I received a reader email recently from a woman who has lived in an abusive marriage for nearly 20 years. What I found interesting was her admission that the relationship had been abusive before marriage and that she knew on her wedding day that she was "making a big mistake."
She wanted me to tell her "why" she had made the choice to marry someone who abused her and "why" she had stayed. I had to ask myself the same questions after reading her email. Why do some people choose to remain in relationships that are unhealthy?
What I found most disturbing about her emails to me was her inability to take responsibility for the choices she had made. She chose to marry someone who abused her. She chose to stay in a marriage with an abuser.
I have a simplistic view of these situations. Or I should say, some of these situations. I realize that domestic abuse is a complicated problem but I also know that the longer you stay in an abusive relationship the more complicated the problem becomes.
My theory is, if you want to stop domestic violence leave the moment you became aware of the fact that you are being abused. There is no excuse for someone hitting you so don't make excuses. In the majority of cases there is no hope of the abuser changing so don't hang around and hope for change.
The longer you stay in an abusive relationship the more ammunition you give the abuser. The longer you stay the easier it is for the abuser to whittle away at your self-worth, self-esteem and ability to resist their tactics.
After some thought and a conversation with a friend who is a therapist I think I figured out "why" this woman and other victims stay in abusive relationships. They want the abuse to stop but they also want the relationship.
They put the need to be in the relationship before their own need for safety. What they don't realize is that there will come a day when their need for safety outweighs their need for the relationship. When that day comes they have lost the ability to simply walk away.
For some stopping domestic violence is simply a matter of valuing the relationship you have with yourself over the relationship you have with another person.