Why Does She/He Stay in a Domestically Abusive Relationship?


By Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

As we approach the end of another year with many domestic violence cases in the media, people remain wondering why do abuse victims stay in their abusive relationships.

To understand domestic abuse survivors’ choices, one must acknowledge the cycle of domestic violence as a syndrome having a life of its own. The question of why one remains entangled in a dangerous relationship is personal and completely dependent on particulars only the individual can know.

Here are some of the key/common reasons domestic violence victims remain in their abusive relationships.

1) The most obvious reason people hold onto their relationship is “perceived love.” Even though domestic abuse survivors are hurt by their partners, that doesn’t mean the abuse victim doesn’t have romantic and endearing feelings for them. They usually do.

2) Then, there is the social and family attachment that binds the couple in an abusive relationship. There may be children and a dream to raise these children as a family unit. Even without children, there can be a compelling belief that they belong with this partner.

3) Further, the victim’s cultural bias and religious beliefs can add layer upon layer of commitment to the solidarity of their shaky volatile relationship. They often believe that it is their responsibility to maintain the marriage and family unit.

4) Finance is a huge part of this puzzle. Many people, domestic abuse victims included, seek to sustain one’s lifestyle. And most individuals in an abusive relationship—who are financially controlled—believe that they cannot make it without the partner they depend on for daily subsistence.

5) Fear of the consequences of leaving, from becoming homeless, to penniless to childless and last but not least becoming a homicide statistic is at the core of a domestic violence survivors decision to stay in their abusive relationship.

Victims trust that they are safer when they yield to their controlling partner’s will. This is a large part of what sustains the abuse dynamic in the first place.

In working with domestic abuse survivors over the last 20 years and having known these dynamics myself, I urge those bystanders looking in to realize that a victim’s vision and vantage point is far different than your own.

You cannot know their inner life experience as they. And further, we all must realize that when you are enmeshed in domestic abuse dynamics, your experiential field is not the same as those on the outside looking in. The most human thing that we can offer anyone in an abusive relationship is sincere compassion, domestic abuse education and lastly trust in their inner wisdom.

If you are in an abusive relationship or know someone who is victimized by their intimate partner, seek to be informed to make the wisest decisions for yourself and for those you love.

For more information about the dynamics of abusive relationships, visit http://www.preventabusiverelationships.com/identify_domestic_abuse.php

For a wealth of information and real-life insights on abusive relationships, visit https://innersanctuaryonline.org and start your Free 7-day trial today. Inner Sanctuary Online is designed to help you with the challenges of abusive relationships, from identifying them to influencing change within them to healing during and after them

Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps individuals and couples worldwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.

©Dr Jeanne King — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

One response to “Why Does She/He Stay in a Domestically Abusive Relationship?”


    I stayed for many years for 2 reasons
    1. to protect my couple and family. We were the best doctors in a small city. We were revered, respected, sought after. We were physically a lovely couple with 6 beautiful intelligent blond blue eyed children. My eldest kept putting my hypocrisy on the table insisting that everyone know what a terribly violent man her father was to the children and me. She found how hard it was to be believed when she told his mother that she hated her father. My mother in law confronted my ex and he told her that I was manipulating the children which was exactly what she wanted to hear
    2. I promised to stay with my ex for better and for worst. Finally he asked me for the divorce and I was relieved.
    My life is still a living hell. I got full custody of the children but he is spending his time visiting the kids telling horrible lies about me that they are starting to believe him. « My father is not the man he was. He’s the man I believe he is »

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