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You hear stories about domestic abuse and how the women stay for so long and the question is always asked: why did you stay? If you’ve never been in an abusive relationship, this question makes sense. Why would anyone stay with someone who hurts them, who makes them feel worthless? Why continue to put yourself through that torture when you could just leave? But abuse is never that simple and women stay for all kinds of reasons.
The way these relationships work is that everything starts out wonderful. He is perfect for a while and the relationship seems like everything you’ve ever dreamed. He is kind and supportive and you’re so in love you’re convinced that you’ll be together forever. Then, after a period, it could be a month, or three, maybe a year or even two sometimes, he’ll start saying little things. Nitpicking at who you are. Changing little aspects about your personality. At first, you’re willing to change these things, he’s always been supportive before so a couple little things aren’t a big deal at first.
Then he’ll start trying to control you. He’ll start to get super paranoid about who you talk to. Where you’re at. Constantly checking in on you and getting mad if you don’t respond right away. The accusations start when you see someone of the opposite sex. Suddenly he’s jealous and worried that you’re cheating on him or that you have feelings for someone else. You can’t hang out with anyone without him anymore because he doesn’t trust you and he’s reading every message you send over your shoulder. You savor those moments in the bathroom that you may get to scroll through Facebook without his eyes on you.
It often happens without you even realizing it. You lose track of friends and family, you become isolated and the only person that you ever really see or talk to is him. People don’t understand why you’re still with him so you push them away and burn bridges. You defend him to a fault. The more you lose your happiness though, the more you feel trapped and you start to feel like there’s no way out. Some people react more quickly than others but, eventually, you get tired of feeling that way so you push, you try to escape. And that’s the first time he hits you.
Many women try to leave the first time it gets physical, they put their foot down saying that they will not allow that to happen. But emotions are tricky and they’re good at the mind games. IF they acknowledge what even happened, which many don’t, they will apologize and swear it will never happen again. They’ll get better. They will control themselves better. Some of them mean it when they say it, and they’re capable of it, but they don’t know how to stop.
The honeymoon period starts back up again and everything is perfect. He’s doing so much better and your relationship is back on track, you’re happy. You take him back and the two of you are facing the world together, for a time. Don’t you dare try to have any freedom though, because the moment you try, it starts again. Before you know it, you’re living a nightmare trying to figure out who is going to come home from work that day and what is it he wants to hear so he doesn’t beat you or tell you you’re worthless.
Sometimes you’ll get a surge of strength and tell him you want to leave, that he’s been hurting you and it can’t go on. The apology doesn’t come out fast enough as you hide in your house for days while the bruises heal. He tracks your every move so you can’t leave, he’ll find you and the beating will be so much worse because you tried to leave.
If you try to talk to him about it one of two things happen. He’ll beat you, or he’ll threaten to kill himself. Say that he can’t live without you and he loves you so much. He apologizes and says he’ll get better. In my experience, they threaten it every time to manipulate you and force you to stay. They use those emotions against you to the point where you’re afraid he would go through with it and it would be your fault.
Let me tell you, it would not be your fault. This is a trick that they use to get a reaction from you. The more it works, the more power they have. You can always reach out to a suicide hotline or text line if you fear he will truly hurt himself.
It’s like a horrific game. You don’t know who you’re going to interact with. The guy you fell in love with, the mean abusive one, or the depressed manipulative one. You never know what they want or if what they’re saying is true. You start to doubt your own mind and your own feelings and the worst part about it is that you’re doing it all alone.
You feel like you have no support so it takes longer to build up the resources. Slowly you find ways to get around his control. While he’s at work finding ways to earn money, he won’t know you're about to move out. You’re making plans to get away because the next time you’re in trouble, he could take your life.
Survival instincts start to kick in and you start to fight. You could be leaving a two-year relationship or a 20-year marriage but hopefully, you escape and you’re stronger for it.
There are millions of reasons to stay that runs through that woman’s mind during these relationships. Women often stay out of fear. Fear that they can’t make it on their own. Fear that he will find them and kill them. Fear that no one else could love them. Fear that everyone else faces the same in their relationships anyway. Women stay because they believe he will change. They believe that the love is enough to make him stop hurting her because after all, can’t he see what he’s doing? They stay because they don’t see the way out, they don’t see the options to escape. Always know, the options are there and you can escape.
- While this is told from a female perspective in a heterosexual relationship, there are other forms of abuse and abusers. Abusers can be any gender and can be in any type of relationship. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) if you or a loved one are experiencing abuse. Available 24/7.
- Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255 or contact your non-emergency number for your local police. If you have a smart phone you can go to this website and access a chat. Agree to the terms and conditions and enter your zip code to begin chat.
- You can TEXT 911 in emergencies where you cannot call them. This is important and potential life-saving knowledge.