Why leaving an abusive relationship is not that simple

Due to some recent personal experiences, I could relate a lot with this text and decided to translate it from Portuguese. Original link below.

“I write this text for three reasons: because I have been in one, because my friends have been/are, and the most important: because I always see a lot of judgement regarding what it is to be in an abusive relationship.

How many of us haven’t heard things like: “You are in this situation because you want to.” “Do you like to suffer?”, “Are you blind?”, “Can’t you realize what is going on?”, among many other questions that are asked us with the intentions to help, but actually, only hurt us even more. How the brilliant [Brazilian comedian and writer] Jout Jout would say about abusive relationships “Part of you know it, but, you sort of don’t know it at the same time.”

However, the question is: “If we know it, shouldn’t it be easy to stop it then?”. Well, it should, but it isn’t. Using my own abusive relationship as an example, and analyzing other stories I have heard, it’s not that simple to end an abusive relationship because of a number of factors, among which some that I will mention as the main ones.

You take a long time to believe that the person that you love doesn’t love you back. Each one has their own way to demonstrate love, caring and affection. Ok. The point is that, because we are too involved in that situation, we don’t realize that the person who we are with ignores our needs through censorship, criticism, neglect, verbal and/or physical violence. Besides many other forms of abuse, as not caring about us and our well being. So, we start to deceive ourselves to justify that situation: “That’s how he is.”, “He was having a bad day”, “He isn’t used to apologizing”, “Deep down, he’s suffering too”.

He makes you believe that it is YOUR fault, and then you start to accept it as true. Using a personal example, many times my ex mistreated me, not deliberately, but in a very articulated way, so I would believe that, if he was acting that way, well, I [!!] must have done something wrong. Everyone makes mistakes in life, and we are not exempted from making someone angry every once in a while[.] [E]xcept that, in abusive relationships, we don’t realize in a clear way how situations are always framed to our behavior.

This can be easy to notice through phrases as “I hang up on your face because you cry too much”, “I won’t go out with you anymore, you are too hysterical” or “You are the worst of all women ever” (yes, I was told that before).And that’s when, instead of asking ourselves “But am I like this, or am I feeling like this for some reason?”, “Do I act the same with who treats me well?” or “Did I have this behavior before meeting him?”, we start to think “Damn, he is right. I will try to control myself more.”

But after days, months, or even years, we realize that it’s never enough. Deep down, you believe that love heals everything. Since we were children, most of us (women) were raised to always be kind, docile, loving and helpful (ok, some were not raised this way, and others simply don’t have all this characteristics, but I will talk about what happens most of the time). We grow up with our imaginary being shaped to believe that, no matter what happens in the end, love will always triumph. This is on the movies, soap operas, and thousand of self-help books that are, the vast majority, intended for us.

We have a huge variety of texts telling us how we should act to conquer the beloved men — including teenagers magazines, while for the male gender, this type of “opposite gender manual” is extremely limited. Therefore, it’s really hard to put a final end in something that, deep down, you believe can still work.

This reasoning applies also to that job you hate, or that major in college you can’t stand anymore, but you endure because you have the feeling that it will get better some day. However, even those other associations, for example, rely only on you and your behavior to succeed. Not your relationship, since it is formed by two people (and unfortunately, we forget that).

So we try to love for both. Reconcile for both. Communicate for both. Understand for both.

As your self-esteem was bombed with negativity, you don’t believe anyone else will ever give you a chance, as the one he gave you. And this belief can be accurately explained by the phrase “A lie told often enough becomes the truth” — Joseph Goebbels (for those who don’t know it, Joseph Goebbels was Adolf Hitler’s Marketing Minister). She translated what happens in our minds after being suggested an idea over and over again. Hence, if it’s possible to “shape” the mind of thousands of people using an idea, we also change ours when we suffer abuses from our partners. We start to question who else would be with us, if we are like this, so “crazy”, “fat”, “stupid”, “hysterical”, “whiny” or “__insert here even more degrading adjective that they say__

This way, we start to believe that it’s better to be with someone, that even though treat us badly, at least is STILL with us.

After a while, he even seems to get better — but just seems. This usually happens after a break up, some time off or a horrible fight. It looks like after a while, he finally understood that things were bad and that, from now on, he will make everything to not let that happen and be nice again.

And that also happened to me when, after a year, my ex came back to talk to me looking like he was really, extremely sorry for what happened. Not even two weeks after that and he was already mistreating me again and acting like a complete selfish. The why? Well, I can’t say what’s inside other people’s mind and that’s not even why my text is here. [It is here] to say that you shouldn’t blame yourself in case that happened to you. Even though the chance was given a thousand times. As I said, when we really want to believe everything will be okay, sometimes it’s just a promise (even though a fake one) that a hurt, broken heart needs.

And then… he threatens you.

At this moment, it’s likely that you realized that there’s something wrong and managed to get the strength to end this abusive relationship. However, you start to receive threats to change your mind: “I will show up at your office”, “I will kill myself if you do this”, “I will take the children with me”, “If you do this, I will never let you have peace again”. And how you obviously don’t want any of this to happen, you give up on the break up and stay.

Therefore, I wrote this text not just to help all the girls that are going through the same, but mostly, to say “Try not to judge”. I know it’s hard and sometimes I fall for the trap as well.

Mostly, if this girl is your mother, daughter, friend, sister, colleague… Do not point the finger, making her feel — even more— guilty for not leaving this relationship. But see, if you think that my text is here somehow to support of incentive girls to stay in abusive relationships, it’s exactly the opposite.

I mentioned here four possible justifications, but I’m pretty sure there are many others. Sometimes, she just doesn’t have the strength because she is extremely depressed, or doesn’t have information, or enough support, or she is being threatened… So if you are in this situation, I won’t finish this text with the phrase “just get out of this”. Instead, I will finish saying “You will leave this relationship someday; but while this day doesn’t come, we are here for you.”

PS1: My text was based in heterossexual relationships, between men (cis)(abuser) — women (cis) (victim), but I know there are other types of relationships in which abuse also happens. I choose this model because is the one I often see reports and victims, mostly due to the clear patriarchy in our society.

PS2: If you don’t feel comfortable with your relationship, ask for help. Talk to someone. There are many therapy groups that you can participate in to recover your self-esteem. And, in cases of violence, be it physical or psychological, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.”

Original text from Luiza Pion, posted on the blog siteladom.com.br. Link here.