Why Women Choose to stay in an Abusive Relationship

Shira met Kelvin at a cousin’s party, they both found a magnetic attraction between each other and soon started dating each other, Kelvin would always take Shira to nice places, buy her flowers, and always was very expressive about his love towards Shira. She was on cloud nine and was very happy and after six months of dating, they got married.

It is here the story changed Kelvin slowly and gradually started changing and Shira would every time think that it is just a new environment she needs to adjust to. He often used to shout at her and she would think that her husband is not like that and maybe he had a bad day so he is reacting like this. But she was not aware that this is just the beginning.

Kelvin now had problems with Shira’s dressing sense, her cooking, her friends and even starting raising his hand when Shira tried to put her point in front of him. But Shira never realized that she is in an abusive relationship but instead always blamed her herself for this. She used to think she is not trying enough to keep her husband happy.

Shira, a happy go round person, slowly started losing her self-esteem. She no longer resembled the strong, happy, self-confident person she was before she met him. She was always trying to please him but everything was in vain. She still loved him; she still wanted him to the part of her life.

We all have grown up listening to the boiling frog story. If we put a frog in boiling water, it will immediately jump out to save his life but if we put a frog in warm water and gradually the water is brought to boil frog will try to adjust his body temperature according to water temperature and ultimately will be cooked to death. This happens in marital relations too.

If a person is treated disgracefully on the first date, he/she would never date that person again. However, if everything seems to be rosy in the first instance we often fall for it. This is what happened with Shira too.  There are so many people like Shira.

According to a research done by Centers for Disease Control, 29% of straight men and up to 48% women worldwide have experienced psychological, physical or emotional abuse at the hands of their partners.

What is Abusive Relationship?

Abusive Relationships are those where a pattern of abusive and coercive behavior is found. They are used to maintain power and control over another person. They are driven by a fear that gives birth to insecurity, both real and perceived. Abuse can be emotional, financial, sexual or physical and also include intimidation, threat, and isolation.

 The abused are not always fragile or powerless. Famous Hollywood actress Rihanna and Chris Brown romance was one that got the girls weak in the knees (not in a good way). The internet was flooded with gruesome pictures of a beaten and battered Rihanna along with a 911 voice recording that shook Hollywood.  The fact is abused comes from all walks of life — rich, poor, strong, weak — and from both genders, female and male.

Psychology of women in an abusive relationship

Those who have never experienced abusive relationship struggle to understand how people remain in one for so long. If somebody is mistreating you, “why don’t you just walk away?” they ask.

According to Komal Bagal, marriage and relationship counsellor at Askmile.com,  “There are many reasons as to why someone would choose to live in an abusive relationship. It could either be that the victim is dependent on the abuser, financially or otherwise, and has nowhere else to go for the lack of support. Or fear of facing social stigma and societal pressure or the fear of being alone or having to live independently. Another reason could be that the victim has grown up observing abusive relationships and somehow has accepted it to be a normal behavior one has to put up with and can see no way out.”

Reasons why women choose to be in an abusive relationship

1. Low self-esteem

Low self – esteem is the number one reason because our fate begins with ourselves and how we choose to see ourselves.  The things we choose, the traits we display and the path we choose to walk are all mirror reflection of what we feel about ourselves and what we feel that we deserve. The choices you make, the character you display, and the path you walk along are all a reflection of how you feel about yourself and what you think you deserve in life. 

According to our client Jennie (name changed) who was physically and emotionally abused by her husband for 10 years. She was just thinking that this is what she deserved from life and was planning to end her life. A life-changing episode happened she met one of her school teacher. Her teacher was shocked because Jennie was always an ambitious child. She helped Jennie to connect to our askmile counsellor and finally after few sessions she was able to come out of an abusive relationship with help of our expert counselors. She shared, 

Self-esteem alone cannot combat abusive relationship. A woman with high self-esteem can be affected by an abusive relationship, but I feel that the woman who feels that she deserves something better will be more empowered to walk away from a relationship where she is abused and that is the important thing to focus on.

2. The family environment during childhood

How an individual is raised when he/she was a kid plays a big role in how he/she perceives abusive relationship. According to  Sneha our psychotherapist with over 10 years of experience in marital counselling – Some people find themselves comfortable in an abusive relationship because it is familiar. For them, it is the reflection of the household they were raised in. If a child was exposed to any kind of abusive behavior or has witnessed abusive behavior in parents are more likely to end up in violent or abusive relationships as an adult, and the destructive cycle continues.

3. The need of Shelter

This feeling is very common reason for a woman to be in an abusive relationship. If I leave him where will I go? This question haunts the individual and this feeling of helplessness forces them to live with their abusive partner.One of our client Shanaya was in a similar situation where she was bound to live with her abusive partner because she was a housewife with no work experience and had a 5-year-old boy. She could not turn to her parents for help because she had a love marriage without their consent. She was financially and emotionally totally dependent on her husband and now without any of her fault, she had no choice but to …

4. Feeling of Failure

Many of our clients told us that they remained in an abusive relationship because they did not want to look or feel like a failure.  Rehana (name changed on request) choose to live with her abusive husband because she thought what her friends and relatives will think about her. She feared that they will consider her as a failure because she could not save her marriage.  Well to all the people who think like Rehana just remember that if you choose to remain in an abusive relationship the only thing your friends and family will be looking at is a grave with your name on it!

5. Family Pressure

Neeraja was abused by her in-laws and husband, she decided to come out of this relationship and communicated this to her parents. Neerja’s parents instead of supporting her tried to explain to her that she has to make adjustments no matter how her in laws behave she has to live there only. They pressurized her in staying that relation.

Same happens with a lot of people our society doesn’t easily accept the concept of divorce even if someone is suffering. Our Counsellor Sneha says “ One should believe in family, but when the same family is letting you down, it is time to stand up on your own for yourself and make a way out of a toxic relationship”

Also read:  5 Ways to Make it Easy to Leave Your Toxic Relationship

6. Unable to understand the situation

This situation is common in individuals suffering from mental abuse. Physical abuse leaves scars which are visible but in case of emotional abuse the scars are printed on your heart and mind and nobody can see them.Sometimes not even you. One of our clients while narrating her story told us that my husband just yells at me but never ever he raised his hand on me so how can I say he is abusive.

Some people are not ready to admit to themselves and those around them the truth or reality of the situation. They feel thankful that at least their partner is being kind enough by not raising his/her hand and loves them. According to therapist Shannon Thomas, author of “Healing from Hidden Abuse,” psychological abuse is insidious, and it occurs a over time like an IV drip of poison entering your veins.

7. Trauma Bonding

Many individuals cannot walk away from an abusive relationship because they feel biologically attached to the abuser. This is known as trauma bonding.  They are so bonded to their abuser that they return. Others don’t try to leave at all and are only freed from the clutches of the abuse when they are discarded.

8. Fear

Walking away from a partner you love is the hardest thing in the world. There is a fear of the unknown which is scarier. You have always lived with that person and suddenly you will not have him/her in your life. “You have the strength and power to find your own self again, that inner spark that is so unique and special in this world. You can find your own path, your own light. You can embrace life again; the common place and everyday details that are yours to enjoy in freedom” says our relationship expert Komal Bagal.

What can someone in an abusive relationship do?

The scars of domestic abuse are not visible instead they run deep. The stress of what you’ve gone through will take time to heal. Talking with from friends, family or professionals help to a great extent.  Expert marriage counsellors and therapists can help process what people have gone through and help in learning how to build new and healthy relationships. They can give you a different and unbiased perspective to help you take control of your life.


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