Why We Stay
An observer may struggle to understand why a woman would stay in a relationship in which she is subjected to verbal put-downs, or why a man would repeatedly breakup and then return to the same partnership in which he is closely monitored and controlled. To the outsider, these relationships seem clearly wrong. “I would never put up with that kind of abuse”, is what your friends say. If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, you know that leaving is not as easy as it sounds!
What Defines an Emotionally Unhealthy Relationship
Controlling — your partner prevents your access to money, isolates you from family and friends, monitors your whereabouts, determines what you wear
Berating — your partner constantly criticizes you, humiliates you in public, tells you that you are worthless, destroys your self confidence
Withholding — your partner doesn’t listen to you, only meets his / her own needs — not yours, fails to give you affection, love and support
Intimidating — your partner threatens to leave you, reveal compromising facts about you, or harm him or herself if you don’t comply with their demands
If any of these behaviors are a recurring theme in your relationship, past or present, or you know someone in an emotionally abusive relationship, read on…
How did we get here?
What would make you stay in an emotionally abusive relationship?
Here are some clues:
Your self esteem took a dive after a bad breakup
You worry that you’ll never find another partner
You want to have children, but fear the field of appropriate mates is shrinking
If your parents were emotionally abusive, you may confuse pain with love
All your friends are engaged or married. The Eagles song ” Desperado” is beginning to sound like it’s about you
If breaking up is right, why does it feel so wrong?
Why We Go Back: Could this be you?
They stayed too long
Handsome, athletic and charming, Joseph prided himself on cool detachment.But his long-time, live-in girlfriend Trish knew about his temper. Never physically violent, he lived one way – his. A contractor in the Northeast, he provided well. Married twice, he swore he’d never marry again. Trish, who longed to marry, reluctantly accepted him as is.
His secret tantrums unnerved her. Her inability to stand up for herself infuriated him. As the relationship slowly unraveled, the partners pretended not to notice — until Joseph had a major heart attack.
While Trish picked up the pieces, Joseph seized his freedom. “For his health” he headed South – alone. But once he settled in, he was miserably lonely. Was he missing Trish or experiencing the solitude of the newly single, a feeling that would pass?
He begged Trish to join him. Disaster followed. His tantrums increased. Far from friends and family, Trish felt fearful and trapped. She moved back to her home. Joseph and Trish read the inevitable loneliness they felt as a sign that they belonged together, which made an already painful loss even worse.
Their “forever” had ended.
Here’s the take-away our anecdote suggests:
They stayed too long: Missing a recent ex is normal. Infusing those feelings with a “We belong together” message is almost always a self deception that ends in magnified emotional abuse.