Here is why they stay.
Relationships at their best are challenging. Just about all of them have many common frustrating struggles. These include:
- difficulties communicating.
- differing values around money and sex.
- gender differences.
- not making time for one another and the relationship.
- feeling overwhelmed with work and daily responsibilities.
- blaming one another.
Some relationships have much more serious problems than the common problems most of us experience. These are characterized as abusive relationships in which one person is exerting power and control over another. While this can sometimes be a woman being abusive, for the sake of this article we will refer to a man being abusive toward a woman.
What Are The Signs And Characteristics Of An Abusive Relationship?
1. Physical abuse is the most obvious one. This includes punching, slapping, kicking, choking, using a weapon against her, pulling hair, restraining, and not allowing her to move away or out of a room.
2. Sexual abuse is when a man forces a woman to do something sexually that she does not want to do, uses her as a sex object, or touches her in sexual ways when she does not want to be touched.
3. Emotional abuse is when a man puts a woman down, calls her names, tells her what to feel (or what not to feel), tells her that she is crazy and making things up in her head, and blames her for his anger, angry actions and compulsive behavior. It can also include keeping her isolated from her family and friends, controlling who she sees and talks to, and when she goes out. The use of intimidation is also part of emotional abuse. This includes threatening looks or gestures, banging on tables or walls and destroying her property. The use of threats is also part of this category. This includes threatening her safety, threatening to take her children away, and threatening to make allegations to her family or a child protective agency about her behavior. Treating her ‘like a servant’ and acting like the ‘king of the castle’ are also parts of this category.
4. Economic abuse includes preventing her from working, withholding money, taking her money, and making her ask or do things for money. Making major financial decisions and major purchases without conferring with her is also included here.
Many women speak with me about being with this sort of man and in this type of relationship. They express a great deal of pain and fear, and also a significant amount of self-judgment and condemnation. They regularly ask ‘why do I stay’?
Reasons Women Stay In An Abusive Relationship
1. Lack of financial resources to move out on their own
2. Fear that they will be further physically hurt or even killed if they leave
3. Fear that they will not find someone else or that no one else would be interested in them if they leave the relationship
4. For the sake of the children. They are concerned about how leaving would upset the family structure.
5. It is familiar and certain. People crave certainty and often choose unhealthy certainty over healthy uncertainty. They know what they are getting now, don’t know what it’d be like to be on their own, and are afraid to find out.
6. Low self-esteem. On some level, consciously or unconsciously, they believe that they deserve to be treated like this. They will also sometimes blame themselves for being abused. They might think,"If only I were neater, prettier, quieter, more sexual, a better wife, etc., he would not treat me like this."
7. Hope that he’ll change. They love the man they are with who, at times, is kind, charming, respectful and supportive. They say it is not all bad. They hope it will get better and that he’ll stop being abusive.
Know that the best of relationships have their share of problems and that these can be worked on. Also know that being in an abusive relationship erodes your confidence and self-esteem. If you are in an abusive relationship, seek professional help ASAP and/or contact a domestic violence shelter or hotline. And know that with the right help, you can get out of an abusive relationship and move on with your life.
Jeff Schneider is a N.Y. State licensed clinical social worker and relationship expert in New Paltz, NY. He has helped people from all walks of life struggling with relationship problems, addictions, depression, fear, low self-esteem and how to integrate counseling and spirituality. You can learn more about him at www.relationshipsuccesssolutions.com.