Why do women stay in unhealthy (or toxic, or abusive) relationships?

by Rod Smith

ExplosiveWhile a healthier person might find it very difficult to understand why a woman would remain the target of abuse, here are things I have heard from women (and a few men) in toxic relationships:

1. “His anger shows he cares.”
2. “No one has loved me like this.”
3. “If I leave he’ll take the children.”
4. “I am so unlovable (bad, ugly, hurt, used) I deserve abuse.”
5. “My past is catching up with me. I deserve to be mistreated.”
6. “He is not abusive. I’m just a slow learner.”
7. “God is teaching me: tough times are lessons from God.”
8. “I cannot make it alone.”
9. “Relationships are never perfect. They all hurt in some way.”
10. “You make your bed. You lie in it.”
11. “Things will improve when we have children (get married, get a house, a job).”
12. “He’s really a good person. When I make him angry he can’t help it.”
13. “As long as he is sorry I can put up with anything.”
14. “Things are improving, he doesn’t hit me like he used to.”
15. “God will change him if I am obedient. The Bible says so.”

The intensity, anger, aggression, in a toxic dance, places the victim on center-stage, and this focus is apparently experienced as some form of love.

15 Comments to “Why do women stay in unhealthy (or toxic, or abusive) relationships?”

  1. I believe that to use any of the excuses on this list indicates that the victim has lost the ability to love themselves first. My heart goes out to people in a toxic/abusive relationship that would use any of these excuses to remain in the relationship. Good list, I have already started to share this one.

  2. I realy love it how it is always the women which are being protected. Is anybody aware that there are men out there which are in a toxic relation with a woman. I (male) was in such relation and managed with great efford to break free. I am being looked at as if I am the evil do-er, and my ex-wife is the victim. Now I agree that I have my shortcommings and made my fair share of mistakes in that past relation, but I also know that I ended up being emotionaly a wreck and that if I wouldn’t have gotten out, that I would have been a psychiatric case.

    • I think u sound like a baby. sorry to say it, but its true. i think u exaggerate, and maybe thats why she would treat u the way she did.

  3. You are correct, Eric. Not only is a women capable of alot of emotional abuse, but also physical abuse. The physical abuse by women towards their husband/boyfriend goes unreported. There is a reason for this. In our society, where men are supposed to be macho, imagine the police arriving to your house, and your explaining to the police that your wife beat you up. Embarassing? Probably. Also, if you were to strike her out of self defense, in most cases, she’d go flying into the wall. (The difference in strength, in most cases is noteable). Therefore, the man can’t really strike back because he knows he is stronger and ultimately will be the one in the orange jump suit. Studies have shown that domestic violance has a 50/50 statistic. Men are just too ashamed to admit the offence because it makes them look “weak,” and they also know that one strike(by the male) will probably lead to serious injury. I took a course in domestic violence and was shocked by the statistics. Didn’t know women were just as capable of battery.

  4. I am currently in an abusive relationship and i dont know what to do im 17 i am divorced but im still in a relationship with him he’s the father of my daughter and i love him i think that sometimes it’s really my fault that he hit’s me because i’ve hit him before but i stopped completely cus i dont wanna hurt him but he never stops each time he hits me it’s worst i love him and i dont wanna leave him, i dont have no where to goo no job i just go to school i live by myself with him please someone give some advice…thank you!

    • Sweetheart, I am a therapist who works with children, families, couples. Get out of that relationship while you and your child are still alive and not permanently injured. There are worse things than being poor. There are also much worse things than being without an abusive person in your life. You are very young. Get yourself some help before your daughter is the one who needs the help

  5. I do believe that he hits me because he really cares about me or am i lying to myself it really hurts to admit things like this…and most of the things on that list is what i say for my boyfriend.

  6. well i am a victim of an abusive relationship and honestly they’re not easy to break free from. i struggled a long time before i found the strength to decide to leave. all the counseling in the world couldn’t get me to leave my partner. but after i started reflecting and seeing that i never had one good memory of happiness with this person i realized that i was living in a situation where there was no love, just a connection to proceed in carrying a title which was not necessarily needed. its hard but i know that women and men out there can find the way to break free whether with counseling or with their own free will.

  7. I havebeen married 15 yearsand now have five children. I met husband after I had an injury from a car accident. It left me disabled, able to walk but with a cane (right side weakness). I was paralyzed from neck down and eventually things came back with lots of hard work! I ended up getting a settlement for life because of accident. My husband knew all thiswhenwe got married. He is mean to me, has no time for me, and financially, he does not help me with groceries, kids, etc. Needless to say, I am broke. He makes good money and saveswhile I keep getting into debt. I “borrowed” grocery money and hewanted it back after I spent it all on our groceries for seven. I planned on giving back, but after paying bills, I did not have any money left. He buys kidsnew tvs, xbox, webkins, etc-as a way to buy love. If he is upset with one of us-he withholds money or even takes away items he has given them. I feel hatred from him. He has a business and works all the time…..fishing, baseball, football, etc, and we have no family time-we are an inconvenience. I have told him if he wants out it is okay, he can’t hurt me any more than I am. He wont leave and our house is the house I had before I met him. At times, we are afraid of him, he blows up. He has hit kids and stated to me that, “You should be the one I am hitting”. I feel like nothing I do will please him, he says how bad I am at homemaking and everything I do. I do not know what to do, I cant even get an equity line out of my own house because he wont let me.

  8. im 25.I am in a violent relatonship. Except unlike some of the other posts, our relationship is always great until we get into a physical fight and i always end up injured.
    Yes, I do shove him when I get really angry etc so when he swells my jaw or something, i take part responsibility for it.
    We usually make up and go back to being great until it happens again.
    I am totally dependent on him financially as i am an aspiring actress..he pays for everything from my bills to my headshots, etc.
    I know in my heart i should leave him but I feel like for some selfish reason, i dont want to.
    He’s otherwise a good provider and my family who is borderline poor, think he’s the greatest.
    I’m used to my lifestyle here but i feel awful wheni have to hide my face.
    I feel selfish for staying for financial reasons but also because i love him more than any man i have ever loved.
    He supports me, motivates me, and keeps me going until a fight happens.
    I know this is not normal yet I’m confused and afraid.

  9. I’ve been in a relationship with this guy for 9 months now. everything was great in the beginning, until the real him came out about 2 months ago.. he started gettin violent and callin me names, and one night after havin too much to drink he decides to attack me. Everytime he gets mad i am the target for his anger. Everyone from my parents to my friends tell me to leave him alone, but i love him, i dont know why but i do and its so hard to leave him alone. I dont know what to do anymore, im at a losss…. help?!

    • I too was in a similar relationship for six years!!! I was so in love that i could not see beyond my nose!! The thing is, after all the abuse the love dies. Get out before it changes you and and your outlook on life/relationships. I wish I were stronger and left sooner. I am a much more cynical person now who feels washed out. I am trying hard to get back to the warm, carefree, adventurous person I used to be. GET OUT NOW…. THE RELATIONSHIP DOES NOT GET BETTER.

  10. i am in completely the same situtation as you Danielle, i am in a really abusive relationship which goes one minute to being perfect to the next my guy flipping out on me, going mad, calling me every name possible. We have been together for 1 and half years now, the 1st year was great but cheated on him back in october by kissing this guy at school which i felt relli guilty about even though it wasn’t a proper kiss, he took this the worst way possible, and ever since then we have been in and out of the relationship. Everyone is telling me to break up with him, and that he made a far too bigger deal about this kiss, but of course im not going to critise as i was in the wrong. However since this incident the relationship has become compleatly unbalanced, at the moment i am in therepy because this relationship has made me so weak, but i have learnt alot. The main point i have learnt is that the reason people stay in these unhealthy relationships is because at first something causes the relationship to become unblanced so then the guy subconsiencly or consiencly takes this to his advantage as the boundaries to wot is right and wrong have been broken and then when the guy flips out when he wants he can because he has got the women on like an elastic band really and he knows he can get away with it when he wants because it makes the women to weak to walk away from it and then he is nice to her again after a while after she has taken the abuse and to the women it feels like the best feeling in the world him being nice to you but actually it’s just how every normal man should treat a women, he just always flips out at you and thats y it feels amazing when he is nice to you. The main point is that you probably dont love him (maybe you do, i dont know) but you are so addicted to this cycle of this abusive behaviour that you dont want to leave it, i haven’t got how to deal with it yet in my therepy but i have learnt that the first step is that you have to put up boundaries so you dont let your man walk all over you, doing what he wants when he wants, so as hard as it is, if he is doing something you dont like you have to tell him that it is unnaceptable behavior and gradually as he realises you have some boundaires he should begin to get better! i hope this helps, its not compleatly to do with the title but i hope that it helps someone cause i know how hard it is.

  11. I was in a abusive relationship with a woman who demeaned me, isolated me from friends and family, hit me, choked me, damaged my personal property, lied to me, cheated on me, and the list goes on. I stayed because i believed she was a better person, i stayed because over a short period of time I went from being a confident, strong woman to a nervous wreck constantly walking on eggshells. Within a year there was nothing of the old me, before her, left. Eventually, she ended up arrested after attempting to kill me. Instead of running for the hills, deleting her from my life, and moving on, I was concerned about her safety and well being. I neglected my self and how everything affected me, i ignored the pain that was swallowing me whole. In some corner of my head I knew that if i did not leave, what ever i have left of my life is done, and I will remain destroyed, but this time by my own choice. I packed my bags, quit my jobs and moved to Europe in order to heal. We remained in contact, as I still believed we had a chance, that she really was a good person. I came back to her after 2 months, thinking she changed and learned from her mistakes. My first night back she woke me after going through my phone and computer…the rage was back in her eyes, I reverted to the scared empty shell I was, and realized nothing has changed. I left again. It has been 6 months now, and every day is a struggle…one that at times seems so banal I can barely understand it. Through this all though, I am starting to realize and discover my self worth, and am slowly breaking out of the hold a controlling, abusive relationship creates. Its not easy, it takes time, and can at moments be more painful than the abuse, but i finally am gaining back my own control, forgiving, realizing that the past is nothing more than a fragmented memory that can not hurt me anymore and moving on. It is frightening and wonderful. We tell ourselves many lies to protect our own hearts from the pain abuse creates, but in the end are left with two choices. Stay and remain a vacuum for your partners abuse, or leave and live for yourself.

  12. Hi everyone..

    I have just recently within the past few months come out of an abusive & violent relationship…My partner and i just constantly argued but on the 8th and 9th of August 2010 he just lost it out of control and beat me up. He punched me in the head from behind,punched me in the forhead,giving me a bruise above my eye. while i was holding our daughter who was 2 1/2 at the time.Not only that but he pushed me on the stairs inside our house causing me to go head first into the plaster wall…
    Not only that but he also isolated me aswell from my family, and was also very controlative..
    The Police & CYFS got involved,then my daughter and i went to stay in a refuge for a couple/few months then into a womans centre for 3 months..Meanwhile hes pleading “not guilty” as men do…
    But One Thing Which Will always stick at the back of mind..My daughter opening the door to CYFS and showing them the hole in the wall across from the doorway, and when they asked “what happened here” she replies “Daddy did it – NOT FAIR”..
    My Daughter is under CYFS custody (but allowed to live with me) as its for her protection and also mine.

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