Why Do Women Stay in Relationships?
Why would a woman stay in a relationship with a guy who puts her down, hems her in, and perhaps even physically abuses her? Why would a woman hold down two jobs to keep the rent paid and food on the table while her boyfriend sits around smoking weed all day? Why oh why would a woman allow herself to be emotionally blackmailed by her boyfriend’s threats that he will kill himself or her or both if she even talks about leaving a relationship that is going nowhere?
There’s no easy answer. Often it’s a complicated mix of a number of answers. If you wonder why on earth you stay with the guy who keeps hurting you in spite of promises to do better, in spite of protestations that he loves you, in spite of your obvious distress about how things are going.
But please be careful not to jump to conclusions based on a list. It’s not at all uncommon for relationships to have some challenging times. Reasons for staying become problems when they become excuses or ways we fool ourselves into believing that things aren’t that bad when in fact they are. If you keep getting hurt; if you know in your heart that the relationship is diminishing you but you still keep going back for more, it may be time for you to get into therapy or to find the resources in your community that help you extricate yourself from a controlling or abusive relationship.
Sometimes we are more afraid of being alone again than of being in a painful relationship. You’ve been alone and it’s lonely. You want someone to talk to in the evening, to cuddle up to at night, to at least once in awhile take the kids. Even picking up his laundry, cooking meals he doesn’t appreciate, and fighting with him is more appealing than coming home to an empty house. If he does help pay the bills and do a few chores (and especially if he pays most of the bills and can be counted on to do some of the heavy work), it’s even harder to think about going it alone. Supporting a family and doing everything to maintain a household as a single person is really, really hard. Maintaining the fiction that you have a partner feels better than dealing with the reality of going it alone. We find our self sometimes in this trap. It is ok to be alone. Love yourself!
We sometimes feel we can “change” someone, maybe I can make him into what I need? The relationship started out so wonderfully and because he can be so terrific after a fight, you hold onto the idea that you can bring out the best in him. All you have to do is find the right words and behave in the right way, and you’ll have the man of your dreams. Love conquers all, right? Wrong. No one can make another person be anything. He has to want it. He has to be willing to work on it. He has to want to change because it will make him a better person, not because he made an insincere promise in order to make up after a fight. Even though you know all this, you convince yourself that you’re an exception. You’re going to find a way.
When you first met, it was beautiful. He wined and dined you. Complimented you. Adorned you. Made you feel like a princess. Starts off so fairy tale like.
Gentlemen can be absolutely charming. You didn’t fall in love with your boyfriend for no good reason. He can be charming. He can be romantic. He can say the things that every woman would like to hear. Sometimes he lets you see a sweet vulnerability that melts your heart. He seems to feel genuinely terrible after the two of you have had a big fight. He brings apologies and flowers. He promises he’ll be less jealous. He says you really are his everything. Lovemaking at times like these is delicious. He says all the right things to make you want to give him another chance. Things are wonderful for awhile. But then it starts all over again. You come home a little late and his eyes look stormy. You make a phone call and he has to know just who you’re talking to. Pretty soon, you’re feeling hemmed in again and you know that there’s going to be another blow-out!
If your guy is so insecure that he needs control, his attention gradually became claustrophobic. Over time, his demands for all your attention all the time hemmed you in. You found yourself frantically explaining your every move that didn’t involve him. Staying a bit late for work, a girls’ night out, even a visit to your mother on a Saturday morning became grounds for a fight. What started out as wonderful attention became not so wonderful control.
If you are always on the giving end in the relationship; if you’ve accepted indifference, abuse, or manipulation because you don’t believe you deserve or can get better, it’s time to take charge of your life and to make some changes. Couples can and do change with commitment to the process and love for each other. Build up your self-esteem, develop the skills you need to be successful in the world, and increase your confidence in yourself. A stronger you will be able to hold out for the loving relationship that you deserve.