1. one-directional dynamic

Margarethe and Susanne from Margarethe’s Perspective

The interview with Margarethe took place in November 2002. Margarethe and Susanne had a partnership of almost ten years in which Susanne was repeatedly mistreated. The primarily physical attacks began approximately six months after the beginning of the partnership and in the beginning, occurred every second or third weekend. The women have a son who was around five years old at the time of the interviews. According to Margarethe, her attacks became less frequent following the birth of the child. At around the same time as the birth, she began a second relationship, which she described as an “affair” and which kept she concealed from her partner. At the time of the interview, the partnership was in a separation phase; she therefore ended the “affair” because she believed doing so would enable her to hold her partner. 

At the outset, Margarethe referred to herself as a perpetrator. The interview was characterised by her efforts to explain her violent behaviour to herself an others. In doing so, she mainly sought the reason for her use of violence in her partner’s behaviour. She attributed it to Susanne’ jealousy and the lack of esteem that she felt Susanne had for her. She also perceived her partner as egoistic, disrespectful and inconsiderate. In addition, she wished for more affection from Susanne in the form of more all-embracing motherly care and security, which she perceived as lacking.

During the course of the interview it became clear that Margarethe was violent from the beginning of her first partnership. However, here she attributes the grounds to her own jealousy, which was an expression of her fear of losing her partner. Margarethe’s history discloses various aspects that may have promoted her violent behaviour: Her parents died very early, her father died when she was nine years old, her mother when she was 13. Margarethe permits no anger towards her parents for leaving her alone so early, but rather idealises her childhood. According to her description, she more or less had to rely on herself from her 13th year onwards. Later, she was set no limits, either by her partners or by the doctors who provided medical care for at least one of her partners in hospital. Her circle of friends also shows understanding for her violent behaviour. Margarethe is indignant about this, which can be seen as an expression of her desire that they assume a parental role and set limits for her.

Through the early death of her parents, Margarethe missed out on any form of motherly care which she now hopes to find in her relationships. She wants to be loved unconditionally – even her violent side. At the same time, she is ashamed of her violence and has feelings of guilt. The interview was correspondingly ambivalent: Margarethe sees the grounds for her violence in Susanne but is also ashamed of her actions.

In addition to the emotional neglect resulting from the early death of her parents, her later life experience is characterised by aspects that could throw light on her violent behaviour: In the conflict between her homosexual brother and her parents, Margarethe experienced their massive rejection of homosexuality. The conflict ended in her brother being thrown out of the family home.  She explains that she initially kept her lesbian relationships a secret and that one of her partners also hid her same-sex partnership, which increased her fear of losing her partner. It suggests that she may have internalised her parent’s rejection and have become ashamed of her way of life. Margarethe attempts to counter her shame by having a relationship that is as “normal” as possible, whereby her vision of normality is strongly oriented to heterosexual relationship models. Since she sees her role in the relationship model in the assumption of the particularly “male/fatherly” tasks, she cannot adequately realise her need for care and security, which leads to disappointment.  Margarethe ultimately attempts to assert her idealised perception of family and the associated expectations she has of her partner through violence. It is also this idealisation that keeps her in the relationship and prevents her from perceiving her partnership with Susanne as failed. She is not actually holding on to the relationship but to her ideal image.

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Funded by:and
European Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth.

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