Why Not Just Leave? Here Are 7 Reasons People Stay in Abusive Marriages

Updated 05/04/19

Staying in an abusive relationship seems counterintuitive to onlookers; family and friends often are the first to wonder, why not just leave? It is not easy to be in that situation, but those who choose to remain in their relationship rather than abandon it have their reasons. Those reasons stem from their perspective as a victim of abuse, which could alter their rationality, and there are others still who want to put their family first—at any cost. 

If you know someone in an abusive relationship and want some answers, take time to review the list below. These are just a few of the complicated reasons why someone may wish to stay in an abusive marriage. 

01 of 07

Love

YOUNG WOMAN LYING IN BED AWAKE
Peter Hince/The Image Bank/Getty Images

In most abusive marriages, violence doesn't happen daily. There are days or weeks, even months between episodes of violence. During those peaceful times, the abuser may be a very loving and kind person. These peaceful times give the victim of abuse hope that the abuse won't happen again. The love and affection the victim receives during this time only binds them more deeply to the abuser.

It's hard to walk away from someone you love. Especially when there is hope for change…no matter how irrational that hope is.

02 of 07

Finances

A person may feel that, if they leave, they will have no way to support themselves and their children. For instance, a stay-at-home mom is completely dependent on the financial support of her husband. With a lack of access to the funds needed to leave, she chooses to stay.

An abusive marriage can be more attractive than the idea of leaving with nowhere to go and no money to take with you. If you have children to provide for it only makes sense you are going to put their needs first.

Yes, children are better served in a peaceful household but, if the victim can't provide such a home, they may see staying as the only option. 

03 of 07

Religious Beliefs

Some victims feel that divorce goes against their religious beliefs. Some may feel divorce is to be avoided at all expense, even their own safety. Scripture tells us to submit to our husbands and there are those who skew the true meaning behind such scripture and feel they are duty bound to stay in the marriage.

04 of 07

Low Self-Esteem

The self-esteem of some victims is so low they feel they deserve the violence. They may fear they will not be able to find someone else if they leave. They may not have enough faith in themselves to survive if they leave. These beliefs about themselves are only reinforced by the actions of the abuser.

It takes courage to walk away from an abuser and faith in oneself to survive. If the victims self-esteem has been stripped away, that courage may not be there. 

05 of 07

Fear

If violence is taking place, fear is a natural reaction. Even verbal threats, of violence, to take their children away, stalk them, or any number of other things will cause the victim to fear leaving the relationship. Fear for your life can be all the motivation a person needs to stay in an abusive relationship.

Studies have shown that violence escalates when the victim leaves the relationship. The fear of enduring further harm or possible death if the victim leaves is based in reality. 

06 of 07

Shame

The victim may feel responsible for the abuse and may feel that they have failed in some way. Shame can keep the victim from reaching out and asking for help or telling others what is happening in their marriage.

Imagine you were raised in a happy, well-adjusted home and you end up married to someone who is abusive and violent. Many women take on the responsibility for their abuser's behavior and blame themselves for making a bad choice. Their sense of shame outweighs their need to remove themselves from a dangerous situation. 

07 of 07

Isolation

The abuser's threats and need to control their victim may cause the victim to become cut off from communicating with friends and family. The abuser becomes the victims only support system, not only their abuser.

Isolation can be so severe that the victim goes years without contact with family and has very little access to "friends" outside the relationship. Such isolation can promote a feeling of being stuck and unable to leave. 

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