Why do People Stay in Abusive Relationships?

Categories: Articles, Love and Relationships

I never understood why people stay in abusive relationships until I became part of one. Then, once I identified myself as a victim, I simply didn’t see a way out.

After my father left, my mother dated one man after another who was just like him. She’d move one guy in and put up with his crap until he got tired of her and moved on.

She never once ended a relationship when the abuse started. She just sort of waited it out. I guess she believed that breaking it off with these guys might put us in danger. And she needed the financial support they supplied. Her waitressing job wasn’t going to pay all the bills.

Why Do We Stay?

There are so many different reasons, and none of them are good. We stay because:

  • It’s What We Know – Despite the misery involved, abuse was such an integral part of my life that it was familiar to me. It was the devil I knew.
  • Co-Dependency – His abuse broke me down to where I felt lost. The thought of living without him was intimidating to me.
  • It’s Embarrassing – I swore to myself and basically anyone who would listen that I was never going to end up like my mother. I saw her as weak and needy, so I strove to be strong and independent. I felt like I had to stay and keep the abuse a secret.
  • Low Self-Esteem – My husband always blamed me for his abuse, saying he lost his temper, because I did this or that. Coupled with my own disappointment in myself for ending up like my mother, I had very little self respect .
  • Memories – The man I fell in love with was caring, respectful, and so much fun. Our courtship had been the best time in my life. I kept feeling that I, by my behavior, could get him back to who he was before.
  • Religion – I had become a born-again Christian during our marriage, and I was living by the Bible principle. “Until death do us part”. Thinking about leaving made me feel guilty.
  • Health Issues – I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia shortly after the abuse started. I could no longer work, so I was financially dependent on my husband.


What Other Victims have Said

There are several other factors that can also come into play:

  • Fear – Many abusers threaten their victims. They say they that their abusers tell them that they will hunt them down and kill their family, friends, or anyone else who helps them escape.
  • Language Barriers – If English is not their first language, navigating through life alone in this country can be quite intimidating.
  • Immigration Status – Some victims are in the United States undocumented, and their abusers threaten to report them if they leave.
  • No Job Skills – Even in today’s modern society, there are still many women who marry young with no post high school education.
  • Loss of Children – Any of the above factors can be used by an abuser to convince the victim they will lose custody or even all contact with their children.

What Saved Me

My abuse was the worst kept secret. When I ended up in the hospital after “a fall down the steps”, my sister sent a representative from a crisis center for abused women. I was discharged to a safe house and given all the support I needed to transition to a safe, healthy, productive life.

I have a wonderful life now, and so can you. If you or someone you know is being abused, please contact Anaheim Lighthouse today. It could very well save your life tomorrow. Help is here .



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