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Why do women stay with men who abuse them?

I have asked myself that very question more times than I can count, and I am still not totally sure.  

I do know one thing that it's not...! In my case, at least; I didn't stay because I was raised in that same environment. I have two wonderful parents that have been married to each other for over 50 years, who have always been supportive, and stood behind me, whether they agreed with what I was doing or not, and neither parent drank...other than hordes of coffee.

I stayed with my ex-husband for 21 years before I walked out that door one morning to go to work, never to return again. I almost returned once, despite advice to the contrary from an abuse counselors and my attorney. He had lost his control over me, and at the point of desperation to get it back...he was destroying my one and only child's mental health in the process.  

I had tried to have us go to counseling, not because I wanted to continue with the relationship, because I knew that once I had the courage to leave, that was the end, but as an attempt at having us find a way to work through the divorce in a way that would not cause my son anymore harm.  

He and his attorney used that attempt as a way to try and discredit me as a Mother, and to have this woman, who worked for a church, and not a licensed therapist, as required by the court, to write a letter for the court, stating that I was seeking revenge. She saw me as a horribly sinful woman who was unwilling to work any longer on a relationship that had brought me great pain, for so many years. She stated several times, in the whole hour she spent with us, that she had hoped I would get down on my knees bowling, and beg for forgiveness.  

I was desperate to try and shield my son from anymore emotional harm, so I was going to try and go back. I remember sitting there on the couch with ex for the first time, after we discussed me returning, and literally shaking uncontrollably so hard from head to toe, my teeth were literally chattering. Not because I was afraid of him at that moment...but at the thought of returning, was more frightening than I could imagine.

Sometimes I would ask myself...just what was so broken inside that I felt the need to allow myself to be punished this way?  

I did something when I was in my teens that I will always regret, and I'm not sure if, to this day, I have totally and completely forgiven myself for. Is that part of the answer? I'm really not sure.  

I don't believe that most men begin the physical abuse from the first day. Usually it starts with a snide remark here, a put down there, and it creeps up on you from behind your back, without you ever really realizing that each one of those put downs and sneers, are chipping aware at your self-esteem...bit by bit. So by the time the abuser actually strikes you...and then manipulates you with guilt into believing that you are the one to blame for their behavior...that if they didn't love you so much, this never would have happened...you actually fall right into the trap...hook, line and sinker. "What you are told you are enough...you become."

Fear plays a part in staying in one way or another...but just what are those fears?  

There are the usual ones, where many abusers will make horrible threats to you about hunting you down and then...! Did I believe that he would actually carry out those daring feats of twisted fate? I don't think I really did...until I actually left; and then he went so far out of control...I really wasn't sure. The fear of "anticipated regret" is a powerful force in our lives, and is a major driving force behind most every decision that we make, whether we are consciously aware of it or not.

Fear of change. For many of us the fear of change is so powerful, that we would rather stay in a bad situation because it is familiar to us, which in turn sadly gives you a sense of security, rather than to face the fear of the unknown. Especially when we believe that we would be facing that fear alone. Sounds crazy...but it's true.

Awww...the all powerful "ego". (That little guy gets us into more trouble than I dare to go into at this moment.) If I'm good enough, perfect enough, change enough, love them enough..., by their standards of how I should be..., I can change him and what's happening. This is the most ridiculous one of all...but I actually went through this phase at one point.  

First of all...you should never, ever, ever, be with someone that you feel needs to be changed, or who feels the need to change you. If you can't accept them for whom they are, the way they are, than it's time to move on. And besides...why should they change when what they are doing is working quite well for them. You can not change another person, nor should you try; and you can not fix for them, what is inside of them. Only they can do that. And you can not love a person like this enough because...in their eyes you will never love them enough. I'm not saying that couples should not compromise...that is totally different, and arrived at between two healthy people, through a healthy relationship, and healthy communication.

Are there more reasons? I'm sure there are many.

Our children. This is a major subject, that could and would go into major debate...here or anywhere else you dare to go into it. Whether you leave or whether you stay, this problem is going to affect them. Which decision is better, which one will affect them worse than the other? I do know and was told by counselors, after I left, that it is easier for them when they are smaller, just the opposite of what I had thought. But the longer you stay, the more they are being taught that the abuse is normal and acceptable behavior. It will affect every relationship they enter into for the rest of their lives. I have also been told that anytime the police become involved, you both run the risk of loosing those children to the system. Them because they abuse, and you because you allowed those children to be raised in that atmosphere...an accomplice of sorts.  

I will leave you with this to ponder:

This is not love! I don't care how many times he gets down on his knees, begging you to stay, telling you how much he needs you, and swearing that it will never happen again. This is not love, and it is not need. This is manipulation, control and obsession! Love does not come from a place of fear, or pain, or selfishness!

It's a problem of self-esteem. Whether you go into it lacking it, or allow another to take it away from you. It still boils down to the same thing. I don't know what has, or will bring you to the point that you finally wake up and decide to reclaim your soul, and take back the power that you have given away...in all the wrong places.

Another point. It does not affect only the young. It affects every age group and every financial status. It's odd how some women can soar to the top with their careers...but fall to their knees when it comes to the opposite sex.  

Abuse One Woman's Story - Part 1 


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