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Abusive partners always have a choice before committing abuse

Updated: May 5, 2021

Mental health disorders are commonly used as a way to justify and excuse abusive behaviors when in reality an abusive partner is in control of their actions.

Abusers often minimize or deny their behaviors, or even shift the blame to the non-abusive person. While it can feel like your partner ”just doesn’t get it” and lacks self-awareness, this is often an emotionally abusive tactic used to make the other partner question themselves.

When it comes to people making justifications about their unhealthy actions, it can be difficult to see through these excuses or recognize them for what they are.

Why do we want to believe the excuses a partner makes when they’re treating us badly?

  • Sometimes the justifications sound really good. Especially when we’re looking for something — anything — to help make sense of how the person we care for is acting toward us.

  • It’s normal to want to rationalize what’s going on because abuse is pretty irrational.

  • Abusive partners are also skilled at coercion and manipulation. They use excuses to make you feel like what’s happening is your fault.

Substance abuse isn’t an excuse for abuse:

Abusive partners often blame their behavior on drugs or alcohol to avoid claiming responsibility for their actions or to obscure the reasons they abuse. While drugs and alcohol do affect a person’s judgment and behavior, they’re never a justification for abuse. Your partner’s actions while under the influence are still a manifestation of their personality, and if they’re violent while intoxicated, they’re likely to eventually become abusive while sober.

There are people who drink and use drugs and don’t choose to abuse their partners. Just because two things happen together (like drinking and violence), it does not mean that one causes the other.

If you compare the treatments from them while they are sober and intoxicated or under the influence you can see the difference.

Other common excuses:

“I'm possessive because I care about you.”Acting jealous, controlling, or possessive is not a way to show someone you care.

“You got in my face/made me mad/got me wound up on purpose, and I had no other choice. I can’t control it.” Stress and anger issues don’t cause abusive behavior. An abusive partner’s actions are always a choice that they make. Ask yourself: how does your partner react when they are angry with other people? Would they fly off the handle at their boss? Chances are probably not, because they know they can’t get away with that behavior around others.

“I have mental health issues or a personality disorder — ex. I’m bipolar, I have PTSD.” There are people who have mental health issues and don’t act abusively toward their partners. If an abusive partner is dealing with a mental health issue, ask yourself: have they been diagnosed by a professional? Are they seeking help or taking medications? Do they act abusively toward others (friends, family, coworkers), not just you?

“I grew up in a violent home where I experienced or witnessed abuse.” There are a lot of people who grow up in violent homes who choose not to abuse their partners. Many choose this because of how they grew up — they know how it felt to live in that situation and they want healthier relationships for their partner and their family.

Being able to recognize excuses for what they are — blames, minimizations, denials — can be a step toward realizing that abuse is never the fault of the person on the receiving end.

Remember: partners who are abusive always have a choice about their words and actions.

Many people who experience abuse use drugs and alcohol to cope with the symptoms of trauma. If you have a problem with drug or alcohol abuse, help is available.

You can call The Domestic Violence Hotline. Their advocates are ready to answer your call and identify services and resources to support your needs.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673


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