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If It Hurts, It’s Not Love: Why Not to Stay in an Abusive Relationship

If It Hurts, It’s Not Love: Why Not to Stay in an Abusive Relationship

Abuse is not love. It is about power and control over a person. It usually starts small in a relationship and becomes a bigger problem over time. Abuse doesn’t typically begin with physical harm; it begins with emotional harm.

The abuse gets worse as the relationship progresses. He/She may not be hitting you while you are dating, but the controlling behaviors are often evident early in the relationship. Those controlling ways are abuse. That’s why it is so imperative to recognize the signs of abuse before you are in too deeply.

The impact of abuse is much more widespread than people acknowledge.

You may be thinking this doesn’t apply to you because you aren’t being abused, but it does, because someone you know is being abused.

Abuse has no socioeconomic, racial, or cultural barriers. It happens to people who are rich and to people who are poor. It can happen to anyone, in any walk of life. An article on Livestrong.com provides some important information about abuse and states:[1]

“Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 to 44”.

This means that women in this age range are more likely to be harmed by their partner than they are to be injured in a car accident.

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Abuse is not just about physical harm.

Many people associate abuse with physical harm, but there is so much more involved in abuse than physical harm. Abuse is about a person wanting control over another person. That desire for control leads to a variety of controlling behaviors including isolation from friends and family, threats, emotional abuse, and more.

Most domestic violence centers use the “Power and Control Wheel” to show the types of abuse, as they go far beyond the physical. Abuse is about power and control which come in these forms, often far before the physical abuse ever begins:

    Abusers may change, but not very likely.

    Most abused individuals who stay in the relationship do so because they hope the person will change. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of research or data that points to abusers changing their ways.

    Is it possible? Yes, but many researchers, including well known abuse expert Lundy Bancroft, say that an abuser changing their ways is a lifelong process and will only happen if an abuser is determined to change.[2] It is like a disease that never truly goes away but just becomes dormant.

    In the case of abuse, it will only become dormant because the abuser seeks help and has decided not to abuse anymore. You also need to consider the likelihood of them changing, which experts say is not promising. The National Domestic Violence Hotline states,[3]

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    “There’s a very low percentage of abusers who truly do change their ways.”

    It takes a huge effort on the part of an abuser to change their ways. If you are dating someone that exhibits the signs of abuse you need to seriously assess your future and what it will be like when the abuse gets worse as time progresses.

    How to Know if They Have Changed

    How do you know if your abuser has really changed or if they have really stopped abusing you?

    The National Domestic Violence Hotline describes how an abuser exhibits genuine change. Some of these changes include him no longer making excuses for the abusive behavior, recognizing the controlling patterns that underly the abuse, making amends with those he abused, and most importantly exhibiting new behaviors when a situation becomes heated.

    An Open Letter From a Former Abuser provides a real life example of how an abuser changed and describes how difficult that change can be:[4]

    Are you able to express your opinion to your partner without fear of him lashing out at you verbally or physically? Are you able to be open and honest with your partner about your feelings and feel comfortable that he won’t respond abusively?

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    If not, then he hasn’t really changed.

    Abuse is cyclical. The abuse may just be in the post-abuse phase (also known as the honeymoon phase). The honeymoon phase of abuse is when your partner is being sweet and kind, trying to make up for the recent abuse he inflicted on you. The change isn’t real if it goes right back into the cycle of abuse after time has passed and he has begun to forget about how he abused you.

    The Domestic Violence Round Table explains the three phases of abuse very clearly:[5]

      The honeymoon phase is usually what keeps most abused individuals in the relationship. They have such high hopes that things will remain in that phase that they stay in the relationship after an abusive episode has happened.

      In most cases the abuser has not sought professional help and the abuse cycle will continue. It’s just a matter of time before the cycle starts over. It’s up to you whether you stick around in an abusive relationship to be abused again. If you are being abused, end the cycle by seeking help today.

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      If you are being abused, get help now.

      Life is too short to allow yourself to be harmed and mistreated by another human being. Nobody deserves that treatment. There are domestic violence centers all around the country that help abused individuals for free. You can also contact the National Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for immediate and free help.

      If it is a friend or family member that is being abused you need to be supportive and listen to her. It is extremely hard for a person to leave an abusive situation because of a variety of reasons, so you need to be supportive and not judgmental.

      Some reasons that a person may not leave include: they fear embarrassment, they don’t have the money to start a life on their own, they love the person, or a number of other reasons. Often it’s not just one reason, which makes it even more difficult to leave. The Love Is Respect Website outlines many of the reasons why people stay in abusive relationships.[6] Provide your abused friend with resources for help, such as information from you local domestic violence shelter or hotline. Most importantly, be there to listen to your friend and not judge her for her difficult situation and decisions.

      Professional help is what an abuser needs. The National Domestic Violence Hotline states that abusers need to participate in a “Certified Batterer Intervention Program” if they want to change.

      If you can’t leave, create a plan for your safety.

      Sometimes a person is not prepared to leave their abusive situation for a variety of reasons. She may not have a place to stay, not have any money, fear embarassment, or any number of reasons. It is important to have a safety plan in place so that if things escalate in an abusive situation you can easily get to a safe place.

      Some ways to prepare include having a plan for multiple escape routes in the home, have a specific friend or contact to call for help, have money saved for emergency exit, and have information for a local domestic violence center near you. The “Stop Relationship Abuse” Website provides greater detail on safety planning including having important documents such as birth certificates on hand in case you have to leave in an emergency.[7]

      Reference

      [1] Livestrong: What Are the Causes of an Abusive Relationship?
      [2] Lundy Bancroft: Why Does He Do That?
      [3] The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Is Change Possible In An Abuser?
      [4] Positive Juice: An anonymous open letter to people in abusive relationships who want to stay in the relationship despite the abuse
      [5] The Domestic Violence Round Table: The Cycle of Domestic Violence
      [6] Love Is Respect: Why Do People Stay In Abusive Relationships
      [7] Stop Relationship Abuse: Develop a Safety Plan

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      Dr. Magdalena Battles

      A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

      Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting a Marriage Counselor How To Stop Insecure Attachment from Wreaking Havoc on Your Love Life 7 Reasons Why You Should Find a Life Coach to Reach Your Full Potential 15 Ways to Practice Positive Self-Talk for Success How to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome and Stop Feeling Lonely

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      Last Updated on February 19, 2019

      Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

      Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

      No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

      People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

      But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

      If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

      Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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      Pain Is Our Guardian

      Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

      In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

      Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

      While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

      Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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      No Pain, No Happiness

      You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

      In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

      In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

      This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

      Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

      Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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      This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

      Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

      Allow Room for the Inevitable

      Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

      Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

      “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

      Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

      The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

      While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

      Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

      Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

      To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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      You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

      Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

      Reference

      [1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
      [2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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