Across the world, there is a silent war going on among families. Very few people talk about it and more try to hide it so that others around them will assume they are living the ‘American Dream’ and that all is well and perfect in their world. Yet, there are husbands, wives, and children who are afraid in their own homes. The reasons for this fear can be different. Perhaps mom or dad drinks and become physically or emotionally abusive. Maybe mom and dad are afraid of their teenage son who is unpredictable. Perhaps a wife is terrified of her husband as soon as he pops open a beer, knowing that the evening holds nothing but strife. In all situations, there is a grave imbalance of power that normally underlies all acts of domestic violence, whether they are done in silence or out in the open for the world to see. For those of us not involved in these situations, it is difficult to comprehend why the person with the fear doesn’t just leave. Take the kids and hit the high road be done with the madness! Sadly, it is never as easy as that.
For many of these people, the problems don’t show themselves until alcohol or drugs are involved. These people wait around, walking on eggshells in the hopes that their partner, whom they love sober doesn’t reach for a bottle or bottle of pills. They may be able to go weeks or months without it; then one night, they threaten the security of their family and cause the fear lying dormant to seep up to the surface. The results may be nothing more than spit fired harsh words said in a stupor, or they may involve acts of violence. These family members, who are afraid, have become robotic in their movements around the certain individual and do everything in their power to stay out of their path. After all, the next day is just another day.
Other families are held hostage by moodiness and anger housed in the body of someone they love. Everything is fine until a temper gets spiked and then the others in the family are afraid in their own homes. They end up in a pattern that feels grateful for the good days and enduring the bad days in silence. They also believe that since the person they are afraid of and love, is so good and hardworking 90% of the time that dealing with them for the negative 10% of the time is worth it. After all, on the surface, there are few others who get to see this person in the same light and they are fearful of judgment, shame, and blame. For kids, wives, and’ husbands who are on the other end of a ‘mildly’ abusive spouse or parent (if there is such a thing) they feel that part of the responsibility is theirs. They worry that others will think they are being blasphemous if they tell. So they don’t. Feeling like this, afraid in your own home is very much like being in prison and the stress of the waiting game can cause extreme pain and emotional stress.
Another reason that people don’t just leave, file for divorce etc. is because they don’t realize there is another way to live. Marriage counselors agree that most couples living in situations where one partner has erratic behavior that causes fear of being physically or emotionally harmed have lived that way as a child. You would think that enduring this through childhood would make people more prone to staying away from it when they become adults. But the opposite is true. They take on the assumption that an abusive parent or spouse is just normal and expect that other people live with the same turmoil as they do.
The other aspect that influences these people to stay is a sense of feeling stuck. They feel stuck in the relationship. Many women who stay home and take care of the kids don’t want to open themselves up to finding a job and putting the security of their children in jeopardy. They worry about where they will leave and feel that there aren’t enough resources should divorce arise to successfully get themselves out of the situation. So they stay, endure, and carefully plan for their exit years in the future when they are no longer responsible for children. Additionally, they are afraid that mentioning leaving or talking about the problem will only instigate more of the same so they hold their tongues. Talking to friends or other family members would make them feel as though they failed at a marriage, so they hold their tongues there too.
Being afraid in your own home is not a modern day problem. For years and years, couples and families have been hostaged by a person in their home who has a Jekyll and Hide personality. This person performs fine for the rest of the world to see, then manipulates the people they love the most when they are angry, drunk or otherwise disoriented.
The reality is that it is this person who has the problem. Staying and keeping silent only makes you the victim and enabler to the situation. Obviously, all people have different levels of temperament. Part of being in a relationship is learning to work with one another to respect personalities and temperament. But this should not cause fear. Learning to compromise and deal with each other, handling stress and responsibility, as well as having respect for each other’s ways of handling things should not cause fear. If it does, the balance in the relationship is off and’ counseling or intervention must be needed.
Many families don’t start out this way. However, the signs are not something that sneak up and bite you like a snake. You have no doubt seen them. By watching for signs like excessive anger, drinking or drug use (even if mild or recreational) as well as issues with stress or temper. You can also closely monitor what type of family structure your spouse had as a child to learn what they will expect to be normal. In any instance, you should not be afraid in your own home. You have a responsibility to yourself and others that you care for to seek help and seek shelter! Life is too short to live this way.