Women decide to stay in abusive relationships because they do not notice they are being gaslighted, they love their partners, and the abusive cycle of behavioral patterns has them trapped.
When we talk about abusive relationships, the thing that first comes to our mind is physical violence. However, there is one form of abuse that may be even more damaging to a person because it is hard to spot – the emotional abuse, or also known as ‘gaslighting.’
This form of psychological abuse is very common, but it is rarely talked about because the abused person finds it hard to speak about this because there are always those who will judge, especially if they haven’t been through it themselves.
It is easy to say to a woman that, obviously, she should leave and put an end to the abusive relationship she is in. If she couldn’t leave the ‘terrible’ man that is abusing her, then we suppose it is her fault, and she is even enjoying the abuse.
However, those who haven’t experienced this kind of emotional abuse cannot understand how hard it can be for some women to leave.
But why do women have a hard time leaving abusive relationships? Below are some valuable reasons that have nothing to do with financial security.
1. Women do not notice they are being gaslighted.
Gaslighting as a form of psychological abuse, as well as manipulation, and emotional abuse, can wreak havoc on the woman’s self-esteem and make her doubt her own feelings and perception.
Gaslighting is a highly dangerous form of psychological abuse where the abuser makes the woman falsely believe that everything that goes wrong in the relationship is her fault. She starts to question her own memory, her behavior, or even her sanity.
The man will slowly start to whittle away at the woman’s self-esteem.
For instance, he will start commenting that she is always overthinking and overreacting and obviously she has emotional issues that she needs to work on. The woman may not perceive this as abuse because at this point it is subtle and it is said casually.
However, as the time passes, the man will start using her insecurities that he had deliberately planted into her mind for his own manipulative purposes.
And even if she calls him out on his game, he will say that she is crazy for even thinking such thing, that she is becoming delusional, and that everything is her fault.
The woman will eventually find herself thinking that maybe he is right and that it is her fault indeed.
She starts to doubt herself, which leaves her in a very dangerous and vulnerable position. And abusers are aware of this and use it as a tool for manipulation.
When a woman spends years of her life being constantly told that she is wrong, she begins to lose perception of reality and starts to think that there is really something wrong with her.
She will start hating herself because of that instead of the person who hurts her and is actually the one to blame.
2. They love their partners.
Anyone who has truly loved someone can agree that love as beautiful as it is – is very complicated. It is a force that is stronger than us. It makes us put our rose-tinted glasses on and see only the good things in our partner.
So, the question is: Can a woman love a man who emotionally abuses her? The answer is: Yes, absolutely.
Plus, since this abusive behavior is not just black and white, it makes the things even much harder for the woman. And it is even harder, especially if the woman is an empathetic person and can internalize other people’s feelings as her own.
She may then sympathize with the man in spite of everything that she knows about him and what he has done to her because during his moments of ‘deep regret’ she could not stand watching him being hurt.
So, even though she is aware of all the ‘terrible’ things that he has put her through – she decides to forgive him because in the rare moments when he shows her his vulnerable side she is seeing him as a broken man who needs to be loved and healed.
And, because she loves him she is not able to leave him when she thinks he needs her the most.
3. Abuse follows cyclical patterns that keep victims trapped.
There is one abusive pattern that almost all manipulative men use: When he senses that the woman has decided to leave him, he will start acting like his old loving self, which makes the woman decide to give the relationship another chance because she loves him and wants to make it work.
The woman will find herself blindly believing her partner’s words and his promises that things will change, that he will change.
She believes him because she wants to nurture her belief that she would finally have a healthy and loving relationship with him.
She reminisces only about the good times of her relationship and is optimistic that things will really change this time. They won’t.
And this is how the abuser gains control over his victim – he dangles the carrot of change, but it remains out of reach every time to make the victim feel hopeful that things will change for the better.
Maybe they will, maybe the things will start to look lovely and idyllic – but only for a short period of time. Then they would go back to as they were before.
All in all, there is no point to try and find the roots of an abuser’s behavior and why he is like that because your reality and his twisted and manipulative reality are very different.
And, most importantly, if you know a woman who is in an abusive relationship – do not judge her.
We should all try to be more supportive and try to understand how serious this problem actually is.
There is a stigma around this topic even today, and if we feel secure and have the courage to share stories about this problem, and hear other stories without judging – then maybe we could change something about it and make people feel safe in their relationships.
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Mary Wright is a professional writer with more than 10 years of incessant practice. Her topics of interest gravitate around the fields of the human mind and the interpersonal relationships of people.