They say “Bad girls/guys aint no good; good girls/guys aint no fun” but many choose to stick with the bad ones, and end up being abused. But people who have never been abused often wonder why a person wouldn’t just leave. They wonder why some people seem to enjoy abusive relationships. They don’t understand that breaking up can be more complicated than it seems.
There are many reasons why both men and women stay in abusive relationships. If you have a friend in an unhealthy relationship, support them by understanding why they may choose to not leave immediately. Here are a few things you may need to understand.
•Fear: Your friend may be afraid of what will happen if they decide to leave the relationship. If your friend
has been threatened by their partner, family or friends, they may not feel safe leaving.
•Believing Abuse is Normal: If your friend doesn’t know what a healthy relationship looks like, perhaps
from growing up in an environment where abuse was common, they may not recognize that their relationship is unhealthy.
•Embarrassment: It’s probably hard for your friend to admit that they’ve been abused. They may feel they’ve done something wrong by becoming involved with an abusive partner. They may also worry that their friends and family will judge them.
•Low Self-esteem: If your friend’s partner constantly puts them down and blames them for the abuse, it can be easy for your friend to believe those statements and think that the abuse is their fault.
•Love: Your friend may stay in an abusive relationship hoping that their abuser will change. Think about it — if a person you love tells you they’ll change, you want to believe them. Your friend may only want the violence to stop, not for the relationship to end entirely.
•Social/Peer Pressure: If the abuser is popular, it can be hard for a person to tell their friends for fear that no one will believe them or that everyone will take the abuser’s side.
•Cultural/Religious Reasons: Traditional gender roles can make it difficult for young women to admit to being sexually active and for young men to admit to being abused. Also, your friend’s culture or religion may influence them to stay rather than end the relationship for fear of bringing shame upon their family.
•Pregnancy/Parenting: Your friend may feel pressure to raise their children with both parents together, even if that means staying in an abusive relationship. Also, the abusive partner may threaten to take or harm the children if your friend leaves.
DISTRUST OF ADULTS OR AUTHORITY
•Puppy-love Phenomena: This is especially for those in teenage relationships. Adults often don’t believe that teens really experience love. So if something goes wrong in the relationship, your friend may feel like they have no adults to turn to or that no one will take them seriously.
•Distrust of Police: Many teens and young adults do not feel that the police can or will help them, so they don’t report the abuse.
•Language Barriers/Immigration Status: This is for people who are immigrants in other countries. If your friend is undocumented, they may fear that reporting the abuse will affect their immigration status. Also, if
their first language isn’t English, it can be difficult to express the depth of their situation to others.
RELIANCE ON THE ABUSIVE PARTNER
•Lack of Money: Your friend may have become financially dependent on their abusive partner. Without money, it can seem impossible for them to leave the relationship.
•Nowhere to Go: Even if they could leave, your friend may think that they have nowhere to go or no one to turn to once they’ve ended the relationship. This feeling of helplessness can be especially strong if the person lives with their abusive partner.
•Disability: If your friend is physically dependent on their abusive partner, they can feel that their well being is connected to the relationship. This dependency could heavily influence his or her decision to stay in an abusive relationship.
If you have friends or family members who are in unhealthy or abusive relationships, the most important thing you can do is be supportive and listen to them. Please don’t judge! Understand that leaving an unhealthy or abusive relationship is never easy.
Try to let your friend know that they have options and show them the options, hopefully they’ll reason and take the bold step.