Why would a woman stay in a relationship with a guy who puts her down, hems her in, and perhaps even physically abuses her? Why would a woman hold down two jobs to keep the rent paid and food on the table while her boyfriend sits around smoking weed all day? Why oh why would a woman allow herself to be emotionally blackmailed by her boyfriend’s threats that he will kill himself or her or both if she even talks about leaving a relationship that is going nowhere?
There’s no easy answer. Often it’s a complicated mix of a number of answers. If you wonder why on earth you stay with the guy who keeps hurting you in spite of promises to do better, in spite of protestations that he loves you, in spite of your obvious distress about how things are going, see if you recognize yourself in any of these common reasons.
1. Because being someone’s everything is intoxicating stuff — at least at first.
When you met, he only had eyes for you. He called to say good morning. He called to say “I love you” at lunch. He wanted to be the last voice you heard before you went to sleep. When you left work or your last class for the day, there he was – waiting for you. If another guy even looked at you, he put his arm protectively around you. If a guy friend called you up, he pouted. He wanted all your attention. In exchange, he gave you attention as no one ever had before. He wined you and dined you (or at least took you out for pizza and a beer several times a week) and made you feel like a princess. Sounds like any romantic beginning, doesn’t it?
If your guy is so insecure that he needs control, his attention gradually became claustrophobic. Over time, his demands for all your attention all the time hemmed you in. You found yourself frantically explaining your every move that didn’t involve him. Staying a bit late for work, a girls’ night out, even a visit to your mother on a Saturday morning became grounds for a fight. What started out as wonderful attention became not so wonderful control.
2. Because these guys can be absolutely charming.
You didn’t fall in love with your boyfriend for no good reason. He can be charming. He can be romantic. He can say the things that every woman would like to hear. Sometimes he lets you see a sweet vulnerability that melts your heart. He seems to feel genuinely terrible after the two of you have had a big fight. He brings apologies and flowers. He promises he’ll be less jealous. He says you really are his everything. Lovemaking at times like these is delicious. He says all the right things to make you want to give him another chance. Things are wonderful for awhile. But then it starts all over again. You come home a little late and his eyes look stormy. You make a phone call and he has to know just who you’re talking to. Pretty soon, you’re feeling hemmed in again and you know that there’s going to be another blow-out…
3. Because you don’t feel you deserve any better.
Maybe you grew up in a family where you were told that you were no good, ugly, clumsy, or incompetent. Maybe your father or mother even told you “No one will ever love you.” Perhaps you were an ugly duckling in high school who never had a date or you were never accepted by the people you wished were your friends. Maybe you’ve had a series of disastrous relationships or no relationships at all. Your self-esteem is in the cellar. Even though a part of you knows that your family should have treated you better; even though you understand that high school is harsh for a lot of people, there’s an even bigger part of you that feels that maybe all the people who rejected you were right – you really are a loser. You’ve become convinced you should be grateful for any smidgen of caring your boyfriend provides – even if it is painful.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Dec 2009
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2009). 8 Reasons Women Stay in Painful Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/12/08/8-reasons-women-stay-in-painful-relationships/