Surprising Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Marriages
By Dr. Dellia Evans
“Why did you stay so long?” was the question my mother asked me when I finally got a restraining order and filed for divorce to end my abusive marriage of twenty years to my first husband.
She asked me that question after I had fled the state of Oklahoma in July 2009 with my two young children and found refuge in the home where I had grown up ten hours away in Mississippi.
I thought to myself, “Really? I can’t believe she is asking me that, because she knows what our church teachings were about divorce.” Basically, that it is wrong. At weddings I heard the scripture many times that said, “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”
The word asunder means to tear apart. Any man or woman who habitually abuses their partner has already torn apart their marriage. The abuser is the one who does that.
This separation in the marriage usually occurs in the privacy of a couple’s home days, weeks, months, and sometimes years before an outward declaration is made publicly through a written divorce. If a victim of abuse files for divorce, they should realize that they have not caused the separation, it is the abuser who has already caused that.
So, for me one reason why I stayed in my destructive marriage was because of my misunderstanding of scripture. Misguided religious teaching – like that about submission – is a cause of many women tolerating being mistreated.
These women need to hear bible studies on how God hates a husband treating his wife treacherously and putting her away. They need to hear what the bible says about the deep love a husband should have for his wife. It says that a husband’s love should be just like God the Son’s deep love for us to the extent that He gave His life. This leaves no room for abuse.
Surprising to some people, many women stay because of the strong soul ties that they have with their partner. Even though they love one part of the person who may be the father of their children, they hate the abusive part when they are mistreated and disrespected. They have to decide if they want to continue to live their lives like that.
Some women stay because they don’t want their children to grow up without their father. They have to consider if their husband is the role model that they want their child to be attracted to or emulate in their adult relationships one day.
These women continue to think that it will get better, and that somehow, they can help to bring about a change in their partner. Sometimes, however, their continued attempts to help turn into enabling.
If the abuser does not acknowledge that he has a problem, is not willing to seek professional help, and does not want to work to stop this controlling behavior himself, there is nothing that his partner or anyone else can do to change him. He has to do this himself.
Some women stay in abusive marriages because they feel that they can’t “make it” if they left. These reasons may be financial, low esteem, or simply not having a plan for the future. A professional behavioral health counselor can help with all of these concerns.
Other women stay because they are frozen in fear. Whether it is the fear of physical harm from a controlling abuser, the fear of how others will perceive them, or the fear of being alone.
These women will not be able to move forward until they are able to face their fears and believe that they and their children are worth more than the “what ifs” that are not a reality. They can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) to help with a plan or call 911 if they are in imminent danger.
Still other women stay because they don’t realize the reality of their situation. It was not until my divorce attorney gave me an emotional abuse assessment that I realized that I had been the victim of abuse for years.
In my new book, Heart Vision, I give readers an emotional abuse quiz to see if they can identify with common traits. Self-awareness is the first step to making a decision that is best for them and their children. Heart Vision can be ordered on Amazon, and at local and national bookstore chains like Barnes and Nobles, and Books-A-Million. To get more information visit www.drdellia.com.
Thank you for all your support.