Tamara’s Sister – Journey of Self-Love

Today I want to do something special and teach a little lesson about self love. I’d like to do that by introducing you to my beautiful sister!

She’s always been beautiful. Now, she’s taking the courage to make her inner beauty shine through.

Le learns self-love

Beautiful Le Before and After

As you can see, she’s been working VERY HARD. And peeling all of those layers off of yourself takes MORE than diet and exercise. She left a pretty unhealthy marriage (of 20 years) in February of 2012 and came back to California. Since she came back, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with her at a heart level and supporting her growth process.

She and I blog about her healing journey. Today, I would love to share an incredible breakthrough she just made as she continues to heal at deeper levels. This week’s Thoughtful Thursday post is going to feature my response – because the response outlines part of my own healing and my suggestions for how she can “go there” too. Enjoy!


Dear Sister,
I have come to the realization that I have spent most of my life trying to be what other people wanted. My mom, my siblings, my partners. Always trying to be what I thought they wanted so that they would love me. That is no one’s fault but my own.
Some good has come of it though. Because of it I love people where they are, for who they are. But the time has come for me to find myself again. I want that smart, sassy, I can do anything and no one is going to stop me, I ain’t afraid of anyone or anything girl back again.
Self love begins when you reclaim your inner child

My Beautiful Sister at age 3

I really need to find myself. Who am I? What do I love in this life?
Yes I love working out and eating healthy, but my motivation to do those things was to attract a man. I can attract men the way I am but I’m still not happy with my body. I’m uncomfortable in my skin. I’ve gained 50 pounds and I hate the way I look and feel. That has nothing to do with anyone else. That is genuinely how I feel. My body is not right, right now and I have to take it back. Not to attract men, not because mom tells me I need to, but because I love myself enough to care for my body in a way that says I love you!
It is no one’s responsibility but my own that I have spent the majority of my life trying to be something I’m not so that others will love me. Reality is that people will either love you or they won’t no matter who or what you are. People will either love ME or they won’t no matter who I choose to be. I have no control over other people and how they feel about me. All I can do is be me. The me that is authentically who I am. It feels like I don’t know who that is, but honestly I do.  I outlined it above. The problem is that I don’t stay her when I feel like she isn’t right for other people. When I feel like she will hurt, offend or make others angry. When someone, anyone, tells me she isn’t good enough or right. Yes people really do that!
self love doesn't allow you to walk on eggshells
I need to have my feet firmly cemented in who I am so that I don’t change for anyone or anything unless I decide I want to be different. But I don’t want to be different! I want to be her!
There are very few people in my life that I can be just who I am with. You, my sister, are one of those people. You are safe. But I need to learn to be me even when I don’t feel safe. Until I do, I do not think I will be truly happy. And I will certainly not be ready to let a man into my life.
I hate being alone. That’s part of it too. I’m still discovering what it is I need for myself and what I don’t need. A man is a definite don’t need. Sure I want one. I miss having one. But what good has it done me? Yes I have had blessings and lessons learned through the men I have had in my life. But I have never had a fullness of joy in those relationships because I was constantly trying to be someone I was not. I cannot allow myself to do that again and expect to have a happy, whole, full love life. It is my season to take the time to find that beautiful vibrant 3 year old living deep inside me. Yep 3, really! That is when I left to be someone else. My quest is to get her back!
Self Love lets her play

For more of Tamara’s work, please visit www.2btru2you.com. Tamara’s podcast can also be found on  iTunes.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.

You can read more of Le’s journey at http://www.mybeautifulsister.com

Assertiveness Training: The Next Step for Survivors

Abuse survivors’ most frequently asked questions include this: How can I make sure my next relationship isn’t abusive? The question comes from the awareness that you are prone to being hurt and you want to avoid being hurt again. The question reflects the developing awareness that things you found “acceptable” in an abusive relationship aren’t acceptable at all. It also reflects your desire for something better.

Still, this way of thinking reflects a victim mentality rather than an empowered way of thinking.

Imagine getting back into the dating game and just waiting for something to hurt – so you will know the relationship is a no go. When a date says or does something potentially hurtful, you reject them. Are you deciding whether or not a potential partner is acceptable based on whether or not they hurt you? Just because someone doesn’t hurt you, does that mean they have what you actually want and need in relationship?

Assertiveness training will help you develop relationship skills

It isn’t good enough to not be harmed in relationship.

From my experience, abuse survivors are poor relationship negotiators. They accept what is unacceptable, they tend to avoid looking at their own needs and they “get along” much more often and much longer than they need to.

Healthy relationships require assertiveness skills. Healthy relationships involve the constant negotiation of win-win situations based on both partners getting their needs met.

Think about how this applies to your work relationships or to your friendships. Do you just “go along” with what other people say? Do you decide if something works for you based on whether or not it is harmful? Or, do you decide what you need and go into situations with friends and at work ready to talk about how you can get your needs met?

I often recommend that after an abusive relationship you should wait at least two years before engaging in an exclusive romantic relationship. Why? Because it takes that long to discover your subtle patterns that could lead you into another unhappy situation.

The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities for you to work on your relationship assertiveness skills even if you aren’t dating or in a relationship! You have friends, family members and co-workers you interact with daily. Assertiveness training can assist you in developing an awareness of what it is you need to strengthen about yourself. It can give you the power to understand where you hold back when you would be better off asking for what you need.

Most abuse survivors are passive communicators. Passive communicators have developed a pattern of avoiding expressing their opinions or feelings, protecting their rights, and identifying and meeting their needs. A passive communicator is exactly what an abusive partner looks for because passive communicators are so easy to control.

If you have recently left an abusive relationship, I invite you to take this challenge. Commit to yourself not to engage in any serious romantic dating for the next two years. During that time, focus on improving your ability to identify and communicate your needs in every interaction you have with another person.

Come back to this blog often for tips and support as you build your assertiveness skills.

Sign up to get your Free Assertiveness Self Assessment. The PDF download is a 30 question research-based assessment that will help you understand your assertiveness level. Respond to the e-mail by sharing your score with me and I’ll respond by personally interpreting your results for you. Simply click the link and scroll down to the bottom of the post.

For more of Tamara’s work, please visit www.2btru2you.com. Tamara’s podcast can also be found on  iTunes.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2016 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.


Support: You’re A Single Parent Not A Mutant Failure

“You didn’t fail. The relationship failed.” The group therapist looked earnestly at a room of somewhat bewildered women.

Huffington Post does a 55 photographic essay on what it means to be a single parent

Huffington Post does a 55 photographic essay on what it means to be a single parent

If one has children, one of the greatest fears is a failed relationship. The idea of being a single parent and baring the full responsibility of not only caring for one’s self, which is daunting enough in our current economy, but clothing, feeding, and sheltering dependent children as well…is daunting. The idea of having to do that without the support of a partner in many cases, is paralyzing. Add to that lack of a family or social support system and it can feel terrifyingly paralyzing. Lack of support is often the defining factor between a good experience or a bad experience as a single parent.

slide_397656_4891638_freeI was about to say, “Nobody grows up saying I want to be a single parent…” Then I stopped myself. True, the majority of the time people find themselves a single parent due to being widowed or making the choice to exit an incompatible, therefore unhealthy, relationship. That said, just like there are those who have elected to never have children, there are those who are perfectly happy with the idea of being a single parent from the jump. Here is why…

According to The Better Health Channel, clinical studies reveal some of the positive effects of single parenting are:

  • A child from a single-parent home who is loved and supported has no more problems than a child from a two-parent home.
  • Whether or not the child uses their free time constructively (for example, reading or playing sports) depends on discipline, family routine and quality time between parent and child – not whether the child has one or two parents living in the house.
  • The child is typically mature and responsible.
  • The parent is typically self-reliant and confident.
  • The relationship between parent and child is close.
  • Single fathers are more likely to use positive parenting techniques than married fathers.
  • Single-parent families are less likely to rely on traditional gender-specific roles than two-parent families.
  • Single parents tend to rely on positive problem-solving strategies rather than punishment or discipline when faced with difficult child behaviours.

While I am not one of the brave forward thinking single parents pioneering the option by initial choice, I have found great joy, freedom, and fulfillment in single parenting:

  • My bed, my choice. I sleep on what seems to be three inches of a king size bed each night. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I would have never guessed that I would enjoy the closeness I share with my kids as I do sleeping with them at night. They feel safe, loved, and nurtured in spite of missing time with me during working hours. I have just as many stories of elbows and knees in my face, a horizontal sleeping five year old, and blanket steeling as my married friends. Also, it’s a fantastic reason to give myself permission to decline asking anyone “back to my place”.
  • My house. My rules. While yes, there are rules that are mutually respected between the two homes, my house, my rules. I do not have to concern myself with going into round 10 of the same argument about the same petty disagreement on parenting style. I don’t have to worry about the “man of the house” being too hard on the kids for any reason let alone when it’s not warranted. Conversely, I don’t have to concern myself on permissiveness that makes it difficult to parent. I do not parent the girls on their dad’s parenting time. Their dad does not parent the girls on my parenting time undermining my authority. The only exception is in light of a major infraction.
  • My mini staycation. I was raised in an extremely family oriented religion. Mothers had their role and fathers had their role. The family unit did not include a clause for single parenting. In my mind, until my children turned 18, I am their mother 24/7. Personal time is for the weak. That was my mythology. Thank goodness that got trashed. Now, every other week I get a break. I am not a scrambling crazy person to make it to their events because I have time to pace myself to get there. I actually have time to decompress, take a long bath, read a book, and feel like a human adult again…dare I say a woman. I actually have time to shave my legs. By the time I start to really miss my girls because enough time has gone by I have forgotten about their bickering…they’re back. Perfect timing.
  • I have a social life. It’s not grand mind you but, again, a perk to “time off” is being able to meet and bond with friends. I have time to pursue personal interests, which makes me a more complete person. My friends and I are able to hold adult conversations, unedited, that don’t always revolve around our children. The rotation actually has an opportunity to orbit around our musings. As a complete person I am able to be a better role model of an independent adult for my children.
  • I don’t need a relationship to be happy. Again, I get to set the example that adult happiness does not revolve around searching out and finding your soul mate. It has more to do with searching out and finding one’s self. If I choose to share that with someone on a committed long-term basis, it is only because I want to. It isn’t because I feel I need someone to make my “fairytale” complete. Relationships are not supposed to be about co-dependence. They are about supporting each others independence through life.
  • Independence. I make the bacon, fry it up, and serve it. If the leg of the table needs tightening, I tighten it. If the light fixture needs to be installed (God forbid the lightbulb be changed), I install it. Better still, I teach my children right along side me. Last time I got a flat, I waited for no one, changed it myself. I am not saying that I wouldn’t let someone help out if they offered but, I am not helpless either. Nor are my children and their strong self-esteem and boundaries reflect it.
  • On good terms. My children do not feel compelled to “choose sides”. Their father and I are not obligated to make an incompatible relationship…compatible. I get to enjoy him for the attributes that attracted me to him to begin with. He is funny, down to earth, good natured, loves dogs, and genuinely loves his kids. Right about the time I start to witness the reasons that I would walk past him in the hallway gritting my teeth…wouldn’t you know the event is over. Everybody wins. My children do not have to live with the silent treatment as we try to get along for their sake. Instead, they get to see two grown adults enjoy each others company, in a mature way, in spite of their differences. The kids get to feel loved from both parents.

slide_397656_4892338_freeOur society is not as supportive of parenting, let alone single parenting, as it should be. Agreed. But, as the needs of society are changing so is the support system. If you are in an unhealthy relationship, trying to make it work out of fear of being a single parent, reconsider your fear. There can be many more rewards than you realize only because you haven’t taken the opportunity to explore the alternative. As difficult and challenging as single parenting can be, I am happier than I have ever been in my history of relationships.


Live your life. Don’t just survive it.











Better Health Channel:


Huffington Post:

Samakow, Jessica. “55 Personal Photos That Capture Both The Challenges And The Joy Of Single Motherhood.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Jan. 2015. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/27/single-motherhood-challenges-joy-images_n_6555512.html&gt;.

Revelations: Find The Beauty In Who You Are!

If you let someone else define your beauty and self worth, they will. Be brave, don’t just stand in your beauty, acknowledge, and proudly own it.

One of the defining characteristics of victim thinking is looking for self-definition and self-worth from the outside in. One would think that this thinking is relegated only to victims of domestic violence and abuse but, that is just a myth. The truth is, anyone who seeks acknowledgement from outside sources in an effort to define and confirm who they are, is guilty of and aspect of victim thinking. This leaves an individual extremely vulnerable to emotional and psychological manipulation and exploitation.

Not defined by society as beautiful

Not defined by society as beautiful

I love Rick Guidotti’s exploration of what has been socially rejected as beautiful. The rejection of being albino is not a trend, it is something that has persisted for centuries and has been cross cultural. What started out as a whim for the photographer, turned into a mission of discovery and an active stance for the beauty of a person.

The repercussions of being rejected by a society are so deep and profound that it is life changing. Imagine what it would be like to be poked fun at for having a misunderstood characteristic your entire life. One of our most basic needs is love and acceptance. One would think that we would get plenty of that from birth from our parents but, that is not always the case. One can never know why, but parents, who are supposed to love unconditionally, can reject their young on one level or another. Sometimes it just a poor communication that is interpreted as rejection. Either way, rejection takes its toll.

It leaves a person searching and asking why they are not valued. It leaves a person looking for someone to give them value where they feel they have none. Unfortunately, this is the vulnerability. This is where anyone can step in and tell you what your value is and all of the hoops you must jump through to achieve it. This can be a lifetime cycle and endless search with no attainability. Or…

Walked into the photo shoot insecure...walked out proud

Walked into the photo shoot insecure…walked out proud

Like many of the albinos who sat for the photo shoot, one can look within themselves to find their inner beauty and shine on against all odds. Beauty is subjective. We have a specific name for the study of what is beautiful. Aesthetics. Even a light exploration of this philosophical topic reveals that for centuries, all that can be concluded about beauty is a social definition vs an individual preference. Sometimes they overlap.

With such a broad definition and debate, it would be folly to give the power of self-definition to anyone but ourselves. My challenge to anyone who watches TV, looks at magazines, delves into movies, and looks to others to define whether or not they are beautiful is to stop. Read, look, observe, and have the courage to get introspective about what resonates with your personal definition of beauty. Define what you find beautiful about yourself and give it your voice. Stand for it and protect it from those who would wish to make you feel less than. I guarantee it is a worth while adventure.

~ Shannon

Live your life. Don’t just survive it.

For more information on Rick Guidotti’s project:


Support: Burning Bridges

http%3A%2F%2F40.media.tumblr.com%2F8ffc1457c9361f93eac2656bb6441e3e%2Ftumblr_na04foqb2I1rsbgmuo1_1280“Don’t burn your bridges.”The footnote is, “Unless it needs to be burned so you don’t return.”


Not many people enjoy going to court…except maybe attorneys. The average person doesn’t even like showing up for jury duty. One of the greatest challenges, is to get a victim to show up for court. It is one of the most uncomfortable and vulnerable venues for a victim because, it is a coin toss as to whether they will be re-victimized by the judicial system, their abuser, or both.

I have been struggling for almost four years trying to get sole custody of my youngest son. His father was my abuser. Initially, when I was granted my five year no contact restraining order, the judge overseeing my case wanted me to pursue something more permanent. This was in response to my quarry as to how to protect my son after the restraining order expired. Unfortunately, the judge who saw me for my permanent custody order did not grant it at the time, deferring to the restraining order that was already in place which gave me complete decision making over my son until expiration.

domestic_violence_shelter_ap_imgAt that time, I was still in a 60 day emergency shelter for battered women preparing to go into their 2 year rehabilitation program. I was exhausted on multiple levels. As much as I didn’t want to have to deal with my case in the future, rehashing old events, I simply didn’t have it in me to argue the judge’s position. I let go of it.

Last September, as I anticipated, life presented an opportunity that would require a major move. I had some loose ends to tie up. Back to court. Our judicial system is not very “pro-per” friendly. It is even less friendly for Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse who are “pro-per”. I spent several days at the courthouse just trying to figure out what papers I needed, how to fill them out, several trips to file, make corrections, and file again.

The first filing process alone was intimidating. Then there was a matter of posting and mailing because the whereabouts of my abuser were unknown. In order to be approved for posting and mailing, one must do their due diligence. For victims who have violent abusers, this can very easily put them in harms way. More fear to overcome. I finished and was approved.

Then came the court date. Another intimidating moment. Will the judicial system be my friend or foe? Will I be scrutinized as whiner trying to take advantage of an “absent” father or will I be viewed as a victim of Domestic Violence trying to protect her child and herself? I wouldn’t know that day…there was not enough time between the filing and the court date to satisfy my abusers rights. Continuance. Proof of service not filed properly. Continuance.

Today I sat in court, thick file in one hand, the other across my stomach. I couldn’t help but think this was almost as bad as having to retell a rape story over and over again. Explain myself and my choices through humiliation, hoping it would just end. Then it did. Quickly. The judge looked over my case, announced the day, time, and situation of the case…then granted me everything I ask for.


I now have sole legal custody, with no visitation, of my son. He legally goes by an entirely different name now. My changes were drastic but, so was the nature of the abuse. This was one bridge that had earned the task of being burned. By firelight or starlight…I am walking into a protected future and not looking back.

 Live your life…don’t just survive it.

The Power of “Not Yet”

Do you know what tasty tid bit is perfect for an abusive person to exploit? The perfectionist.

If an abusive person can get their manipulative minds a wrapped ’round a perfectionist, they don’t have to be a genius to keep a hold on them. All that is really required is to hold the fear of failure dangling precariously over their solid heads and they will hold themselves in place. Simply imply, let alone boldly state, that a perfectionist is not “enough”, and they will be the Little Engine That Could until they permanently derail.

Do you feel like judgement of failure looms over your shoulder?

Do you feel like judgement of failure looms over your shoulder?

There is an assumption that this abusive dynamic exists only in romantic relationships but the reality is that it can exist in any relationship. It can be with a boss that says their employee doesn’t work hard enough. The parent that tells the child they don’t try hard enough. The needy friend that says to their BFF they aren’t loyal enough. A worker that says to their co-worker they aren’t supportive enough. A person that tells themselves they aren’t good enough. If there is a relationship, failure to produce enough of anything can be exploited.

The fear of failure can be as debilitating as much as it can be destructive. It can also be a looming specter in the process of healing after the trauma of abuse.

Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University spoke quite comprehensively on the stunting mindset of failure. For someone who is in the process of changing their thinking or mindset after Domestic Violence or Abuse, changing the thought of failure is one of the biggest hurdles. It is also one of the most limiting mind sets for personal growth. Anyone who has worked with survivors or been a survivor knows that the key to a successful future lies in personal growth.

Dweck’s solution to the failure mind set is the power of “not yet”. “Not yet” leaves a to a path of possibilities that failure does not. Failure is absolute and finite. One has failed at a task. For those of us who define ourselves by finite accomplishments instead of by our ability to cope with change and the courage to work through a process, failure can mean a serious blow to self-esteem and personal growth.

b5a167235994fd64e9d1cb8180d6b899After having listened to Dweck’s talk, something else that can be concluded, is that “not yet” can give a person permission to take their time. Too often we can feel pressured to make decisions and take action prematurely, ignoring our intuition, in an effort not to fail. What if we adopted the “not yet” mindset instead? I am “not yet” ready to answer your question. I am “not yet” ready to take action. Then, after we have checked in with ourselves, take action. If it doesn’t yield the desired results it okay, it is just information. Perhaps we need a little more practice, a little more self-evaluation. Try again.

I think this “not yet” mindset being experimented with in our education system could be a fantastic tool when employed in other areas in our life. It does more to build the self-esteem and self-empowerment through personal permission while acknowledging temporary limitations than the restricting thoughts of failure. There is a saying about failing forward to success. Or, in other words, working through the process until we reach our goal. Which reminds me of another saying, life is about the journey…not the destination.

Live your life…don’t just survive it.


Love Addiction…We Are Socialized For It

Click here to listen and be redirected to corresponding podcast

Click here to listen and be redirected to corresponding podcast

I have mused over the amount of romantic dramas and comedies that saturate our culture.

How could I not want to make acquiring that ultimate love a focus in between my day to day activities?

I have fallen prey to the desire to understand and apply the techniques to earn and hold on to that love we see in the movies, read about in books, and look for among couples in our society. When did this start?

Was it when I was a little girl playing dress up as a bride with my friends? We would practice and fantasize about what our weddings would look like. We would talk about our Prince Charmings. We grew older. With the teenage years came more serious talks of boyfriends, marrying our high school sweethearts, and what “forever” meant. In our early twenties talk seemed to shift to the things we would find in a mate that would correct the errors we saw in our parent’s marriages and the effects those “flaws” had on us. Again, we would cite movies, books, and culture as the template of aspired perfection. My friends and I were consumed by the topic as is our society.

I believe this may have been the fatal path to love addiction.

Crashing from loves "high" is physically painful

Crashing from loves “high” is physically painful

How is love addiction characterized? Psychology Today agrees with almost every other cite I researched in their definition:

“Love addicts go through life with desperate hopes and constant fears. Fearing rejection, pain, unfamiliar experiences, and having little faith in their ability or right to inspire love, they wait and wish for love, perhaps their least familiar real experience…addicts lack the ability to control or postpone sexual feelings and actions, with the need for arousal often replacing the need for intimacy…Addiction is characterized by the repeated, compulsive seeking or use of a substance or activity despite negative social, psychological and/or physical consequences. It is often (but not always) accompanied by physical dependence, withdrawal syndrome and tolerance…(read full article)

As I read over several definitions that were in agreement, I contemplated the vast amount of focus our society puts on love addiction, justifying it as a natural human desire. It is a quest that we all embark on in an effort for intimacy. I was having a difficult time figuring out how something that seemed so unhealthy was being glorified as natural and healthy to the human experience. Have I been in relationships that were based on addictive love instead of healthy love? I feverishly scoured credible sources to discover what the symptoms were.

Fortunately, once again, article after article, opinion and scholarly paper agreed on the symptoms. You may be a love addict if love means:

  • Is all consuming and obsessive
  • Is inhibited
  • Avoids risk or change
  • Lacks true intimacy
  • Is manipulative, strikes deals
  • Is dependent and parasitic
  • Demands the loved one’s devotion

Wow. What a reality check. Even if I wasn’t expressing these symptoms myself, or could be characterized by the definition, I was most definitely a partner in it. I facilitated addicts. I could definitely accept that I was facilitating it. I could also recognize the symptoms in so many movies that encouraged me to believe this is a healthy expression of love. What is the antidote? What is healthy love?

Everything starts with you

Everything starts with you

It starts with me. Before I can partner with someone, I must first be a whole, healthy individual. That should have been my quest to begin with. I believe that should be the focus of more of our media and social conditioning. Healthy love will find a healthy person.

To learn more about healthy love and its characteristics listen to Tamara Bess’ ‘Is It Love Or Something Else’.

Live your life. Don’t just survive it.


The Problem With Blind Sacrifice


Victims allow themselves to be exploited by choice.

Unquestioned trust is exploitable

Unquestioned trust is exploitable

This applies to anyone with victim thinking, not just victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse. It is a jagged little pill of reality but, victims allow their values, beliefs, morals, and ethics to be turned against them and serve as the conduit for abusive behavior to siphon their life away.

I can say this with confidence, certainty, and experience. I am as guilty as anyone else who has allowed themselves to be exploited. The most vulnerable belief a victim can have, the absolutely most exploitable value a victim can posses, is blind faith in sacrifice. For an abusive person who wishes to extort their existence, self-esteem, and love from another their is no other polished diamond than that of a person who has complete blind faith in sacrifice.

A person who is willing to sacrifice themselves for another is essentially agreeing that the life of another is more valuable than their own.

One may argue that there are grey areas to this argument. I  have lived that grey scale from beginning to the end of almost sacrificing my life for nothing of value in return. What I discovered is, sacrificial mindset is a vulnerability. Period.

How many people stay in unhealthy relationships for the good of their children? How many victims have been bound by the words, “If you leave, think of what you will do to the children?” Well, let’s consider that. The “good” of the children. What is the good? Is the good material security in exchange for an exhausted mother with a broken spirit?

Victims a promised the ball, given its illusion, but never actually arrive

Victims a promised the ball, given its illusion, but never actually arrive

I refer to this as the Cinderella syndrome. I will get my needs met after I meet the needs of my abuser. I will get to show my children the time and attention they need…after. After I have proven to my abuser that he is loved and cared for, I will be shown love. But, after never comes for more than a moment. As a result, the children do not get to have the parent they wish to have…or the parent a victim wishes to be. Authentic love does not show up to the ball to whisk of us off to a better life. This is the exploitable vulnerability of belief in sacrifice.

Are you a person who is willing to sacrifice their life for love, security, belief in family, the ability to provide, and other such values? If you are, your best defense is to make sure that you are not making a sacrifice for the illusion of these things. This is when the dynamic becomes abusive. This is the dynamic of being exploited.

If a person gives up something they value, materially or spiritually, for value in return, then a healthy exchange has been met. The challenge for a victim is to identify whether they receiving an illusion of value, such as empty promises, or they are actually receiving what they were promised.

flat,550x550,075,fThe difficulty for anyone with victim thinking or a vulnerable belief in sacrifice is, an abusive person is adept at creating the illusion of value. The other skill an abuser possess is recognizing endurance in their victim. How long are you willing to wait for me to fulfill my promise to you? How much can I exploit from your willingness to sacrifice during that time? How much of your life are you willing to let me use without me giving anything but hope in return?

This is the fraud and exploitation of belief in sacrifice. This is the dynamic of handing your life over to someone else to live for you, at your expense. In healthy relationships, their is no sacrifice for an illusion in return. Instead, there is an exchange of mutual respect for the value of each other’s life.

Take the time to identify the nature of your sacrifice for another. Take the time to identify if you are being exploited or receiving healthy value for what you are willing to give up.

Live your life. Don’t just survive it.


Is it Love or Something Else?

You are overwhelmed by a powerful feeling that you just have to go back to your abusive partner after you’ve gone through all of the difficulty of leaving the relationship. You have allowed enough time after the relationship to start dating again, but you don’t feel love with the same intensity that you felt it for your abusive partner. No matter how you try, you continue to have thoughts of the “good times” and wonder if you’ve actually made a mistake.

I have read posts from victims who have left and have found themselves in one or more of these difficult positions. Most of the time, the powerful feeling that causes a victim to believe she needs to go back is misinterpreted to be love. It may feel so intense and so difficult to overcome that the only explanation that seems possible is love.

There is another possibility . . . . .

It goes back to what attracted you to your abusive partner in the first place and it has everything to do with what was missing from you during childhood that drives your relationship choices today.

One of the characteristics of abusive relationships is that they begin very quickly. Within a very short period of time, a person who wants to get into relationship in order to exert power and control over you will tell you everything you always wanted to hear.

“You complete me.”

“Where have you been all my life?”

“You are so beautiful.”

“You are my princess.”

“You deserve all the best the world can offer.”

“When I look into your eyes, I know we have met before. We are destined to be together.”

The perfect lines come from all of the perfect fairy tales we’ve told ourselves about what “Happily Ever After” would look like.

Staying in the abusive relationship is partly fueled by the everlasting hope that he won’t hurt you again when things are “calm” and the apologies and pretty words he says after he hurts you (during the “Honeymoon Phase”).

After you leave, there is no more hope. You must abandon the wish that things can get better and adjust to the fact that the relationship cannot give you what you had hoped for. You have to abandon hope that he will change. You have to come to terms with the reality that he cannot fix the hurts of your past.

Childhood Pain

Childhood Pain

Like it or not, we all subconsciously choose romantic partners based on our childhood experiences unless we have done the work that it takes to make more healthy choices.

If the relationship created an ongoing cycle of old-familiar hurts, what you are calling “love” is more likely a compulsive need to feel accepted, safe and to belong. These things can never come from outside of you if you didn’t get them in childhood. The work of healing those old pains is yours alone.

When you can see yourself clearly, you will understand that love is kind, gentle, responsive, attentive and nurturing without the drama and intensity that abuse adds to the mix.

To hear more on this topic, click here.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2014 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.

Support: Crushing Debt In The Wake Of Leaving

Two-Ladies-having-lunch-copy“…they’re just so lazy. All they do is just sit there with their hands out for our tax dollars. They won’t get a job, even when they do, they hardly work. Such a drain on society. They are just as capable of earning a living as I am…” says a lady sitting at a table close by.

Casually changing the subject to other grave social matters her friend leans in,”Did you see the new ads for women of Domestic Violence? I don’t know how a woman can stay in a relationship like that. If you’re being beaten, it just makes sense to leave. I don’t understand why they don’t just leave.” The ladies continue their lunch in a popular restaurant, purses dangling from their chairs, without a second thought about their socially conscious cars in the parking lot. They may leave whenever they wish.

As often as I hear conversations like this I never cease to emotionally cringe. Depending on the level of ignorance, I can feel my jaw tighten in quiet rebellion and respect for the difficulty it takes to “just leave.” Most of us aspire to have a roof over our head, be able to make the bills of basic living, have reliable transportation, and if we have children, be able to meet their needs. If we are particularly honest with ourselves, most of us would like to be able to do this comfortably. I have yet to hold a conversations with someone who enjoys being the subject of our welfare systems.

We justify being victims in more than just our homes.

We justify being victims in more than just our homes.

Many of us find ways of justifying emotional and psychological abuse. We shrug of comments made by bosses, co-workers, “friends”, and family members. The same is true of someone who comes home to it in the form of Domestic Abuse. In the same way that we tolerate the boss who blows up every so often with illogical and unreasonable demands, Domestic Violence victims also learn to tolerate the occasional violent outburst of their abuser because often times, that is not the day to day (unless it is an advanced case). In the same way that most people do not want to do or say the “wrong thing” at work so as not to lose their job, let alone quit, a victim of violence and abuse does not want to lose their ability to survive and provide either.

Tereance P. Jefferey recently wrote an article for cnsnews.com statistically reporting the desperate welfare situation in our country based on the last report published by the Census Bureau in 2012. The number of people recorded dependent on state assistance was 109,631,000. This is excluding veteran’s benefits. With resources stretched thin, benefits being less than what they were, who would like to take the first leap into that reality?

The National Network to End Domestic Violence recently featured a superlative example of what victims of financial abuse, within their Domestic Abuse, are facing. Amy Kukec (read her story) found the courage to leave her abusive relationship only to ” hit one debilitating financial roadblock after another.” Her abusive husband overdrew their Chase account ultimately landing her in ChexSystems. That was just the beginning of the downward spiral.

I wonder if either of the two ladies having the earlier conversation has tried to get a bank account while in ChexSystems? How would they feel if they were unable to pay for lunch with a credit card because they could no longer obtain one. Would they be sitting having a nice lunch if they could only obtain a part time minimum wage job as so many employers are cutting hours because they can’t afford benefits?


Before one casually sits back in the comfort of their own life, looking down their nose at the “parasites” of society and comments, “I don’t understand why they don’t just leave?” consider what one is telling them. Victims that have been financial crushed and crippled by their abuser not only fear for their ability to provide for their basic needs, as well as children if they are present, but they also fear the horrible social stigma of being relegated to a class people known as lazy beggars. They fear being social outcasts. They fear visiting that social sin on their children.

I am hopeful when I see articles as highlighted by NNEDV. If we can identify the obstacles of leaving, if they can be brought to a social awareness, then we can begin to do something about it. Kukec (read about Kukec) is doing her part by starting “a petition on Change.org calling for the bank to overhaul its procedures when dealing with the accounts of victims of domestic violence.” That is they key.

If society would like to see more victims leave abusive and violent relationships, we need to create a system that will support their rehabilitation. Without entities doing their part in the face of such human injustice, to assist in a persons ability in becoming economically viable and independent, they are by default contributing to the problem. Victims will be driven to chose between the “safety” of staying in abuse, or throw themselves at the mercy of a disinterested system that by default re-victimizes the victim.

transparent_background__small_Here is the grave reality. When companies, banks, and organizations hide behind policy in lieu of creating protective policy for victims of domestic abuse and violence, are they really acting in their best interest? If victims can’t get out from under the crushing damage visited on them by an abuser, who can they turn to to survive? State assistance. By helping victims financially rehabilitate we add to the pool of viable and producing citizens. By stubbornly hiding behind disinterest, we only add to an economic crisis, as well as the social stigma of the “lazy beggar”.

Live your life, don’t just survive it.