Are You in Love with Your Abuser? If So, There's a Reason

June 12, 2018 Emma-Marie Smith

Are you in love with your abuser? People on the outside struggle to understand it, but you love him. Learn why you're in love with your abuser at HealthyPlace.

Being in love with your abuser is painful and confusing. On the one hand, you may fear for your sanity, your sense of identity, and possibly even your life. On the other, you may cling to the times your partner is loving and thoughtful, and feel that you're too in love to ever leave. You know he sometimes makes you miserable, but what about the times he makes you happy? Being in love with your abuser you is not unusual, and there are, in fact, logical explanations for your feelings.

Firstly, it's important to realize that having feelings for your abuser is not shameful or wrong. It is, quite possibly, an indication of your capacity to love, but that doesn't make it healthy. Secondly, you falling in love with your abuser did not happen by accident. There are well-documented cases of Stockholm syndrome that show how easily people form attachments to their captors, subconsciously trying to influence their fate. When you also consider that most abusers are "nice guys" and seem charming and attentive at first, it's easy to see how "love" often thrives in abusive situations. 

Being in Love with the Abuser Is Part of the Abuse Cycle

Do your feelings of being "in love" with your abuser feel strongest after incidents of abuse? This is no coincidence. Part of the cycle from the victim's perspective is wanting the relationship to feel safe again. This is why you believe your abuser when he says he loves you and it'll never happen again.

You shouldn't feel ashamed for taking your partner back each time he abuses you. By doing what he wants, you are following a normal and natural impulse to protect yourself at all costs. Add financial, physical or emotional codependency into this toxic exchange and it's understandable why so many victims convince themselves to stay.

However, recognizing these impulses and giving into them are two different things. Our largely primitive minds don't always factor in our need for long-term safety, they only see the danger straight ahead. Staying in an abusive relationship out of love won't protect you and it won't make you happy. In fact, in almost every relationship like this, the abuse only gets worse over time.

In Abusive Relationships, Love Is Beside the Point

Love is part of the abuse cycle, but it is not a reason to stay. As the writer, Cheryl Strayed once said of her experience of growing up in an abusive household, when it comes to abuse: "Love is beside the point."

In other words, it's easy to say the words "I love you," but what do they actually mean? Love is not a reason to stay, nor does it equate to a healthy relationship (Verbal Abuse Disguised as Love). Love is built on mutual respect, trust, and proper communication and neither physical nor emotional abuse should have a seat at the table.  

Being in Love with Your Abuser Could Be a Survival Technique

Do you often find yourself agreeing with your abuser after a fight or beginning to see things from his point of view? Again, this is a coping mechanism whereby you detach yourself from your pain or fear to cope with the situation. During these periods of detachment, you may even take on certain aspects of your partner's personality or fall more in love with the abuser all over again -- which is what, ultimately, you feel he needs. 

By doing this, you learn to "appease" your abuser which may temporarily stop you getting hurt and ignite a loving response. This impulse to disconnect and absorb responsibility in the hope you can fix the abuse is natural. It also makes it easier for your abuser to gaslight you into submission.

Being in Love with Your Abuser Isn't Real Love -- But It Feels Like It

Trusting your own feelings and instincts can be difficult when someone is telling you they're always wrong but try to pay attention. Often, we cling to any scrap of love our abusers give us because those seldom repeated words and actions reinforce what the abuser wants us to believe -- what we want to believe -- which is that they love us back (Love Bombing: The Gaslighter's Most Effective Weapon of Abuse).

However, love means respect and without respect love is useless. The fairytales would have us buy the notion that love conquers all, that a relationship can withstand anything as long as there's love. I can recall saying these exact words to my abusive ex, but they weren't true. I don't doubt that he loved me in the only way he knew how, and I loved him, but this didn't stop him abusing, gaslighting, insulting, devaluing and isolating me. In the end, his love was irrelevant.

If you remain in an abusive relationship because you're in love with your abuser, you should also consider these facts: One in three women in the U.S. (and 10 million men and women) experience sustained verbal or physical abuse from a partner, and more often than not this is not a one-time occurrence. According to a CNN report on Intimate Partner Violence, half of all female homicide victims worldwide were killed by partners or family members, while verbal/ emotional abuse remains the single biggest precursor to physical violence.

These facts are not meant to scare you but to make you aware of what's at stake. Being in love with your abuser won't stop him from hurting you, so if you have an out, you should take it and give your love to those who deserve it. Domestic violence helplines and resources can be found on our site for those who need them.


I'm In Love With My Abuser — With Esta SolerDear Sugars podcast. April 21, 2018.

Domestic (Intimate Partner) Violence Fast FactsCNN Library. June 1, 2018.

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2018, June 12). Are You in Love with Your Abuser? If So, There's a Reason, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 14 from

Author: Emma-Marie Smith

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Logan s
September, 11 2019 at 9:45 am
I've been with my fiance for almost 4 years now and we have a one year old little girl now. He has hit me for the past 3 years but I can't seem to leave. I love him so much and i can't image being with anyone else but I'm scared he's going to wind up killing me or pur little girl. I don't know what to do everytime he shows up I take him back no matter how much I know I shouldn't I jist can't seem to say no cause I love him so much.
September, 11 2019 at 4:12 pm
Hi Logan,
I understand your feelings of love, but since there is physical abuse, I highly recommend reaching out to a professional. Here are a few resources to get you started:
I know this feels like love, but love does not have to involve pain of any kind.
I wish you light and love on your journey towards peace--Jenn
August, 26 2019 at 10:26 am
I wish I could leave my husband. I’m only 24 years old been with him since I was 18. 😥
August, 27 2019 at 8:40 am
Hi Mandy,
Have you tried reaching out to your family members or a licensed professional for help? Sometimes outside support can be the thing we need to get us where we want to be. I wish you love and light on your journey.
January, 31 2019 at 10:18 pm
I left my abuser but I keep having flash backs of the good times and the abusive times. I feel the withdraw from the “love bombing” the constant reward and then punishment for no reason except his made up reasons to be angry. He has a mental illness so I tried to help with that and be understanding. But I just got literally beat up trying to help. I was brain washed over time to believe that being hardassed and attacked was something I deserved “for making him angry”. But I knew deep down that these things he was angry about were not my fault. I would get set up to fail so he had a reason to abuse me. He tried to alienate me from friends and family. Even if someone gets angry with you, there isn’t a reason to be called horrible things or told horrible things and physically abused. He tried to make me believe that I’m abusive and gaslight him because I would get upset when he used dating websites while we were engaged and living together. Also I would not go along with his tactic to make everyone hate my mother on Thanksgiving. When I look back on all the things he tried to make me believe were wrong for me to get upset about I get very angry. I was being treated horrible and it made me feel like I’m not worthy of love. But he tried to make me believe that how he treated me was normal and that there’s something wrong with me. If I feel betrayed alienated manipulated and abused by my fiancé then there isn’t something wrong with me.
March, 5 2019 at 12:12 am
Thank you for sharing your experience. It seems to have so many parallels to mine. I couldn’t ever get myself to fully leave (even after moving to another state), but he found someone else and started sleeping with her before he devastatingly and brutally cut me out of his life completely. Knowing that you have flashbacks of both good times and bad - I hate that so much for you - but I honestly feel like it lifted some weight from me for experiencing it myself. So, thank you for being open and sharing.
January, 17 2019 at 6:52 pm
Hello Jen, I'm so sorry about what you're going through and how you're feeling right now. I encourage you to reach out to one of the lifeline numbers on our page to help talk you through what's going on more in depth: Also, I'm going to encourage you to take a look at our resources on domestic violence: Your husband is psychologically abusing you. A domestic violence resources center can help you figure out the steps you need to take to leave the relationship. You don't need to go through this alone. There are many people and organizations who can help you. Thank you for having the courage to reach out. Please take care of yourself. -Kristen
January, 17 2019 at 3:10 pm
my husband has been stalking me for years and i gave in and married him bc im a idiot, and [weak]. hes always calling me suicidal even though im not. i think hes trying to make me depressed bc its working. i am trying to leave its really hard hes better looking than me, and a bully and is stronger, so i need to cut him off no contact and im scared i wont be able to get my things. i might have to get a restraining order bc this cat is scary af, brings out the worst in me and vise versa. im at the point were hes right i should just kill myself nobody loves me anyway.
November, 27 2018 at 11:18 am
I was on and off with my abuser for 5 years. I recently took me and my children out of the situation for good about a month ago. There were threats of killing me, threats of taking the baby away from me, calling me worthless and other demeaning names, he pushed me around and smacked me. I'll admit that I've always had insecurities about myself, about loving myself. And he just made it so much worse, and now I'm completely broken. He still gets to me, and somehow I still care, and I still love him. I had to get away though, because my oldest daughter would say things to me or my parents, about him being scary and such. I'll never forget the way the baby looked when he took her from my arms , when he shouted. I left for my kids. But I just have a terrible time second guessing myself. What if I communicated better? He thought I lied all the time. I did withhold the truth at times just to keep the peace. I still feel guilty for some reason. He said he gets angry because I'm a liar. I never did it maliciously. I did it bc I didn't want him to be mad at me....whether it was me taking the blame bc my daughter broke something. Or me lying about visiting friends. My friends tried to like him, and I did tell my best friends about things going on, bc I couldn't talk to him about it. If I did he would leave me feeling stupid, or get mad, or just leave me feeling invalidated. He knows how to get to me. Knows how to hurt me. How do I stop second guessing myself? How do I get rid of the feelings I have for him....even if he did make me feel so miserable at times? How at 30 years old do I began to love myself, to not feel numb, to pick up the pieces? I just want to be ok again.
November, 4 2018 at 5:53 am
I was 15 when this 40 sth man my teacher started touching my body in a kind of playful way. It wasn’t rubbing or anything. This one time I wasn’t being able answer this math question amd he was being rude to me and then when I was on the brink of crying he suddenly hugged me. I went to wash my face and I came out of the bathroom and I found him waiting for me. Then he started hugging me and tossing me up. It was very strange and I left. After a few months I went back to him because he was charming. And the physical stuff that he did to me didn’t feel right at all. I was never attracted to him. He said what he had was very special and I believed him. We were together for many years. A year ago I broke up with him. He never tried to hurt me physically or anything. He didn’t have sex with me that much. He always seemed to mystic. He was the intellectual type which drew me towards him in the first place. I just wanted to learn from him. I didn’t want him to touch me. This is still so mind boggling to me. Explain please somebody.
November, 4 2018 at 4:13 pm
Hi Bonne,

My name is Natasha and I want to answer your comment.

What you seem to be describing is the process some predators use to gain unwilling victims. And yes, I believe that a 40-year-old acting that way towards a 15-year-old is a predator. This process is known as "grooming." It's when a predator makes a victim feel special and makes them, at least initially, feel safe. The predator then uses these feelings against the victim by crossing lines the victim doesn't want.

You didn't do anything wrong. You came across a predator and, unfortunately, he preyed on you. I know this feeling. It happened to me in a very similar way.

People like him know what they are doing. They know how to manipulate you. And, certainly, a grown man can easily manipulate a teen. He got what he wanted and you didn't. It was a classic power-imbalance relationship. You didn't have the power and he exerted his power in a horrible way.

What you need to do is look for help. Find resources for those who are sexual assault survivors. These people can help you make sense of what happened and help you move on.

I'll say it again. You were the teen in the situation -- you did nothing wrong. You didn't have the power. Your choices weren't respected. It wasn't your fault.

- Natasha Tracy
Michael Del Carlo
October, 29 2018 at 6:00 pm
Girls are actually more inclined to manipulate and ruin men who they see are weak. I have been in a severlely abusive relationship. She sends me pictures of drugs like she is going to OD to get a response out of me too. A girl that keeps score, manipulates, makes you look bad to others, treats you like a joke, and has no respect is someone you need to get away from. Abuse from women is was underrated, and this article needs to make it so that both sides are heard.
Michael Del Carlo
October, 29 2018 at 5:55 pm
I am having the exact same problem. My girlfriend uses these ex used to use everything that I used to share against me. She kept passive aggressive lists in her phone of things I have done to piss her off. She keeps score and turns every situation to be on me. All of my male friends have left me because they view me as weak. It sucks, when your with an abusive person, RUN!!
October, 13 2018 at 6:06 pm
All you authors always assume the abuser is a guy. I'm a guy being abused by my girlfriend. Correct your article so it applies to everyone.
Michael Del Carlo
October, 29 2018 at 5:56 pm
You hit the nail on the head.
June, 15 2018 at 5:52 am
Mine isn’t as bad anymore but it still happens. Sometimes I’m safe to share with him my struggles to feel things and sometimes I’m not safe. Safe as in feeling that I can say anything without it becoming him twisting it around on me, getting passive aggressive, acting out towards me or my kids, not psychologically messing with me, that kind of thing. He’s not physically abusuve but can be physically aggressive and hurt me. Anyway, after I took the chance to speak to him again about why I am like I am. He basically said nothing he does is good enough and asked what do I want from him? After this, I DID actually try to get close to him. So now I understand why that it is.
June, 15 2018 at 9:45 am
Hi Melissa,

Thank you for your comment. Also, your relationship sounds stressful and exhausting, so I'm sorry about that. I've been where you are, and I remember vividly what it's like. We cling to the times that things are "normal" but before we know it, they've swung back the other way and we're left wondering what we did wrong and how to fix it.

I agree that the psychological abuse and manipulation comes in waves, but it often treads a fine line between physical threat and verbal intimidation -- even if it's not explicit. Just be careful, as it certainly sounds like there is a physical element to his behavior.

From my experience, abusers (especially narcissists) rarely take responsibility for their behavior, and will almost always try to pin it on the victim. I wish you well and hope you manage to find a way through this without getting hurt any further. Just don't expect him to change, as I fear you will be disappointed.

Good luck!

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