When many people hear that someone is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, their first question is, “Why don’t they leave?” This sort of response might seem logical. Just throw the deuces up and move on with your life – right? But here’s the thing – when it comes to relationship abuse, it’s never as easy as “just leaving.” WHY? Well, here's why:
1. Emotional abuse destroys your self-esteem, making it feel impossible to start fresh.
Oftentimes, people in emotionally abusive relationships may not understand that they are being abused because there’s no violence involved. Also, many will dismiss or downplay emotional abuse because they don’t think it’s as bad as physical abuse. It’s hard for those in abusive relationships to leave their partners after they’ve continuously been made to feel worthless and like there’s no better option for themselves.
2. The Cycle of Abuse: after every abusive incident comes a make-up honeymoon phase.
Often when an abusive situation happens, it is followed by the abuser doing something nice or apologizing and promising that they will never do it again. This makes their partner minimize the original abusive behavior.
3. It’s not just hard to breakup safely, it’s also hard to escape the cycle of control.
People in abusive relationships often attempt to break up with their partner several times before the break up sticks. On average, a person in an abusive relationship will attempt to leave 7 times before finally leaving for good. People in abusive relationships often attempt to break up with their partner several times before the break up sticks. On average, a person in an abusive relationship will attempt to leave 7 times before finally leaving for good.
4. They feel personally responsible for their partner or their behavior.
After a conflict, an abuser will turn the situation around and make their partner feel guilty or as though they are somehow at fault. This type of behavior is known as gaslighting.
5. They believe that if they stick it out, things might change.
A lot of people in abusive relationships stay in them because they love their partner and think that things will change. They might also believe their partner’s behavior is due to tough times or feel as though they can change their partner if they are a better partner themselves. Never stay in a relationship in which you count on someone to change their behavior for the better.
6. Fear of how others will react.
People in abusive relationships often feel embarrassed to admit that their partner is abusive for fear of being judged, blamed, marginalized, pitied or looked down on. For example, in some LGBTQIA* relationships, someone may stay with their partner for fear of being outed.
7. They might have a Life Together.
Marriage, children, and shared finances are often huge reasons that people in abusive relationships stay in them. This dependency is heightened in relationships where one partner is differently abled. But there are also similar factors that affect young people’s decisions to stay in relationships, including shared friend groups and living situations.
Abusive relationships are fairly simple. They are driven by insecurity, the fear that feeds that insecurity, and an expectation of inconsistency, both real and perceived.
It all comes back to us, to our responsibility and accountability. But, in this case, it comes back to responsibility to ourselves and accountability to ourselves. Instead of just riding the wave, if we choose to mindfully examine the nature of our relationships and make a determination of what is acceptable and not acceptable to us, of what feeds us, rather than bleeds us, then we are living, and loving, authentically and with mindful awareness.
This Take was inspired by a recent take on Gaslighting. Made me wonder why they "just don't get out of it."