The hardest part of what I’m going through is hearing my beautiful girl question why she stayed with him for so many years. The main reason she believes she stayed with him are:
- She feels she put her family through a lot when she was forced to choose between him and them when she got married at a younger age, feeling responsible for the pain he caused and feeling that she had to do everything she could to make the marriage work.
- She distanced her from the relationship, doing what it took to please him and stop the abusive behaviour in him, treating him as a friend.
- She felt the only person being caused paid was her and she could deal with it, she was committed to the marriage and to loving him and tried everything to make it work.
She is coming to terms and asking herself the questions of why she stayed in the relationship, I think this is a good thing, but at the same time it’s stirring up old emotions that I don’t think she has dealt with before. She never saw herself as a victim, and she does not see herself as a survivor. She knows he was manipulative, but at the same time does not see him as an abuser. She still defends his actions, and that’s the really hard part for me to see. It’s almost like she is still trapped in it, and until she understands what happened to her she will not be able to move on fully. She blames herself for staying in the relationship but does not understand the physiology of what he did to her, to keep her in the relationship.
To put this into context here is some information from www.mentalhelp.net
Reasons for why people stay in abusive relationships is uncovered by learning about the so-called "cycle of abuse." In a typical instance of domestic abuse (where one partner is abusive towards the other), abuse tends to occur periodically (cyclically), rather than constantly (all the time). There is no clear beginning to the cycle of abuse, but for purposes of describing it, we can start at an arbitrary stage along its progression. Something event occurs, whether real or only imagined by the abuser, that generates feelings of anger or even rage. These feelings then lead to the second stage of the cycle, which is where the actual abusive behavior occurs. Such behavior may be verbal, physical, emotional/mental, or sexual in nature. If the cycle stopped here and stayed constant, most victims would find it very easy to leave and not endure abuse for long periods of time. However, shortly after the abusive event occurs, the abuser frequently expresses remorse or guilt and wants to apologize. The abuser will swear, "It will never happen again" and may shower the victim with gifts and demands that the victim forgive him or her. There may be so-called "makeup sex" which can be quite pleasurable and provide the victim with a sense that he or she is valued, and really loved. In a parent/child abusive relationship, guilt over abuse may be expressed as special privileges or gifts for the child victim. Following the guilt and making up stage comes a "honeymoon" or latency period during which things are good for a while between the partners. Inevitably, in truly abusive relationships, the latency period ends with the beginning of another abuse episode; the abuser again feels angry, disrespected or treated poorly in some way and the cycle starts all over again.
Though such cyclical abuse is repetitive and predictable, it is also intermittent, and the rest of the relationship might be perceived as good enough or even loving. In this context, victims often rationalize that they aren't really being abused, that their partner really loves them despite being abusive and that makes it okay, that the abuse really isn't all that bad, and other similar statements. Victims are motivated to generate excuses their abuser, to think of each abuse episode as a "one time" thing (even when it isn't), and to focus on the good aspects of the relationship (particularly those positive things that during the guilt/latency phase of the abuse cycle) and convince themselves that the relationship is really a good one and that everyone has some problems in a relationship, i.e., my partner just occasionally loses his/her temper when really stressed at work, etc. Or for those with poor self-esteem, the rationalizations may be thoughts such as “I don’t deserve any better” or “this is the best relationship I’ve had in my life.”
Victims may have any number of low-self-esteem type beliefs that also keep them paralyzed and willing to accept something that is merely "good enough." They may believe that they will be alone forever if they go out on their own. They may believe that they are so damaged that they would only pick another abusive partner anyway so why not stay with this one? They may believe that they don't deserve any better than to be beaten or raped on a semi-regular basis. Abusers may reinforce this lack of self-worth by saying that abuse is normal, that they are over-reacting, etc.
Victims that do try to break away from abusive partners may find that abuse escalates to dangerous proportions. Abusive partners may stalk victims who try to leave them, beat them severely, or otherwise attempt to control their ability to exit the relationship. If they don't threaten to kill or harm the victim or the children, they may threaten to harm themselves, and by so doing, guilt the victim into feeling sympathy for them and then staying to prevent the threatened suicide from happening.
The combination of internal self-esteem deficit, intermittent actual abuse, makeup sex or other positive attention obtained in the wake of abuse episodes, and escalating threats when the victim tries to get away is enough to convince many victims to stay put. Every time a victim forgives an abuser, that abuser is reinforced for being abusive, and it becomes that much more likely that the abuser will become abusive again in the future. The net effect is that the abuse tends to continue forever until the victim finds the courage to leave or is abused to death (e.g., murdered, in the most serious, violent cases). This truth is frequently lost on both the abuser and the victim, however.
Throughout all of this she could not see that he was abusing her, not violently, but emotionally, mentally and sometimes sexually.
Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.
Domestic violence and abuse does not discriminate. It happens among heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. And while women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused—especially verbally and emotionally, although sometimes even physically as well. The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe. http://www.helpguide.org
Abuse is not always about violence, below is an extract from a great website helping people get out of abuse relationships by sharing the experience of others. The main part is to know you are not alone. You are not week for staying with an abusive partner, you are strong for realising that it was wrong.
Although I do not know the full story, both of the below feel like they are similar experiences to what the love of my life went through. She has shared some information, but at the same time I see it in the echo’s of her past and the way she reacts to things. To give you an example; I may not hear her when she talks quietly, so I say pardon, and she instantly apologises says she is sorry for mumbling. When she goes out with friends, colleagues or family she walks back into the house and expects an argument as this is what she experienced for years. If her mum calls she apologises for being on the phone too long and worries how I will react, the truth is, I’m so happy she has reconnected to her family and friends. I see all of the past, and with time I will show her she can be herself and I will never control her. My love for her is so strong and I can see her for the beautiful soul she has.
My marriage was an experiment. I was the proverbial frog in the cooking pot – it heated up so slowly that I didn’t notice. That was, I didn’t notice until the blisters appeared on my soul. I finally escaped. With the help of some amazing people, I escaped.
What follows is a typical day in the life with my ex.
Saturday morning the alarm doesn’t go off but I wake up early anyway. My husband, Joe, is still asleep so I quietly creep out to the family room and settle on the couch to read my book. About an hour later Joe comes out and looks at me.
“Good morning,” I say, looking up.
“What do you think you’re doing? I’ve been laying in back there waiting for you to come back to bed.”
“I didn’t know you were up, I wanted to let you sleep.”
“Yea, right” he growls, going into the kitchen. He comes back with coffee and cereal and turns the TV on. I get up, and he looks at me, “Where are you going now?”
“To get some coffee, do you need anything else?” “Does it look like I do?” he yells, turning the TV up.
After breakfast he goes into his office and I clean up the kitchen, then jump in the shower. When I pull back the curtain, he’s leaning against the sink, glaring at me. Startled, I ask what’s wrong.
“You didn’t tell me you were going to take a shower.”
“You were working so I thought I’d get ready to go to Sam’s club.”
“I would have taken a shower with you.”
“I’m sorry, I just know that you complain you always have to wait on me to get ready, I thought I’d get started early.”
“So you can complain about waiting on me!” He screams.
Driving to the club, I turn towards the store and he suddenly punches the dash board, “WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?”
Shocked, I say “To the club.”
“You should’ve turned down the next street. This one has too much traffic and too many lights.” “I’m sorry,” I reply, “I’ll remember that for next time.”
I hate it when he gets angry. He’s never hit me but I’ve seen him destroy furniture, appliances and kick in a door. I have no doubt he could easily kill.
While shopping, he places an expensive tool chest in the cart. He really doesn’t need it since he doesn’t do much around the house.
Cringing, I look up, “We can’t afford that right now.” “Why not?” he sighs.
“The car payment and utilities are due.”
“So what happened to all our money!”
“Bills and groceries.”
“I think I need to take over managing our money.”
“I’ve tried to go over our budget with you before but . . .”
“Oh, alright, as always I never get anything I want and we have to do whatever you say!”
At home, I start cleaning, wearing my iPod, when he runs into the room, screaming at me. I take the buds out of my ears and say “What?”
“I’ve been calling you for ten minutes. Don’t wear that around the house, it’s like you’re going around with your fingers in your ears saying ‘Nanana, I can’t hear you!’”
“What did you need?”
“Nothing now, since I had to come upstairs.”
Later, fixing dinner, he comes in the kitchen just as I spill a can of tomatoes.
“Hey klutzy.” I look up and tell him not to call me names.
“It was just a joke, you’re too sensitive -and you have no sense of humor.” He takes over the dinner preparations and, when I ask him to go careful on the spicy, he just smiles, and tells me not to worry, it will be great. Of course it’s not, it’s so spicy I can’t eat much. After, I start cleaning up and he tells me to do it later and come in to watch a movie. Tired from the day and not wanting another argument, I sit down on couch. After the first movie, he says we’re going to watch one more. He won’t answer me when I ask what movie, just looks at me and says it’s a surprise. I immediately realize it’s Hannibal. I tell him I’m not watching this. He looks incredulous, and asks why.
“I hate this movie. I’m going to go to our room to read.” “You don’t hate this, you’re just trying to avoid me.” “That’s not true,” I reply, as I walk back to the room.
After the movie he comes back and wakes me up, “We have to talk.” “I was asleep.”
“You can go back to sleep easily. Are we ever going to have sex again?”
“I’m not talking about this now.”
“Maybe I should just go somewhere else to get it!” he yells. I look at him shocked. Through clenched teeth, he adds, “Maybe I should just force you.” Then stomps out of the room slamming the door.
I turn over to go back to sleep.
Domestic Abuse is not just about violence, is abuse, mental, emotional and sexual.
Not only did he bruise me with tv remotes, his shoes (gee, he loved throwing those things!) one time a hair gel container… anything in his reach really. But he also specialized in the ‘words’ that all abusers use…. “You’re just lucky I’m here. nobody else would stay around”; “you should be grateful i tell you how to improve yourself”; “nobody will ever love you as much as i do”; “you’re a liar- that never happened”; “you’ve got a bloody good imagination… always making things up”; “well if you didn’t do that i wouldn’t have reacted like that”; “it’s because of you that i act like this.. you make me so mad”.
I also endured the relentless hawk’s eye… i couldn’t go to the toilet without him saying “where are you going”; the phone rings “who is it?…. okay you can talk to your sister but only for 5 minutes, but she’s not coming over”.
I also had the relentless task of oral stimulation & hideously painful 3 minute penetration to relieve this man of his ‘natural urges’ and always being told “it doesn’t matter where i get my appetite- as long as i eat at home” at the end.
Domestic violence doesn’t make sense. It can be small and quiet. It can be a look, a deep sigh, a turn of the head, it can be loud smashing noises, booming voices, fists thrown, heads bashed.
I don’t know if I should help her see the relationship for what it was, or let her leave it in the past knowing that she still blames herself for what happened. I will have to trust my heart and guide her through everything in the best way I can. If you know someone that has been abused, love them, support them, and make sure you get the support you need to deal with these emotions.