“Well she deserves it if she’s gonna keep staying with him!”
I can’t tell you how many times I heard this while growing up. My mom, staying in abusive relationships, seemingly enjoying it.
I saw the pain. I saw the agony. I saw the blood, bumps, and bruises. I saw the ‘I’m sorry’s’. I saw the promises to never hurt you again.
I saw more than a little girl should ever have to see. And behind all of that, I always saw hope in my mom’s eyes. I don’t know where that hope came from. I don’t know where, or how, she fashioned it. But I can safely say now that I believe she believed she had it.
Hope comes in so many shapes and sizes. It may come in the belief that ‘he wouldn’t hurt me if he didn’t love me.’ I mean, if you’re told that enough you begin to believe it. So with every strike to your face you translate that into an act of love.
Hope comes in the covering of a false apology. The one where they grovel and you feel their remorse. But they really are only sorry because you threatened to report them. And they don’t want to get caught.
Hope comes in the idea that this is as good as it will ever get. Because that is what your abuser tells you. And when that is pounded into your head (literally) long enough, you will begin to believe it.
Hope comes in the belief that you deserve the pain. And the only reason why you believe that is because your abuser has convinced you of it.
So how does hope get so twisted? When we place our hope in someone else’s hands who doesn’t deserve it, they mangle it. That is power to them. That is power they need because they feel as small as they are making you feel. My mom’s abusers mangled her hope and handed it back to her a distorted version and passed it off as her new normal. This became her standard.
So why did she stay? Well, I never understood that when I was a little girl. I resented her for it with every beating I watched her take – With every beating I took. I couldn’t understand why she would let this happen.
Then, I married an abuser. And it all made sense.
I walked in a broken 19 year old. He swooped in as a broken, small, angry, and hurt 34 year old. I became his release. And he manipulated me to the point where I believed I deserved his pain.
It’s what I knew. It is what was modeled for me. A new chain, linked to the dysfunctional cycle of abuse. And around and around it goes. This was my normal. This is what I was taught to believe.
Why do women stay? Because they are afraid that leaving will hurt more. And for some, it does. They are afraid of discovering what the other side of pain looks like. This is the only way their hearts know how to beat. Our minds are a powerful, yet easily impressionable, part of us. What can take 5 minutes to destroy can take 5 years to repair.
It may not make sense on the outside, but on the inside it is text-book. And it is their reality.
Does this mean women should stay in the pain? Absolutely. Not.
Does this help you to understand a bit more of why they may? I really hope so.
My motivation in writing this is if you know someone who is in an abusive relationship that needs to get out…take it slow with them. It goes deeper than you could ever imagine. There are years upon years of mental abuse that has infected the chambers of their hearts. It takes time to reveal, address, and heal that.
You may have someone in mind right now. Commit to praying for them every single day. Look for those safe, small, moments to let them know…you know. Sometimes words aren’t needed, but a brief heart connect could be the beginning of change.