Motive for Staying in Abusive Relationships

August 18, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

In 2008, I began counseling again. The doctor wrote the referral for depression. But when I got to my therapist's office, I told her I was there because I was emotionally and verbally abused with an occasional go-round with physical violence. I told her I was depressed for sure, but what I needed to know was how to deal with the abuse.

She asked me if I'd considered leaving my marriage; I didn't want to do that. I convinced myself that he would change, he would become my fantasy man, if I could hit on the right plan to fix everything. To fix him and me and our relationship. I'd heard stories of women saving their marriages by changing the way they related to their husbands.

I thought that eventually, with enough of my energy, time and dedication to changing myself, that my husband would want to change. That's a nice way of saying that I sought to make him jealous about how happy and secure I could become within myself and hoped his jealousy would make him want to be like me.

Isn't that one of the fantasies abused people hold? Wouldn't it be great if the one who tells us we're useless and stupid wanted to be like us? It would be the ultimate role reversal. I could be the way I wanted to be and he would want to be like me!

Oh, the pleasure of advising him on how to be like me! My guidance would be loving and strong. When he failed to live up to my example, I would lovingly coax him into my way of doing things. I'd invite him into my reality and his eyes would turn round with gratefulness and admiration!

A-hem. Isn't that what the abuser wants of us? Don't they want us to step into their realities and admire them as kings and queens?queen

Abusing the Abuser

But in the role-reversal, I would be loving...I wouldn't abuse my abuser!

Any time a person seeks power and control over another, the possibility for abuse is there. I wanted power and control over him. With that as my motive, there would be no good outcome. As a victim who he'd backed into countless corners and come out kicking (verbally), I know that I hold the capability of acting nasty and vile. As a victim who has said and done things to my abuser that I would never do to even a stranger, I know I hold the capability of manipulating and doing ugly things to try to get what I wanted (my version of peace).

I hold within me the ability to abuse. Tempting myself with the promise that one day, our roles would reverse was like inviting the demon into me. You've seen enough movies to know that demons would rather go where they're invited. The person inviting in the demon thinks they will somehow overcome it as the possessed one could not. Pride is their downfall.

The only way to defeat a demon, even the Demon of Abuse, is to cast it out of a person and into the energetic heavens to be dealt with by a power higher than yourself. And the person possessed by the Demon of Abuse must want it cast out - they must push from their insides.

If there is a part of you that seeks power over your abuser, then when the demon comes out of your abuser, it is going to fly right into you. Yes, you, the one who as a victim reacted in hateful ways. You hold the capability to act as your abuser has acted.

Is that what you want for yourself? Would you feel proud to know you overpowered another human being?

It is possible for abuser and victim to exorcise abuse from their relationship. It is possible for your abuser to cast out the demon with or without your help. It is possible for you and your partner to have an abuse free relationship.

But your abuser has to want it. And you have to be pure of mind and heart.

Ask yourself, "What is my motive for staying in this abusive relationship?" If a little piece of you likes the idea of your abuser following your shining example, then it may be better to leave.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, August 18). Motive for Staying in Abusive Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 24 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

September, 2 2011 at 12:27 pm

I was in an abusive marriage for 15 years and the key thing I learned: the nicer I treated her, the further she went with her verbal abuse. She did not change by following my examples of kindness. She only took it as me being weak. Towards the end of the marriage, I was beginning to think that she thought my first name was "Stupid." Somewhere along the way she forgotten my name. She did seek out help but later told me she was telling her counselor that I was the abusive one, not her, and I was the one not trying to work on the relationship. I'll never forget the day she told me I made her treat me the way she did. She eventually left because she had determined that her psychiatrist was in love with her and was preparing to date and marry her. Of course, it never happened but through out our marriage she had fixated on several men whom she thought would leave their wives to be with her because she thought she was that special. Her mother was the same way.
Why did I stay in the marriage?
Later, I found out that subconsciously I had married someone like my mother, only worse, and that I was reliving a bad relationship with the hopes of having a different and better outcome. When I began to think about it, I was thrown for a loop by how eerily similar they both had been.

August, 30 2011 at 6:05 pm

I have read this article and wonder was I abusive before I became the recipient of his abuse? I do not remember ever criticizing him, though, I know I did put him second best in a lot of my life, so maybe he is paying me back for this.
And pointing out that there is no hope if you, the abused, wants to "get back" at the abuser at some future time when the abuse issues have been resolved has certainly been a wake up call. I DO fantasize about "hurting" him, by cheating blatantly on him, so that he can feel the pain that I have had to endure.
I do, indeed have a long road to travel.

August, 20 2011 at 8:58 am

I have stayed in the hope that by modeling healthy behaviors that he would not only see what I'm doing and be drawn to it. Part of me hope that my behaviors will illuminate how sick he is and what an a#%hole he is.

August, 19 2011 at 8:10 am

Paula, I can see exactly what you are saying. I appreciate every thing you have said. However, this is not limited to women. The only exception there is in my relationship to what you described is my wife does not criticze my physical appearance. She is just as critical and cruel about my personality and abilities.
I can identify with everything you have spoken about. This sickenss is not reserved for men. My wife was raised in an environment where she had to constantly fight for control. So now she has to have power over me at all times. Just like you said, I did not even realize what was happening until friends and therapists told me what was happening to me.
My own daughter will come over and hug me after her Mom goes off on one of her tyraids of rage.
This is an awful thing that needs to end for everyone, not just women. not just men. People deserve to be themselves, be happy, and be loved with acceptance. I just want my wife to stop attacking me with her toxic words and beahviors. I have no choice but to leave soon and let her be on her own. I really feel for all women and men in my/our situation. I even feel bad for the abusers that ended up the way they are. Someday I hope they all get help when they are ready. Everyone deserves to be happy.

August, 18 2011 at 8:51 pm

I never wanted him to be like me, or to have any power over him. I just wanted him to leave me alone. To be able to get out safely.

August, 18 2011 at 10:58 am

Although I do believe that some women/men stay in abusive relationships in hopes of change, I believe that more, women in particular, stay in the relationship because they feel they must. Although it took me many years to even acknowledge that I was abused, as I had always thought since he did not hit me I was not a victim, (HOW WRONG I WAS!) I was made to believe that I could not make it on my own. I was told I was fat, ugly, no one would ever love me, and there was no way I could make it on my own. Ladies, it is up to us to give ourselves the precious gift of self confidence so that WE may control our own fate. I finally got the push I needed when one day while being screamed at, my six year old daughter looked at me and said "Mommy, please leave before daddy hurts you." Those words were so incredibly powerful to me because it made me realize not only what I was allowing my husband to do to me, but what I was allowing him to do to my children as well. I left the next day and never looked back. My 13 year old son even told me he was proud of me for leaving.
We are capable of doing much more than we give ourselves credit for. Abused women of the world, there is help out there. Mold your own fate, I'm positive you will be surprised at how amazingly strong you truly are. God Bless.

August, 18 2011 at 8:33 am

I really appreciate that short phrase, 'If a little piece of you likes the idea of your abuser following your shining example, then it may be better to leave.'
I needed that. I sit and 'fantasize' about her meeting me in the realm where we both understand, appreciate and accept where we are both coming from. Why can't she value me like I value her. Just like she is saying why can't he do what I tell him.
I agree if we are both trying to struggle for control in some way. Since I am wishing she would be nice and loving like me. She wishes I followed her wishes and demands, it is doomed to fail. There is no acceptance of each other or appreciation there.
Thanks Kellie. You keep giving me the right medicine for this.

AllUCanBe (Barb)
August, 18 2011 at 6:52 am

Hi Kellie,
What an amazing article! Although no longer in a relationship, my previous one was in many ways mentally abusive which I only recognized many years later. As I read your article, it became even more clear that I too was trying to "control" my late husband, making him into what I wanted him to be. We all have to take responsibility for our own actions and this reinforced that belief for me as well. Really enjoyed this piece and shared it on my FB and Twitter accounts as it's a something everyone needs to be aware of.
It was a very thought provoking article for me so thank you.

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