#WhyIStayed: How to Rationalize Your Abusive Relationship

Content notice for all things domestic abuse. Please note that this is intended to be a personal account from a person whose feelings about what happened to them aren’t always fair or coherent and may carry misplaced resentment.

Whenever you realize what’s going on, remember

  • The wedding. How glamorous you felt. How happy everyone’s mom was. How sternly affectionate everyone’s dad was. How even the relatives you hate seemed lovely to you. How even the relatives who hate you wished you well without coming off as entirely passive-aggressive.
  • The cute story about the mishap from your honeymoon, when he performed a heroic, manly feat that saved you both.
  • The flowers he got for you on his way home from work each time you called him at work to let him know you were going to have his baby.
  • The ginger tenderness with which he held each newborn. The happy smile on his face in the picture you took each time of the bundled baby lying so snug and so small that he only had to use one arm to hold the tiny person.
  • How much your firstborn, who you love so dearly, looks like him.
  • That time you were listening to that one song on the radio and he swore he’d give his very last drop of blood for his children.
  • The one trip you took when there was no Incident.

When you are confronted by peers who realize, bring up

  • All the times you “almost left.”*
  • That he’s a good provider.
  • Your own lack of sainthood, how you
    • Provoke him.
    • Didn’t stand up to him in time or enough to fix it.
    • Still aren’t good enough to fix it, but you hope to be, someday.

* When confronted by your own hopes and dreams, talk to him about leaving

  • There will be absolutely no conviction in your voice.
  • There will be no reward for you, since you know that he knows that you know that you’d be helpless without him. Your punishment for this will be meted out slowly over time.
  • There will be no risk to the relationship, since you know that he knows that you know that he’d be helpless without you. He will remind you of it, voice quavering with penitence, and you will draw, yet again, from your endless well of forgiveness.

When your babies get sad, tell them what other daddies do to their babies

  • Beat them.
  • Starve them.
  • Leave them.
  • Sell them.
  • Mutilate them.
  • Marry them off.
  • Ship them away.
  • Rape them.
  • Kill them.
  • Hate them.

When your babies get angry, explain to them that

  • He’s only trying to fix them. They don’t want to grow up to be imperfect like you, do they?
  • All men are this angry, this irrational, this irritable. They’d better get used to it.
  • He used to be worse. Nobody is perfect. Everyone deserves a chance.
  • He used to be worse. Their anger will make him regress. They should stop their fussing right now, before he gets home.
  • He feels bad for it. Remember how bad he felt last time? It will blow over this time, like it did last time.

When your babies get too big and too loud with their sadness and anger, ask them why they

  • Are living in the past.
  • Can’t forgive their father. He’s their father.
  • Assert that an old — older than your father when he died, older than his father when he died, growing older every day — man, who never changed when he was younger, can’t change.
  • Refuse to give him credit where it’s due. He isn’t as bad as he was before.
  • Have gone through so much therapy and still carry so much negativity.
  • Can’t just be nice to him, for your sake? After all, you chose him, over and over and over again. They can make their own choices.
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#WhyIStayed: How to Rationalize Your Abusive Relationship
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10 thoughts on “#WhyIStayed: How to Rationalize Your Abusive Relationship

  1. 1

    “Are living in the past.
    Can’t forgive their father. He’s their father.

    Have gone through so much therapy and still carry so much negativity.
    Can’t just be nice to him, for your sake? After all, you chose him, over and over and over again. They can make their own choices.”

    That. It’s ‘she’ not ‘he’ in my case (well, mostly), but that.

    1. 2.1

      I apologize. I did not intend for this to be universal. If you’re open to it, you can let me know what I can do to convey that.

      In addition, I definitely did not intend to be scornful. If you’re open to it, I’d like to hear what conveyed that so I can make the appropriate edits to ensure that it doesn’t happen.

    2. 2.2

      I have consulted with a few friends about your comment and have added a disclaimer at the top about it being a personal experience. It was pointed out to me that the last set of points might be what could lead someone to see it as scornful. It definitely carries a lot of resentment since guilt-tripping into forgiving and loving an abuser is a painful thing to receive. I don’t know if that’s enough, but barring a comment directly from you offering me guidance, I wanted to do the best I can. I apologize again.

  2. 3

    Heina, thank you for being so gracious. I should have been equally gracious in my criticisms; I felt stung and shouldn’t have been unkind. It does clear things up a lot to know that it’s based on someone’s (your?) own experience. Yes, all of us have critical self-talk when we’ve been in experiences like that. Mine include memories of promises that turned out to be lies, and strengths that turned out to be unyielding harshness, and a clever frugality that turned out to be stinginess, and laughter when I insisted on my hopes and dreams, and, finally, someone who sat in his underwear in front of the computer all night and slept all day and blamed all of his anger and unhappiness on me. I blame myself for blaming myself; that is, I thought that I could turn things around single-handedly if I just didn’t allow for the possibility of failure. The day I finally learned how to accept defeat and move on is one of my most cherished memories.

  3. 4

    Those last couple sections… I’ve never been in an abusive relationship with a partner but I have been in an emotionally abusive one with family. Some of those points are very close to fitting what I experienced.

    I wish you all the best in recovering from this. I kind of want to say I hope you find a way to reclaim the pieces of yourself that were stolen by these abusive relationships. I’m not sure if that’s universal or necessarily worded correctly but hopefully the sentiment is clear.

  4. 6

    “When your babies get too big and too loud with their sadness and anger, ask them why they

    Are living in the past.
    Can’t forgive their father. He’s their father.
    Assert that an old — older than your father when he died, older than his father when he died, growing older every day — man, who never changed when he was younger, can’t change.
    Refuse to give him credit where it’s due. He isn’t as bad as he was before.
    Have gone through so much therapy and still carry so much negativity.
    Can’t just be nice to him, for your sake? After all, you chose him, over and over and over again. They can make their own choices.”

    Wow. This is my mother. Complicit in her own abuse for years. She said all of these things, even after my father left her. For years she “encouraged” me to keep contact with him. As I reflect I think she was just as abusive as he was, in her own way. Bravo on this post. It really hits home. I wrote a blog post about being estranged if you’re interested.

    http://pittsburghrules.com/2014/07/27/estranged/

  5. 7

    Being a divorcee, who almost was (or was in part) an abusive parent/father and has transitioned to a helpful, conciliatory, responsible and loving part-time parent and ex, I am grateful that my ex-wife managed to leave when she did (although also for reasons of infidelity and lying on her part).

    Reading other people’s experiences of relationships helped me recognise that many things I did were actually abusive despite my best intentions. These kinds of posts are always helpful.

    Don’t ever believe that people can’t change: but they have to change themselves, it’s not up to you to fix them (my ex didn’t fix me, I didn’t fix her, we both grew and learned).

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