Why do people stay in abusive relationships?


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Why do people stay in abusive relationships?

Why do people stay in abusive relationships? 

The question which frustrates police officers, prosecutors, judges, caseworkers, counselors, ER doctors and nurses, family and friends is the title of this article. Those who work with both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence in any capacity will ask themselves this.

They will spend months with women who have been abused, listening to their stories of beatings, rape, threats, and insults, their beloved pets being killed, their valued possessions smashed, and their children too often witnessing violence or being drawn into it.

In therapy, the roots of the violence, and often the acceptance thereof back to their experience in their developmental years will be processed. The warning signs their abuser showed early in the relationship will be identified, as will any patterns they have of choosing abusive men.

Therapists will examine how they couldn’t fix their alcoholic, addicted, abusive, molesting father, so they have a compulsion to find men just like their father and fix them.  New behaviors will be gradually learned, to develop self-confidence and self-respect.

Options for a safe exit plan or for the successful prosecution of their abuser will be laid out. They get restraining orders, a job, a new place to live and start presenting themselves with a new found confidence as they create distance between themselves and the predator that has victimized them.

Then they go back to them. They still love him. He’s a good man. He’s changed. He stopped drinking. It wasn’t so bad. You have to take the good with the bad in a relationship. Or they go out and find another man who could be his twin brother as far as behavior goes.

The legal definition of domestic violence varies between jurisdictions. Generally speaking, it is a form of violence which takes place between people who are married or living together or are family members (United States Department of Justice, n.d.). It is violence which occurs in the confines of a relationship, and often behind closed doors. Much of it is never reported, and the victims suffer in silence.

Why do people allow themselves to be abused?

  • Financial dependence on the abuser.
  • Drug dependence, with the abuser as the supplier.
  • Children with the abuser, which will keep you linked together.
  • The proverbial low self-esteem: I can’t do any better; I know this because he said so
  • Preference for a chaos, crisis-oriented existence, and inability to be comfortable with being treated well.
  • A rigid belief that you have to make a relationship work once you are in it.
  • Repetition compulsion: The unconscious compulsion to re-live a traumatic experience in a vain effort to gain closure (Bowins, 2010).
  • Adaptation to mistreatment. Over time, anything can become acceptable. Human beings are very adaptable, but sometimes this can work against us.
  • Borderline or Histrionic personality disorders. Individuals with these personality disorders will be very dramatic, and seek out crises (Out of the Fog, 2015, Out of the Fog, 2015a).

The dynamics of violence can be complex. It is almost always an interactive process to some degree. This is not blaming the victim; the offender is always responsible for their crime. However, the victim is responsible for their safety. There are men who are narcissistic and sociopathic, who believe their word is law and enforce their law with violence. They dominate those who are weaker, though I have observed many will not step up to another man. They are very bold with a woman or child, however. There are also women who are psychotically unstable, and who do violence to the men in their lives, or their own children. Here are some closing thoughts for both men and women who are in an abusive relationship:

Ladies, if you are with a man who hits you, get away from him, it will not get better. It doesn’t matter if he says he’s sorry, or if he cries real tears; you need to get away and never go back.

Gentleman, if you are with a woman who provokes you constantly, get away from her before you hit her. One day, you may lash out in frustration, and if you are a decent man, you will never forgive yourself for hitting her.

Some people should not be together, no matter how badly they want to. Some relationships cannot be fixed. And some people are incapable of being in a relationship.


Bowins, B. (2010). Repetitive maladaptive behavior: beyond repetition compulsion. American Journal of Psychoanalysis. (3):282-98. doi: 10.1057/ajp.2010.14.

Out of the Fog. (2015). Borderline Personality Disorder. Out of the Fog. http://outofthefog.website/personality-disorders-1/2015/12/6/borderline-personality-disorder-bpd

Out of the Fog. (2015). Histrionic Personality Disorder. Out of the Fog. http://outofthefog.website/personality-disorders-1/2015/12/6/histrionic-personality-disorder-hpd

United States Department of Justice. (n.d.). Domestic violence. https://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence

CNA Classes Free Info. How to Stop Domestic Abuse. http://cnaclassesfreeinfo.com/how-to-end-domestic-abuse


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