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Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Previously, I explored the issue of why some men abuse in “What Gives You The Right?“. Today I read a very interesting article discussing some of the reasons that women stay in an abusive relationship. The article was posted on the Surviving Abuse website and entitled “Why Women Stay In Abusive Relationships“. I totally agree with these reasons. In my post today I would like to add a few of the reasons I think some women stay in an abusive relationship.

Fight or Flight. It is one of the most primitive urges embedded in our beings. When we feel threatened, our natural instinct is to fight back. Or, if we sense that what threatens us is too big or powerful to overcome, we take flight. We do whatever it takes to put as much distance as possible between us and whatever is threatening our safety.

Natural Instinct right? So why do some women drown the urge to get away and stay, some for many years, in these toxic pairings that kill them? Even the ones that don’t end of physically losing their lives can end up dead emotionally. I submit to you what I believe are two of the main reasons:

First is fear of failure. Our society has largely become one that relishes success stories. We love to read, or at the least the media loves to emphasize, a good story of one who has overcome almost impossible odds and can go around the country telling the comeback story of the year. So we meet the person that we decide is going to be our life partner and take the plunge. Sometimes we elope, sometimes we have a huge ceremony, but in any case the world comes to know that we have pledged our love to one another.

Then the abuse starts. I believe it probably starts after the marriage. I can’t imagine someone being verbally or physically abusive on the first date with any hopes of ever getting a second date. Most abusers are probably on their best behavior during courtship. More than red flags, these type of actions on a first date would serve as giant STOP signs and halt the budding relationship like crossing guards coming down at the train tracks stop traffic.

Surprisingly, many of the victims are otherwise successful in life. They are leaders in their workplace, and often even business owners. To the outside world, they have it together. And sadly, they do not want others to know that in that one small, but arguably most important, aspect of their lives, they have failed. They fear that if people know they could have made such a huge mistake in character discernment as having picked the wrong person to share their lives with, then all of their actions might be open to question. Can they really handle that project? Do they have the judgment to hire the right people?

The second reason I think so many people stay is due to religious beliefs. Yes sometimes society as a whole seems to be on a self-gratification, me first, do what feels good kick. But many people still take their wedding vows very seriously. They made a promise before God to stay the course for better or for worse. And what could be worse than being stomped on, literally or figuratively by the one you trusted to cherish you for as long as you both shall live?

Sounds crazy? Not really. Believe it or not, I have had this very conversation with older gentlemen, both friends and family. Many times we can gain much wisdom from the elders of our community, but in this case I’m not so sure. At a family gathering we were discussing a brutal case of abuse. The general consensus amongst the older generation was that the only allowable reason for a divorce is adultery. I asked, well what if the man is beating you half to death? They said you could leave until he calms down, but you must not divorce him. Just come back home when his temper settles.

Now I will not presume to be on the level with people who have many more years of the knowledge that life experience brings than I have. Nor will I try to meddle in the affairs between an abuse victim and his/her relationship with God. I am simply saying that I think some victims stay because their vows have cemented them in a bond that they cannot, or do not want to break.

Those are just some thoughts I am reflecting upon as National Domestic Awareness month comes to a close. I hope and pray that in the near future we, as a society, can find ways to work together to close not only a month of awareness; but, also, to stop the growth of this endemic sickness that has the potentional to destroy our families. We can do it, in fact, we must.

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