Should you ever stay with an abusive partner? If you wonder why do women stay in abusive relationships, here are some shocking reasons why.
Why do women stay in abusive relationships? No matter the reason, abuse comes in many forms—physical, sexual, emotional, psychological. It also affects all genders. But, statistically, women are predominantly the ones that suffer from it the most.
Nearly a third of women in the US alone, experience domestic violence in their lifetime. On a typical day more than 20,000 phone calls are made to domestic abuse hotlines.
So many people are subjected to it, because it’s easy to fall prey to abusive behavior. Once stuck in that cycle it’s difficult to leave. An abuser systematically breaks down your spirit, confidence, self-worth, and opinions of themselves over a long period of time, to the point where you distrusts your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
After a while, they replace these personal characteristics with despair, heartbreak, disappointment, self-loathing, and doubt. Making you easier to manipulate and feeling as though you must stay with them because you’re worthless to anyone else.
Leaving an abusive relationship is harder than you think
I was in an emotionally abusive relationship several years ago. I stayed for far longer than I should have. Although, he never physically abused me, emotional abuse can be just as soul destroying and difficult to break out of because the bruises and scars aren’t visible. [Read: 21 signs of emotional abuse you may be overlooking]
He had all the classic behavior of an abuser: controlling, mood swings, viciously manipulative, intimidation methods, and bullying techniques. For years he picked away at my self-esteem, gaslighted, and often told me I could never leave him because no one would love someone like me. And I truly believed him.
I eventually realized how toxic and consuming the relationship was, and so I left *after many failed breakups and attempts to sever all ties*. When I was in the relationship, his behavior became so normalized that for years I thought all problems were entirely my own fault. It took me over a year to even realize what I experienced was abuse. It’s a difficult mentality to break from. [Read: Gaslighting: 16 signs your lover is messing with your mind]
How do you spot an abuser?
When you start dating someone, it is important to spot red flags as quickly as possible. Be wary of intrusive or controlling behavior. Always, always trust your gut instincts. An abuser tries controlling every aspect of your life—the way you dress, where you work, who you hang out with, and where you go.
Their aim, whether subconscious or not, is to destroy what makes you who you are and replace it with what they find appealing and easy to manipulate. There is no specific archetype of an abuser. Just because someone appears to be caring or soft spoken with a successful career and loads of friends, it doesn’t mean they aren’t potentially an abusive partner.
Many women are not believed when they try and out an abusive partner because there is still a massively misguided notion that being a good friend makes you a good person. In reality, it is possible for someone to be well liked and respected amongst their friends, but violent, paranoid, or wildly aggressive behind closed doors.
It is also important to note it doesn’t have to be severe or physical for it to be considered abuse. Abuse comes in a range of different packages. They don’t have to lay a finger on you for it to scar or damage you. Look out for any gaslighting, humiliation, excessive infidelity, blame shifting, hypercriticism, unreasonable jealousy, extreme mood swings, and obsessive behavior.
If you find the person you date is in fact abusive, don’t try to reason with them or give second chances. Just leave and move on. You won’t be able to change them, because their behavior is so deeply ingrained that they don’t even realize it. [Read: 22 early warning signs of a bad boyfriend you can’t miss]
Why do women stay in abusive relationships? 15 reasons why
Unfortunately, there is still a huge stigma attached to abuse. Too often a lot of victim blaming still occurs. It’s a difficult subject to tackle, and often leads to many people asking, “Why do women stay in abusive relationships?”
Surely, if they have the ability to leave and clearly with an abusive partner, why wouldn’t they just go? What would be the justification of staying put, knowing how badly you’re treated? In reality, the solution is not as simple as it seems.
#1 They feel trapped. So why do women stay in abusive relationships? Well, many women feel like they can’t leave or have an obligation to stay. Sometimes it is for reasons like their partner emotionally blackmails them by saying they’ll commit suicide if they leave or that no one else will love them.
This psychological torment convinces them that it’s better to stay and deal with their circumstance than risk it and go. [Read: 7 signs you’re trapped in a troubled relationship]
#2 They still want to believe that they’re loved. They may still be genuinely convinced that their abuser loves them. Or their partner just has a different way of showing love. The abuser switches between showering them in false devotion and affection and horrific abuse. It gets to the point where the abused believes this is the love they deserve.
#3 They fear for their lives. Abuse is no joke. It often leads to women being terrified to leave in case their partner turns violent. Every day around three women are murdered by a current or former male partner. Leaving without repercussions is difficult for an abused women.
#4 They don’t want a failed marriage. There are many women who simply cannot go because they share children with, or are married to, the abuser. In this situation, they hate the idea of going through the painful, expensive process of divorce. They also don’t want to put their children through a separation or, worse, leave them behind. [Read: 10 reasons why divorce can be such a damn good thing]
#5 Maybe this time he’ll change. After suffering extended mental manipulation and so many failed attempts at leaving, some women often hope that this time will be different.
They cling desperately to the hope that the man they love will come to his senses that they believe his lies when he claims he’s capable of change.
#6 They blame themselves. Most abused people are subjected to prolonged destruction of their self esteem. They repeatedly hear they’re the one at fault for any problems that arise in the relationship.
They often hear, “I’m only doing this because of what you said/did/wore/wrote.” After a while they’re so brainwashed they just assume they’re wrong.
#7 Total reliance on their partner. Some abusers manipulate their partner into codependency and reliance on them. Many abused women who don’t have solid, full time jobs rely solely on their partner to be the bread-winner in the house. Sometimes the abuser controls what money their partner accesses, making it more difficult to leave. [Read: 17 relationship red flags most people completely ignore]
#8 They feel pressured by others. Pressure to remain in a toxic relationship doesn’t always come from the abuser. Sometimes it comes from friends and family.
At times it’s easier for people to dismiss typically abusive behaviour when they’re not in the relationship. They say things like: “He’s probably not that bad,” “He’s never been horrible to me,” or “I’m sure he didn’t mean it.”
#9 Fearful they won’t be believed. Many cases of abuse go unreported and unpunished because often when women come forward they aren’t believed. Unless you document evidence every day, there’s no proof other than bruises or scars.
And if you’re emotionally abused, there’s rarely any physical evidence to use. It sadly becomes a case of your word against your abuser’s.
#10 They still love them. When you haven’t been in an abusive relationship, it seems crazy to still love your abuser, but it’s incredibly common. It’s almost like Stockholm Syndrome where you feel like you still see something in them that redeems all the things they put you through.
I was finally strong enough to leave an abusive relationship when I realized love alone wasn’t enough to keep us together. [Read: The 15 types of toxic relationships you need to watch out for]
#11 They’ve already tried and failed. There are too many cases to count of women who left their abuser, only to be tracked down and beaten, threatened, or sweet-talked into coming back. Leaving often has repercussions, especially in physically abusive relationships, so many women don’t attempt it.
#12 They don’t realize they’re being abused. Sometimes, especially with psychological or emotional abuse, it’s difficult to understand what abuse looks and feels like. It’s easy to be talked into believing their behavior is normal, or that you’re the catalyst for their mood swings. It took me years to recognize the signs and accept it was abuse and not just a faulty relationship.
#13 They give too many second chances. When you’re treated as a doormat, forgiving starts to come easily to you. They feel like they should justify the actions of their partner and explain away their behavior.
They’re accustomed to hearing their partner apologize and promise they’ll do better. They let them off because they love them and hope they’ll change. [Read: The hidden dangers of uncertainty in a relationship]
#14 They have nowhere to go. In some situations, escaping a horrible or violent environment is incredibly difficult when you share a home or mortgage with the abuser. In order to fully get away, some take up anonymity and move to a totally new place. Uprooting yourself from your hometown, renting a new apartment, and moving away from all of your friends and job is too much to bear, so they stay. [Read: We accept the love we think we deserve – A real life example]
#15 They’re fooling themselves. Once their self worth and confidence has been shattered repeatedly, they become accustomed to turning to the one person who shows them “love.” Soon they think this is all they deserve.
Either out of love or pressure, they stay put and accept what they’re told their place is, while believing things will eventually get better if they try harder at being a good partner.
Understanding why do women stay in abusive relationships doesn’t have a simple black and white answer. Abuse is such a complicated, multi-dimensional issue that it’s not so simple to suggest if someone is abused they should just leave. Instead learn to support them and educate yourself so it doesn’t happen to you.