On Off Relationships | Lorri Craig Psychologist
In the context of an abusive relationship, they are all demonstrations of intermittent reinforcement – a dangerous manipulation tactic used to. Intermittent Reinforcement is when rewards are handed out inconsistently of reinforcement occurs at work as well as in love relationships. One of the reasons hot-cold relationships are so difficult to let go of is because they provide what's called 'intermittent reinforcement'. This is a term coined by a.
This is the father of my kids, he does come and see them, you know, what, now you're gonna tell me he can't?
But he, but he can visit? Yeah, he can visit, just that he can't live here, yeah.
So, that's, that's how, how they go about if someone's living with you, if they, if someone reports it, or if like, if you get into problems. Yeah, that's how they find out. Some mothers allowed fathers to cohabit until they were caught, but that sometimes meant that the man was banned from the housing complex altogether, forcing a longer term separation.
Voluntary Reunification When a mother reunited with a partner, acknowledged both the cohabitation and the romantic nature of the relationship, and did not say that she wished to be living independent of her partner, we classified the reunification as voluntary. Even under voluntary circumstances, however, a mother's desires for reunification usually had utilitarian foundations. Marjorie, an African American mother of nine in Chicago, lived intermittently with Jamal, the father of her younger children.
She discussed with the interviewer the difference in her partner Jamal's contributions when he lived with Marjorie versus when he was living with another woman with whom he had a concurrent relationship: So financially you said that, does he help out in a good way sometimes? I guess when he gets a job. Well he bought two boxes of cereal and a gallon of milk one day. You said he helps out with watching the kids? Yeah, he'll help watch. Like when you were at work? He'll help watch them.
He'll pick them up from school. No problems with that? When he moved in with [his other girlfriend] he stopped picking them up. Even though Jamal periodically left Marjorie for his other partner, the pleasure of his company and his contributions to the household were valuable enough to make it worth Marjorie's while to reunite with him when he was available.
Involuntary Reunification and Living Together Apart Because cohabitations are often perceived as easy to dissolve, involuntary reunification may seem like a contradiction in terms. When Stack studied a low-income community in the late s, she found that extended kin networks kept people afloat through hard times. Among our participants, when a former partner was in need, the bonds of shared parenthood were sometimes the last vestige of extended kin that could be tapped for resources, leading to an LTA relationship.
In most cases, mothers did not feel that involuntary reunifications were cohabiting relationships and often went out of their way to clarify that they were not in a relationship, even though they were living with their children's father.
This was generally true even if the couple was sexually intimate. Parenting could benefit the children, the mother, and the father on a practical level—the parents could pool finances, the children lived in a two-parent home, the mother did not have to parent alone, and the father was able to be directly involved with his children on a day-to-day basis.
For instance, Sonny, a Mexican American man, and Joanne, a White woman, lived in San Antonio and had an year relationship history riddled with domestic violence. Sonny had regularly moved in and out of the household, sometimes because he was in jail, sometimes because of housing policy, and at other times, because Joanne evicted him. We're bound by children.
A field note explained the current state of Sonny's coresidence: Sonny has been helping Joanne with the day-to-day care of the children. Importantly, she notes that she and this man work together to be mother and father to their children, even though they cannot be together as husband and wife.
Joanne says she has had only one boyfriend since she and her children's father separated, and she tried to keep it clear that he was not taking over their father's role with them. She says she would never bring a guy into the house because she thinks it would be disrespectful and confusing to the children.
Bound by Children: Intermittent Cohabitation and Living Together Apart
In addition to being a father figure, Sonny's presence allowed Joanne, who had no car, to work or run errands without having to arrange child care or bring her six young children with her. Sonny slept at Joanne's, but Joanne was clear that they were not intimate, as that would give Sonny the kind of control over her that she felt a husband or cohabiting partner expected to have.
That's pay all the bills … and do everything. Yasmin dated other men and planned to terminate the relationship as soon as she no longer needed Joel's assistance, at which point she assumed he would move back to his mother's home. Marka, a Puerto Rican mother in her mids, began dating John in her teens in an on-and-off relationship involving frequent domestic violence. Marka moved to try to escape from John and dated others, but when Marka was 22, she and John had a daughter together.
While John was serving a three-year prison sentence, he called Marka constantly and was anxious to resume their relationship. Conventional parenting ties were especially important to Marka, for her own sake as well as her daughter Tia's. When he moved in with her, she watched him carefully for many months, until finally she told the ethnographer He was working making over 30 per hour through a union job.
For Thanksgiving, he baked the whole meal, turkey, lasagna, rice and beans and I started to get confused. I decided that it was worth trying it out as a family. But I am not sure about him yet. Later, she conceded that they had resumed their relationship and she had conceived another child with him. In many ways, Marka was more invested in the social appearances of the relationship than in the relationship itself.
Housing-based LTAs Even if their personal ties were tenuous, mothers and fathers were reluctant to let their coparent become homeless. LTA coresidences based on accommodating housing needs, however, were often devoid of any trust or affection. For instance, Tonya, an African American mother in Boston, allowed Curtis, the father of her youngest child, to live in her home. Tonya did not find the relationship itself worthwhile. She was upset that Curtis did not contribute food to the household and was angered when he tried to get in her bed.
After he had lived in the apartment for about 1 year, Tonya had not given him a key. Tonya suffered from depression, had been welfare reliant her entire adult life, and had unreliable alternative sources for cash income. Tonya's mother, sisters, and adult daughter also lived in poverty. Family members traded in child care and surplus WIC food allotments, but no one had cash to share.
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Curtis offered token rent money. In addition, allowing him to stay meant that Tonya did not have to see her child's father living in the street. Tonya may also have had hopes that if she gave it time, the relationship would change for the better.
Just too boyish, wasn't grown up yet. Though public assistance provides some low-income women with housing resources that men may try to access, other women lack social, familial, and financial resources and risk homelessness. These women may call on the obligations to their children to obtain housing and other financial support from their children's fathers. When men controlled the residence, they had the power to set certain parameters regarding issues such as housework or sex. In describing the LTA situation of Margerita, a Mexican American mother in Chicago, the field notes reported that Margerita has been at the mercy of her callous, selfish [partner] since the birth of their first child 15 years ago.
She feels dependent on the little financial contribution he makes.
Bound by Children: Intermittent Cohabitation and Living Together Apart
Jesus pays only the mortgage and Margerita covers everything else. In the past, Margerita was homeless without Jesus. She has not been able to rely on assistance nor her parents for support.
As is true for many low-income women, what kin networks existed were limited in the support they could provide. Margerita made too much to qualify for many forms of public assistance while not earning enough to fully support herself and her three children. Jesus, who was born in Mexico, took advantage of Margerita's dependence. She did all of the housework, and Jesus did almost nothing—not even repair a broken window in the winter. Avoiding homelessness drove Margerita to stay; even when she landed a better job, she did not believe she could make it on her own.
Even though the coresidence lasted for several years, Margerita never conceded that their relationship had resumed.
She tells me that that is part of the reason that she stays with him because she does not have the money to hire a lawyer. Margerita had no trust in Jesus other than her belief that he would continue to provide housing for her and their children.
She placed little value on his minimal contributions to parenting, but rather believed staying preserved her own role as a mother and gave her children stable housing.
The lack of material resources available to low-income women hinders their ability to form more conventional intimate partnerships, though they may desperately need the resources those partnerships provide. Developing a permanent attachment to one man limits a woman's network and impedes her ability to draw on all resources potentially available to her. As such, even when a couple would prefer to cohabit, they may be forced to separate in order to meet their family's needs.
On the other hand, they may feel forced into cohabitations they would prefer not to have. In the case of the LTA relationships observed here, women had practical and emotional connections with men whom they did not view as even casual boyfriends, much less committed partners.
Even though cohabitations are thought to be easy to dissolve, in these cases, shared parenting tied people together long after their interest in their relationship as a couple had ended. Ongoing concomitant obligations led to coresidence that does not fit any current notions of cohabitation.
Until recently, marriage was the only socially acceptable way to maintain a cohabiting relationship. As a result, as rates of cohabitation climbed over the past two decades, observers focused on cohabitation's connections to marriage. As the dominance of marriage diminishes in American family life, it is clearer that some cohabiting relationships do not fit into a marriage-oriented perspective.
Intermittent cohabitations demonstrate the difficulty of shoehorning cohabitation into the marriage paradigm, even when a couple maintains a long-term relationship. In some sense, the reasons women gave for maintaining intermittent and LTA relationships resemble the practical considerations that were central to marriage until the 20th century, such as shared parenthood and the pooling of resources. Until the 20th century, sexual relations and companionship were less important for marriage Coontz, In this way, for mothers in the Three-City Study ethnography, intermittent cohabitations, and LTA relationships in particular, resemble the marriage-based families of the past more than the present.
Yet sharp differences with married families of the past also exist. Notably, in our sample, intermittent cohabitors frequently had intimate relations with other partners during their separations, and LTA partners frequently had sexual partnerships with people outside of the household even when they were coresiding.
Though some intermittent cohabitation spells endured for a year or more, others lasted little more than a month. Even among longer term couples, there was generally no sense of permanence. Within LTA coresidences, one or both people usually wished to cease living together as soon as possible. In addition, we must consider the changing role of fathers in these configurations. From the Industrial Revolution until relatively recently, heterosexual relationships assumed gendered divisions of labor that emphasized male bread-winning and female caregiving, roles that were considered essential to functional marriages Coontz, In contemporary low-income families, mothers often have access to financial resources outside of employment that are not perceived as available to fathers, and it is posited that low-income fathers often abandon their families because their financial support is not essential Roy, ; Willis, Although there is a continued emphasis on fathers' role as providers e.
Many lower income fathers would like to provide financially, but have also come to value their relationships with their children and their role as caregivers e. Maintaining connections with their children's mothers may be a survival strategy for obtaining resources such as housing, but it is also an essential component of maintaining involvement in their children's lives.
As researchers and practitioners, we must consider relationships that stretch conventional boundaries of family life, relationships that are evolving, ambiguous, and sometimes short term. It may be difficult to determine the exact nature of many cohabiting relationships, as even the people involved may have different interpretations. Constant shifts in cohabitation status between the same two people can further blur these lines.
Household composition may have frequent shifts that are not even acknowledged by household members. Intermittently cohabiting couples are, nevertheless, a part of the reality of intimate partnerships. Relationships may not have the shared emotional bonds that contemporary Americans consider as a necessary component of intimate partnerships nor the sexual exclusivity and stability that were emphasized in the past.
What remains are needs-based relationships centered on the ties of shared parenthood: The broader significance of intermittent cohabitations and LTA relationships may be to reorient the viewpoint of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers regarding the way they approach the concept of relationships, families, and household composition.
Just as cohabitation itself became mainstream, as more families face economic hard times, we may see widespread adaptations within cohabiting relationships. Children may be more central to family ties than romantic relationships between their parents.
By not assuming that all relationship patterns fall into existing categories, we may be able to systematically observe families in as yet undefined configurations. In this way, research on the edges of personal life may help us to better understand the diverse nature of today's families and their impact on children and society. Males, fathers and husbands: Changing roles and reciprocal legal rights. Sage; Thousand Oaks, CA: Bramlett M, Mosher W. Cohabitation, marriage, divorce and remarriage in the United States.
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He had a rough childhood! Joe Carver reminds us, abusers are able to use periodic affection or small acts of kindness to their advantage.
By employing pity ploys or giving their victims some affection, a gift, or just the absence of their abuse from time to time, their positive behavior becomes amplified in the eyes of their victims. However, Carver is clear that these are excuses and diversions, not signs of redemption. These intermittent periods of kindness rarely last. They are embedded in the abuse cycle as a way to further exploit abuse victims and to manipulate them into staying. Severing the Trauma Bond Whether the abuse is primarily physical or psychological, the power of intermittent reinforcement lies in the power of uncertainty.
The abuse victim is thrown into self-doubt about the abuse because there are usually periodic moments of affection, apologies and faux remorse involved. Abusers can deliberately harm you just to seemingly come to your rescue. They act as both the predator and the hero because it causes their victims to become dependent on them after horrific incidents of cruelty.
Intermittent reinforcement is used to strengthen the trauma bond — a bond created by the intense emotional experience of the victim fighting for survival and seeking validation from the abuser Carnes, Trauma bonds keep victims attached to their abusers through even the most horrendous acts of psychological or physical violence, because the victim is diminished, isolated and programmed to rely on the abuser for their sense of self-worth.
Victims are then conditioned to seek their abusers for comfort — a form of medicine that is simultaneously the source of the poison. In order to sever the trauma bond, it is essential that the victim of abuse seek support and get space away from the abuser, whether that come in the form of No Contact or Low Contact in the cases of co-parenting. Only when survivors allow themselves the complexity of their emotions towards the abusers can they fully recognize that their investment in their toxic partners has little to no positive return — it is, in fact, a gamble that is far too risky to take in the long run.
Works Cited Carnes, P. Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships. Bad Boys, Bad Brains. Retrieved November 16,