Why Do People Get into Abusive Relationships in the First Place?
What Makes Me and "Expert"?
I'm far from being an expert on relationships, but I do have some experience from which to draw. Many "experts" in the field have never experienced the abuse themselves, so they can't really know what it's like. I was in an abusive relationship for six years. I was seventeen when I met J, and finally found the strength and courage to leave him when I was twenty-three. What made me get into this relationship?
The Birth of an Abusive Relationship
Abusive relationships don't just happen. If you went on a first date with a man, and he degraded you on the date, you probably wouldn't go out with him again. If that was the case, most abusive relationships would never happen. No one seeks out a mate who will hurt them.
Abusive relationships happen over time. They are fed and nurtured like a sleeping beast, until they are so big and powerful that the victim is helpless.
J was perfect in my eyes, when I met him. We started dating, and he was very sweet and attentive to me. He had lived a rough life in his eighteen years, and I was going to "save" him. J had no positive parental guidance. His father was abusive(red flag!), and his mother was all but catatonic from years of abuse. She functioned from day to day, going to work, cooking supper, etc, but she seemed like a shell of a person to me. She had never gotten away from the abuse herself and kept her children in the abuse as well. I was going to be the one to swoop in and rescue J from all of this. He seemed like a lost puppy. How could I not want to help him?
Looking back, I realize now that the abuse started almost from the beginning. I just didn't recognize it as such. J would make comments to me about my weight. Almost daily, he would pat my tummy and tell me I was "getting fat", even though I was underweight. He also liked to point out that I was flat-chested, had a big nose, etc. He always said it in a joking way, so it didn't seem like blatant verbal abuse. The words may have been said in a lighthearted manner, but they were slowly doing harm. They were slicing away at my self-esteem bit by bit.
After about a year of dating, J began being physical with his abuse. The first time was when he got angry and began strangling me. Thankfully, he stopped before too much damage was done, but I ended up with bruising. When he "realized what he had done"(I hate that phrase, but it implies he had no control), he cried and told me he'd never touch me again. He said he couldn't believe he could be like his father and hurt someone he loves the most in the world.
I believed him, and the abuse continued and got worse.Finally, after six years, and with the help of family and a dear friend, I was able to break away from him. I'm now older, wiser, and have been happily married for 21 years.
Who's More Prone to Abusive Relationships?
Bad relationships can happen to anyone. Few people find their perfect soul mate on their very first date when they're fifteen or sixteen. Most of us have that bad apple in our dating history. The difference among victims and those not in abusive relationships is that the victims STAYED with their bad apple. People who have found happy relationships "get out while the getting's good" so to speak. As soon as their partner raises his voice the first time, or degrades them, they're done.
So, why do some people stay? Again, I'm not an expert, but I think it has to do with self-esteem. Most victims don't have a strong self esteem in the first place. This other person shows him/her some attention and even love, and they feel complete. Once the abuse begins, they may believe it was their fault. They also may think this person is their only shot at happiness.
For me, it was both. I had very little pride in myself going into the relationship with J. I had never been shown attention from boys up to that point, so the fact that this handsome boy was wanting to be with ME was enough to keep me hanging onto him. Who else would have me? One thing J would say to me was, "Who would want you?" I believed him, and continued to endure the abuse(which, by this point, had turned physical), because I thought he'd eventually change.Once the verbal abuse started, it hurt, but honestly most of it were things I already thought about myself.
Getting Out of the Cycle
There are some people who seem to jump from one abusive relationship to another. I think it's important to take time for yourself after finally getting out of a bad relationship. You have to deal with the issues that made you a victim in the first place. Jumping right back into another relationship will just continue the cycle.