Chapter 7: Staying & Leaving

“After years of watching Mom disregard herself so that others may be happy and their life can be peaceful, I could see I was adapting the same behavior.

Even though I’m like her in nearly all my ways, I was sick and tired of returning to him. I was asking the same confusing question most people do when they discuss abusive relationships…

Why did she stay? Why did she go back?

This question seems to boggle the minds of psychologists, therapist and mental health professionals everywhere as well as the family, the children and every relative involved. Over time, this is what I have concluded.

Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash

Women stay in abusive relationships for the following reasons:

  • Fear & Control: maintaining the abuser is often times the only sense of control the victim believes they have. The abuser provides this illusion of control. You are never really in control of what happens next, but the illusion works to his advantage and will keep you in the relationship longer. This is often why women hope the abuser is able to change. Because he has allowed you to believe that you are in control and have the power to change him. You don’t.
  • Habit & Pattern: Both individuals have developed a strong habit, a pattern neither one knows how to break. Since neither one is able to change it, the pattern continues to cycle and strengthen until change is introduced. Whatever change is introduced needs to be careful and handled by a professional. This can be the most dangerous part.
  • Love & Self: The most important, I believe, is that woman have somehow misconstrued the definition of Love. They have associated Love with Pain, Love with Forgiveness, Love with Fear. Reevaluating your definition of Love in every aspect of your life (with your partner, with your parents, with your children) may bring for some new insight.

Women return to abusive relationships for the following reasons:

  • Comfort in the Familiar: The abuse is hard, but the unfamiliar can appear harder. Leaving the abuser seemed to be the right choice, but because he has stripped you of your confidence, independence and ability to love yourself, you automatically question if you are capable of living without him. This is planned and plays to what the abuser intended. Seek therapy to reestablish self-love, independence and confidence in embarking on the unfamiliar.
  • Withdrawal: After leaving, many women have said they miss their abuser. Or stranger, they miss the abuse itself. They don’t know why. They don’t understand it, but you’re not crazy if you have felt this way, promise. Find strong support to keep you from relapsing. Change takes time to settle and often times women return too quickly and haven’t allowed the full process of change to take place. Be patient
    and welcome new ways of living.
  • Hope: Leaving allows the dust to settle and chaos to disperse. This is when the idea Hope returns and seems to erase a lot of the horrible feelings you experienced. This is a trap. Watch yourself. This is your chance to break the entire cycle and change your entire life! You’re most likely just moving towards what you believe is going to make you happy and at the moment, it seems to be him. It’s not. Instead, fill your time with anything else that really does make you happy. The things you forgot about and haven’t done is so long. The dancing, glittery pens, walks in the park or movie-nights-for-one that use to make you smile. Spend your money on YOU for once. If you have children, go out with them. Plan something to look forward to and do it! They most likely want to see more of you anyway, so get your abuser out of the spotlight of your life. Bring YOUR happiness back into focus. Bring YOUR independence front and center and you’ll forget all about….what was his name?”