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Why do People Stay in Abusive Relationships? Find Out Here...
Friday, 08 January 2021

If you’ve never been in an abusive relationship, you might find it difficult to understand why someone might choose to remain in one. For a little explanation, read on…

You would be hard pressed to find a single relationship that is perfect. Every couple will have their ups and downs, arguments and disagreements. That being said, for some, things can spiral out of control and form the basis of an abusive relationship.
For many people looking on the outside, the solution to an abusive relationship might seem obvious – why doesn’t the person leave? Well, things aren’t quite that simple.
When it comes to abusive relationships, there are likely to be all manner of complexities and caveats that prevent the person from being able to leave. Whether they are suffering emotional abuse, physical abuse, or a combination, getting up and walking out the door isn’t always an option. To learn more about what abusive relationships look like and the reasons someone might choose to stay, read on…

What is an Abusive Relationship?

When you read the phrase "abusive relationship", you would be forgiven for thinking about the ways in which someone could physically abuse their partner.
That said, in more recent times, the scope of what we define as an abusive relationship has broadened to cover a number of different forms of abuse. In fact, a relationship of this type could be physical, sexual, emotional or financial.

Physical abuse could involve:

- Physical violence
- Using weapons
- Causing physical injuries

Sexual abuse could involve:

- Rape
- Non-consensual sexual acts
- Pressure not to use contraception

Emotional abuse could involve:

- Verbal abuse
- Forced isolation
- Controlling behaviour

Financial abuse could involve:

- Controlling or taking money
- Forcing someone to work/not work
- Forcing someone to buy things

8 Reasons Why Someone Might Stay in an Abusive Relationship

Now we know what an abusive relationship is, let’s take a close look at some of the reasons why someone may choose to stay in one. Of course, everyone’s individual circumstances are different, and these aren’t definitive answers, but they can act as a general guide…

1. They Don’t Understand It’s Abusive

Someone may be in a relationship that can be seen as abusive from the outside but, from their perspective, there is nothing that needs to be addressed.
This could be because of their own understanding of what it means to be in a relationship or their interpretation of societal norms. With television and film commonly showing abuse partnerships, they might simply view their partners behaviour as normal.

2. They Believe They Can Reform Their Partner

Some people might recognise that their partner’s behaviour is abusive but, instead of ending the relationship, they might feel as though there is an opportunity for reform. There’s a chance that they’ve bought into the idea that, if they stick things out, they will be able to change their partner’s behaviour.

3. They Have Low Self-Esteem

When someone is trapped in an abusive relationship, their self-esteem is going to take a substantial hit. That could leave them in a vulnerable position, where they don’t feel as though they can start afresh.
Suffering from emotional abuse is likely to lead to feelings of worthlessness, which are only likely to exacerbate over time.

4. There’s a Cycle of Abuse

In many abusive relationships, there’s what’s known as the "cycle of abuse". This is where the abuser follows up a negative action with a positive one, promising that it was an isolated incident.
This forms a pattern, or a cycle, where the incidents of abuse are followed up by apologies over and over again, minimising the impact of the abusive behaviour.

5. They Have Built a Life Together

Leaving any sort of relationship is difficult; if a couple has built a life together, it’s difficult to put any of that aide. They may have children, shared finances or a home, all of which are difficult to make arrangements for in the event of a separation.
It should also be mentioned that these sorts of issues can be heightened further in certain scenarios. For example, if one partner is disabled or in a significantly weaker financial position, they may find it harder to leave. In cases of financial abuse, where the abuser controls their partner’s money, this makes them unable to leave due to lack of funds.

6. They Fear How Others Might React

While you might be supportive of someone leaving an abusive relationship, that person might not think that everyone in their life will feel the same way.
It might be the case that they fear being shamed or looked down upon for admitting that their partner is being abusive, or they may be scared to end a relationship for certain cultural or religious reasons.

7. They are Being Gaslighted

Gaslighting is a form of emotional and phycological abuse where someone manipulates a person by forcing them to question their own thoughts or actions. If someone is being gaslighted, they might be feeling as though they are somehow at fault for the abuse they are suffering, leading to feelings of remorse or guilt.

8. They Fear for Theirs or Others’ Safety

If someone is being abused, they may simply feel as though it is not safe them, or anyone they know, if they decide to leave the relationship.
This could be because they have received threats from their partner, or if they believe that their partner’s behaviour is unpredictable. If someone feels as though their safety is at risk, they may find it difficult to make drastic decisions.

How Can You Help Someone in an Abusive Relationship?

There are a number of ways in which you can help someone you know who is in an abusive relationship. The first and often most simple way of doing so is to open up a dialogue and let them know you are free for a chat about anything. It doesn’t have to be about their relationship, but as long as they know that you are there to talk, then they will feel more confident confiding in you.
If you do discuss the abusive relationship, then be sure to steer away from being preachy and blaming them for not leaving. Listen to what they have to say and tailor your advice from there. If you are looking to provide short-term solutions, then you can offer up somewhere for them to stay temporarily, or other resources such as Refuge.
If you feel as though the person you know is in immediate physical danger, or if they have children that could also be at risk, then you shouldn’t hesitate to contact the police. Even if that means going against their wishes, keeping them safe from potential harm is the biggest priority.

Do You Know Someone Who’s in an Abusive Relationship?

Hopefully, this post has given you a better understanding of what underpins an abusive relationship and some of the reasons people are unable to leave one.
Do you know someone who you think is an abusive relationship? If you are looking for any further advice, or you have some advice of your own that you think is important to share, then feel free to leave a comment so we can keep the discussion going.


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