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Leaving an abusive relationship may be a difficult choice but it's still a choice, right?

(416 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread.

maggiethemagpie Sun 27-Mar-16 21:27:57

I will confess before we go any further that I have very little experience of abusive relationships. Personally - never, I am just not attracted to that kind of dynamic. I was exposed to my mum's abusive relationship with my stepfather when I was a child however. Maybe that's why I have 'never gone there' as an adult?

I have a friend who knows being with her abusive partner is the wrong thing, and says things like she hopes it will fizzle out or he'll want to spend less time with her (fat chance) but despite repeatedly trying to leave him, can't do so.

I have struggled to understand why. They are not married, or cohabiting, have no dependents, and have been together apx 18 months (they are late 30s) however she has been trying to leave him since 4 months in.

I can see that psychologically she's in some sort of trap, but surely the ultimate choice to stay or go is hers? I'm not denying that it's a difficult choice, it must be a very difficult choice but then life is full of difficult choices and these are what shape us and make us grow.

So is it a free choice to stay in these kind of relationships? Or is it a bit like addiction - where logically the right thing to do is to stop but due to the drug dependency it's not so easy?

I do have some experience with addiction so that may be an easier way to understand it. I don't subscribe to a disease model though - I still think remaining addicted to anything be it drink, substance or gambling or whatever, is still a choice although often a very difficult one.

So is remaining in an abusive relationship a choice or not?

Thatslife72 Sun 27-Mar-16 21:53:00

I think when your in it , you loose so much confidence and believe what they tell u your either too scared to leave or u hope they'll change or they just simply threaten u.

I was in an abusive relationship, I saw signs quite early on if I'm honest but he was so smitten with me at first I tried to be patient and hope things would change, but of course he didn't he just got worse and worse. He would promise to change but he never did, when I finally left him (I finished it many times) he threatened me with all sorts, I had No family around for support, he was trying to ruin my business , post naked pictures of me , advertise me as a prosititute , tell me I would never be able to rest again he will make my life a misery. Then beg me to go back when I didn't something awful would happen. All because I didn't want to be in s relationship with a psychopath! I had children too. I really thought he would kill us. The police weren't great but in the end they did listen to me and they helped but it was one of the most traumatic times in my life. But I got drawn in and it took me far too long to get out!

My sister is in a relationship like this but she is too scared to leave him, scared of being on her own, thinks no one else would want her. She has distanced herself from me because of him and I hate him but also frustrated with her for letting herself be under his spell.

I think saying u don't attract people like that is condescending as I wouldn't say I do, I have my own business, own house brought up 2 children on my own with no family around , I consider myself independent and far from stupid but I was taken in, but fortunately I was strong enough to leave. My sister is a solicitor and financially independent but she too is under is spell and too scared to leave. Very sad as she will be unhappy for the rest of her life and only u can make your life happy .

AstrantiaMallow Sun 27-Mar-16 22:02:07

I am just not attracted to that kind of dynamic shock
Are you serious?

Thatslife72 Sun 27-Mar-16 22:02:50

Exactly who is??!!!

FeckOfffCup Sun 27-Mar-16 22:28:20

How can you tell who will be an abusive partner before you are already trapped in the cycle of abuse?
I don't think anyone chooses an abusive partner so I don't know what you mean by being 'attracted to that kind of dynamic'

Abuse whether physical or not, is always emotional. Abusers build up control and manipulation and fear. They isolate their partners so they are all the victim has. They can make leaving seem scarier than staying.

0phelia Sun 27-Mar-16 22:36:38

I don't believe you choose to stay, necessarily, more you are afraid to leave.

I truly believed my abusive ex would kill me if I left, and I was proved right. He tried to strangle me. I pretended to be dead so he would let me go. I got up and smashed him over the head to get out.

I felt a strange responsibility towards him throughout the relationship, because I understood how damaged he was and without me he'd be homeless. I didn't want to make someone homeless. I changed my mind after he tried to murder me, though.

Thatslife72 Sun 27-Mar-16 22:43:25

It's very hard to understand, unless you've been involved yourself! No one chooses this life style but its very frustrating for outsiders !

Sandinmytoes Sun 27-Mar-16 22:56:37

Problem is you don't realise you're in it straightaway
I'm just not interested in that kind of dynamic is seriously offensive

They don't come with a big badge.

MrsBluesky1 Mon 28-Mar-16 08:51:34

People don't choose to be abused, what a horrifying outlook you have. It's not the victims fault.

Agree with comments made about fear control and manipulation. They make the victim believe it's their own fault

Onecallaway Mon 28-Mar-16 09:00:01

For me it was partly fear about leaving a relationship and being on my own, as simple as that. I had been in long-term relationships since I was a teenager and never contemplated being single. Now I am and I'm fine and I can't believe my mindset.

Also when I left, that was the most difficult and dangerous time and apparently that is quite common. So the fear of someone being aggressive or violent makes you keep your head down.

Btw I certainly didn't choose to 'go there' and I would never have married him if I had known he would be abusive. That started after children and became way worse when I left and during divorce.

maggiethemagpie Mon 28-Mar-16 09:06:50

What I meant by 'not attracted to that dynmic' - is that I believe we can subconciously attract certain relationship dynamics based on our underlying psychology. This was not meant to imply that people are deliberately choosing these kind of relationships.

I've done a lot of psychodynamic therapy and this is one of the theories, for those unfamiliar with this concept I can understand how it might have seemed like I was saying that people are deliberately choosing them but that's not what i meant.

But you have to ask how some people can go from abusive relationship to abusive relationship whereas some people never have then, it's not entirely random.

SmallLegsOrSmallEggs Mon 28-Mar-16 09:12:37

What are you hoping to get out of this thread OP?

hownottofuckup Mon 28-Mar-16 09:14:27

I guess they're just not as good as you OP confused
Whatever therapies you've done or theories you've read, you still just sound smug and victim-blaming. Which, actually, those theories aren't. Maybe you're not quite as clever as you think you are OP.

ElsaAintAsColdAsMe Mon 28-Mar-16 09:18:40

When I met my ex I was very young and had an abusive childhood.

He was much older and, looking back, he groomed me.

The first few months, at the time, we're amazing. Again, looking back, what he was actually doing was making me dependent on him entirely and chipping away at my confidence.

After 15 years of abuse one day I snapped, took all my children and a bag of clothes and ran.

Women's aid gave us a place to stay and gave me my confidence back.

I didn't feel it was a choice to stay at the time, I was trapped, no money, no friends, no confidence, I didn't want to take my children away from their dad, I had nothing.

Now, sitting here in my house that I decorated myself, with the bits of furniture I got myself, studying a subject I've always wanted to, and best of all with happy carefree children I kick myself for not having left sooner.

I suppose technically I had a choice, in reality I felt I had no choice.

maggiethemagpie Mon 28-Mar-16 09:20:12

I'm not going to post any more as it's clearly not possible to have a rational debate without people pulling the 'victim blaming' card.

I'm trying to understand why my friend in particular, and people in general cannot leave relationships where they are being treated like shit, bullied and abused.

Where does personal responsibility come in to all of this?

It may be a difficult decision to leave, the most difficult decision you've ever made, but it's still a decision to stay or leave (or no one would ever leave) and by calling yourself 'victims' you are seriously denying any personal responsiblity.

In my friends case, by choosing to stay with that is abuse of the self!

So I'm not so much victim blaming such as disputing the concept of a victim at all.

Onecallaway Mon 28-Mar-16 09:23:09

Well posters on here have offered you reasons why and you have not responded to them.

SmallLegsOrSmallEggs Mon 28-Mar-16 09:23:59

My question was a serious one btw OP.
Do you want to help your friend?
Do you want to be better educated about abuse? So you can teach your dc about it and hopefully avoid making a cunt of yourself

Or do you just want to judge the victims of abuse for choosing to be abused?

Tutt Mon 28-Mar-16 09:24:20

Whilst it is one of the psychodynamic theories it is also understood to be a subconcious one, this means that you don't know that you are making this choice.
Hardly fair to bring that in OP we all do loads of things subconsciously and they will effect our lives in a good/bad way but we don't recognise that!
For me I didn't leave as I was petrified, he had shown how dangerous he was (tried to burn the house down with us and tiny DS down), he threatened to kill me and DS and I totally believed him, still do.
Anyone can find themself in this situation and until you've been forced there you have no idea how you will handle it.
No one knew what hell DS and I were living in until I got out, it took me 7 years to do this, 7 years of planning, 7 years of living in a terrified state.
He made sure that my confidence in everything even my own judgement was gone, my dignity and self respect eroded and my free will compromised.
The reality of living in a abusive relationship is not anything like listening or reading about it!

SmallLegsOrSmallEggs Mon 28-Mar-16 09:25:02

As I see. It is the latter.

ElsaAintAsColdAsMe Mon 28-Mar-16 09:29:35

Fucking hell op, I was trying to be helpful by offering my experience.

Wish I hadn't bothered now.


0phelia Mon 28-Mar-16 09:32:57

An abuser forces the abusee to be dependent on them, as a starting point.

Self preservation in the mind of an abused person leads them to believe they are better off staying, despite intellectually realising they are being abused. They may believe they deserve it, and/or that their abuser is right.

Calls of LTB on here rarely result in a real life LTB in abused cases.

Have you offered your friend a lifeline? Somewhere to live? Suggested Woman's Aid? Is she close with her parents, can they help?

My abusive ex convinced me he would die on the street or kill himself if we split up. I believed every word! There are so many emotionally manipulating and controlling elements at play it's very very hard to untie yourself.

I'm trying to help you understand so you can help your friend. Don't abandon her.

Squeegle Mon 28-Mar-16 09:33:07

Yes, the reality of being in this kind of relationship is that you tend to think it's all your fault and that if you were more loving, did more tidying, cooked better, were more patient, didn't say annoying things, weren't bad at anything etc etc it would all be different.

The biggest barrier to leaving is that belief that you are not good enough. You believe that if only you could do things differently, then your partner would be nicer and you would all be happy.

Sometimes it's easy to see the. "dynamic" from the outside. But not when you're in it.

I understand what you're saying OP, unfortunately the way you said it was rather condescending, and does wind up those of us who have been in those relationships. It's not a conscious choice that any of us make.

Thatslife72 Mon 28-Mar-16 09:34:20

It's because they don't feel they have a choice op. It's really hard to understand when it's not u. I don't think your attracted to that dynamic I think they seem really caring at first, it's hard to spot it really is and when u do start to see things it's too late. I know what u mean though some end up in relationships after relationship like that. I don't know why that is. I hope your friend finds the strength to leave x

0phelia Mon 28-Mar-16 09:34:53

Tutt flowers
What you said about your own judgement being eroded is so true.

FeckOfffCup Mon 28-Mar-16 09:36:36

So you haven't read the responses then?
One woman's husband tried to kill her when she left him. Can you not see any reasons why a woman might just be frightened to leave when it's either stay and live, or leave and risk being killed? Not much of a choice really is it?

You don't seem to understand the power abusers have over their victims. A member of my family is currently in an emotionally abusive relationship. He has locked her in the house, confiscated her phone, punished her by depriving her of money and food. He has told her that if she leaves him he will report her to SS and her child will be taken away because she is an unfit mother. That is total bullshit of course, but she believes him because he has spent years chipping away at her confidence and playing mind games with her to the point where she doesn't think clearly and has no self worth.

I don't know what kind of debate you want but I think your opinions about leaving being a choice and women labelling themselves victims quite offensive.

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