After spending several months on the back half of 2016 talking about abusive behaviors, we decided to take a different spin going into 2017. You see we spent a long time slowly working through and examining different forms and subtypes of abuse including the many forms of emotional abuse. This gave a very realistic look at some of the more “incognito” forms of violence that abusers get away with such as blaming, confusing behavior, corruption, destructive criticism, intimidation, isolation, manipulation, and even obsessive behavior. What we realized in closing out the year was that we had developed a very strong sense of what kind of traits and behaviors that we don’t want in our lives. On the flip side, we hadn’t really answered the question of what we do want in our lives.
It was a striking realization that while some victims of abuse started with a very pleasant life full of positive relationships, others have not been so fortunate. For those folks stuck in a life time of abusive relationships, or even for those stuck in a rut of bad relationship after bad relationship, it wasn’t enough just to recognize abuse. Many of our folks were looking for the answer to “what should I be looking for?” In fact, one client put it quite frankly by stating, “I already know what a bad guy looks like. How do I know what a good guy looks like?” And there was the big question.
It makes a lot of sense really. I’ve used the example I once heard myself by talking about money. How can you tell the difference between a real $100 bill and a fake one? For that matter, how do you know whether a $100 bill and a monopoly $100 bill is legitimate currency? The answer isn’t in being able to spot a fake. If you know what a fake looks like, you can only spot a fake. In the same way, knowing what abuse is only allows you to spot abuse. The real solution is knowing what legitimate currency looks like. If you know all the hidden traits, water marks, magnetic bars, etc. of a true $100 bill, then you are able to spot a true bill, AND you are able to avoid the counterfeits who lack those traits. Likewise, being grounded and knowledgeable about positive character traits, values, and virtues in a good relationship can help you to spot positive people and avoid the manipulative counterfeits.
So began our journey into finding what I have chosen to call the “good mate.” Our new effort at the beginning of this year would be for our clients to begin learning about positive habits and traits instead. We wanted to keep it broad to fully recognize the breadth of abuse. So instead of “good man” or “good date” which would focus too specifically on romantic endeavors, I chose to include all relationships. Whether you are looking for a romantic relationship, a spouse, a friend, a roommate, or even trying to maintain healthy boundaries with family members; we want to make sure that those closest to us are good mates.
As a starting point, I have chosen to take two source materials I use as character building tools in my other role as men’s minister, and flip them on their heads as strong and positive character traits or virtues in all people. Thus far we have tackled two of these traits.
First we have examined what it means to be a determined mate. Recognizing right off the bat that determination can also be a very negative trait used by abusers, we were very specific in how we examined this trait. We talked about determination being habit of refusing to quit until we accomplish our goals, with the biggest stipulation being that the goals themselves were positive and good for all involved. Taking these good morals into consideration, the question became whether that person in your life is will to do what it takes to succeed, even when it requires personal sacrifice.
We discussed that many people, unfortunately men in particular, take their drive and energy and use it to take the easiest possible route instead of channeling it toward real success with their goals. For abusers this tends to play out in forms of manipulation, control of others, and blame shifting. Recognizing that the road to good goals is often marked with road blocks and obstacles, you can ask yourself, does my mate react positively or negative toward such trials.
Another good tool for recognizing positive determination in someone is simply asking yourself whether or not you can name any positive goals that person has. If you have a decent relationship with someone, but can’t name any positive goals of theirs, odds are they are very unmotivated and undetermined, or they are the wrong kind of determined.
Lastly we examined the fact that determined mates refuse the nostalgia of the past, such as getting stuck in the glory days of your youth or being stuck on the wrongs of your past, or the speculation of the future, such as always looking forward toward what may be and not being grounded in the present. Neither of these habits provide any motivation or determination toward success in the here and now. Instead determined mates are ready to embrace the present and pursue their goals.
The second trait we have examined is that of a coachable mate. Coachable mates are defined as someone who is willing to take and respond rightly to critique. This is a really important value in any mate in your life, and especially from a domestic violence perspective, as abusive personalities tend to be quite the opposite.
Unfortunately, in today’s world many folks, often times men, grow up without any real strong mentors, role models, or father figures. For many this results in feelings of emptiness and insufficiency. It is at this cross roads that people can choose to let their circumstances define who they are or motivate them to become something better. Those that choose to be defined by their circumstances often don’t want others to see their inadequacies and attempt to bury the truth of their weaknesses. They might replace the truth with masks of false conceitedness, defensiveness, apathy, or even outright abuse. On the other hand, those that choose to be motivated by their circumstances can choose to be coachable and learn something along the way to better themselves or their situation.
We discussed a number of evidences that help define or point out coachable mates. Coachable mates don’t believe in excuses. They can admit when they are in need of help or assistance. Coachable mates are able to admit that they don’t have all the answers, and can ask questions. They don’t blame others, their situation, or even their experiences for their behaviors, and they take responsibility for their actions. You can expect coachable mates to accept the role they played in their own problems when necessary. They aren’t too proud to own up to their own weaknesses or ignorance’s. Coachable mates are willing to make positive changes in their life, even when it’s difficult. Maybe as important and telling as any are coachable mates’ willingness and desire to learn and grow. You will notice that coachable mates have positive and respectable relationships with multitude of diverse people. And not always, but many coachable mates will have their own positive coaches or mentors in their life that they are drawing wisdom from.
Some other quotes we examined from Darrin Patrick were, “The [one] who refuses to grow in dying a slow death. Learning is like oxygen in our lungs or cold water on a hot day. It’s what we are made for.” This stresses that there is an inherent wiring inside of us that thrives when we learn and expand our being. Also, “the first step toward teach-ability is recognizing that we have everything to learn and we can learn parts of it from several people.” Being coachable means recognizing that you don’t have all the answers and you can’t do everything, but there is a world of people out there who can fill in the gaps in your life, a diverse world of people who all have a part to play in making you an even greater person.
We are excited about finding out more and more on how to spot the good mates in our life, keep the bad mates at a distance (if in our lives at all), and thrive in all our relationships. Maybe you can take part of this journey along with us.
Client Services Coordinator
Dove Domestic Violence Program
*Source Material used includes The Dude's Guide to Manhood: Finding True Manliness in a World of Counterfeits by Darrin Patrick