How often have you been asked, “Why don’t you just leave?” It’s a common comment made by some well-intentioned (or perhaps not so well-intended) friends who have never experienced intimate partner violence. The following are some of the many reasons why you may be having a hard time making this decision.
- Love– yes, there is still love within the relationship. There are moments of tenderness, encouragement, hugs, intimacy that can keep you hooked. If it was all bad, it would be much easier to leave. But, it’s hard to forget the positive moments that have taken place during the length of time you’ve been together
- Desire to help– This factor goes along with love. Perhaps there was an event that triggered this shift in your partner (i.e. loss of job, car accident, substance use). There is the best of intentions to help your partner work through trauma, grief, or stress.
- Fear– What if leaving just makes things worse? If you worry that your partner will not calm down after you leave, it may seem safer to stay within the more predictable arrangement.
- Expectations of others– Divorce and separation are not always met with approval by families or cultures. If you were to leave your relationship, would you receive support or would you face judgement?
- Self-esteem– There is little doubt that staying with an abusive individual can impact self-worth. When hurtful words are directed at you incessantly, it is easy to start internalizing these negative messages. You may believe you truly are not worthwhile, incapable of doing better, or are being too sensitive. You may also feel ashamed in acknowledging what has happened within the relationship. It is hard to share the truth; staying allows you to keep this secret.
- Normalcy of violence– What if your entire life has been a series of abuse? Would this look any different? Those who have experienced childhood abuse can enter into an abusive intimate relationship, thereby reinforcing the message that abuse is normal.
- Finances– Could you afford to live independently in the city? What would your housing arrangements look like? Will you be able to make payments on your bills without your partner’s support?
- Children– It’s not an easy decision to shift the family dynamics through separation. Leaving a relationship will mean limited access to the kids, if custody is a concern. It can mean increased expenses in paying for childcare or choosing a bigger living arrangement to accommodate when the kids come over. Staying in a relationship can also mean protecting the kids. If your partner’s anger is targeted at you, then he/she will be too distracted to focus on the kids.
- Effort– This is a factor that is often minimized or judged. It is not easy to make a change after many years of being with the same person. You get used to routines and schedules. There is comfort in not having to change your financial status, housing situations, childcare arrangements, etc.
- Isolation– What if you didn’t know about local resources? What if you didn’t have a lot of friends or family in town? Once you left, where would you go? It’s hard to make such a large decision without any support nearby.
None of these factors condone or encourage staying. This is a decision that you will have to make many times during the length of your relationship. However, if you ever feel alone and want to talk, know that help is available.
As always, please feel free to share this post, or reach out if you have any questions or concerns.