Domestic violence is widespread and seemingly unstoppable. In America, one in four women will experience violence by their partners within their lifetime, according to a new report published by The New England Journal of Medicine. The U.S. nationwide media attention on the killing of a young woman, Gabby Petito, in Wyoming, in which her partner was named a person of interest, put the issue of abusive relationships in the spotlight again. Crimes could be prevented through the right education from an early age.
Unfortunately, this is just one of many cases reported worldwide every day amidst too many that go unregistered. Globally, around one in three—a staggering 736 million women—have been victims of violence in their life perpetrated by their boyfriends or husbands, based on UN statistics.
Humiliation, teasing, bullying, threats and cursing, are common forms of verbal abuse within the family. Emotional violence takes quiet forms as well: disconnection, thunderous silences, and disregard for extended periods. There are many shades and expressions of violent communication between couples, and when these become a recurrent situation at home, it usually has dire consequences. How can this phenomenon be dealt with?
Let’s start with the schools. Most institutions are geared towards imparting knowledge and education to children, but this falls far short of preparing a young person for life. The most important lesson to learn is how to behave in relationships, in the workplace, anywhere. This is especially true at a time when so many social frameworks have broken down and young people grow up without good examples to relate to and against which they can measure themselves.
As a result of the lack of intention and focus on how to build good relationships, many families experience a hostile and violent atmosphere. Children who grow up in such homes suffer from high levels of insecurity. As they grow up and build families of their own, sometimes they want to build a fundamentally different environment. However, often they end up recreating the same violent patterns so familiar to them from their past. They realize that they are repeating the same mistakes, but find they lack the strength to change.
The patterns of behavior we observed in our childhood accompany us throughout life, so it is only natural that we replicate them. Therefore, it is critical that society provides every person with courses and educational systems that will empower people to create the right relationship patterns. Such patterns need to be fixed deeply within a person to stop outbursts and eruptions of anger before harm is done.
The most important principle to teach in building relationships is the principle of equality. This principle is set against the internal willfulness that underlies all violent communication, the will of a person to control others.
In order to illustrate what is meant by this principle of equality, let’s say I want to build a good relationship between me and my partner, with mutual communication, deep connection and great love. From this point on, we both must strive with all our might to be equal. As a practical exercise, we agree that whatever I do to my partner, he or she will do the same to me, for better and for worse. We agree to mirror each other.
From the way we talk, look, react to each other in every matter and interaction, we will try to learn from this exercise how our partner is trying to treat us well. And even though it goes against our egoism and costs us a great deal of effort, it is worth showing that we are striving to transcend our egoistic instinct in order to form a good mutual bond, because it will also oblige our partner to do the same.
As part of the couple training on applying the principle of equality, we will function towards each other like a mirror. If we each immediately try to copy the behaviors of our partners and reflect them like a mirror, by doing so we help each other feel how our treatment impacted the other, spot what else we need to correct ourselves, and improve. This is a feedback mechanism, a response that exists in both technological systems and the surrounding natural systems for the purpose of maintaining balance and completion.
If we learn to build such a mechanism in our relationship and we both agree to mirror each other, then even if one treats the other badly, a reflective response will immediately come from the partner that will cause him or her to rectify direction. Gradually we will begin to perceive that the good treatment we want to receive from our partners, we first need to demonstrate towards them.
That’s the way we build one another and create an egalitarian relationship. As we advance in this work, instead of the egoistic impulses that rise within us driving our relationship in a violent, coercive and destructive direction, we will be able to shape our surrounding environment and build a home where only good patterns will be instilled in our offspring and throughout society.