One of the most often asked questions about abusive relationships is, “Why do they stay?” Victims of abuse have a very complex psychological state, and in addition, the abuse is frequently cyclical. Each set of circumstances is unique and there a vast number of reasons why the victims remains with the abusive person. Understanding some of the reasons that women (and men) stay in abusive relationships is one of the keys to helping that person break the chain of abuse.
If the abuse occurs infrequently or in cycles, the victim may not even admit that the relationship is abusive. After an episode of violence, the abusive partner is quite often very apologetic, remorseful, and vows that it won’t happen again. The abuser is then on his or her best behavior for some time, until they are set off again. An abusive partner can be very charming and manipulative in order to convince the victim that they “didn’t mean it”. This, in turn, enables the victim to experience a sense of uncertainty about the abusive behavior.
In some cases, women stay with in an abusive relationship because they believe it’s normal. Typically this would mean that they grew up in an abusive household and watched their mother tolerate abuse over the years. This can lead them to believe that this is a normal part of any relationship and they are expected to cope with the behavior.
Perhaps the most common reason for remaining in an abusive relationship is being afraid of what the partner will do if they attempt to leave. Often the partner will convince the person that they will injure or kill loved ones, pets, children, or even themselves if they leave. It is also possible that the woman may fear being on her own or if it has been a long term relationship that it will be too hard to “start over.”
Many abuse victims truly love their partner and feel that they are genuinely good people who occasionally have bad episodes. In a case like this, the victim often blames herself for “triggering” the abuse and feels that she can change the person if she stays.
Abusive relationships don’t conform to a set pattern. It is important to help any victim realize that they are not to blame for the behavior and that they can’t “fix” another person. The only way that an abusive relationship can ever become normal is if both parties involved get the professional counseling that they need.