Charmed & Dangerous

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Behaviour change

What if your partner starts a men’s behaviour change program?

Is he likely to change?

Men’s use of violent and controlling behaviour rarely just stops. Your partner or family member might be quite sincere when he promises it will never happen again. Unfortunately, most men find that they cannot keep such promises without support and assistance from others.

Participating in a men’s behaviour change program is no guarantee of change. Some men do give up controlling their partner and stop their use of violence. Others might stop their use of physical violence but continue other forms of abuse or control. Men who attend, but do not really make an effort might not change their ways at all. Others might take a long time to change, or change for a while but slip back into their old ways.

You are the best judge of whether your partner or family member is changing, or changing enough for you. You should make that judgement based on his actions, not your hopes.

What might his participation be like for me?

You should not base your decisions about whether to stay or go, or about safety, on whether your partner or male family member is participating in a behaviour change program.

What about ‘anger management’?

Men’s behaviour change programs are for men who are using violent and controlling behaviour towards their partner and/ or children. Some of these men might have a problem with expressing angry feelings. Others might be experiencing difficulties expressing other feelings, such as fear, anxiety or frustration. Most people experience anger, but this doesn’t mean they use violence or control. Men make choices every day about how they express their feelings.

Stopping violent and controlling actions is about more than managing anger. One of the facts that best highlights this is that men who use violent and controlling behaviour towards their partner often don’t use it towards anyone else. They can control their anger, but in certain settings, with certain people, they choose not to. This is why we encourage men who use violence to participate in a men’s behaviour change program – not an anger management group.

What about relationship counselling or mediation?

Men’s use of violent and controlling behaviour is about their choices. Choosing to be non- violent and then really making it happen requires very specialised support. Relationship counselling is based on both parties having a reasonably equal distribution of power. If your partner or family member is using violent and controlling behaviour, you probably won’t be able to make fully free decisions or act on your own needs.

If your relationship is in trouble, this is likely to be because of your partner’s actions. There might be other reasons for conflict (all couples disagree!), but these are secondary. Until you feel safe enough to talk about your own needs, feelings and perspectives, relationship counselling isn’t going to work for either of you. If your partner or male family member is using or threatening physical violence against you, we strongly recommend you do not suggest relationship counselling to him. If you are being required to participate in mediation, we encourage you to seek information and legal advice about how that can be safe for you.

The above content is adapted from the Charmed and Dangerous: A Womens Guide to Reclaiming a Healthy Relationship, has been developed for women by women. This booklet was the initiative of the Tweed Shire Women Services Inc.