Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Why Do Some People Repeatedly Get Into Abusive Relationships?

For years, it's puzzled me that some people go from one abusive partner to the next and the next, always managing somehow to find an abusive partner and never much excited or interested in people who are unlikely to abuse them. I've thought there might be at least two possibilities why people would do that.

First, they might know no better. Most studies show that people who are abused in partner relationships were also abused as children. They grow up learning abuse is normal and to be expected. Humans are very good at adapting to circumstances -- no matter how heinous the circumstances -- but they aren't always nearly so good conceiving of a world radically different from the one they live in. A bit different, yes. But radically different, no.

Second, they might be comfortable with abuse and apprehensive of anything new. That would seem to be counter-intuitive, but humans can and do get comfortable with just about anything. Again, we're very good at adapting to circumstances. But once we've achieved some kind of skill in dealing with our circumstances, we are often loathe to move on to anything different.

Those two possibilities are merely speculative. I'm not claiming to understand why many people repeatedly find abusive partners. And I would be very interested if anyone reading this had an insight or two into that problem.


Mystic Wing said...

As you know, I have a theory about almost everything.

People who have suffered abuse in any form can come to see this as part of their identity. And because we want above all to continue existing, we tend to perpetuate that which supports our sense of identity.

So continuing in victim roles is a form of habit, or addiction. Giving it up involves risk, since it creates upheaval in our sense of identity.

Webs said...

I would say people get into abusive relationships at first without realizing it is going to be abusive. I imagine a lot of the abusers seem romantic and fun at first. If they didn't most wouldn't survive as abusers cause they wouldn't have many people to abuse.

I think part of what keeps women in an abusive relationship is a few things.
1) They are scared into staying in that relationship.
2) They may be older and feel as though their chances of finding another partner are limiting (which I think is a constant fear for women as they get older, they don't wanna end up like their one friend that has no one and is over 40).
3) They use 1 and 2 to develop excuses into staying in the relationship, such as, "Well maybe he will change", "Maybe I can change him", "He's never touched the boy/girl" etc...

But all of this is why I say, "Save a horse ride a Geek!" Geeks have shown to be less abusive, more affectionate and romantic, able to hold better jobs, and make good parents. Jocks on the other hand...

Eryn Leigh said...

I will be cocky for a moment and point out to everyone that the reasons for repetitive victimization in romantic relationships vary from person to person. If there was an easy answer to that baffling question, a lot of intelligent high-school girls wouldn't start out their lives that way.

I, myself, have been involved in a whopping Three (3) terribly abusive relationships. I don't consider myself stupid, and looking back I have to admit that I knew what was going on the whole time.
The role of the victim is indeed an addiction, but even there, if someone was a junkie, and then recovered for two or three years, why would they start shooting heroin again? That happens all the time, and has no clear psychological or physical explanation.

Is it possible that some individuals are deliberately seeking out abusive partners (or heroin addictions) knowing full well what they are getting themselves into? As a result of their own, unique motives, and not necessarily obliviousness?
Food for thought.

Ashwin said...

Do abusive relationships provide a particular high-level of excitement that overshadow the abuse? For humans, generally, who already show confirmation bias, that is forgetting the bad and emphasizing in their own minds, the good, little excitement is necessary.

Would you say that abusive relationships are part of "living life" because they provide that excitement, if they do?

amuirin said...

I don't know what the answers are, but people do seem to follow patterns. Even people in decent relationships often deal with the same contentions over and over again in their history of love and friendship.

Good question.


There is something really peculiar about the whole thing.

Once, I worked at a company where the president was an abusive freak (four rape convictions). Why didn't I just quit? It was a weird thing. I managed to be dysfunctional enough that I was fired.

I think getting out when someone is feeding you nonsense is really difficult.

On the other hand, I've noticed that some women get into relationships with men who have never been in an abusive relationship and then they become abusive with the woman. This strikes me as a particularly weird thing.

Anonymous said...

I was reared in a loving, non-abusive household, but I've been involved with women who would do things to try to get me to be "abusive." Weird, huh? They would try to start arguments, steal things, hit me, etc. *I guess* in hopes I would get angry and be mean to them. Then there's the abuse-victim women who project their conception that the men in their life are/will be abusive, therefore whatever the man doing is a form of abuse. Won't fight? That's passive-aggressive. Won't talk back to her cynical, sarcastic comments? Emotionally distant, psychological abuse. I suppose if you consider the Law of Attraction here, abuse victims "create" abuse for themselves by thinking in terms of abuse instead of love. Just a few random thots.