Home  >  My Life  >  A Better Life

52 Reasons Why Women Stay In Abusive Relationships & How to Get Out

Do you wonder why some women stay in abusive relationships? Here are the reasons and what you can do to help them.

why do women stay in abusive relationships

Why do women stay in abusive relationships? No matter the reason, abuse comes in many forms—physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological. It also affects all genders. But, statistically, women are predominantly the ones that suffer from it the most.

Nearly a third of women in the US alone experience domestic violence in their lifetime. On a typical day, more than 20,000 phone calls are made to domestic abuse hotlines.

So many people are subjected to it because it’s easy to fall prey to abusive behavior. Once stuck in that cycle, it’s difficult to leave.

An abuser systematically breaks down your spirit, confidence, self-worth, and opinions over a long period of time, to the point where you distrust your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

After a while, they replace these personal characteristics with despair, heartbreak, disappointment, self-loathing, and doubt. Making you easier to manipulate and feeling as though you must stay with them because you’re worthless to anyone else. [Read: 20 traits & signs of a toxic boyfriend that predict a painful relationship]

Leaving an abusive relationship is harder than you think

Women who have managed to escape an abusive relationship always realize that they stayed for far longer than they should have. Their partner might have never physically abused them, but emotional abuse can be just as soul-destroying.

It’s difficult to break out of because the bruises and scars aren’t visible. [Read: 21 signs of emotional abuse you may be overlooking]

The classic behavior of an abuser includes: controlling, mood swings, viciously manipulative, intimidation methods, and bullying techniques. They pick away at your self-esteem, gaslight you, and often tell you that you can’t leave them because no one would love you like they can. And most women are manipulated into believing these lies.

It’s not easy to realize how toxic and consuming the relationship is until you’ve walked out of it. It may take a few failed breakups and attempts to sever all ties.

The problem is that during that relationship, the abuser’s behavior is so normalized that you believe all of the problems are entirely your fault. It’ll be hard to come to terms with and acknowledge the abuse you’ve experienced. It’s a difficult mentality to break from. [Read: Gaslighting – The signs your lover is messing with your mind]

Forms of abuse in a relationship

Abuse is a terrifying experience. It makes no difference if you are abused by a parent, a friend, a stranger, or a partner.

The majority of people are familiar with physical abuse, yet fewer people are aware of the emotional suffering and mental health issues caused by other forms of abuse. The psychological and emotional scars may not be visible, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Let’s go over the common forms of abuse to understand what the victims are going through. [Read: Hoovering – what it is, how narcissists use it & how to avoid falling for it]

1. Physical abuse

The type of domestic violence that most people are familiar with is physical abuse. It includes any form of bodily injury to another individual.

For example, striking, kicking, slapping, punching, strangling, and burning. If you get forced to use drugs, you’re being physically abused.

If your partner regulates your medicine or declines your medical treatment, they’re abusing you. Using knives or firearms or any other type of weapon also counts as physical abuse. [Read: Outraged! An Indian girl’s perspective of the law]

2. Mental abuse

When your partner manipulates your mind to exert control, he is mentally or emotionally abusing you. The tactics these abusers often use include degradation and causing excessive fear.

Stalking and isolating are also mental abuse. It doesn’t matter if your partner never insults or gaslights you. If they enjoy humiliating you or displaying ferocious jealousy, they’re abusive. [Read: Narcissistic abuse – 16 subtle signs a narcissist is abusing you]

3. Financial abuse

This type of abuse isn’t talked about enough. Financial abuse is another type of domestic violence that occurs when your partner has control over your finances and refuses to provide you with the money you need or drives you out of your job.

In short, abuse occurs when one partner has complete control over the other’s financial uses.

If your partner deliberately lowers your credit score or forbids you to use your own funds, he’s abusive. Bullying a partner at work or causing harm to them so they can’t work also counts as financial abuse.[Read: Controlling relationship – 42 signs & ways to love without bullying]

4. Sexual abuse

Any behavior that coerces someone into engaging in sexual activities they do not want to is considered sexual abuse.

This also refers to behavior that impacts someone’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs. Oral sex, rape, or restricting access to birth control or condoms are all sexual abuse.

Am I in an abusive relationship?

If you have to ask this question, it’s very likely that you are a victim of an abusive relationship. Let’s take a look at the warning signs of an abusive relationship so you can seek help as soon as possible. You don’t have to experience several or all of these signs for your relationship to be abusive.

[Read: Silent treatment abuse – how to take a stand & get back in control]

1. You are afraid of your partner

It’s not normal to be afraid of your partner. They should be one of the people you’re most comfortable with, someone you can trust, someone who loves and supports you. There should always be healthy mutual respect.

The fear you experience may be so constant that at times it’s unrecognizable. His behavior eventually drives you to self-eject. You begin to ask yourself what is wrong with you. That fear now becomes insecurity and self-doubt.

[Read: 19 truths to respect yourself in a relationship & stop being a pushover]

2. You are constantly walking on eggshells because of his mood swings

You shouldn’t have to be cautious all the time around your partner. Do you have to spend time working out what kind of mood your partner is in? Is the focus always on his needs? Does he lose his temper very easily?

If this is true, you’re a victim of abuse.

3. He has hit you or almost hit you

It doesn’t matter if you’re not injured or there’s no physical evidence that he’s hit you. If he’s hit you or almost done it, he’s abusive and you need to get out of the relationship as soon as possible.

4. He isolates you from your family and friends

Does your partner keep you from seeing your family and friends? Does he always criticize them or try to demonize them?

Being in a relationship should not mean cutting off your other relationships. You should be allowed to still see them without his permission or under his supervision. Him making it difficult for you to see them is still a major sign that you should run as fast as you can away from this man.

5. He makes all the decisions in the relationship

A healthy relationship requires mutual respect and understanding. If your partner is always the one who makes the decisions, it’s definitely not right. An abuser will make you feel like you’re worthless and you’re only in this relationship to serve him.

Your needs are just as important as his, and if he refuses to recognize that, you need to start packing your bags.

6. He calls you names and threatens you

He doesn’t have to lay his hands on you to be abusive. A lot of times, words hurt more than physical violence. Your partner should not call you names or threaten you in any way. Even in an argument, there should be respect.

7. He is excessively jealous and always accusing you of flirting/cheating

A little bit of jealousy may be attractive and makes you feel desirable, but an excessive amount of jealousy is quite a big red flag. If your partner is jealous all the time, try to talk to them and make it clear that it’s not healthy for the two of you.

Don’t let it get to the point where you have to distance yourself from all of your friends because your partner cannot handle you being close to anyone but him. [Read: Jealousy in a relationship – how to accept, deal & overcome it in love]

8. You find it hard to have time on your own

A healthy relationship is when two people have their own lives outside of each other. It’s not good to be codependent.

You are an adult, and you don’t have to always report to your partner where you’re going and who you’re with. It’s even worse if he doesn’t allow you to go anywhere without him. Even a parent is not allowed to do that to their adult children.

9. He regularly undermines or criticizes you in front of others

A bit of teasing is okay in a healthy relationship, but if he always has something negative to say about you, there’s a problem. Does your partner criticize the way you dress, talk, or act in front of others?

He’s definitely not doing this for your own good, but for his ego. He needs you to feel ashamed, that you’re not good enough, and that he could do so much better than you. You must not let him have that satisfaction.

10. He controls every aspect of your life

An abuser will control your access to basic essentials like your car, food, internet, or the telephone. He even tries to control whether/where you work, what you do, what you wear, where you go, and what you can watch on TV or online. He demands to know the passwords to your social media accounts or email.

11. He makes you participate in sexual activities that you’re not comfortable with

Does your partner force you to have sex with him or with other people? Is it always about pleasing him and he doesn’t care if you’re uncomfortable or hurt?

Sex should be enjoyable, and most importantly, consensual. Someone who loves you won’t force you to do things you don’t enthusiastically agree with. [Read: Is drunk sex rape? How to know if it was consensual or not]

12. He threatens to kill you or himself if you leave him

If your partner regularly threatens suicide or to kill you if you leave, they’re trying to manipulate you by playing on your love and fear for them.

When this occurs, you can become upset, but you may also feel like you have to cave in order to prevent disaster. Both emotions are normal, and behaving in either way is not shameful. It’s common to feel fearful for someone’s safety, especially if that’s someone close to you.

You may feel more safe setting boundaries if you are aware of the differences between warning signs of suicide and a history of threats used as a form of control or abuse. [Read: Ways guys manipulate and control their girlfriends]

13. He was abusive to his previous partner(s)

When you start dating someone, it is important to spot red flags as quickly as possible. There is no specific archetype of an abuser.

Just because someone appears to be caring or soft-spoken with a successful career and loads of friends, it doesn’t mean they aren’t potentially an abusive partner.

It is possible for someone to be well-liked and respected amongst their friends, all while being violent, paranoid, or wildly aggressive behind closed doors. The best way to do it is to find out as much as you can about his past relationships.

Is there any evidence that he may have abused his previous partner(s)? If there is, don’t think that it will be different for you. A leopard can’t change its spots.

If you find the person you are dating is in fact abusive, don’t try to reason with him or give him second chances. Just leave and move on. You won’t be able to change him because his behavior is so deeply ingrained that he doesn’t realize it. [Read: 22 early warning signs of a bad boyfriend you can’t miss]

Why do women stay in abusive relationships?

Unfortunately, there is still a huge stigma attached to abuse. Too often, a lot of victim-blaming still occurs. It’s a difficult subject to tackle, and often leads to many people asking, “Why do women stay in abusive relationships?”

Surely, if they have the ability to see clearly and leave their abusive partner, why wouldn’t they just go? What would be the justification for staying put, knowing how badly you’re treated? In reality, the solution is not as simple as it seems.

1. They feel trapped

So, why do women stay in abusive relationships? Well, many women feel like they can’t leave or have an obligation to stay.

Sometimes it is for reasons like their partner emotionally blackmails them by saying they’ll commit suicide if they leave or that no one else will love them.

This psychological torment convinces them that it’s better to stay and deal with their circumstances than to risk it and go. [Read: Signs you’re trapped in a troubled relationship]

2. They still want to believe that they’re loved

They may still be genuinely convinced that their abuser loves them. Or their partner just has a different way of showing love. The abuser switches between showering them with false devotion and affection and horrific abuse. It gets to the point where the abused believes this is the love they deserve.

3. They fear for their lives

Abuse is no joke. It often leads to women being terrified to leave in case their partner turns violent. Every day around three women are murdered by a current or former male partner. Leaving without repercussions is difficult for abused women.

4. They don’t want a failed marriage

There are many women who simply cannot go because they share children with, or are married to the abuser.

In this situation, they hate the idea of going through the painful, expensive process of divorce. They also don’t want to put their children through a separation or, worse, leave them behind. [Read: Reasons why divorce can be such a damn good thing]

5. Maybe this time he’ll change

After suffering extended mental manipulation and so many failed attempts at leaving, some women often hope that this time will be different.

They cling desperately to the hope that the man they love will come to his senses that they believe his lies when he claims he’s capable of change.

6. They blame themselves

Most abused people are subjected to the prolonged destruction of their self-esteem. They repeatedly hear they’re the ones at fault for any problems that arise in the relationship.

They often hear, “I’m only doing this because of what you said/did/wore/wrote.” After a while, they’re so brainwashed that they just assume they’re wrong.

7. Total reliance on their partner

Some abusers manipulate their partners into codependency and reliance on them. Many abused women who don’t have solid, full-time jobs rely solely on their partner to be the bread-winner in the house.

Sometimes, the abuser controls what money their partner accesses, making it more difficult to leave. [Read: 17 relationship red flags most people completely ignore]

8. They feel pressured by others

Pressure to remain in a toxic relationship doesn’t always come from the abuser. Sometimes it comes from friends and family.

At times, it’s easier for people to dismiss typically abusive behavior when they’re not in the relationship. They say things like, “He’s probably not that bad,” “He’s never been horrible to me,” or “I’m sure he didn’t mean it.”

9. Fearful they won’t be believed

Many cases of abuse go unreported and unpunished because often when women come forward, they aren’t believed. Unless you document evidence every day, there’s no proof other than bruises or scars.

And if a woman is being emotionally abused, there’s rarely any physical evidence to use. It sadly becomes a case of their word against their abuser’s.

10. They still love them

When you haven’t been in an abusive relationship, it seems crazy to still love your abuser, but it’s incredibly common.

In a way, it is similar to Stockholm Syndrome because someone who is abused will feel like they still see something in them that redeems all the things they were put through. [Read: The 15 types of toxic relationships you need to watch out for]

11. They’ve already tried and failed

There are too many cases to count of women who left their abuser, only to be tracked down and beaten, threatened, or sweet-talked into coming back.

Leaving often has repercussions, especially in physically abusive relationships, so many women don’t attempt it.

12. They don’t realize they’re being abused

Sometimes, especially with psychological or emotional abuse, it’s difficult to understand what abuse looks and feels like.

It’s easy to be talked into believing their behavior is normal, or that you’re the catalyst for their mood swings. It takes a long time to recognize the signs and accept it’s abuse and not just a faulty relationship.

13. They give too many second chances

When someone is treated as a doormat, forgiving starts to come easily to them. They’ll feel like they should justify the actions of the abuser and explain away their behavior.

If they give second chances easily, they’ll be accustomed to hearing their partner apologize and promise to do better. They let them off because they love them and hope they’ll change. [Read: The hidden dangers of uncertainty in a relationship]

14. They have nowhere to go

In some situations, escaping a horrible or violent environment is incredibly difficult when you share a home or mortgage with the abuser.

In order to fully get away, some take up anonymity and move to a totally new place. Uprooting themselves from their hometown, renting a new apartment, and moving away from all of their friends and job is too much to bear, so they stay. [Read: We accept the love we think we deserve – a real life example]

15. They’re fooling themselves

Once their self-worth and confidence have been shattered repeatedly, they become accustomed to turning to the one person who shows them “love.” Soon, they think this is all they deserve.

Either out of love or pressure, they stay put and accept what they’re told their place is while believing things will eventually get better if they try harder at being a good partner. [Read: How to spot an emotional abuser]

16. It feels impossible to start fresh

It’s hard to start over for someone who’s been emotionally abused to the point where they have extremely low self-esteem. These victims are convinced that they cannot do better or deserve better.

They don’t have the confidence nor do they believe they can make it on their own. After all, they have been dependent on their abuser this whole time. Without their abuser, they probably feel lost and confused.

17. They feel personally responsible for their partner

After a disagreement, the abuser will try to blame their victim or try to make them guilty. They will hold one small mistake you make against you and make you feel like everything is your fault. This type of behavior is known as gaslighting.

This abuse manipulates the victim into thinking they are responsible for their partner and their behavior, making it difficult to leave. [Read: Should I give up on him? 25 signs he won’t change or be a good fit]

18. Fear of how others will react

Victim blaming is a sad reality in our society. When female victims stand up to their abuser, they get shut down because “there’s not enough proof.”

They get slut-shamed and ridiculed by others, even other women. The fear of being judged, blamed, marginalized, pitied, and looked down on is the most common reason many women in abusive relationships choose not to speak up. [Read: Types of feminism – can’t we all just agree to disagree?]

19. Disability

Another reason many women stay in abusive relationships is that they rely on their abusers for physical support. There are disabled women who have no one else to take care of them, so they have no choice but to put up with their partner’s abusive behaviors.

20. Cultural context

Cultural context can play a big part in a victim’s decision to stay with their abusive partner.

In many traditional customs or beliefs, women are viewed as inferior to men. They’re born to be someone’s daughter, girlfriend, wife, and then mother and not seen as individuals. Divorced women are villainized and slut-shamed, and men never have to take responsibility for their behaviors.

These women feel pressured to just “ride it out” and “forgive and forget.” Pop culture also glamorizes being someone’s ride or die, and giving up on them makes you a bad person.

While being devoted to someone is admirable, a loving partner wouldn’t put you through any kind of pain. [Read: What’s a misogynist? 22 red flags that reveal a disrespectful sexist man]

21. The victim lacks support

If your partner is the only one you know, you don’t have a choice to leave. Women who lack family, community, and church support become prey for abusive men.

Ways to help women in abusive relationships

If you know someone who’s in an abusive relationship, here’s how you can help her.

1. Talk to her privately

Make an effort to ensure that you have privacy and won’t be disturbed or distracted, then set up a time to talk to her. If possible, go see her in person.

2. Let her know you’re worried for her safety

Be truthful about why you’re concerned for her. Aid her in realizing that abuse is bad.

She can delay her response, act aggressively, or even claim the abuse was not directed toward her. Let her know you’re willing to support her no matter what choice she takes, and that you’ll always be there for her.

3. Be encouraging

Pay attention to the victim. Remember that it could be challenging for her to discuss the abuse. Inform her that you are here to support her and that she is not alone. Ask her what you can do to help.

4. Offer specific help

You may offer to simply listen to her, give transportation, or even assist her with child care.

5. Don’t make her feel guilty, ashamed, or blamed

Instead of, “Why don’t you just leave?” Try, “I get scared thinking about what might happen to you.” In this way, you are informing her that you’re aware of how challenging this must be for her. Make sure that she knows her feelings are valid, and that she’s not the one to blame.

6. Make a safety plan with her

Help her pack essentials and come up with a safe phase. She can use this phase to alert you without her abuser knowing. You can also suggest a location to meet her in private just in case she has to leave in a hurry.

7. Encourage her to speak with a helpful person

Offer to help her locate a local domestic abuse organization. Offer to accompany her there, to the police, or to the court.

8. Continue to be supportive if she decides to stay

Although it may be difficult for you to understand, people frequently decide to remain in abusive relationships. There’s nothing much you can do but show her support and love and be her safe space.

How to get yourself to leave an abusive relationship

No matter how many times you’ve returned, you can go on without fear and end an abusive relationship for good.

1. Recognize that you’re in an abusive relationship

The first step that you need to do is to recognize the terrible situation you’re in. Until you can admit to yourself that you’re being abused, you will just continue going in circles. [Read: 15 early signs of an abusive relationship]

2. Create a safety plan

A safety plan may include someone to contact for help and shelter. Know what important items to bring when leaving. Come up with steps to protect children and pets and increase safety at work, school, church, and stores. Then, navigate different potential scenarios with the abuser.

3. Build a safety network

An abuser will do his best to isolate you. So you need to reconnect with your loved ones, friends, and people in your community. Especially since you haven’t been in touch with them in a while due to your situation. [Read: How to be independent & balance seeking help and being stubborn]

4. Remember why you left

It’s perfectly normal to miss your abuser, but that doesn’t mean you should give them another chance. Write a note to yourself and outline your decision to end the relationship. Give reasons why it’s crucial for you to stay away from this person.

Whenever you miss your partner, use the note as a gentle reminder that the relationship is toxic and getting in touch with this person may not be the healthiest or safest measure.

5. Put yourself first

It’s time to stop thinking about what your abuser might feel if you leave them. How will you feel if you stay? Will anything change if you stay?

It’s not selfish to prioritize your own well-being. Leaving someone who abuses you isn’t quitting. You deserve kindness, too, and if you can’t even give yourself that, who else can?

6. Work toward becoming independent

The only way for you to not get back into the same or another abusive relationship is to become independent. This whole time you are dependent on your abuser. He tells you what to do, who to be, and how to live your life. It’s time you took back control of your life.

Establish financial independence, including your own source of income, savings, and credit. This will improve your chances of staying away from your partner. [Read: 24 ways to be a strong independent woman all men love and desire]

Help hotlines

Here are several hotlines dedicated to helping victims understand their rights and options.

1. National Domestic Violence Hotline

Hotline: 1 (800) 799 – 7233

Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via phone and online chat. This service is for anyone experiencing domestic violence. You’ll be provided with resources, information, and answers to all questions about abusive relationships.

2. Love is Respect – National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline

Hotline: 1 (866) 331 – 9474

Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via phone and online chat. This service offers help and support to young people about their dating relationships.

3. StrongHearts Native Helpline

Hotline: 1 (844) 762 – 8483

Available Monday to Friday, 9AM to 5:30PM CTS via phone. This safe, confidential, and anonymous service is for Native Americans experiencing domestic abuse and dating violence.

4. Pathways to Safety International

Hotline: 1 (833) 723 – 3833

Email: crisis@pathwaystosafety.org

Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via phone and online chat. This service assists Americans experiencing interpersonal and gender-based violence abroad.

5. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender National Hotline

Hotline: 1 (888) 843 – 4564

Email: help@LGBThotline.org

Hours vary, via phone and online chat. The service helps gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning people by providing free and confidential peer support.

6. Womens Law

Email: https://hotline.womenslaw.org/public

This service provides basic legal information, referrals, and emotional support for victims of abuse.

Understanding why women stay in abusive relationships doesn’t have a simple black and white answer. Abuse is such a complicated, multi-dimensional issue that it’s not so simple to suggest if someone is abused they should just leave. Instead, learn to support them and educate yourself so it doesn’t happen to you.

Liked what you just read? Follow us on Instagram Facebook Twitter Pinterest and we promise, we’ll be your lucky charm to a beautiful love life. And while you’re at it, check out MIRL, a cool new social networking app that connects experts and seekers!

Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...