Saturday, July 10, 2010

Why Don't They Leave?

When a woman knows the relationship she is in is destructive, why doesn't she just get out? A lot of us wonder about that. I think the reasons are much more varied and complex than most of us realize. Often, her friends and family have been telling her for months to do just that. In many cases, the boyfriend/husband/significant other has poisoned her relationship with them, driving a wedge between the woman and her family. "You don't need them,'ve got me, now. I'll look after you!" It's hard to call your mother for help when the last thing you said to her was, "Stay out of my life! I know what I'm doing!" Frequently, the boyfriend's first violence occurs during a holiday. When all her friends have pretty much washed their hands of her, who is she going to call on Christmas Eve to help her move out and put her up for an indefinite period of time?

Something we need to remember is her upbringing. She hears so many stories about how a Good Woman can "fix" a Bad Man, if only she applies enough love and patience. The narcissistic man plays to this. Her religious background can be a factor, as well. Never underestimate the power of Original Sin.

Part of the usual MO of these guys is The Apology. Accompanied by flowers and a gift, it goes something like this: "I'm so sorry, baby. I was drunk/my meds were out of whack/I was stressed," or, my favourite, "You pushed me, baby...don't ever talk to me like that," followed by that perennial, "It will never happen again, I promise!" (Yeah, right...that and $1.85 will get her a cup of coffee!) After that, she remembers the sweet guy who courted her, rushed her, and showed so much interest in every facet of her life.

Let's take a look at that phenomenon, too. At first, she kind of likes him picking out her clothes and suggesting new hair styles ("Why don't you dye your hair black, baby? Blonde is so boring"), Of course, if she resists, he persists, and sooner or later, it becomes easier to do it than put up with his sulking. She doesn't really notice the escalation, until she is pretty well hemmed in. He's checking the mileage on her car, to see if she has gone farther than she needs to get to work, the store, the day care, etc. He goes through her purse. He checks the phone records. He monitors her email. He is calling or texting her all the time. He could leave the pit bull loose in the yard, so she can't leave and no one else can come in. When he is down on his knees in the driveway, checking for strange tire tracks, she might realize there is a problem. If she's smart, she starts to work on a plan to get away.

And what happens then? A man like this seems to have an uncanny knack of knowing when she has a plan. If the woman is not in a position to stash money, it is harder to leave. She needs a place to go, and money to go there. She might even need to change jobs and move her children to a different school or day care. He will stalk her. He will stake out places he knows she likes to go, like friends (if she has any left), family (if he hasn't managed to get her to move four states away from them), hobbies (if she has been allowed to keep up with them). She has to leave, and stay away from everything dear to her. She probably needs a different car, because he will spot that anywhere. She has to shop in a different place. If he knows anywhere she will be, he will be there. Maybe just so she sees him and understands the implied threat, or maybe with a gun.

Going to a battered women's shelter is a good idea, but it is a short-term solution, at best. In my town, pretty much everyone knows where the shelter is, and the parking is right out in front. All those women have their cars out in plain view of anyone driving by. Not safe at all.

Never mind that by the time she realizes that he will kill her, he has her convinced that she is fat, ugly, stupid and incapable of managing on her own. They are very good at that. Sometimes they are not physically abusive, until that last time--when she ends up dead. Most women cling to the hope that things will get better. She's thinking that she will eventually learn to do things "right," so as to avoid his wrath. She is thinking that the honeymoon behaviours are the "real" him, and the angry drunken idiot hurling insults is the aberration. If he doesn't hit her, she may not realize she is being abused.

So. Pay attention, ladies. Once again, I list a few of the Red Flags:

~If he tells you there are "rules" by which you have to abide
~If he demands a commitment after only one or two dates
~If he wants to get married after you have known each other well for less than a year
~If he picks your clothes
~if he monitors your contact with friends and family
~if he insists on knowing where you are at all times
~If he calls and texts you excessively
~If he goes through your purse, closet, cell phone, computer, car, bank account, or any other personal thing
~If he calls your friends "sluts" or "bitches"
~If he accuses you of being unfaithful
~If he tries to control your work environment
~If he is insulting and dismissive of your accomplishments and talents
~If he hates his own mother
~If he pressures you for sex before you are ready

It will only get worse. It doesn't matter that he brings roses, or jewelry or teddy bears. What are flowers and jewels and toys compared with your peace of mind, or even your life?

Remember that love should make you feel good. Your lover should give you emotional support, not demand from you, and you should never, ever feel afraid of him.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

It's easier to get out before you get in too deep. Go slowly in relationships, and don't let yourself be pushed. The more you give in, the more he will demand, so put your foot down early on. He may decide to go for someone else, who can be controlled more easily. After only a date or two, you can move on, usually without restraining orders and court dates. If you wait until he has moved you to another state, ticked off your family and friends, married you and/or knocked you up and convinced you that you are worthless, it is exponentially harder.

Just sayin'.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Why did you remove it, Joni? It was a good post! I have read that book, and you are absolutely right.

  3. Ron,

    Silly typo in the comment I deleted. I'm so anally retentive. Ok, here ya go:

    Have you read The Gift of Fear? Fascinating! He mentions the warning sign we often miss: persistence. Persistence is often such a noble trait (made further noble by all the romantic stories that include it)and when mixed with good looks and charm, it can be a big trap. The easiest, earliest to spot of all: a desire to commit too quickly. The sociopath and high functioning personality disordered people might do just enough to keep a person hooked until it's "too late" but the early commitment thing often is the best clue BECAUSE it happens early enough to not be "too late." ... If ya know what I mean.

    This book is written by Gavin de Becker... he runs an organization that works with the government, individuals, companies in the private sector - they profile violence, make it predictable, and the book is designed to empower people to see their fear and use it to take care of themselves.

    SOOOoooo many women believe they are the cause of their partners controlling (and uncontrollable) behavior - because we are "supposed to trust who we love" and the responsible party would of course self-reflect and consider their own flaws - clearly pointed out by their controlling partner. They also stay because these women are trustworthy, loyal, committed, and can see the good soul beneath such terrible behavior. That's how intelligent and strong women wind up in abusive relationships.

    However, when used with a person who is controlling, abusive and violent, these positive traits are useless. Instinct and tuning in to red flags becomes much more vital than preserving noble traits.

    Ignoring one's instincts because one is loyal, trustworthy are worthless traits if you're neglected, abused, or.. uh...dead.

    I recommend the book - as I said, "fascinating."

  4. I recommend the book, too. Should be a must-read for everyone. Got kids? Have them read it.

  5. All too familiar. I hste that I didnt see it until the full face smash.

    I also recomment GVB's book.

  6. Melissa, so many of us don't see it coming. You got out. You're a winner! Nobody tells us that this is all part of a pattern. We think our situation is unique. We give in, and we call it "compromising." After a few times, we are in too deeply to see clearly what is going on, and we don't believe it/can't admit it...

  7. Another book I heard about was "Why Does He Do That?" by Lundy Bancroft. It's on my 'to read' list. xoxo