Why did I stay? I have asked myself that so many times. I’m still learning, still discovering little reasons, still dealing with why and how it all happened. Every person is different, and until you find yourself in that situation, you don’t know how you will react. I would have told you that no man would EVER hit me. I deserved better than that, etc. etc. Then, one day I realized what my life had become.
I think the main reason though, was because for as long as I can remember, I yearned for someone to love me. The unending, fairy tale kind of love. The kind where there is passion and fire. Where you feel like you can’t breathe without that person right there, the “you complete me” kind of love. It was like there was this gaping hole in my heart just searching for someone to fill it.
I was so moved by how he was so present in my life, from the moment he set foot into it. He was always right there. He needed me. He needed to know where I was all the time, because he cared so much. He fit all the requirements in my 18 year old head. He was older (more experienced & not so juvenile as the guys I knew from high school), he had a good job, a good car, an apartment of his own. He told these great stories about his life before, when he lived in LA, he knew this band and that actor. His *uncle* was a very well known and respected person in the state we lived in. I was floored, how could someone like this, fall in love with me? I was just some little girl, and yet, here he was, and he couldn’t imagine being away from me for one minute of the day. What more could I ask for?
The abuse starts out slow. It starts with small things, like, “gosh, how can you be so stupid” and escalates until the next thing you know nothing you do is right, and the world is crashing around you. At that point, there were so many reasons to stay. I was lied to, deceived, made to believe that it was all my fault, and that no one else would want me. I was LUCKY to have him. He was successful, handsome, wonderful, a hard worker, he took care of me. No one else would do that. No one else would put up with me. What would I do, go back to work at an ice cream store? How would I support myself doing that? Then there were the kids, how could I take care of them, I couldn’t even take care of myself. I was just a little girl and I needed to grow up and be a woman. If I would just be a woman and do the right things, he wouldn’t get so mad.
He was always sorry too. That is the thing, they are always sorry. They will never do it again. For a while, after each incident, he would actually even admit that he was wrong. Slowly though, each time, it turned back around to what I did wrong to provoke him. Even now, I still wonder sometimes if there was something I could have done differently to prevent the violence. I know that the violence was not my fault. I know that how he reacted to whatever situation he was in was his choice, not mine. I could not and cannot control his reactions and his choices. That is now though. When you are in that situation, it’s different.
Control, blaming the victim, fear of what would happen if I tried to leave, I had no money. All our accounts were in his name. In fact, when I left, I had $10.00 cash in my pocket. When I applied for food stamps, the clerk at the office made the comment that if her husband tried that she’d send him packing. I smiled and nodded, but inside, I was crying, it was one more thing that pointed to him being right, it was something with me that caused this. Other people wouldn’t have *allowed* it to happen, so it had to be my fault.
I was completely dependent on him. I would work, but when I had problems at work, as most people do, he would encourage me to just quit. He would take care of me. I didn’t need to deal with all that. I was a homemaker. My husband was our provider. That was so romantic to me. It was traditional, it was what I had always wanted. To be cared for, protected, cherished. So when the bad things would happen, I would remind myself that he was under so much stress, because I couldn’t hold a job, so he was the sole provider for our family. I needed to be more understanding, and more concerned with him. After all, I just got to stay home all the time and do nothing…
There were times when he would tell me that I was his savior. He didn’t know what would have happened to him without me in his life. It was up to me to keep him sane, to keep him grounded. He needed me to make him a better man.
Slowly, I was alienated from friends and family. Friends would say something about the way he talked or acted, and of course, they had to go. They didn’t understand, and how dare they judge us. They didn’t know what our life was like, what a good provider he was, how good he took care of me and the kids. They didn’t know what I put him through on a daily basis, how he struggled, how much he wanted to be a good dad and husband. He never *meant* to hurt me. He didn’t try to hurt me. I realized though, love isn’t when you don’t’ try to hurt someone, love is when you try not to hurt someone…
I didn’t want to be a failure either. Everyone in my family had been divorced. I wanted to be the one who wasn’t. I wanted to stick it out. He used that too. There were times when he would say to me, “what, are you going to leave, be a loser & quitter just like the rest of your family?” That stung. It always stung more when he used things I had admitted to him in love to turn around and hurt me. I think I remember those types of things more than the others.
So I stayed, for almost 10 years. I’m still learning why I stayed. Why any woman stays in a relationship like that is a mystery, to everyone, even to her. One thing I can tell you though, is that no woman stays because she wants to be treated like that. It is denial, it is dependence, it is fear of what life is like outside this one, ultimately, it is the fact that they are being controlled on some level or another, emotionally, financially, physically, spiritually, etc. that keeps a person in an abusive relationship.
There is a wonderful poem I found online, written by a survivor named Kath. It is called “Why do we stay?”. You can read it, as well as other poems by Kath and other survivors here…
Their words, our words, are healing, for us, and hopefully for others…
One thought on “Why…”
Thank you for sharing this. It has helped me understand better than anything else ever has.I am one who always thought that only women with terrible self esteem or some kind of issue would stay with a man like that. And yet, I know what those men are like. They are expert at manipulation. Anyone can be manipulated.I am sorry for being judgemental. Thank you for opening my eyes and helping me to be more understanding.