free consultation.


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