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6 reasons why you didn't just leave

If you are or have been in an abusive relationship, you most likely have experienced the question: "Why didn't you just leave?"

Others will struggle to understand the dynamics in the relationship which keep you invested and staying. Maybe you don't even understand it fully yourself. 

Here are 6 reasons why you didn't just leave. 

Trauma-bonding

In violent relationships, what we call a trauma-bond is created. This is a very strong attachment between the abuser and the target. This bond is created through the cycle of violence, which consists of different phases: honeymoon -> tension -> explosion -> reconciliation 

Narratives about love

In dysfunctional relationships there are often very strong narratives about love, especially in the beginning of the relationship in the honeymoon phase and in the following reconciliation phases. The love narratives create fantasies about a wonderful future together, but are also the stories about the relationship and the love in the love in the relationship; for example that you're each others soulmates, meant to be, the biggest love you'll ever experience.

Broken sense of self-worth

A big part of the psychological abuse is about breaking down the sense of self-worth in the target. This happens gradually, and in the beginning is often experienced as small disagreements, misunderstandings, small comments, or the like. With time the breaking down becomes more violent and obvious, but the target has lost trust in her own experience and believes the abuser more and more.

Addiction

Through the cycle of violence and the different mechanisms in emotional abuse, an intense addiction is created. The abuser is suddenly the targets only source of positive emotions and the one who releases the tension. The abuser will give breadcrumps of affection and care, and the target becomes addicted to these.

Isolation

A cornerstone in a psychologically abusive relationship is isolation. The target is gradually isolated - this happens both very clearly and also more hidden. Maybe the abuser expresses dislike of the targets friends, and maybe small disagreements happen with the family. The abuser is often very good at twisting the stories. Through the cycle of violence the target becomes hyperfocused on avoiding conflict, and starts avoiding friends and family to avoid conflict. 

Threats

In the process of leaving an abusive partner, most likely there will be threats. This can be obvious threats of violence, self harm, suicide, or the like. But it can also be more indirect threats about the future. For example that the target will never find a good partner, that no one will love them, that their life will be ruined. Through time and the cycle of violence the target slowly starts to believe the threats.

Is someone you know in an abusive relationship?

Read here what you can do as a relative or friend

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