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Get a handle on domestic violence this holiday season

It's certainly true that for many, the ho-ho-holidays are less about comfort and joy and more about tension and off-the-charts stress. In fact, experts in the field of domestic violence have discovered that there is a significant uptick of instances of spousal abuse in the waning months of the year, which correspond with the holiday season.

What makes holidays so stressful?

The reasons for this vary, but there are some commonalities. The general stress level around the holiday season increases as the roads are jammed with travelers and last-minute shoppers. People tend to overspend on gifts, stretching limited budgets to the breaking point (and beyond). There is also the likelihood of having to spend extended periods of time around in-laws and relatives that one prefers to avoid entirely.

All of these factors — and more — can combine to make the holiday season a time of tears and violent outbursts.

Taming one's inner wild child

Many men who have struggled with controlling their impulses to lash out at their partners in the past are tormented by destructive thoughts emanating from their inner critic. It may take the form of a parent's or another authority figure from long ago, e.g., that teacher or coach who insisted that you would "never amount to anything" or other negative feedback.

That inner critical voice can play a loop in one's head, until those harsh and ugly words come out in explosions of violence towards the one(s) that you profess to love the most. At that point, almost anything could set it off. For instance, at the annual holiday gathering, you might spot your wife giggling behind her hand with her sister. Instead of reasoning that they may be enjoying a laugh about a shared anecdote from childhood, the inner voice can convince you that your spouse is actually making fun of you, and that you must make her pay for her imagined transgression.

No quick fix to domestic violence

Most people weren't born with surly or sociopathic personalities that predispose them to acts of violence against another person. Instead, environmental factors such as growing up in a home fraught with strife and tension from domestic abuse can mold the way a boy develops into a man. How he carries and manages his anger can become the perfect storm to a lifetime of intimate partner violence.

It would be nice if people had a reset button that could alter the way they adapt to certain stressors. While that isn't possible, it is possible to modify one's behavior and refuse to give in to the urge to control another person via threats of, and actual, violence.

Relationships marred by domestic violence are frequently unhealthy, codependent unions. While both partners should develop better coping skills if they want to go the distance, it is the batterer who must change or face divorce, estrangement from family and even imprisonment.

Seek counseling and legal representation when accused

If you stand accused of domestic violence, you need to do two things — build a viable defense with your legal team and proactively seek counseling to alter these destructive behavior patterns which have bedeviled your relationship for far too long.

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Suffolk County Defenders Association New York State Defenders Association | Founded 1967 New York State Bar Association Suffolk County Bar Association | NY 1908

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