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Abusive Relationships – Why do victims stay?

I think there are three broad reasons why people remain in abusive relationships:

  1. The victim doesn’t realize they’re being abused.
  2. The victim knows they’re being abused, but doesn’t want to leave the relationship.
  3. The victim knows they’re being abused, but isn’t ready to leave due to finances, values, fears, or any other reason.

I certainly honor each group’s position. After all, I’ve been in each of the three groups at one time or another. This story occurred when I was unsure about leaving and making plans on how to stay married to my abusive husband.

Victims Want to Do the Right Thing

As soon as I realized I was being abused, I felt pressured to run away from my (mostly verbally) abusive marriage as fast and hard as I could. I thought that I “should” leave immediately – all the literature I’d read said so, and society doesn’t understand why anyone would stay in an abusive relationship. I wanted to prove to someone that I wasn’t making up the abuse, and I thought that if I stayed, then I was saying “the abuse isn’t real.”

warningThe pressure was high to “do the right thing”. For most onlookers, doing the right thing means leaving. For me, doing the right thing meant staying. At least temporarily.

Why I Stayed in My Abusive Marriage

I’d been married 17 years when I figured out that my husband abused me verbally and mentally. I knew that the three times he’d laid his hands on me constituted physical abuse, but I didn’t understand that the verbal and mental manipulation he used was also abuse, and I didn’t recognize the fact that the physical abuse was his last resort when the other types of control and abuse didn’t work to his satisfaction.

I’d blamed his alcoholism and temper – two negative traits that can be controlled if the person “suffering” from them wants to change their behavior. When I told him that he was verbally abusive, he said that was only the newest label I wanted to lay on him. He didn’t take it seriously at all. He didn’t care what I thought.

He told me he liked who he was and wouldn’t change. In my naivete, I did not believe him.

Tough-Love Plan to End Abuse

I decided that it was time for some tough love. I wasn’t going to put up with the abuse anymore, and I thought I owed him the opportunity to see the problem as I did and change his behavior.

Over the next year, I changed my responses to the abuse. I devised exit strategies and a safety plan. I had the sinking feeling he was giving lip-service to my concerns and fears. Nevertheless, I promised him I would stay and he promised that he would put our marriage first.

My Long-Term Plan for Abuse

I devised a shadowy long-term plan. I told my husband that I had opened a bank account in my name only. I planned to transfer a set amount of money into the account each month, just in case I ever needed to leave the house for an extended period of time due to the abuse. I told him that by our 25th anniversary, if there was no more abuse in our marriage, then we would use the money to go on a celebratory vacation.

During that time, I would go to school to complete my degree. I thought I needed to buy some time and begin a career so I could support myself and our children if the worst happened. However, I was hopeful that my income would contribute to the two of us, together.

He tolerated my plan. He said he didn’t agree with it, but he was willing to go along.

I believed that by being honest with him, he would see how serious I was. Having a plan for myself and our child had worked once before when I asked him to stop drinking (he was dry for 8 years). I thought it would work again. (In hindsight, I would have kept my long-term plan to myself!)

I went to work with my therapist devising new ways to deal with the abuse that I was sure would occur as he learned to control his behavior. My therapist supported my decision to stay; she didn’t judge. I was making decisions for myself, and that was a good thing.

All Plans to End Abuse Failed

Unfortunately, almost a year to the day he last physically abused me, he laid his hands on me again. During one of our discussions in marriage counseling, I had told him that if he did that again, I would leave and not look back. I decided to stick to my guns.

Looking back, living with the verbal and emotional abuse for that year was too much for me. Now that I could identify the verbal and mental abuse, I saw it all the time in almost every conversation. The marriage wasn’t the same; I wasn’t the same. He wasn’t trying to change, only trying to convince me that he didn’t need to change.

Physical violence ended my marriage, but I think it was over about the time I was making plans to stay.

Who else is planning to stay with their abusive mate in hope that they will change?

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72 Responses to Abusive Relationships – Why do victims stay?

  1. Brittany says:

    I am in need of advice. Me(age 22) and my boyfriend(age 23) have been together for 5 and 1/2 hrs, we have 2 kids together, ages 3 and 8 months old. We also have his 13 year old brother living with us bcuz his mom lost custody due to being a drug addict and his father had passed away. So far this relationship has not been easy. We fight more than we get along. We have no common interests or hobbies. When we fight usually its over sex. I work 40 hrs a week, cook and clean up after dinner, bathe the kids, put them to bed, i do everything while he only helps out once in a while. Usually hes next door smoking weed with our neighbor. Then once i get all my nightly chores done i shower and crawl in bed. He comes home late like 1030/11pm and is expecting sex. i dont usually mind but when he starts making demands that im going to do all the work or that he refuses to pull out. im exhausted from taking care of our household and i really dont feel like dealing with the mess afterwards. he gets mad at me and will keep me awake until sometimes 3am when i have work the next day at 815am. he pressures me into anal sex, he thinks im boring bcuz i dont like it and i disagree with it morally and if i dont give in he gets mad. ive tried leaving him several times before but hes the type that just wont leave. he refuses to leave the house, even though i own it. he doesnt mind punching holes in the wall or doors, slamming stuff and waking the house up in the middle of the night, or to really tick me off he will smoke cigarettes in the house when that is a huge house rule. he gets mad and keeps me up, will make noises, irritate mr and call me the C word. i have physically hit him several times, he knows how to bring out the crazy in me. i dont want to be that person and ive only ever been this angry with him. i even went to the doctor for depression issues over this but i think hes the problem. but he has always provided for us and got the bills paid with hard manual labor. he is really loving when he wants to be but our clocks are 100% the opposite emotional and sexual. i know he loves our kids but he is a lazy father, he doesnt spend kuch time w them. if i have to work on werkends and he has to watch them he throws it in my face like he did me a favor. i always have to,ask him to watch our kids but he always expects that he can run off whenever and that ive got it.he was previously diagnosed bipolor so its like should i make him go back to the doctor and make him get help or leave him for good. just need some advice.

  2. You can’t control him; you can request he gets help for his mental illness, but his mental illness is not to blame for his abuse. He is to blame for his abuse. You can only control yourself. If you leave for good, you won’t be raped/sexually assaulted, neglected, verbally or emotionally abused (or at least, not as often or as easily) and can be a single mother (which you already are) without constant interference. I recommend that you speak with local domestic violence organizations and begin researching how you can most safely leave him. There’s my two cents.

    And abuse can cause depression, anxiety, ptsd, physical illnesses and more. Not only for you, but for the children, too.

  3. N. Alan says:

    Thank you for saying that you were in your situation for 25 years. Ive been with my verbally abusive wife for around 25 years also. When I read many of these stories people say they’ve been with their partner for two years, or five years, or 15 years. It makes me feel like it’s been too long and I’m now too old to have any hope. Knowing the duration of your situation and that you are now on the other side gives me hope.

  4. We are never too old to create and enjoy a happy, love-filled life. Go for it.

  5. Peaches says:

    Looking for answers, trying to bring myself to a solid decision. I have been with my boyfriend now for 6 years. For the last year we have been living separate. I left after serious verbal abuse coupled with shoving. He also choked me once and I was told he could accidentally kill me that way. We don’t get along no matter how hard I try. Of course we have good times which is what makes me want to stay but I am scared to death to live with him again for fear that he will loose his mind again. Therefore I feel I may just be wishfully thinking and waiting both of our time. I do not want to break up but I feel like there is no other way. When I have broken up with him in the past, he doesn’t get violent but he does tend to call my phone constantly when I don’t answer and text awful things. I just really don’t know what the right thing is. Am I over reacting?

  6. Heavens NO, you’re NOT overreacting. His behavior is violent and scary. The violence will escalate and you could find yourself seriously injured or dead. Many abuse victims suffer Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) from repeated hits to the head, lack of oxygen from choking and the like. It can happen over time – doesn’t have to be one incident. If he’s pushed you, what’s to keep him from pushing you into a brick wall? Down to the floor? “Accidents” like that are risks you take with a physical abuser.

    The phone thing…it’s common. You can handle it a couple of ways. Tell him not to contact you when you break up with him, preferably in a text message. When he texts and calls incessantly, never – NEVER – answer. Not even to hang up on him. If he persists, you can get a restraining order against him.

    Block his number. Don’t wait to hear how he’s doing (he’ll lie), make sure he’s okay, or apologize for anything.

    No matter what you choose to do, do NOT answer his phone calls or texts. That only eggs him on. It isn’t your fault that he texts and calls like that, but responding to his BS is the worst thing you can do if you want it to stop.

  7. Tina says:

    In my 9 years of marriage my husband has out his hands on me about half a dozen times. Tonight is very sad. Christmas night. We argued and he body bumped me with his chest and followed me all over the house . He kept on bumping me.and cursing me out so I pushed him away and that’s when he slapped me so hard in the face . He still defends his actions and I am so mad actions myself for allowing it to come to this. I don’t know how to leave him with no work and with two young kids.

  8. Nicole says:

    I have been with my common in law Husband (we will call him D) for 8 years.
    The forst time he hit me, we were a few.months into our relationship. He apologized and said i just mad him so mad and kept provoking him. I spoke with his dad and his dad spoke with him and i stayed.
    We moved away, to a foreign country and had a child. Verbal abuse continued. He hit me quite a few times, tried to run me over once, the day before i was leaving him (going to leave the country without him) he tried to strangle me to death. I fought back, turns out i am alot stronger then i thought (im still here right). I had him arrested, then realized i couldn’t leave the country and come home.to canada with out his consent, at least not with our son. I dropped charges, paid the fines and we flew home the next day. At this point he was withdrawing from.meth addiction (i didnt know he had been using, and i dont do any drugs – looking back, i think i was trying to drink myself to death, but I’ve been sober 10 months now)
    When we got back to canada, we moved in with his mom and step dad. He began accusing me of cheating, with his step dad, the neighbours, anyone. He wouldn’t let me open the curtains, as he thought that was me trying to show off or signal someone. I just put up with it and hoped he would soon get over the meth withdrawals and paranoia.
    the night after Christmas we were drunk, he was mad at my daughter for being a snotty teenager, and i felt scared and sent her to my sisters house (she doesnt live with us as she dislikes D), he hit me. I had him arrested, he resisted arrest, and there was a no contact order put in place. My daighter when home to her dad, and my son and i went and stayed at the womens shelter (my family was too scared to have us there in case D came to there homes and hurt us) while at the woman’s shelter, i had a very difficult time, my son was on the waiting list for abilities testing (he has adhd, odd, fasd, l aunguage delay, and encopresis) the care givers at the shelter would not watch my son as he was too difficult. I couldn’t find a daycare to watch him. I wet on welfare and couldn’t afford it alone. I got a roommate, and she ripped me off. I went back to D. He went to therapy, had meds adjusted, went to courses for respectful relationships. We kept drinking, he continues using cocaine and marijuana. He would take off and spend hundreds of dollars in one night on drink and drug. I drank.more and more. I became horrible. All i wanted to do was be drunk, sleeping, or alone, and when i was around people i was mean, my friends and family stopped talking to me. My daughter was mad atnme and i lay on the couch on a beautiful sunny day while my son played lego, alone, eating chips and pop (cuz i was too hungover to cook) i quit drinking that day. I have got my drivers license, a job that supplies us with medical and dental benifits and have decided i dont want to live in fear anymore. I will not accept the names i am being called. I am not a who’re, a cheater, a stunned c__t, i am not the abuser, i dont provoke, this is not my fault! He wants me.to stay, and i am stillhopefull he will change. I am not optimistic tho. I am contacting resources and informing family and friends of the abuse and asking for support without pushing me to rush to anything i may not be ready for.
    I dont know why i am telling you all this. I just need to get it out. And i really do want someone to tell me to stay or leave. What do i do?

  9. You leave. <3 That’s what you do.

  10. Alid says:

    I’m 22, & I know I’m in an abusive relationship. I was 18 when I fell pregnant with my beautiful daughter. Her father was 21. He right away said he wouldn’t step up to the responsibility. Best outlook for him was abortion. He took me 3hrs away from our hometown to get one. I got the pills and I lied that I took them. I lied to my grandma,him, his mother. Since the pills didn’t work he would poke me hard with his hand to “GET IT OUT” pull my hair hit my shoulders and punch my stomach. Few months before giving birth he apologized and wanted to do things right. Cheating, lying, VERBAL EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL ABUSE FOR THOSE 3 following years. Im about to finish school, and god knows that when I do I will leave this bastard. I hate him he made my pregnancy miserable my daighter knows he is abussive she doesn’t like him being around her. He will now be gone. I stayed because I needed someone to provide financially for my daughter and I. I will be free god willingly in 4 months. I feel happy and proud.

  11. Philippa says:

    Leave him Nicole. Your life will be much better! You will get your daughter back and maybe some of your sons issues will just subside because hes not living around violence. Take care of yourself and your children and things will work out for you

  12. Angela says:

    My husband and I have been married for a little over 2 years. 4 months into our marriage everything started falling apart. I found out that the woman he said he was married to previously he was never married to but was actually married to someone else and had two kids by her that I never knew about. We got through that and then he got caught texting a woman he worked with asking her if she would be discreet and still to this day tries to convince me that he had no intentions of doing anything he just wanted to see what her intentions were. He constantly accuses me of cheating with my son’s dad and still being in love with him even though I have seen his dad maybe 5 times in the last year and 6 months out of that he lives in Florida. He would push me around the house with his chest boasting that he’s not putting his hands on me and yelling at me to just admit I still love my ex, I’m a big boy, I can handle it. I then started a 3rd shift job where he would blow my phone up all night making sure I was at work. He would randomly leave work and come home just to make sure I was home sleeping and didn’t have another guy at the house. I ended up quitting that job and I left him for a month last year and went back to him after he said things would change. Things were ok for a bit but he’s recently started it up again. If I’m gone too long he’s wanting to know where I’m at and what I’m doing and what’s taking so long. I started a 3rd shift job a few weeks ago and he’s started in on the cheating thing again. This time it was worse. After I got home from work he got in my face calling me a whore in front of my 7 year old son. Yelling about how he never asks me to suck his dick. I told him to shut up and stop talking like that in front of my son. Told him to just leave and go to work. He refused to leave so I tried to leave the room with my son and he blocked me yelling whore in my face again so I slapped him (which I shouldn’t have done). He then grabbed me around the neck and slammed me in the bed choking me. I was able to kick him off from me and he then threw me into a wall busting the back of my head on the wall and the punched me in the mouth. He did all of this with my son in the room screaming and crying for him to stop. After that he made my son leave the room where he forced me to have sex all day. I was able to get up for a few hours around 6 and by that time it had be 6 times I was forced to have sex and then another 3 times overnight. He’s kept me on the phone all day today trying to make up with me. I have 3 kids, my two girls were at school all day so luckily they did not see it. Where am I supposed to go with 3 kids and no money. I don’t have friends or family that I talk to. According to him my family will never believe anything I say because they all like him. They think he’s the perfect guy for me.

  13. angie says:

    I have been in a mentally and physically. Bad relationship off and on for 7 1/2 years he was a bad achoclic and now hes fiting meth addiction we have 2 beautiful sons 2 & 3 years old. I always take him back he calls me flithy names cunt slut whore old ugly says U f everyone and suck dick ! In front of my sons this last time he shoveld me so hard I landed on my wrist and he broke it and spilt the bone I had to gave surgery….ans after he got out of jail …I was stuips enough to take him back ! Since hes been back filthy names again and he said he wont even say sorry he uses God against me because I know God can do anything ! Today I choose not to live like this its Valentine’s. Day and he said I suck dick I am a whore …I cant do this no more ! I deserve better! Thats not a Godly man ! I am mad at myself for thinking he would change! I was peaceful and happy for the 2 months ..God bless everyone and they don’t change know your worth ! Listen to trent Shelton.

  14. Mary says:

    I have been with my husband for a total of10 years and married for 4. We bought a house together shortly after getting married. The frequency of the verbal abuse started shortly after. He had screamed and cursed at me prior, but nothing like the last 4 years.
    it’s always the same: threatening me with a divorce, my f-ing kids this , my f-ing kids that(he has no kids), screaming, cursing. He works from home and last year called my then 16 year old son an f-ing idiot because he was starting to watch a movie in his room instead of going to the finished basement(my son had a day off from school).
    My son left to stay with his dad for the next 9 months—-I was at work that day.
    Together we make a good living and have a beautiful home.
    The last time he screamed at me was about 2 months ago. He got mad at someone cutting him off in a parking lot and started hurling profanity laced insults at me. The next day I finally confronted him(usually I would just sob). I told him what he was doing to me was verbal abuse.
    NOW he is in counseling, and we have gone together 3 times.
    Will he be able to change ever????? Or am I in denial?
    Part of me wants him to change so that we can move on, but another part of me want to leave him.

  15. Mary,

    What if you left the house now, but made it a temporary move until you know if he’ll change or not? Put a time limit on it. If he seems to change and you move back in with him but he starts the abuse again, you’ll be able to leave permanently knowing you can make it on your own.

    If you don’t like that idea, think of some other alternatives. You have more than the choices of “leave or stay” open to you.

    Get a counselor of your own (not the one he’s seeing or a marriage counselor). The therapist will be able to help you decide where your mind and heart are with the marriage and the abuse.

  16. lillyanna says:

    i really need help i don’t know what to do i am about to be 20 in 9 days i have been with my 28 year old boyfriend since i was 15 years old well about 5 months into the relationship i found out i was pregnant at the time i was already 16 well when i was about 7 months pregnant he had hit me for the first time i let it slide cuz he promised he would never do it again well as the years went on he has hit me choked me and once even pulled a gun on me and said if i cant have u no1 can have u well we have now been together for 4 almost 5 years we are not married and we have 2 small kids together an almost 3 year old and an almost 1 year old i mean i really do love him but i cant keep on with this tonight APRIL 1ST 2016 he choked me against the car he bought me last year for my bday and his sister almost caught him when i tried to explain why i tried to leave he started telling his sister i cry cause that’s the only thing i know how to do i mean yes know I’m still young but i have no1 i didn’t finish high school and i only have 2 months of work expirance i really don’t know what to do if i do go where do i go i dot have money my family thinks he’s a good guy some1 plz HELP ME!!!!!!!

  17. K Amy says:

    lillyanna ,

    I think you know the answer in your heart.

    Leave him please. It is not going to be easy. He has groomed you for abuse and made you weak, since you were just a child and he was an adult and made you pregnant. He has choked you many times. You are lucky you are alive today. The next time, you may not be. Do you really think this is love? It’s not. It’s abuse. You are still young. You can come out of this. Please don’t put your children through this abuse (even if they’re only seeing it, it is extremely harmful for them).

    They may think this type of behavior is normal, or they may become abusers/victims of abuse when they grow up too. Please leave him for your and your children’s safety. Don’t worry if your family thinks he is a nice man. Most abusers are very good actors in public.

    You don’t need an education to get a basic job. You need to come out of this relation, stronger, and struggle hard to get a job for your children’s sake. Some day they are going to be proud of you. Please don’t wait till you get seriously hurt or your children hit.

    Also, when you do leave him, please make sure you are far away from him, and no one knows where you are.

  18. May says:

    Hi I’m in need of some advice. I left my husband about 6 months ago we were together for 6 years and have 2 young children together. He had been mentally and physically abusive with me on several occasions and twice infront of our children. The incident that made me leave he got drunk and assaulted my dad… Put him in hospital. He got arrested and is currently still going through court for assault occasioning grevious bodily harm. I left that day. He didn’t see the kids or I for three months due to a restraining order. He then started supervised visits with the kids for three months which I was present at as well. He seemed to be a bit different but I’m unsure if it is just an act. He has been asking for me to come back, saying that he has changed. Part of me thinks i should go back as it will be better for the kids rather than going in between two homes (they are due to start spending time with him unsupervised) but the other part of me is worried that he will just go back this old ways. I don’t know if I should give him another chance or just stay away but let the children have a relationship with him. Im worried about how both scenarios will affect the children both long and short term. If I go back I’m also at risk of losing my family as they can’t stand him for what he did. I just hate the idea of the kids having to go between 2 houses and living in a broken family…. Any advice?

  19. Do not believe his words. Ever again. He lies.

    I wish I’d left my ex when my kids were small. That way they would have had ONE healthy home to live in, and I could unteach what dad taught. Oh well.

    YOU have that opportunity. Your husband is violent and will be violent again. Let him practice his “nice guy” routine on someone else.

  20. Kelly says:

    Nicole, i can relate. This is the first time i’ve ever felt any need to share information about my life on an internet blog but just no one seems to get it and im just always left alone in the aftermath reliving it alone. I’m unsure if i will even post this. Anyways this is my story, i was with my ex only 3-4 months, we both had numerous additions. The relationship begun hard and fast with pretty much only each other in our lives. I continued to work and supported us off savings and little income. He did not work. I remember the first time he physically touched me, was a pick up shove to the floor. I was shocked i didn’t expect it but it became the norm. I hit back. He continued to physically assault me. I was weak he wouldn’t even bruise, whereas i’d be alone waiting in A and E. One day, i needed to escape i couldn’t physically bring myself to come home when i said i’d just be gone 5 minutes, after drinking alone and crying i managed to walk home 4 hours later to find he had slashed (he always carried a knife and sharped them in front of me), ripped or emptied all my care products, shampoos, tans, health supplements, clothes, hair extensions, etc. I was sad. I cried. I tried to leave. He blocked the door and pushed me out of the way. I threw things, toaster, jug, kettle. He wouldn’t let me leave. I tried for the door again, he punched me in the head. I grabbed the kitchen knife where he was preparing his meal, cut him, this wasn’t me. I got locked up and assault charges. I was released on bail. He contacted and we went away on a sort of holiday to another town. I was on conditions not to associate. The violence got worse. I had lumps on the head, bruises, he dropped me on the street with a fist to the back that winded me because I would not speak to him. I couldn’t call the police because i’d just be returned to the cells, I had no one. He would stab holes in my car if I did not give him money, he broke my windscreen, laptop, two phones, stole from me. Twisted things and left, told me i was toxic and an abuser and continues to lie about me to friends who believe him, they no none of this. I’m too tired to fight it, i just feel numb.

  21. Tessa says:

    Hi there– my story is a little different from the other posted above. I feel like I am the abuser in our relationship..
    My husband and I have been together for 2 years now, we fight more than we have good in our relationship and he’s says underlying things that confuse me, but if I act upon the words he says, I’m the bad guy in it.
    When we get into more serious fights, usually when he’s been drinking or we both have, I try to walk away from the argument to let it cool down but he will either lock me down, take my keys or force me into a corner. Last night we got into a terrible argument over something very stupid and he took my keys, parked his vehicle behind mine and backed me into the corner multiple time while also locking me down with his arms.. for the first time, I punched him in his eye (he now has a black eye) he didn’t hit back, but he grabbed me tighter than before.

    Ive asked him multiple times to quit drinking but I honestly believe it will never happen.

    I’m not sure if I’m in the wrong and should keep my head down or if I should start making a safety plan to get out of our marriage..
    Please help.

  22. It’s time to go. When you see yourself changing and think you are the abuser, it is time to reclaim yourself. Here’s a safety plan: Scroll to bottom of article to download

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