Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

Why Did I Stay in An Abusive Relationship?

book excerpt with purple outline, woman's eyes with purple tint

Why did I stay in an abusive relationship? Why did I stay in a 17-year abusive marriage? That’s a good and multi-faceted question. It’s also an example of victim blaming. Instead of asking why he abused me, the question turns around and asks why did I stay. It’s accusatory, as most questions beginning with why tend to be.

But I do accuse myself of making poor decisions, of having made a poor decision. Self-blame is a symptom of verbal abuse, but let’s simply explore the answers to the question, irrational as they now seem. But to answer “Why did I stay in an abusive relationship?” I have to go toward the irrational reasons first because they are the strongest.

Irrational Reasons for Why I Stayed in an Abusive Relationship

If you’re reading this post before leaving your abuser, you will most likely consider these reasons for staying quite rational, well-thought-out reasons. I challenge you to read through the explanations and to re-frame your thoughts. Changing your thinking is your first escape from abuse.

I promised to love, honor and cherish him forever.

I consider this vow the most important and meaningful one I ever made; I assumed it was the same for him. What I didn’t consider while holding steadfast to my promise was that he broke his promise to me within weeks of our marriage. If a vow is the same as a contract (rationally) then my vow became null and void the first time he called me a whore. Or the first time he put his hands on me. But I didn’t let my promise go. Part of me still wants to honor it, even now.

My children deserved a whole family.

While that is true, they do deserve a complete family, our family was not ever whole. Our family lost a part every time I gave a piece of myself over to what he wanted me to be. I was crumbling while imagining myself as a foundation piece, a cornerstone. Over time, I eroded into the ground. Losing who I was, losing me, placed immeasurable pressure on each member of my family – even Will.

I loved him.

Again, technically true in feeling but inadequately pure in practice. If I ably and completely loved him, I would have allowed him to self-destruct instead of trying to constantly “help” or “fix” him, us, and me. If I could truly love him, then I would have left him a long time ago so he could be himself.

I’m not as great as I thought I was.

Not so. I was and am every bit as great as I was back in the day. Unfortunately, years of hearing that I was out of touch with reality caused me to doubt myself. I believed him more than I believed me.

He is right about me. I’m flighty, selfish, immature and living in a dream world.

No. I’m not even going to explain.

The Rational Reasons for Staying in Abuse

Nope. I can’t think of one. They’re all irrational – in hindsight.

Even More Irrational Reasons for Why I Stayed

Being part of a team is safer and more stable than going it alone.

Not when the team can’t work together without fighting over every detail. This is a reason based on the fear of being unable to make it financially on my own.

It makes financial sense to stay here.

In a way, this was true. However, no amount of money could make up for being deprived of the love our children and I needed. Staying with that man because he had a decent job exposed us to his dangerous temper and scalding words. Not worth it.

I have nowhere else to go.

Actually, I never truly thought this. I always had somewhere else I could have gone because of the kind of family I have. Even if I had NO family, there are government resources to tap into and legal steps to take. But when I was desperate for a reason to stay, this was a solid stand-by reason, good for another bout of crying and convincing myself that my situation was impossible to fix.

I’ve been a horrible wife and deserve this punishment.

While I cannot say for sure that I was a great wife, I now realize that no one, not even horrible wives, deserves abuse at the hands (or by the words) of their husbands. I think we all eventually get what we deserve – but it isn’t up to one person to decide what that is or how we receive it.

He’s been to war and suffers from PTSD, so I need to give him slack.

I’m not his psychiatrist. How do I know what he suffers from? Quite possibly, the war nor his other deployments affected my husband at all. Besides: one, my husband abused me before seeing any war zone at all; and two, any mental/emotional issue he has is HIS. I cannot expect myself to tolerate abuse because I feel sorry for him or think I can help him recover.

My husband is a good man and doesn’t want to hurt me.

Maybe he doesn’t want to hurt me. Maybe his actions are completely subconscious, maybe he doesn’t remember what he’s done. Maybe my perception of him is false. Maybe I am unappreciative. Maybe I am too emotional. Maybe I imagine our relationship as worse than it is. Maybe I don’t have it so bad. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m the one with the abusive personality. Maybe I’m sick and twisted. Maybe I’m the one who has it wrong.

Maybe that line of thinking is what led me down the path of self-destruction by staying in that damn abusive relationship.

Will told me time and again that I was irrational. Well, he was right about that. What he didn’t know was that my irrationality kept us together, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. I stayed because I wasn’t thinking rationally. And I didn’t think clearly for a very long time…because he abused me.