Why do women stay in abusive relationships? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 27 Old 07-14-2010, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Please help me gain some perspective on my parent's relationship and my role as daughter...

My childhood was filled with a lot of yelling, physical abuse (mostly my dad, infrequently by mom who is now completely against any and all forms of physical punishment and apologetic about how she punished my siblings and me), and anger.

My parents seperated for 1 yr when I was about 8 yrs old after my dad beat my mom and she had to go to the hospital. My dad has always abused alcohol, except for an almost 10 yr span of time where he was really working on his faith and changed many things in his life, he started drinking again about 6 yrs ago or so. At this point his drinking is out of control again.

My mom is my best friend. We really understand ea other, I can tell her anything and she loves me, dh and my kids sooo much. She is a wonderful gma, would do anything for us and asks for nothing in return. She is very self aware and introspective but after an EXTREMELY abusive childhood I feel she is unable to see this situation for what it is.

My father is extremely emotionally abusive to my mother. He berates her, calls her names, swears at her, says the most vile things to her when he is angry and/or drunk. The abuse has escalated since March when my sister left her husband for another man (my dad is really angry about this).

I know that my dad can be loving, he is capable of it. However, he has never taken responsibility for anything (his lack of relationship w/his children he blames on my mom), has always been angry and not only unable to see others' veiwpoints but has the attitude that others (especially his family) have no right to differing veiwpoints. As a child/teen I was constantly told that I had no right to feelings/my own thoughts/etc.

For the reasons stated above I don't want my sons having a close relationship w/my father (who is always wonderful to my boys but I know he is capable of w/holding love when they get older and make mistakes, like he did w/us).

But how do I understand why my mom won't leave him? How do I not hate my father for all of this when I feel like I have moved on and dealt with my own childhood? How do I not feel pain all the time about this situation? Is there a way to mentally seperate myself so that I am not invested in my mom's decision to stay or not? She may never leave him so I make the best of the situation w/my dad in order to spend the most time w/my mom.

Please help me understand why she stays. I have asked her and she says that it just seems impossible financially, and that sometimes it's good between them. I know she loves him and I can understand it bc I love him too, although I hate him at the same time.

Wife to dh, Mommy to ds1 12/2002, ds2 9/2005, and ds3 9/2008.
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#2 of 27 Old 07-14-2010, 05:43 PM
 
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I grew up watching my mom get beat up probably on a monthly basis. this was the kind of beating up where she would have black eyes, bloody nose and lips. she would leave for a few hours and always come back. not only was there physical violence but he called her names every day and she wasn't allowed to drive or have access to money. I begged her for years to leave and she did a couple times but always went back to him. he kept getting custody of the kids and I think that is a big reason why she stayed with him. he molested me and beat me and my siblings.

She's still with him after 27 years. she lost a child to the state because he's an accused child molester and the state wouldn't give back my brother who was in foster care at the time and she wouldn't leave him. I think she's scared to be alone, she's a drug addict and alcoholic, although right now she's clean.

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#3 of 27 Old 07-14-2010, 05:52 PM
 
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I'll have to come back later, but I wanted to throw a out there

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#4 of 27 Old 07-14-2010, 07:18 PM
 
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Hmm how were their own fathers? I know I believe in a lot of cases in that whole we find a man like our fathers even if they were absent or not the best model.

I'm really not sure. My father was not abusive and I would not stand for abuse. BUT I also believe I don't know what I would do in the situation. My ex husband belittled some I wouldn't call it full on emotion or verbal abuse he didn't use vulgar words but in a subtle "joking" manner he did in a lot of ways. My aunt noticed it in a short visit she had with my family. Its hard to understand the unknown or inexperienced.

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#5 of 27 Old 07-14-2010, 07:24 PM
 
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Read this article. It might help you to see things a bit more clearly. It is very hard to break free of an abusive relationship, and the Stockholm Syndrome describes part of the reason why. Sorry you experienced all of that.

Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser
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#6 of 27 Old 07-14-2010, 09:16 PM
 
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and codependent personality. and strict religious adherence.

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#7 of 27 Old 07-14-2010, 09:29 PM
 
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One thing that comes to mind is sometimes it feels like the pain that's crippling the abused person was caused by the abuser, and so in order for it to ever be fixed, it feels like it has to be fixed by the person who caused the pain. So if you walk away- you feel like you'll always be that broken- and the pain is already too all consuming and deep. Like having a bad flu and not remembering what it feels like to feel well.
It's not a rational thing.
For instance, let's say a child was abused by their mother, it's sort of the same concept, you get this warped sense of mother that feels like it can only be corrected by her, or by making the relationship right with her, and so you get stuck in that mindset. It can last a lifetime. Even though logically you can see that your mother is an awful person, you still might spend your whole childhood and adult life trying to get her approval or get sucked into other weird psychological realms with her. You feel like if you don't fix stuff with your mother, it will affect your parenting, your relationships with your partners, and still keep crippling you your whole life.
I think with an abusive partner, this happens as well. Generally the abused person is also feeling depressed and helpless as well, and so it becomes what it is.
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#8 of 27 Old 07-14-2010, 10:40 PM
 
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Sometimes it's lack of external support and sometimes it's too scary. I know a lot of women (including myself) who would swear to leave a man the first time ____. But when it gets to that point, you're too scared or depressed or feel worthless and like you don't deserve better.

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#9 of 27 Old 07-15-2010, 01:20 AM
 
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Originally Posted by kittywitty View Post
Sometimes it's lack of external support and sometimes it's too scary. I know a lot of women (including myself) who would swear to leave a man the first time ____. But when it gets to that point, you're too scared or depressed or feel worthless and like you don't deserve better.
Totally. An abusive partner will have you worn down before you even realize you are being abused, in many cases anyway. Once you are emotionally, physically, financially, publicly invested in the relationship in a way that gives the abuser a sense that you are not going to leave at the first sign of overt abuse, then the ugly starts to really come out. That was my experience anyway.
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#10 of 27 Old 07-15-2010, 01:30 AM
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Originally Posted by *clementine* View Post
One thing that comes to mind is sometimes it feels like the pain that's crippling the abused person was caused by the abuser, and so in order for it to ever be fixed, it feels like it has to be fixed by the person who caused the pain. So if you walk away- you feel like you'll always be that broken- and the pain is already too all consuming and deep.
Wow. So true.

"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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#11 of 27 Old 07-15-2010, 04:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all for your kind words and insight. A lot of what you guys wrote makes so much sense when it comes to my parents' relationship.

I think that my mom isn't ready to give up, to throw all the yrs she invested into the relationship away, and she doesn't know how it feels to be in a healthy, mutually respectful relationship.

Since she suffered severe physical/emotional/psychological abuse by her father, I guess my dad seems like he isn't abusive, not compared to what she grew up w/anyway. My dad hasn't physically abused my mom since that one time when they seperated, like 20 yrs ago, so I think my mom feels like she can handle when he's being a jerk. My dad was also severly abused by his own father, he is so damaged. He pushes people away bc he is so afraid of letting anyone in for fear of getting hurt. What he doesn't realize is that he is living in a constant state of hurt, anger, and depression.

I am going to check out that article Theia, thanks. I really want to understand as much as I can bc as an adult I have learned that no one is all good or all bad, things aren't just black and white.

I want to be able to love my dad in a way that is healthy for me, realizing that I can't have unrealistic expectations for him (BTW, he is very loving to me and my kids, he knows I wouldn't put up w/his crap). He can be such a good man, loving, caring, funny, smart, all of it. I also need to be able to trust my mom to make what she feels is the best decision for her life. Only she knows what she can and can't do, how much is good vs how much is bad.

Thanks again, I am really glad I finally started this thread bc you guys are really helping me process this in a healthy way, instead of just feeling angry and hurt about the situation.

Wife to dh, Mommy to ds1 12/2002, ds2 9/2005, and ds3 9/2008.
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#12 of 27 Old 07-15-2010, 08:07 PM
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I don't know.

My Mom is incredibly beautiful, intelligent, funny, and so many more things but she has - her entire life - made awful descriptions concerning men. She back with one of the biggest mistakes at the moment. I used to try and make her see reason, but I finally had to realize that she's a grown woman and nothing I say will change her mind. All I can do is support her.

I wish you all the best. I know first hand how hard it is to accept that your parents are not the people you wish they were.
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#13 of 27 Old 07-15-2010, 08:43 PM
 
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This site says it better than I ever could:

http://www.justicewomen.com/cj_whydoesntsheleave.html

I wish that instead of asking why she doesn't leave, people would ask why he abuses her, you know? I do sympathize with your reasons for wondering.

My mom finally left my abusive stepdad when I was an adult. Maybe there's hope for your mom, too.

Have you seen the updated user agreement yet?
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#14 of 27 Old 07-15-2010, 09:48 PM
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I wish that instead of asking why she doesn't leave, people would ask why he abuses her, you know?
Very true.

It's probably yet another piece of our society that hasn't evolved past the fifties when "men were men and women were women."

Ugh.
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#15 of 27 Old 07-15-2010, 11:18 PM
 
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as a survivor of an very physically abusinve relationship all i can say is that it didnt start out with physical hitting etc... but with demeaning comments, things said to make me doubtmyself and self-worth... once he had that damaged then the stage was set for the hitting to start... by then i felt too unworthy of support of caring or understanding from my family, authoritites, anyone really... so i kept if a secret. a shameful secret. because i am a smart, attractive, strong, worthy woman. he tried to destroy that in me. thankfully he did not succeed and i managed to raise my daughters not to get into those situations...not that my mother didnt try but my dad was border line abusive to she and my siblings.
thankfully my adult daughters are all in strong healthy relationships with good men who are kind, loving and come from good no history of abuse families :amen:

i could think of of a lot of reasons i stayed now that i am 40 and experienced... then... i just didnt have the self confidence or sense of self-worth i do now,
and as for why no one askes why does he hit, i think a pp nailed it...we havent evolved past those fifties stereo type ideals where men are men and women sort of just do what we are told and keep to our place... sad but true in my experience... :lame:

vs
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#16 of 27 Old 07-15-2010, 11:49 PM
 
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I don't generally ask why he hits, because I want to see the woman safe. It's not a condemnation of her staying - it's wanting her to get out and get safe. I always knew there were mean, nasty, abusive people out there, and that people needed to stay the heck away from them. Labelling those people as "husband", "boyfriend" or "father" didn't change that, in my eyes. It took me a long time to understand that those people were capable of convincing their victims (labelled "wives", "girlfriends" or "daughters", among others) that they deserved everything they got, and didn't deserve anything better. It also took me a long time to understand the "he can change" mindset.

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#17 of 27 Old 07-16-2010, 12:59 AM
 
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"One thing that comes to mind is sometimes it feels like the pain that's crippling the abused person was caused by the abuser, and so in order for it to ever be fixed, it feels like it has to be fixed by the person who caused the pain. So if you walk away- you feel like you'll always be that broken- and the pain is already too all consuming and deep. "

Clementine, wow exactly this! I have experienced this myself, I want comfort from the same man that hurts me, and inside I do feel broken.

"If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere." -Vincent Van Gogh
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#18 of 27 Old 07-16-2010, 03:35 PM
 
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I think, too, that when one is verbally and emotionally abused, trying to get the energy together to actually leave is so incredibly difficult. As a coping mechanism, the victim shuts down her own emotions and mental energy, so getting the finances, kids, logistics together just seems soooo overwhelming.
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#19 of 27 Old 07-16-2010, 04:14 PM
 
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I think, too, that when one is verbally and emotionally abused, trying to get the energy together to actually leave is so incredibly difficult. As a coping mechanism, the victim shuts down her own emotions and mental energy, so getting the finances, kids, logistics together just seems soooo overwhelming.
My ex was emotionally abusive (albeit in a slightly atypical fashion), and I think there's a lot of truth to this. I can only begin to imagine how much worse it would be if there were physical abuse piled on top of that.

But, yeah...deep down, I knew I needed to leave for a long time before I did it, but the sheer amount of work involved just seemed overwhelming. First, the hurdle of telling him, then the physical work of packing, sorting, etc., and figuring out how to handle custody/access with ds1. Ugh! I could barely stay on top of my life as it was, so how was I going to manage all that extra? (Of course, when I left, I found out that "life as it was" involved more effort, in many ways, than life with the "extra" stuff. An abusive "partner" is a freaking heavy load!)

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#20 of 27 Old 07-19-2010, 04:37 PM
 
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I think, too, that when one is verbally and emotionally abused, trying to get the energy together to actually leave is so incredibly difficult. As a coping mechanism, the victim shuts down her own emotions and mental energy, so getting the finances, kids, logistics together just seems soooo overwhelming.
I can agree with the above. When questioned why don't/didn't you leave, my mom would say things like "oh well, it was just too hard, I didn't want to have to pack, leave the animals, move out of the house..."

She ended up having to pack, find homes for the animals and get out of the house in about 4 hours...talk about overwhelming!

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#21 of 27 Old 07-20-2010, 10:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all again for the continued replies, I am still trying to work through all this in my own mind...

My mom has this thing where she feels like she has to save everyone (and it's reinforced bc everyone in the whole family goes to her bc she is the one who can get things done and handle crisis). She always says that no one else can handle my dad bc he's so broken (which is true) and that only she is capable of loving him and sticking it out with him.

I just wonder if she realizes how much her need to save him is costing her. I can't imagine living with and loving someone who is so cruel one minute and so loving and kind the next. I can understand loving him, bc I do too, but I absolutely will not let him bully me, and he hasn't since I set him straight (I had to tell him flat out that even though I was getting divorced from xh, and had to live w/my parent's temporarily didn't mean he was in charge of my life or a stand-in co parent to my kids).

I think that my dad lacks a basic respect for women. He would argue against that however he has gone through things in his life that I think make him have a subconcious hatred for women.

I have been trying to take a step back from my parent's relationship, and I have told my mom that my dad's behavior means that I don't trust that my children will be okay spending the night at gma and gpa's house. I have to protect my children above all else. My mom is saddened by this but she understands and says I am the best mom she has ever known.

I am half way through that article about stockholm syndrome and it really makes sense. I see my mom as identifying with my dad bc she has needed to in order to survive. It really helps me understand what may be going on in her mind.

Wife to dh, Mommy to ds1 12/2002, ds2 9/2005, and ds3 9/2008.
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#22 of 27 Old 07-28-2010, 03:17 PM
 
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This post and responses hit very close to home for me with my childhood and mom, etc. Recently my mom said to me "you are the best mom I know".

Hopefully we are breaking the cycle.

Laura
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#23 of 27 Old 07-28-2010, 04:28 PM
 
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The whole "I have to save the world" syndrome is also known as codependence. I've been living it for several years now and have just started untangling myself from it. Have you ever read "Codependent No More" by Melodie Beattie? It's eye-opening.

I'm glad you're able to detach from your parents' relationship. It must be so hard.
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#24 of 27 Old 07-28-2010, 09:14 PM
 
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I think some people stay in bad relationships thinking that surely there must be some merit to the relationship or some reward for putting up with the horror... so to finally give in and realize that she endured all that for nothing at all... really brings home that she didn't have to live that way for so long. It's a hard thing to face - that she could have let herself out of that cage, but didn't. I think it means she has to question herself about why she would put up with that, instead of being able to be angry at someone for treating her that way.

But no one should put up with abusive behavior, there isn't any golden reward for staying in an abusive relationship, and it's never too late to take your own life back.
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#25 of 27 Old 07-28-2010, 09:24 PM
 
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Pure and simple, logistics.

No where to go. A bad economy. A stagnated housing market.
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#26 of 27 Old 07-30-2010, 03:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think some people stay in bad relationships thinking that surely there must be some merit to the relationship or some reward for putting up with the horror... so to finally give in and realize that she endured all that for nothing at all... really brings home that she didn't have to live that way for so long. It's a hard thing to face - that she could have let herself out of that cage, but didn't. I think it means she has to question herself about why she would put up with that, instead of being able to be angry at someone for treating her that way.

But no one should put up with abusive behavior, there isn't any golden reward for staying in an abusive relationship, and it's never too late to take your own life back.

Yes, yes, yes. This is a very large part of it. I just hate to see her so miserable and deep down think that she doesn't deserve any better.

Halfasianmomma, I am going to check out that book about codependency and then give it to my mom. She has really been looking inward lately and facing some hard realities.

Wife to dh, Mommy to ds1 12/2002, ds2 9/2005, and ds3 9/2008.
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#27 of 27 Old 07-30-2010, 03:56 PM
 
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The whole "I have to save the world" syndrome is also known as codependence. I've been living it for several years now and have just started untangling myself from it. Have you ever read "Codependent No More" by Melodie Beattie? It's eye-opening.

I'm glad you're able to detach from your parents' relationship. It must be so hard.
That is an excellent book.

Another is Lost in the Shuffle by Richard Subey. I may have the author's name misspelled. From what I remember, it is bit more basic than Beattie's book, which may make it a good starter.

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