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The Bottom Line

We sometimes imagine that relationships are an area where we should express ourselves without any “filter”. However this view is likely to lead to trouble. Relationships require an ability to be emotionally contained and regulated at least at certain times. Just like in many other settings (e.g. professional settings) – we are expected to manage our personal space so as to remain relatively respectful and polite. This is so that harm is not done to those around us. In relationships it is so that your partner can feel safe and so harm is prevented and/or minimized. Being in a relationship can bring up strong emotions. When the emotions are positive this is enjoyable and enhancing – even transformative. However when they are negative they can be devastating and harmful. Our rule in relationships, as elsewhere. should be “first do no harm”.

There is an inverse relationship between respect and abuse. The best way to prevent against abuse is through following a policy of respect. To follow a policy of respect you need to develop skills in emotional regulation. Remember that you are responsible for your words, your actions and your inactions. You are responsible for understanding and managing your emotions and then acting in the world as a healthy adult. Being “expressive” is less important than maintaining safety. If you can not manage your emotions and act in a way that is respectful, you may want to consider whether you are ready for a relationship. It is easier to maintain ourselves as an individual than in an intimate relationship. However being in a relationship has a bottom line – we need to be safe and preserve safety. Abusive behavior is never “OK” and where it exists there is danger in real harm being done. If your partner is abusive, take the space you need. If this means separation consider the value in this. Is your partner “safe” to be with? Understand the nature of domestic violence – it is about all forms of abuse – verbal, emotional, financial - not just physical violence. All these behaviors share the common feature that they seek to control the other person and do not respect their autonomy. None of us is perfect, but there are lines where we go beyond what is reasonable. We should be aware of where these lines are, and manage our behaviour so that they are not crossed.


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