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Why would anyone stay in an Abusive Relationship?


Sarah-Sylvia

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    I can only speak for myself but, I fell for someone that has a deep need for control and reckless anger. I would do every thing right and still get it wrong. I would get talked down to, screamed at, threatened and even hit once. There's truly nothing like taking the blame for why someone hit you hard enough to break teeth. That created a lot of tension and fear for me. To be honest, I still have that fear and likely always will.

    On the surface, you might say that leaving someone like this would be a no brainer. Love is complex, however. I always knew that it was bad for me to be with someone that had selfish intentions and little to no interest in my happiness. I can't remember how many times the words, "If you're so unhappy, then leave", were the answer to my tears. "It's not like I do this all the time, right?" was another fan favorite. I just wanted to be spoken to with a loving tone or at least shown some basic respect. All people have something good within them and my nature was to keep trying to find that somehow. Giving up wasn't my goal. I made many personal sacrifices so that one day I might have children. That was hard enough but then coming to terms with the fact that I fell for an angry narcissistic made me fear how I would ever open up about my deepest thoughts and feelings. It seemed hopeless. I would never be acceptable unless I was a marionette. Rarely does a puppet cut the strings that control it, nor does one question the hand raised above them.

    I stayed because I had hoped things would get better. I tried because I knew my children needed a stable home. In hindsight, they would have been better off if we had divorced way sooner. I felt so much pain and confusion. Nothing was the way I had hoped it would be. I loved the way my ex was so confident and driven to succeed. I always tried to remember that we all have hard times and abandoning someone doesn't usually make that better. In a lot of ways, I was sad to see someone I loved, suffering with something I couldn't fix. I only ever wanted to be a compliment and was heartbroken to realize I was actually just a burden. 

    When I came to terms with the situation and realized this was what it would always be like, I considered my options. I'm not one for completely giving up, so self harm was never a worry. Why hurt myself when there is plenty of other people that want to do that already. I must admit though, I was fine with living a short life if this was going to be my fate. The relationship was over. I decided to start working out and trying to live healthier. No support. Instead I would get questions about how long I was going to keep doing this. My time that I had set aside for exercise suddenly happened to be when some crucial thing that couldn't wait always seemed to be scheduled. It became very clear that working on me was not part of the plan. In fact, as I continued to get healthier, the marriage I had tried so hard to keep alive was dying. I still kept trying to meet all of these ridiculous expectations until one day, when it became very clear that I was on my own. 

    So, I decided it was over and started looking for a stable path forward that would protect everyone afterwards, even my ex. It was mostly about the kids though. They never deserved any of this. It was not their fault two adults couldn't keep it real and loving for their sake. The funny thing is, my ex kept saying to leave if I was not happy. So, it was quite surprising, to me, how angry and driven by revenge it made them when I finally did.

    It's been fifteen month's since divorce now. I refuse to even consider dating. I still fear many things about my ex. I am am two states away from my family, except my kids. One thing that has improved is my self acceptance and drive to be good to myself. Many people tried to help me see that I was in a bad relationship. That didn't ever make me feel like I should leave though. That was never going to happen until I chose it.

 

Hope my answer helps someone,

Abi

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Mostly, people stay in abusive relationships due to fear, sometimes isolation being away from anyone that would help or that they can trust, as someone who comes from an abusive, dysfunctional background I could go on about just how clever and manipulative an abuser is, and they are clever, isolating you from family, not allowing you to have friends, sometimes, not allowing you to go outside without them being present, my sperm donor was abusive to us, we moved around from different countries as it was in the armed forces, although it was well known that it was an abuser, the forces covered a lot of things up, there are half siblings all over the place as it cheated on my mother regularly, a trait of that family, but it was also very clever, imagine being in a different country, no money, not allowed to speak to anyone, not even allowed out, even us kids had to put up with that, we weren't allowed to have friends, no one ever visited us, not allowed out to play like normal kids, totally isolated, my mother was an only child, she was not allowed contact with her parents, I could tell you so much, even now it makes me shiver, just the thought of what happened when I was growing up, the fear, wishing I was dead, it takes your self confidence away, you are made to feel that you are worthless, that if it wasn't for the abuser, you wouldn't be here, I can honestly say that I have no real happy memories from childhood, I don't bother with Christmas, birthdays as all I ever remember was arguements, physical and mental abuse, I knew that if I found something to like, it would be taken away, if I found something to smile about, Id regret smiling for months after, but there was no escape, back then, no help, now there's much more help, but even help can't take away the fear and control of the abuser, it's very hard to understand unless you're actually faced with the situation.

 

Abusers are very clever and controlling, they wear you out, when the sperm donor finally walked out of our lives, over 30 years ago now, it left a pile of debt, but it took years to actually trust in anyone again, my mother never married again, never had another relationship, it ruined her, but that's often how abusers work, it left an so I'm told, remarried and had more kids, I don't know, I don't really care either, I don't even know if it's still alive, but unless you're in that position, it's something you can't explain

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3 hours ago, Lin G. said:

It's not only the matter of should and shouldn't, it's the matter of can and can't. If getting outside of a physically abusive relationship was so easy as people make it out to be we wouldn't have this amount of domestic violence cases.

Sure. And I know there's some really tough cases where it doesn't seem possible without something happening. I feel like even if there'd be threats, I'd get out and then involve the police if they do something.

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@oldgeezaThat is an insane experience. I'm so sorry you went through that. It's so horrible and extreme, not even allowing you all to have friends or talk to others is like keeping you in a type of prison, I don't get how that could happen, but it just goes back into making me see the bad side of humanity that's possible.. I'm glad you were able to get through it. I hope that life finds a way to show you the good you deserve.

@Abigail RoseThanks for sharing your story as well. I hope that you get to heal from it. Would you say that what kept you there was that you really wanted to keep trying to make it work? It's ok if you don't want to talk about it more, but it's just a part I'm wondering about.

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17 minutes ago, Sarah-Sylvia said:

I feel like even if there'd be threats, I'd get out and then involve the police if they do something.

I'd like to point out here that many people can't trust the police to have their best interests at heart. POC, openly queer folks, and immigrant communities know this all too well. If you can't rely on the authorities to do their job, and you don't have a strong enough personal network to rely on -- which abusers are often adept at fraying -- it can make it all that much harder to leave.

 

@Abigail Rose and @oldgeeza, thank you both for sharing your stories, and I'm so glad both of you are in better places now. 💜

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@Sarah-Sylviathank you for your comments, I am lucky enough to now have some very close friends who have been there for me even through the bad times when I went through a phase of self destruction, heavy drinking, drug taking and leading an all round bad life. Abusers do imprison their victims that's how they get away with so much.

 

You mentioned in your comment to Abigail Rose, the possibility of her trying to make her marriage work, when I was young, divorce was frowned upon, if parents were divorced, the stigma attached not just towards the parents but kids as well, in some parts of the world, divorce is still either not allowed or due to religion and such like, getting divorced ousts yourself and family from the rest of the family and in some cases, the community, there's also the issue that the abused doesn't realise that they're being abused because it just becomes a natural part of everyday life, you just accept it as normal, so you don't do anything about it, it's only when out of the situation you realise that you were abused, until recently, well over here in the UK anyway, there was nothing you could do about it, it was seen as domestic not criminal, therefore the abuser wasn't doing anything"wrong"

 

@SocialMoraysthank you for your well wishes

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5 minutes ago, oldgeeza said:

@Sarah-Sylviathank you for your comments, I am lucky enough to now have some very close friends who have been there for me even through the bad times when I went through a phase of self destruction, heavy drinking, drug taking and leading an all round bad life. Abusers do imprison their victims that's how they get away with so much.

 

You mentioned in your comment to Abigail Rose, the possibility of her trying to make her marriage work, when I was young, divorce was frowned upon, if parents were divorced, the stigma attached not just towards the parents but kids as well, in some parts of the world, divorce is still either not allowed or due to religion and such like, getting divorced ousts yourself and family from the rest of the family and in some cases, the community, there's also the issue that the abused doesn't realise that they're being abused because it just becomes a natural part of everyday life, you just accept it as normal, so you don't do anything about it, it's only when out of the situation you realise that you were abused, until recently, well over here in the UK anyway, there was nothing you could do about it, it was seen as domestic not criminal, therefore the abuser wasn't doing anything"wrong"

That's messed up. Being domestic doesn't change that it's abuse, and if it's violence it should always be treated seriously. But I realize other parts of the world and different times had it harder...
 

 

9 minutes ago, SocialMorays said:

I'd like to point out here that many people can't trust the police to have their best interests at heart. POC, openly queer folks, and immigrant communities know this all too well. If you can't rely on the authorities to do their job, and you don't have a strong enough personal network to rely on -- which abusers are often adept at fraying -- it can make it all that much harder to leave.

 

@Abigail Rose and @oldgeeza, thank you both for sharing your stories, and I'm so glad both of you are in better places now. 💜

I suppose living in Canada makes it a bit better of an environment for that. And families wouldn't be looked at badly for having divorced especially due to abuse. I mean I'm sure it still depends which part of the country.

 

But yeah I guess you could say there's that advantage here compared to whatever social pressure adds to it in other cases..

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So many reasons.

 

Some people believe abuse is normal in relationships.

 

Some people don't recognize what is happening as abuse - especially if it has built up over time.

 

Some people have been convinced that they "deserve" the abuse.

 

Some people believe they are unable to leave for financial reasons, due to children  etc.

 

Some people are afraid of being hurt or killed.

 

 

Probably many other reasons as well. 

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17 hours ago, Sarah-Sylvia said:

Sure. And I know there's some really tough cases where it doesn't seem possible without something happening. I feel like even if there'd be threats, I'd get out and then involve the police if they do something.

I really wish if things were that easy... As you said, it depends on each case, you can't say "if it was me..." because no one knows the full variables. 

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4 minutes ago, Lin G. said:

you can't say "if it was me..." because no one knows the full variables. 

Yeah that's the thing about most tough situations in life... you don't truly know what you'd do until you're facing them.

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Just now, CBC said:

Yeah that's the thing about most tough situations in life... you don't truly know what you'd do until you're facing them.

Yeah it's just that saying "if it was me I wouldn't have done that" or "I would've gone out and saved myself" sounds like downplaying the risks of countless lives being stuck in an abusive environment. and really, no one can say "if it was me.." because saying is a lot easier than actually experiencing the situation. I know OP didn't mean it like that but I always found that phrasing a bit problematic.

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5 hours ago, Lin G. said:

Yeah it's just that saying "if it was me I wouldn't have done that" or "I would've gone out and saved myself" sounds like downplaying the risks of countless lives being stuck in an abusive environment. and really, no one can say "if it was me.." because saying is a lot easier than actually experiencing the situation. I know OP didn't mean it like that but I always found that phrasing a bit problematic.

Yeah I'm not downplaying anything. I know what I would do when it's an obvious case like physical violence and I'm confident in that. That doesn't mean any judgment. I experienced some emotional toxicity in relationships at the beginning of last year and it took me a while to realize what was going on and that there were many red flags I missed and stayed attached when it wasn't good for me. I'm not immune to certain things, but some things I am because of where I'm at, and I've learned some things too along the way.  When I say if it was me, and I'd get out of there, it's an assertive statement about myself, not a comment about others. And in this case to make a contrast to say this is where I'm at so it's hard for me to understand  why people stay.. etc..

I'm thankful to everyone who responded because it really helped me put things in place and use my own experience to try to make more sense of what was shared. I might also watch or read more things around this.

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4 hours ago, Sarah-Sylvia said:

it's an obvious case like physical violence

A lot of times it doesn’t start out this way.  If you’re arguing with someone while doing the dishes and they yank a plastic spatula out of your hand - as part of insisting that you stop and listen to them - and their doing that twists your wrist, is that leave-the-relationship physical violence?  Even if they stop immediately and start to cry and seem genuinely sorry?  Or was it an accident?

 

When you stand at the far end and look back, the early signs something was not right are often pretty clear.  But at the time there may be perfectly reasonable explanations and/or the transgressions may be quite small.

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6 hours ago, ryn2 said:

When you stand at the far end and look back, the early signs something was not right are often pretty clear.  But at the time there may be perfectly reasonable explanations and/or the transgressions may be quite small.

Abso-fucking-lutely, yep.

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I don't know if this kind of a motivation has been already mentioned, but I have a friend that's in a toxic relationship, and one of the reasons she mentions when I ask her why she keeps her relationship going is, that she feels the guy would just mentally collapse without her. The dude is heavily depressed and has self esteem on the level of Mariana Trench. That unfortunately doesn't stop him from giving her all sorts of shit, and when she calls him out on it, the guy gets super offended, passive aggressive and plays a victim.

 

She feels she'd been more of a therapist and a mom replacement to him than a girlfriend. Unfortunately, she keeps playing this role.

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Outside of my day job, I'm also a councellor which I do some evenings and weekends. Most victims stay with their abusers and never want to leave. The abusive relationships last longer from what I have seen in my clients whereas the ones without abuse are shorter (like where there is distrust or cheating). It seems as soon as a guy throws a kick or a punch, the woman is guaranteed to stay with him longer.

 

To repeatedly see my efforts in trying to help these victims achieve nothing is very disheartening to the point I have considered quitting.

 

 

 

 

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On 1/14/2021 at 4:16 PM, ryn2 said:

A lot of times it doesn’t start out this way.  If you’re arguing with someone while doing the dishes and they yank a plastic spatula out of your hand - as part of insisting that you stop and listen to them - and their doing that twists your wrist, is that leave-the-relationship physical violence?  Even if they stop immediately and start to cry and seem genuinely sorry?  Or was it an accident?

 

When you stand at the far end and look back, the early signs something was not right are often pretty clear.  But at the time there may be perfectly reasonable explanations and/or the transgressions may be quite small.

Yeah. It is easy to look from the outside in, but not so much from the inside and see. 

 

Like, threw something out of frustration and it hit you by "accident"... or just getting too close and you back up and fall moving backwards. One could be an accident, we have all seen someone throw a controller or something right ? And the other maybe they didn't realize they got that close, it isnt their fault you fell....

 

It isn't always as clear cut as being punched in the face. I have a pretty much permanent injury to my back from falling because my ex used his body posture to make me instinctively retreat into something and I fell and damaged something. His excuse was I got too close to him, so he flexed to make me back away and it wasn't his fault I fell. If I think back on it reasonably, what I fell on was about 12ft from where he claimed to be standing so his version doesn't line up. I am pretty sure I was standing kinda middle of the room and he advanced aggressively so I stepped away by reflex and we had a baby gate up that I stepped into. But, like, after years of gaslighting you question your own memory of events and some things its like well I never got hit, so it can't be abuse, right ? .... at the time the excuses sound reasonable enough 

 

What ended up snapping me out of the fog of brainwashing was actually him trying to get my phone out from under me to break it because I "disrespected him" (I think I played a game on my phone while he was talking or something) and I actually snapped and punched him to get him off me. Like had just had enough and wasn't putting up with it anymore. And... I am a super non-violent person. So, I didn't want to lose myself in whatever toxicity he was trying to shape me around. I was fantasizing violence and actually hurt someone. Totally not me (I try to avoid even killing flies and mosquitoes if I can) and I didn't like it at all. If I had stayed, I likely would have snapped and done something more serious one day. So I drove 18 hours in an old half broken car with all my stuff and my pets, never really having driven before, going through massive traffic in big cities and scaring myself, hoping my money would last for gas to get to my family. And... it was not fun. But, I made it. Got a new career. New wife. Dont have to put up with any of that garbage anymore. 

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