WHY SHE STAYS
Her partner has more than likely seen the best of him, knows his capacity to love her and make her feel safe – he has provided for her as she raises their children. They have travelled together, been on holidays and created memories. They have been there for each other every day, cheering each other on, being intimate, showing forgiveness and compassion until they didn’t. He showered her with affection, she gave him the attention he wanted back. They built a life together and she knows how good it can be.
BUT somewhere, the dynamics change. Was it taking his last name, assigning ownership of her identity over to his family. Was it bearing ‘his heirs’ to a legacy he was told as a man he had to create to be worthy. Was it promising only to be with him, choosing him over all others during the vows of an institution original created to ‘increase the social status and assets’ of family, in its’ village. More than likely it is the threat of being humiliated and shamed for failing as a man and therefore he uses the manipulative tactics in the triangulation of domestic abuse to coercively control her. Initially it’s confusing because she sees the partner he once was every now and then and believes she will get that version of him back again if she just………………………
Her partner has subjected her to desperate threats of self harm, physical harm against or the children, reputational harm, denial of financial equality and emotional abuse that has eroded her confidence. He has destabilised that belief in herself that she will be ok, regardless. He has created a new belief through these words and actions that she can see and feel the struggle before it has even started. She has seen how bad it can get and didn’t think it would ever get to that place. But it did. She doesn’t want it to go like that, but she knows it can and wonders if it can get any worse. She has seen it happen to others on the news, she’s acutely aware now that those women never thought the person they loved could ever do that, but he did.
He has the resentful anger in his look, words and behaviour. He dismisses her fears and says he would never do that. But she doesn’t know him anymore, like she use to. He is like a stranger and the distance between them now has her second guessing his ‘intentions’. Is he playing nice to get what he wants, to entice her back, to control her.
He promised to change. He promises to stop drinking, taking drugs, make poor choices that make her feel unsafe. He reassures her things are different this time and shows a side of him she once knew, and loved. She finds herself depending on him to make her feel safe, like he use to, she has lost her identity in the confusion, she has forgotten what she is capable of and how she used to be there for herself, regardless.
He has an anger she has never seen before. She feels hated, betrayed, confused and sad. There is an unknown that instills fear of what will happen if it’s not like this anymore. In the past he hasn’t respected her feelings, he has disrespected her. He has dismissed her concerns, denied her the right to choose……all for his own self gain only to return and say sorry, thinking that is the solution. She has accepted the apology. He believes it’s ok. He has blackmailed her, traded in guilt and shame, isolated her from family and friends. Her friends have distanced themselves when she went back to him. She has felt embarrassed and now doesn’t share to avoid feeling like an idiot for trying again.
She feels sorry, she can see his internal pain. She knows things others don’t, she can’t share these stories, it will embarrass him. She has seen his childhood trauma and the burdens placed on him by society. They promised to be a team, partners in life yet during some point in the game he assumed captaincy. She lost her self worth, he stole it with her realising with his derogatory comments about the value she provided. He minimised her contribution, he criticised her efforts. But he would throw her small portions of appreciation to keep her chasing after the elusive prize……..happiness.
That is why she stays.
She is hopeful. She is optimistic that this time he will fix himself or that she will be the one that fixes him.
She wants to help him. She feels sorry for him.
She believes in who he can be, she’s seen it because he’s shown her slithers of that person. The one she fell in love with.
Out of the 200 versions of him, she wants the one that respects her.
As a visual learner, I describe Intimate Partner Violence/Abuse like an egg timer. The sands trickle down, first showing as support and guidance with good intentions. The bottle neck are the interactions of conflict establishing boundaries in the relationship. There comes a point in time where expectations tip into assumptions and the balance of mutual respect is displaced. Usually, it’s around the times life roles and responsibilities change. Without clear communication, these expectations deliver disappointments like; ‘but we’ve always done it this way’. Now int the beginning she may have done it that way because we all do things to please the other, unconsciously not fully understanding what that means, until the norm is challenged.
Having respectful conversations avoids conflict around these junctions. Raising of concerns, sharing what it means and accepting of the context, regardless, makes for a peaceful transition. This process reinforcing the belief that as an individual you are safe and valued.
Resistance to change, denying freedom of choice and disrespecting her decisions, in that moment, causes minute tears in her self belief and erodes the foundations of trust she has in you. At this point recovery is possible. At this junction you can turn the egg timer upside down and offer compassion, kindness, empathy and acceptance or you can allow the weight of the remaining sands in th timer to pressure the remaining grains of trust until there is none.
He punishes her with silence, humiliates her in front of friends, shames and guilts her into ‘doing’. But when that pressure of ‘pleasing you’ under every circumstance becomes too much, resentment kicks in and she starts finding a way to live without you.
Relationships are complex and Domestic Abuse is the insidious pattern of using power and coercive control tactics to manipulate an outcome, usually the one the abuser is seeking. Unreasonable extremes of emotional blackmail are hidden in context of everyday language and conversation and often difficult to articulate.
Know that when you stop to think if he would approve of you ‘doing’ or support you ‘being’ that can be a sign of troubled waters. If his threats stop you from ‘doing’ what you want, prevent you from ‘being’ who you want to be, a conversation is required.
IPV and domestic abuse ripples throughout communities, affecting children and their schools, workplaces and their employees.
What would you do if someone disclosed to you incidence of Domestic Abuse, details of Intimate Partner Violence? Telling her to run is not a solution and has no plan. More is needed. What is the life of one woman in your life worth…….for me it’s worth everything. I don’t want to see my friends suffer, my sister die, my Aunty sad or my daughter in pain. Be the strength they don’t have.
#Whatever it takes.