Domestic Violence Counseling Improves Intimate Partner Communication Skills
A Case Study

Lack of Emotional Awareness

and Poor Communication Skills

Leads to Relationship Violence

He remembers that it was as a teenager when he first was aware of the volatile and explosive nature of his temper. He was mostly mild-mannered and "laid-back," as his friends and family would describe him. However, there were times when he would "blow up" emotionally and verbally, and those around him would be fearful of what he might do.

He was 25 when he entered domestic violence treatment and his life, until that time, was relatively normal. His family of origin was intact, and while he was not particularly close to his parents and siblings as a young adult, he did maintain contact with them.

What was notable in the family in which he grew up was the lack of discussion of feelings and the absence of conflict resolution skills. When disputes occurred family members would often walk away from one another without any sort of solution or resolution to the problem issue. Troublesome situations that bothered members of the family were most often dropped and left hanging with no attempt made to resolve issues or even revisit them after the anger and conflict subsided.

When DK presented for the domestic violence treatment, he described this family dynamic in the intake session and conveyed a long-standing inability to successfully address and resolve conflict. He also found it difficult to identify and appropriately express his feelings. When asked to describe the nature of his emotional responses, he was able to identify and be aware of only anger and rage when he would "blow up."

DK had been married to his wife for one year when the incident occurred that led him to the domestic violence treatment. He was motivated to begin the treatment when his wife told him she would leave and seek a divorce if he did not get help to change his behavior. In the intake interview he was asked to describe the incident during which he was violent with his wife that led him to the domestic violence treatment.

He stated that he and his wife were spending a night in their home and had ordered out for pizza. He was unaware of any anger or conflict that was occurring in the relationship at that time. When asked what it was that led him to "explode" and strike his wife, he replied that she had eaten the last piece of pizza and that had set him off. He further stated that his reaction had happened so quickly that he did not have time to think about his behavior before it occurred.

DK went on to describe what the first year of marriage had been like for him. He stated that there had been a number of things that had bothered him about his wife and a number of things about being married that were difficult for him to deal with and even more difficult for him to talk about.

He described what appeared to be normal irritations, frustration, changes and adjustments that were part of being newly married and living with a partner. His way of dealing with these events, however, was to not deal with them. He was unaware of his feelings and made no attempt to discuss with anyone what he was going through emotionally.

He did not talk to his wife, friends, family members, a counseling professional or a member of the clergy. He kept everything inside himself and "snapped" over something as relatively insignificant as the last piece of pizza when the emotional pressure and buildup became too intense.

DK responded well to domestic violence treatment. He developed the ability to identify and express an array of emotions, not just anger and rage. He learned more about how to speak the language of feelings and became comfortable identifying stressors, irritations and his resulting thoughts and feelings on an on-going and daily basis. His communication skills and ability to be respectfully direct and assertive in his relationship with his wife were instrumental in saving their marriage.

For more information about domestic violence treatment, visit Partners in Prevention helps couples internationally to recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse. Copyright 2010 Partners in Prevention - Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention