When the hype of finding the perfect guy for you simmers into an consuming and intense relationship that uncovers an unfamiliar path to his reality of life, the lights are dim and you find yourself caught in an emotional war, fighting to keep this strange love, and at the same time knowing it's time to flee hostile waters.
In my lifetime I have witnessed healthy, happy girls wither away in their relationships only because they were too afraid to leave their emotional, or physically abusive spouses. As their world crumbles within, they find themselves unable to claw their way out of this hell-hole that was once a love nest built from what was thought of as love, compassion, and trust. Made to depend on these men, they lose confidence and submit to their fears, facing life with a forced smile as they hide their faded souls, lost beneath the pain. They know they need to leave, so why do they stay?
I found an intriguing post on Obsidian Wings by Hilzoy:
In some cases, understanding why someone stays is easy. A lot of
women are afraid that their abuser would try to harm them if they
leave. And with good reason: about a third
of female homicide victims were killed by a spouse, lover, or ex-lover;
and that's not counting the women who are "merely" beaten, stalked, and
so forth. Staying in a case like this, at least until you had figured
out how to leave safely and cover your tracks, is not mysterious or
Moreover, while I think the assumption that
battered women stay because they are just dumb, or have staggeringly
bad judgment, is wrong and insulting, there are a whole lot of battered
women, and it would be very surprising if none of
them stayed for such reasons. We asked women who came to our shelter
when the abuse had started; one woman told me that her husband had
thrown her from a moving car on their first date, at which point I
wondered silently why on earth there had been a second date, let alone
a subsequent marriage. But in my experience such women were a
vanishingly small minority.
So as Hilzoy digged deeper:
First, abusers often isolate their victims. At first this can take
an apparently benign form: he wants to be with you all the time; he
wants to envelop you in a kind of cocoon; there isn't time for other
things. Later, it's a lot less pleasant. Women who stay often try to
keep the peace, and one way to do that is not to insist on seeing your
friends and family. That, of course, makes turning to your friends and
family a lot tougher later on.
Second, it would be a lot easier
if abusers were sneering villains. But they are not. They are often
charming on the outside. More importantly, they are often in genuine
psychological distress. It often seems like a combination of two
things: first, feeling as though if their wife left them, some truly
terrifying abyss would open up in their minds and they would fall down
into the darkness forever, and second, thinking that to prevent this,
they need to keep her from leaving, to control her (as opposed to, say, trying to build the best marriage ever.)
In my judgment, when abusers say things like: I need
you, I'd be lost without you, I'd die if you left, many of them are not
just kidding or being manipulative. They are serious, and they are
often right. If you love someone who is in genuine distress, you
normally don't want to make things worse for them. And that's what
leaving looks like, up until the moment when you say to yourself: he
will not change, at least not while he's involved with me; this will
not get better; and that being the case, I am not helping him by
At that point, you can think of leaving as helping
him. Until then, it looks like kicking someone you love when he's down.
Your husband or lover is in pain; he needs you; and you are going to
leave. For some people, it's easier to take sacrifices on themselves
than to inflict them on others, especially others they love. That is
not the worst kind of person to be. But it makes it much, much harder
to walk out the door.
Walking away sounds easier to do than the real deal, and especially for women in Asia, there needs to be more protection plans for women with abusive partners. We should be able to protect each other, or at least have a strong organization to depend on who can protect these women and yet allow them to continue living as much as they did, pre-abusive journey.
In my case the women I know who've been abused are stuck in limbo. There is a sincere love, but it's highly corrosive to the heart. They fear finding new love, moving on, and wonder if anyone would ever love them as much. They begin to feel unpretty and in some twisted way become addicted to this emotional torment. But eventually, when they open their eyes, they have every determination to retire from the emotional war.
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