Happily ever after? women's perceptions of their relationships after the desistance of violence
A mixed methods qualitative design was employed to explore relationship satisfaction in women who are currently living in heterosexual relationships where violence has occurred and desisted in an attempt to understand this phenomenon from their perspective. The study examined the following two key areas of inquiry: 1) how satisfied are women with their relationships and what elements are important to them in determining relationship satisfaction, and 2) how do women who stay in relationships where violence has occurred understand changes in the violence and what impact does the meaning they make of these changes have on their current relationship satisfaction. A total of 15 women participated in the study. Women reported a wide range of relationship satisfaction. In assessing their relationship satisfaction, they identified factors commonly identified in existing literature on relationship satisfaction such as trust, good communication, closeness, support, and respect, but also emphasized the importance of relationship security and stability. The findings suggested a process in which perceptions of past violence shaped perceptions of changes in the relationship that further shaped the narratives the women chose to tell about their relationship satisfaction. Women who reported greater satisfaction perceived their relationships as aligning more closely to a dominant narrative of being in a changed relationship. This narrative included a) the presence of at least one pivotal turning point in the relationship that helped establish a sense of increased safety in the relationship, and b) a resolution of the causes that women identified as contributing to the occurrence of violence. Dominant social discourses on love were employed to help bolster relationship satisfaction through processes of minimization, denial, self-silencing, justification, and romanticizing. Findings suggest that women’s perceptions of violence are pivotal in understanding relationship satisfaction in this population.
intimate partner violence, relationship satisfaction, women's perceptions, desistance of violence