Why we stay when we know we shouldn’t

We stay in devastating, abusive relationships for many reasons. Here’s five of the most common motivations, and why they really shouldn’t be.

1) “I love him (or her)”

Photo by alextakesphotos

Photo by alextakesphotos

This is the top reason people give for staying in an abusive relationship, but also the most misunderstood. Sure, in the early days – before he dropped his Prince Charming mask – you loved him. Why on earth wouldn’t you? He worked very hard to charm and disarm you. Few of us mere mortals are able to resist persistent and determined love-bombing, which is one of the more disturbing tactics of a pyschopath, by the way!

But, here’s the thing… what compels us to stick to our abuser – despite the hurt, the fear, and the chaos – isn’t love. It’s the result of a trauma-bond, forged because your happiness, safety or security depends upon your ultra-controlling abuser. Understanding trauma-bonding is the first step in cutting the tether to your soul-vampire, before he bleeds you dry in every possible way.

2) “I’m afraid of what he will do if I leave”

Again, this is very common. After all, there’s a host of reasons we feel afraid. We’ve seen exactly what our abuser is capable of, and each time we think things can’t get any worse – he rachets up the extreme behavior. He has likely made numerous threats to kill or shame you if you go, perhaps to hurt the children or other family members. You’ve no doubt that he means it, and even if you think he isn’t capable of making good on his threats, you are anxious about taking that risk.

We are left frightened to hang around whilst things continue to deteriorate, but terrified that getting out will push him entirely over the edge.

This is an entirely rational fear, and not one to be underestimated. Without doubt, when we leave, this is a very dangerous time. Research has shown that women are at greatest risk of being murdered when they try to escape their abuser. However, there are ways to make a safe exit, and staying safe afterwards. It isn’t easy, but it’s a million per cent better than condemning yourself to spending the rest of your days in pain, misery, and fear.

3) “I can’t afford to leave”

Photo by nacu

Photo by nacu

Financial abuse is a classic tool in the Abuser’s Manual. Ultimately, it’s about restricting your independence, by denying you financial self-reliance. This serves to make you more dependent on him (which feeds his monstrous need for control).

He has probably encouraged you to give up work, or made it impossible for you to hold down a job. Maybe he keeps you pregnant or refuses to help with childcare, so you can’t earn a living for yourself. He is mean with the cash he gives you access to, and scrutinises your bank statements. If you do work, he spends your hard-earned on frivolities or vices, so you are still always short on readies that could ease your route out of the relationship.

Let me tell you: you can afford to leave. Many governments offer financial assistance to those escaping domestic abuse. This could include help with housing, benefits, and welfare grants. Also, a little preparation from you to get your finances in order, can help build an essential escape fund.

4) “The children need their father”

Yes, children benefit enormously from two good parents that care about them, work together as partners in parenting, and are focussed on their needs and wellbeing. They don’t benefit from being in a situation where one of their parents is abusing the other. They don’t benefit from the misery and chaos caused by one parent, and witnessing the suffering of another.

Sadly, many abusers see children as tools to control or abuse the other parent. This can include:

  • Threatening to harm or abduct the children
  • Making us believe that we are bad parents and incapable of looking after our children alone
  • Turning the children against us, by teaching them to ignore our attempts at discipline
  • Conditioning the children to join in the abuse
  • Telling others that we abuse or neglect our children.

Even if they are not themselves subject to abuse, the impact on children from being around domestic abuse is real and profound. It can affect every aspect of their lives, from health, to education, to the ability to form healthy friendships now and respectful relationships later in life.

As a parent, leaving your abuser is ALWAYS the best decision you can make. My father beat my mother. I’m forever grateful to this strong lady for choosing to get away from him.

5) “He can’t cope without me”

Photo by Kent Ng.

Photo by Kent Ng.

Abusers are often expert manipulators. These children in adult bodies are great at making us feel that we are responsible for their physical and mental wellbeing.

We do feel responsible for them. We feel guilt that if we leave, their (already disordered) lives will collapse. Perhaps we’ve tried before to leave, and we felt the full force of their emotional blackmail. This is the abuser’s best tactic in keeping you trapped, and – better yet – turning things around so you bear the weight of the responsibility to change. Let me tell you, speaking from experience – your abuser is perfectly capable of surviving without you. He just doesn’t want to.

YOU can make things better

He won’t change. Few abusers ever do, as they will not ever sincerely accept responsibility for their actions and begin the gruelling process of reforming. Just think: he may have apologised to you for an abusive episode, but when did he ever take responsibility and actively change it?

REMEMBER: Only you have the power to improve your situation. And you can exercise that power whenever you want.

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Photo by xJasonRogersx

What were your biggest fears about leaving your abuser? Why did you stay, when you knew in your heart that you had to go?

ALSO SEE: Find out how to achieve a safe and happy future in Feel the Fear and leave an abusive relationship anyway.

© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14

7 responses to “Why we stay when we know we shouldn’t

  1. I’m in a relationship with a man going on 4 years. We’ve lived together. He asked me to marry him and move to another state. After we got there be became nasty while we worked very hard remodeling 3 successive homes. I was exhausted and doing work few women in their 60’s could do. I got called various types of stupid, the constant theme is that I’m a slow thinker. Airhead when he’s angry. I’ve left over 5 times. I kept the first home so I have a place to go. But I keep going back. I’m kind of tied in by a business relationship with him. It’s not the same as what I’m reading here but this has not been what I dreamed about in this relationship. Oh by the way he doesn’t want to marry me. There are good times and he has helped me a lot but I can’t seem to make a decision about what to do


    • Hi Patty. The ‘nastiness’ you mention could be a form of emotional violence / domestic abuse. From your short comment, I see several warning signs, but you know best if this man is abusive or not. If he is, don’t underestimate how damaging it can be and seek professional support.


  2. Pingback: Why we stay when we know we shouldn’t | Barely Two Words·

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