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Understanding the Reason Behind Staying in Abusive Relationship

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Prior to getting involved with my current boyfriend of four years, we were the best of friends for almost six years. He treated me with the utmost respect and was kind and genuine. However, since becoming sexually involved and entering a romantic relationship, things have taken a turn for the worst. He does not respect me anymore and is in fact physically abusive. I’m a smart woman with a college degree. I know what he does is wrong. I know our relationship is toxic and should end immediately. Yet after he hits me, I find myself calling him and wanting to be with him as if nothing happened. Why am I allowing myself to be abused? I was not abused growing up. My parents divorced when I was young because my father is an alcoholic, but he still played his role as my dad. I don’t believe I have any daddy issues. My father never hit my mother but he was verbally abusive. Why do women stay with men that cause them physical harm? I want to get out of what I know is a dangerous situation. (From the USA)

Understanding the Reason Behind Staying in Abusive Relationship

Answered by on -


There are many reasons people stay in abusive relationships and a terrific blog listing all of these reasons, with a special section on women is written here at Psych Central by Dr. Toby Goldsmith.

Smart women make bad choices in partners most often when their family of origin included a father whose behavior wasn’t predictable and included an abusive element. This sounds like this may be at least partially why you would be drawn to someone who is abusive and difficult to leave. While I don’t want to make it sound formulaic or simple by any means, there is an unconscious attraction to what is familiar. The root of the word ‘Family’ and ‘familiar’ both come from the Latin ‘familia’. This is important because our family of origin — good or bad, is what we know. Even though we may technically know what is right and wrong, the more reptilian part of our brain believes if we stay with what is familiar we’ll be okay. This can be true even when we “know” better.

The way to make the break is through support. I’d check this resource to find the most helpful programs near you. To make the break you need people who understand, have compassion for your situation, and know-how to help you break the cycle. Until you can make this connection here are five tips from Your Tango Experts to help you get ready to leave.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Understanding the Reason Behind Staying in Abusive Relationship

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2020). Understanding the Reason Behind Staying in Abusive Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 21 Jul 2020 (Originally: 23 Jul 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 21 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.