Why do people stay in unhealthy or abusive relationships?

Answered Dec 25, 2018

I want to emphasise that, all of these principles apply not only to abusive sexual relationshits, but also to abusive platonic friendshits, and abusive family-of-origin relationshits.

In no particular order:

  • Some people’s childhood/adolescent periods were filled with relentless physical and/or psychological abuse. This primes them to tolerate abuse when they become adults. They don’t have a model of being treated decently, and have developed very low standards. People who don’t have such backgrounds are totally clueless about the impact (or even the existence) of childhood abuse, and may aggravate the problem with their judgmental, victim-blaming attitudes.
  • When you are too open socially, and have poor filtering mechanisms (which can be based on poorly-filtered environments), the abuse may continue, as an adult, into even superficial social situations. Thus damaging your mindset even further. As you are told over and over and over that you deserve hostility. In my experience, low-income environments, and female-dominated (or worse, all-female) environments are saturated with relentless, mass negativity/hostility.
  • Loneliness. A person might feel that, an abusive relationshit, or platonic friendshit, is better than none at all.
  • The bad individual (or just the situation with the bad individual) repels any good individuals in the target/victim’s life. This increases loneliness, and also deprives you of any healthy, sane “voice of reason” objectively observing and pointing out how bad the abuse(r) is.
  • The boiling frog principle. The idea is, if you put a frog into water that is already boiling, it will immediately jump out. But, if you put the frog into room-temperature water, and turn the heat up very slowly, the frog won’t notice, until it is too late. Abusers often start out nice and friendly, and turn the abuse level up gradually.
  • Financial dependence. Although the husband or boyfriend beats you occasionally, he also pays the rent. Although I have certainly seen abusers who expected the victim to financially support them. Including in a strictly platonic friendshit.

Two more principles are based on unrealistic optimism:

  • The desire to help the abuser. After being previously abused and judged, you might feel the need to prove that you are a decent, good person. And one way to prove that, is by helping people. Devoting your time/effort/resources to improving someone else’s life. Society plays a lot of “lip-service” to the idea that, helping others is a sign being a good person. Abusers often have very bad practical situations, down to such basic things as being unemployable, or unable to keep a roof over their own head. Some may be experiencing serious consequences of substance abuse. And so you feel sorry for them, and stick around, taking escalating abuse, as you desperately try to get your “help” to work. With the fear of how badly the poor little abuser will suffer if you abandon her. (Don’t worry – she will just move on to the next chump, by starting out very friendly at first.) Abusers love to use your own empathy and desire to be a good person as a weapon against you.
  • The hope that, if you just explain things clearly and simply enough, and if you do so enough times, she will finally listen and comprehend. Like when you try to explain actions leading to consequences. Or if you try to explain limits and boundaries. Or if you directly say, “If you keep doing this abusive behaviour, you will eventually reach the limit of my tolerance. And I will abandon you completely, with zero further chances. And you will get nothing from me, ever again.” You stick around because you are waiting for them to finally pull their head out of their rectum.

Both of these last two are based on two very misguided ideas, which had severe negative impacts on me when I was much younger, and much more tolerant:

  • Projection of rationality.
  • The belief/expectation that people were prepared to use that rationality to change their behaviour patterns.

Abusers (including “friendshit” abusers) thoroughly cured me of those two delusions.

I only tolerated a relatively small series of abusers for periods of weeks or months each, and was finished by age 26. Some people have a much longer series of abusers. Or they lock onto one, and stick around for years, decades, or even their whole lives.

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