Why Do People Stay In Abusive Relationships?
Watching your loved one suffer through the dual dangers of abuse and addiction can be a heart wrenching and exasperating process. After all, you simply can’t understand why they just won’t leave their abusive partner. Who wants to stay in a physically and emotionally abusive situation where addiction is rampant?
Nobody, of course, but abusive relationships are more complex than most people realize.
People stay with an abuser for a variety of reasons, including:
- Love – It may seem impossible to imagine, but your loved one may still truly adore the person who abuses them. Remember that love is a powerful drug and it often keeps people together long after they should have parted.
- Fear Of The Abuser – Has their partner threatened to beat or even kill them if they leave? Abusers often use manipulative tactics like this to keep a person stuck in an abusive relationship.
- Fear Of Being Alone – If your loved one has been in their relationship for a very long time, they may fear the consequences of being alone. Beyond that fear, they may simply see no way of taking care of themselves outside of the relationship.
- Embarrassment – Victims of abuse have a way of blaming themselves for their abuse. “If I didn’t nag so much, he wouldn’t hit me” is not an acceptable explanation of abuse. And their abusers are more than happy to lay blame on them, which can cause a great deal of personal embarrassment.
- Popularity Of Abuser – Abusers are often very charismatic people who may treat friends and family members with love and respect. As a result, it may be hard for many people to believe in your loved one’s abuse allegations or they may think no one will see the situation from their view.
- Children – Pregnancy and children often makes an abuse victim feel trapped in a relationship. Nobody wants to take their children away from their father or mother, even if they are abusive. Even worse, the abuser may threaten to hurt or take the children.
- No Other Choice – Abusers often rely on the helplessness of their abuse victims. Often, they will force them to stay at home with no job in order to make them reliant. As a result, your loved one may feel they have no place to go.
- Mutual Addiction – When addiction is paired with abuse, it is common for both partners to harbor the same addiction. Unfortunately, this creates a bond that can be mistaken for love. Your loved one may even be reliant on their abuser for the substances to which they are addicted.
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The complexities of abuse and addiction make them a powerful bonding force that can be hard to break. That makes understanding the connection between abuse and addiction a necessary step in getting your loved one out of an abusive relationship and into rehab.
The Connection Between Abuse And Addiction
People don’t realize how often abuse and addiction go hand-in-hand to drag a person’s life down. The reasons for this are complex, but one of the major connections (if not THE major connection) is trauma. People in abusive relationships often live on the razor edge of regular trauma, a problem that can cause post-traumatic stress disorder.
People experiencing these problems commonly feel anxious, depressed, nervous, or constantly personally threatened. In an abusive relationship, the latter feeling is likely true. Dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder requires serious psychological counseling and a removal from any situation that causes trauma and stress. Unfortunately, when your loved one is in an abusive relationship, they can’t step away from that trauma.
At this point, drugs and alcohol often become a promising way to numb the pain of that trauma. Sitting around with a constant high or buzz makes it easier to ignore their abusive relationship. In fact, it may be a way to bond with their abuser and put a bandage on the relationship– a method that only leads to further abuse and trauma.
The unfortunate result here is a cyclical relationship of abuse and addiction. As the abuse worsens, the addiction grows stronger, and stronger addiction is likely to lead to more abuse. It’s a terrible, terrible cycle that you need to be broken as soon as possible.
Breaking The Cycle
The only way that you can break your loved one out of this negative feedback cycle is to encourage them to confront the problem. They need to understand that they have both a problem with their addiction and one with their abuse. This will probably be the hardest part of the whole process as they may fight you every step of the way, being afraid to confront reality.
While that is a more than understandable reaction, it can’t be allowed to continue.
Here’s how you can break through to your loved one:
- Schedule a sit down when they are away from their abuser.
- Honestly discuss the changes you’ve seen in their lives and how abuse and addiction is changing them.
- Be specific when discussing the problem. Examples are a powerful way to engage.
- Show your love by expressing that you know the situation is hard, but that they simply can’t blame themselves for what is happening.
- Bring up other friends and family members who you know love them and who are willing to support them as they break out of their relationship and addiction.
- Don’t accept excuses. They will try to explain away their abuser or even their addiction. Don’t let them get away with that as letting it go, essentially, shows them that the problem is not serious.
- Discuss ways in which they can leave their relationship, including taking them to the police if necessary.
Find a place where they can stay after leaving their abusive relationship.
Get them medically assessed to make sure they aren’t suffering from any serious problems.
Remember that shame shouldn’t be a part of this process. Your loved one is already feeling embarrassment and shame, even if they don’t express it. Trying to shame them to change is exactly the opposite of what they need right now. Instead, they need limitless love and compassion given in a non-judgmental way. Feeling loved will help them break the cycle.
Staging An Intervention
Hopefully, your loved one will be willing to listen to you during this meeting and will make active changes to leave their abusive relationship and receive help for their addiction. If they don’t, you unfortunately have to hold an intervention.
Interventions force your loved one to see what the abuse and addiction in their life has done to the ones they love. Happily, this is often more than enough to shock them into acceptance of reality and will force them to make important changes.
Hold an intervention by following these simple steps:
- Plan and gather information – In this stage, you plan when the intervention will take place, who will be there, and what information you will present. You should also form the intervention team and fill it with people you know will help your loved one, like:
- Family members
- Medical professionals
- People from past relationships
- Decide on failure consequences – Interventions force your loved one to accept two paths: help or consequences. These consequences should be severe enough to mean something to your loved one and must be undertaken, no matter how hard it is to implement them. Typical consequences include:
- Lost visitation privileges
- No more financial help
- Kicked out of home
- A call to the police
- Write your script – A lot of things are going to happen in an intervention and a lot of thing will be said. Creating a script will help you stay on topic and focus on the problems caused by their abuse and addiction. Focus on very specific pieces of information in order to be convincing.
- Hold the meeting – The day of the intervention, you need to invite your loved one to the meeting area, without telling them why, and then hold the intervention. A professional can be useful here, as they can steer you toward doing it properly. A successful intervention:
- Includes multiple loved ones
- Focuses on love and respect
- Illustrates how much you love the person
- Brings up ways people are willing to help
- Addresses the consequences (at the end, to give them a choice)
- The aftermath – According to multiple studies on interventions, they are 90 percent effective. So if your loved one is willing to accept your help, you need to find them a way out of their abusive relationship and get them into rehab. If they aren’t, implement the consequences, no matter how hard it is to do so.
The most difficult part about this process is implementing the consequences, should your loved one decline your help. You will be cutting them off from your life and potentially alienating them from the help they need to succeed. However, you have to be willing to go through with this last step or else you’ll come across like a paper tiger and will only help further fuel their problems.
Thankfully, most people in these circumstances either accept your help after an intervention or come to quickly understand they need it. Waiting for them to come around will be torturous, but necessary.
Getting Them Help
Once your loved one is willing to accept your help, it’s time to do what you can to get them out of their abusive relationship and into rehab.
Starting with the first problem can alienate them from the abuser and get them back on their feet again:
- File for a restraining order or criminal charges (if necessary) against the abuser
- Help your loved one move their belongings to a new and undisclosed location
- Fight for sole custody of their children, if any exist
- Take care of their financial situation and get the abuser’s name removed from joint accounts
- Get their name off the lease of the abuser’s home, if necessary
- Show pictures of the abuser to people who live near your loved one and tell them how important it is to call the police if they are spotted
After you take these important steps, you need to check your loved one into a rehab that will help detoxify them from drugs, treat their post-traumatic stress disorder, get them back into good physical health, find them a place to live, and even search for a job.
You also need to take steps to ensure that their abuser can’t find them by:
- Renting them a post office box to avoid giving out a mailing address
- Changing their name (if the situation is severe enough)
- Switching schools for their children
- Going to different social spots and stores than normal
- Break contact with friends and family members of the abuser
Help Is Available Right Here
By following each of the steps of this process, you can help your loved one get the care they need to stay out of an abusive relationship and regain a clean lifestyle. If you need help, please contact us at TreehouseRehab.org. Our experts have dealt with painful situations like yours and know how to handle them.