There are many reasons for people staying in an abusive relationship:
But there's more!
There is a factor underlying all these reasons that is not often talked about. For example, a victim may worry about finances but in reality they would manage fine on their own. Another victim may say they are staying for the good of the children, even though they see the children being abused and secretly would love to take the children out of harm's way. Or yet another thinks that they have nowhere to go, but when a friend offers a bed and food the victim still cannot leave.
So what's going on here? Are the victims lying? Deluded? Absolutely not!!
There are 2 important forces in play in staying in an abusive relationship. The first is that in controlling relationships, the abuser creates a reality and then expects the victim to live within that reality. This reality often has little to do with the real world, rather it is a fabrication in the mind of the leader.
Think about a cult where the leader has the members believing all sorts of things that outsiders think are obviously 'wacky' and 'weird'. UFOs are coming to collect them, the leader has a direct line to god, we are descendants of a race from Atlantis, taking these natural foods will change your cells, your neural connections and even your DNA are just some of the ideas that cult members absolutely believe in, despite no evidence to back them up. These ideas and beliefs are those of the leader.
The same thing happens in an abusive relationship. The abuser has certain ideas and beliefs and he or she imposes them on those nearby. There may not be a religious theme, or a money making idea or a personal development technique, but they are simply the beliefs of the abuser about themselves.
This reality created in an abusive relationship typically includes such ideas as: the leader is right, everyone else is wrong. Anything good is because of the leader, anything bad that happens is your fault. The leader makes perfect decisions. Yours are worthless. The leader is the judge, jury and executioner. You are not allowed to make unilateral decisions but the leader is. You are not allowed to criticize, challenge or interrupt but the leader can insult, humiliate, belittle, criticize at any time, for any reason. The leader is superior, you are inferior. The leader does things best and you ought to follow their example. There are one set of rules for the leader and a different set for you. The leader may break the rules at any time. You cannot break the rules. The leader makes the rules. The leader can change the rules at any time. The leader does not need to let you know the rules have changed. The leader uses rewards and punishments to control your decision making, your thinking and your behavior.
When these beliefs and behaviors are imposed on someone over time, using strong influence techniques, they become the reality for the victim. The victim is expected to adapt themselves in order to live within this reality. In order to avoid getting into the bad books of the abuser, the victim, over time, ends up modifying their perceptions, their beliefs, their thinking, their behaviors, even their sense of themselves and their place in the world.
This idea explains several things. For one, the reason that victims are isolated from their friends and family is that the abuser (or cult leader) wants to be the sole source of information of the victim. They don't want outsiders giving their victims alternative information about their situation. They don’t want others undoing the reality they are carefully crafting.
Secondly, it explains why previously intelligent, independent, energetic people become withdrawn, dependent, demotivated and unable to think rationally. The victims are led to believe that many of the things listed above are actually true, that they will not be able to survive alone, that they are personally responsible for the bad things that happen in the relationship, that the abuser will change, that if they leave they may be missing out on the greatest relationship of their lives and so on.
Keep in mind that many of the beliefs installed in a mind control environment are stronger than normal, so simply telling victims what they believe is not true is not enough for them to see the reality of their situation. For example, a victim can tell you some terrible things that are going on in the relationship and you can reply that they are strong and independent and they have what it takes to walk out of the relationship, but they turn around and give you excuses why they cannot, they defend the abuser and they stay put.
And the second force?
If you change someone's beliefs, thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviors and their sense of themselves, you have basically changed their personality. This is what happens in abusive relationships. The abuser, unfreezes the real personality, makes changes and freezes these changes in place. This false personality, or pseudopersonality, is programmed in various ways by the abuser.
It is trained to believe whatever the abuser says, to take care of the abuser ahead of itself, and to be loyal to the abuser.
It is also made to be dependent on the abuser, mentally and emotionally. The initial period of an abusive relationship, the period of love-bombing, is usually fantastic for the victim. The abuser is kind, attentive, caring, loving and there are often gifts and lots of compliments. The victim feels that they have found someone who really understands them. When the abuser recognizes that they have a certain level of control, the bad behavior kicks in. The victim, wanting the marvelous relationship to continue, begins to adapt to the wants and needs of the abuser in order that the abuser continues with the fantastic treatment.
Step by step, the abuser puts terms and conditions in place for all that initial unconditional love. The victim learns what they have to do and what they have to say in order to have those good times continue.
But it does not matter how hard the victim tries, or how much time they invest, it's never enough. The bad treatment intensifies.
Now most people will say that if someone treated them badly or was outright abusive, they would just leave. The difficulty in an abusive relationship is that things have been so good at the start that the victim is committed. They know how good things can be and they are always trying to get back to that. The individual knows how good it feels when the abuser compliments them and they want more of that. They also become quickly familiar with how bad it feels when the abuser criticizes them. They want more good stuff and less bad stuff. So rather than running away, a victim with a pseudopersonality is actually programmed to step up and try harder. The alternation of criticism and compliments actually has the effect of motivating the victim to stay and try to improve the relationship. In other words, it augments the dependency on the abuser.
While all this is going on, the abuser is also training the victim to ask permission before making decisions. Initially the abuser will cause problems when the victim does things without checking first. The victim quickly learns that the only way to possibly stay out of trouble is to ask first. So the victim becomes dependent on the abuser to know what to do.
With all the compliments and criticism, the victim also becomes dependent on the abuser to know if they are ok or not. If the victim receives compliments, they feel that they are ok as a person. With the criticism, the victim feels that they are flawed in some way. So depending on the mood of the abuser, the victim believes themselves to be good or bad. Add in the technique where the abuser criticizes the victim not at the level of behavior but at the level of identity and the victim becomes dependent on the abuser to even know who they are.
When the pseudopersonality does eventually separate from the abuser, there is often a huge sense of loss, fear and dread because of this dependency. These feelings can be so bad for the victim that the only way to relieve them is to return to the abuser. This explains the fact that many battered wives return to their physically abusive husbands and why many people have several breakups before they can finally pull away from the abuser.
Add in financial dependency and now you are talking about serious control of someone's life. There are abusers who only hand out money if they can see what was purchased, with the receipt, and they expect any change to be handed back to them, too. Having to ask for money for food or to buy the children clothes puts the victim in a very weak and dependent position.
On top of all this, abusers will also install phobias in their victims. A phobia is an irrational fear or a fear that is not based in reality. The abuser can cause a victim to think that they will die alone if they leave, or they will never find another partner, they are nothing without the abuser, or they won't be able to survive or that they may even die without the abuser. Of course, sometimes there is a warranted fear that the abuser will cause physical harm if the victim leaves because there is physical violence in the relationship. I am talking here about phobias where the victim literally thinks they will die, or won't be able to get a job or will never find love again when these things are patently not true to outsiders. These phobias, although sometimes only at the edge of awareness of the abuser, can be sufficiently strong to stop a person leaving an abusive situation for years.
Humans generally like to have reasons and justifications for understanding why things happen the way they do. When a person is thinking of leaving or staying in an abusive relationship, they will come up with excuses and rationalizations for whatever they choose. These justifications typically come from the experiences they already have, their idea of how the world works, what seems to make sense to them.
The difficulty is that most victims don’t understand their dependency or the underlying processes that were used to put it in place. Therefore it is not usually considered as a reason for staying in an abusive relationship and not leaving. The reasons the victims do come up with are not completely accurate. Basically, the victim is trying to make decisions without having all the important information available to them. That's why I mentioned above that, often, even when the victim's reason for staying in an abusive relationship is removed, the person still has difficulty leaving. For example, a person may justify staying in the relationship by saying they are staying until the kids leave home. But when that day comes and goes they may still find themselves unable to get out of the relationship. An underlying reason they stay is, of course, because of the dependency.
For many people in abusive situations, for a long time, leaving is not actually an option, for the reasons I have laid out here. It may seem strange for someone who has never experienced these things, but it literally is so for victims of psychological abuse. For much of the time in the abusive situation, any thoughts of leaving are instantly dismissed as impossible and the thought disappears. It takes some time for the idea to become a real possibility.
If you want to know how to stay in an abusive relationship and not be affected by it, my answer is that you can't. As a normal, feeling human being, it is not possible to be in such a situation and not be affected profoundly by it. The abusers are so much better at destroying your boundaries and pushing you beyond your limits than you are at keeping them in place.
In fact, with very few exceptions, and I mean very few, the price you pay for staying is not worth whatever benefits you think there may be. And remember that distortion in thinking in the pseudopersonality? When people realize the truth of their situation, those benefits often vanish or diminish tremendously in importance.
There are books written about how to deal with narcissists and how to manage psychopaths. These people are master manipulators and very quickly recognize when someone is trying to play them. So what do they do? They typically find a way to take advantage of that.
Even if you understand psychopaths and narcissists and mind control, the effort it takes to be around these types is huge. They are not emotionally invested in the arrangement so it takes much less effort for them to continue the back and forth in a power struggle. In fact, when people do understand the abusers, they choose to not engage with them. They recognize that it's a waste of their time, their effort and their life.
So if you are thinking of staying in an abusive relationship my suggestion is that you don't do it. Learn about mind control. Learn about psychopaths and sociopaths. Get rid of your pseudopersonality. Put your own ideas and beliefs in place. Take control of your life again. And live the way you want to live, not the way the abuser insists that you do.
If you are thinking of staying in an abusive relationship, then it would be useful to really understand what you are contemplating. Read more here about manipulative personalities, living with a controlling person, why it's difficult to recognize an abusive relationship, the stages of a controlling relationship and how to leave an abusive relationship.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
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