Six reasons women stay in an abusive relationship
Do you know the real reason women don’t leave their abusers?
When we fall in love, we think of fairytale romances that sweep us up in a whirlwind, with deep connections, amazing sex, butterflies fluttering with every phone call. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. We may put up blinders, obscuring the red flags of abuse, and put that pretty smile on our faces that everything is A-OK! Regardless of the exact situation, finding ourselves waist-deep in a relationship with a foundation of mental, emotional, and physical abuse can paralyze us; thousands of women out there can’t leave. My heart is with every single one of you who is courageously battling this daily. I say, “Stand strong, sister. You are a warrior beyond what I could ever be.”
For over a decade, I personally struggled with the demon of marital abuse—until I was ready to come to terms that I too was living a lie. I fully understand painting whatever picture to hide the realization that what’s happening behind closed doors is tearing away every ounce of mental clarity and self-worth. And yet you still feel dependent on someone who wants to destroy every little bit of you until you die.
So why do we stay in abusive relationships? As if the brief explanation above isn’t sufficient evidence, let me dig a little deeper into the psyche of “why we stay.”
- From the moment we exchange sexual intimacy, there’s an energetic connection. Oh, trust me, it will be good. I had my first real orgasm with my ex-husband, which blew my mind. No toys, just body-on-body connection, and Ka-Boom! This orgasm was my energetic tie—a cord that kept me coming back for more. Believe it or not, sex is one of the biggest forms of energetic ties, and this cord will need to be cut if you want to truly break connection and move on.
- Psychological abuse begins to creep into a relationship in subtle ways that don’t cause us to question the “why” behind it, almost like a backhanded comment. Your abuser will gaslight you and work on breaking down your self-confidence. “You’re an idiot.” “ How am I supposed to be attracted to someone that looks like you?” “Can’t you do anything right?” “You will never make it on your own.” Undermining phrases like these are an abuser’s golden ticket to ultimately breaking you down so much that you can’t wrap your head around surviving without them. Unfortunately for me, these words were all too familiar from my childhood; when my ex used damaging language, it wasn’t new. I would hope that someone who didn’t grow up in a toxic family would recognize this as unacceptable.
- Isolation plays a huge part in these types of relationships. Either we pull away out of fear and judgment from others, or abusers will pull us away through control. I personally isolated for years, just to put up a good facade for outsiders looking in. This was more a form of protection than denial; it was easier to keep myself in a bubble and not have to deal with the judgment from others.
- Intimacy abuse is another layer to relationships like this. Remember, the abuser has already drilled into your psyche that you’re not attractive enough, so sexual intimacy becomes a form of “them using you to pleasure themselves.” Sex becomes emotionally painful, to the point you learn to check out during sex. You begin to find tools to cope, like emotional eating or abusing alcohol/drugs. My drug of choice was emotional eating.
- hen there’s the financial control that can trickle in with allegations of “irresponsible spending” and “I can’t trust you with money.” And you will believe them. I spent years with anxiety when checking out at the grocery store. If I were a buck or two over the allotted grocery tab, I knew I would have to put an item back or even be made to return it. After I separated from my ex, the anxiety in the check-out line would still get my heart pounding. The effects of financial abuse can linger.
- Physical abuse is absolutely heartbreaking—and the one thing I did not have to experience too much of. I got out and didn’t look back. But there are hundreds of women out there who are paralyzed in fear because of this—and it is a very real fear. Women stuck in relationships with physical abusers know that an attempt to walk out the door might in itself be life-threatening. Even though there is assistance and safe houses available, this relief is often temporary, which leads to many women going back home.
The unfortunate part about all of this is that we love our abusive partners. As twisted as it sounds, this is supposed to be someone we embrace and trust. It almost feels like Stockholm syndrome; we get so broken down mentally that the shit they tell us, we believe. The daily berating begins to shape us and become our identity.
If I can leave a few pieces of advice it’s this: Please be kind to yourself. No matter how difficult your life is, it is not your fault. There are also resources and shelters to help you. One last thing: Remember, we hold the power to change.