When I wrote post here called Letting The Hens Be, I raised some questions. Today I’m glad that my question of ‘why do we stay in abusive relationships’ is being answered.
I’m so proud to introduce you today to Mary Hudak-Collins. She’s one of the nicest and most thoughtful online friends I have. Mary is extremely intelligent and talented in so many areas that I’ve lost count. But most of all she’s is the kind of person you’d like to go to when you need something and you know that she’ll pull out all the stops to help. Mary writes Living With Food Allergies and Celiac Disease where she shares a great wealth of information from her personal experience with her daughter.
I am humbled by Mary’s sharing today. That she has moved on from this situation to become a woman of such confidence and love is surely a very powerful message to us all.
Why Do We Stay?
My thoughts today were spurred by a recent post that Corinne had written: “Letting The Hens Be”. For anyone who read this, you realize this had nothing to do with chickens. But the message was a serious one and for me, a cause for reflection. I have ‘tolerated’ much in my life, and as I get older
and wiser, I find myself asking “why did I allow myself to tolerate the misery I experienced in my life?” Of course, in anyone’s life we have experiences that are beyond our control, but then there are times when we could have taken control but didn’t and paid dearly for that decision.
When someone talks about being hurt by their spouse, or abused by a loved one, it seems the quickest response is “Why do you stay?” or “Why do you put up with it?” These questions are the most difficult to answer, especially when trying to explain to someone who has never been in your shoes.
In my case, I’m not sure what kept me in an abusive relationship. I was raised in a loving family. My parents worked hard for what my sister and I had. They were strict, keeping me out of trouble in my teens, but at the same time trying to provide for me whatever they could afford. I wasn’t a popular person in school, and had only a few close friends in college. I had the need to be ‘liked’. I found myself becoming a ‘people-pleaser’ and before I knew it, I was involved in an abusive relationship. Most times, women don’t even realize this is occurring because the abuse doesn’t begin to occur until after you are well into the relationship.
You know how the adage goes: ‘appearances can be deceiving’. There is no truer statement. On the outside, we were the ‘perfect’ couple. He was a loving, considerate, compassionate, and charming man. Everyone loved him and never missed a chance to tell me how ‘lucky’ I was to be with him. Behind closed doors, I had a cheating b***** who convinced me that this is how life was and that all men were like him. Before long, you begin to believe what you are hearing over and over again. Even when others begin to see what is happening and encourage you to get out of the relationship, your mind already believes what you have been told: you are no good and you will never have better.
I was constantly told by my peers that I didn’t deserve to live like I was living. I was college-educated, had a great job with future potential, and a loving family. But it was hard to convince myself that I could get away and be alright on my own. Abusers have a unique way of manipulating a person’s mind. It took 14 years before I woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and in my mind I heard the words “you don’t deserve to live this way”. Maybe it was the words coinciding with actually seeing my reflection in the mirror? I don’t know. But it was as though someone gave me a shove and woke me up. It was then that my life took a 360 degree turn.
I secretly made plans to leave, always in fear what he would do to me when he found out I was leaving. As quiet as I kept my plans, he still found out what was going on. He tried everything from crying, telling me he couldn’t live without me to anger and breaking things. I stood strong, although I don’t know where the strength came from. He recruited his friends to talk to me, trying to convince me what a mistake I was making and how I would be sorry down the road.
The day I left, he came home from work early. Again, I stood strong even though my entire body was trembling in fear that I would never get away with my life. There will always be memories that cannot be washed away from a person’s mind. As I write this, I can close my eyes and still see his face in my rear-view mirror as I drove away from our house.
I was not quite to the state line when I received a call from a friend telling me that she had just visited him. She informed me that he had a gun and had told her that he would not live without me and that he planned to come after me. I changed my plans of where I was going and went into hiding. Even doing that, he was able to get my unlisted phone number, and called to tell me that he would find me. The fear was overwhelming. I moved once again and this time, refrained from phone service.
It was years before I stopped looking over my shoulder. The fear lived with me as a constant companion. Eventually, I heard through the grapevine that he was engaged. It wasn’t until that point that I began to relax and breathe. I began to live again. It took a long time before I could trust again.
Why do people tolerate something like this in their life? There are many reasons, each as different as the next person. For me, it was the need to be ‘liked’, the need to be able to fix anything, the lack of self-confidence and belief in myself, and fear. We all have our comfort zones no matter who we are, good or bad, the longer we are in them, the harder it is to move out of them. If you are someone who has experienced this in your life, you understand the mindset. If you have not, do not fall into the fallacy that it is easy to walk away. It is never easy. There are too many facets to the situation that you never see.
If you know of someone going through something like this, be supportive, not degrading. They need your support. They need to draw on your strength, because God knows they have very little of their own. If it wouldn’t have been for my close friends and family, God only knows where I would be today.