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Staying with an Abusive Husband
Studies on why wives stay with abusive husbands state three basic reasons:
*Lack of resources. Abused women, especially if they are mothers, fear that they can’t make it financially on their own. They don’t want to disrupt their children’s lives by moving. They aren’t aware of the legal and community resources available that could help them get on their feet.
*Fear. They fear their abuser will hunt them down and kill them if they attempt to escape. Some also fear social or religious repercussion.
*Low self-esteem. They believe that they don’t deserve better treatment. Due to childhood experiences, they honestly think they do something to set off the abuse. Women accept excuses and apologies from the abuser. omen with low self-esteem think, “I’m not perfect either” or “Poor guy. He’s really a good man despite his one little problem” or “He can’t help the way he is because he has been mistreated himself” or “I’m not worth anything but he still loves me.”
I’m adding a fourth reason here: Skewed perception of love. Abused women don’t understand what real love is about because they’ve experienced violence or harm by inflicted by the very people who are supposed to love them and/or have given them some semblance of love along with the abuse. Their idea of love is skewed. They believe that their love can save or fix the abuser. “I’m the only one who understands him.”
Whatever the reason, I want them to be prepared for the realities of staying with their abuser. Here are the risks:
1. Your children could be removed from your custody. Even if the abuser targets you and not the children, you’re still failing to protect them from the harmful effects of living in a violent home. Witnessing a parent get abused is just as damaging to a child’s psyche.
2. Your children will believe that an abusive behavior is acceptable. Your daughter or son may marry an abuser or become one.
3. Being abused changes your mental state. You are already unwell at some level to accept the abuse. Over time, the psychological scars will change your personality and ability to function normally.
4. By staying, you are giving the abuser tacit permission and approval for his actions. You enable him to continue to be an abuser. His actions must not be “that bad” or you would leave, he thinks.
5. The abuse will escalate and you will get hurt again. You could end up permanently disabled or dead.
Counseling offers some hope
The one hope you have is counseling whether it is from clergy or a psychologist. Many people do make amazing transformations through faith in God, a higher power who has the ability to heal. Sometimes, psycho-therapy with or without medication can help a man control his impulses. But it is a long road to recovery and it takes vigilance and accountability to help someone change. It is something I would never undertake if I had children under my care. Consider separation while making counseling a condition if you still want to stay married. The kids need to be safe and see that you clearly do not accept abusive behavior in your life. And get survivor support and counseling for yourself and the kids, too.
Additionally, abusive men usually don’t have much incentive to change unless are they forced to live alone to see that they need to exhibit socially acceptable behavior if they want social relationships. Most of them need to be re-parented because their abusive conditioning began in childhood. The psychology of the abused man is complex and it takes serious counseling to fix the broken thinking. It is a long, arduous task and nearly all men will lapse, especially when they let down their guard when their families move back in. Even the most repentant husband who sincerely wants to change is fighting a difficult war and he will lose many small battles along the way. Prepare to be a casualty.
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