The Important Question You Must Ask

The question I’m about to ask you is not to make you feel like you’re being judged. In fact, I wish someone had asked me this very question because I now realize that it’s the difficult questions that ultimately lead us to effect important changes in our lives. Difficult questions force us to explore things we feel uncomfortable with addressing.

The question?

Why do you stay? 

A decade ago, I was in a different place. I was a different person. Apart from my children, family, and friends being my bright spots, I totally hated my life. I complained about my life to those I trusted, not realizing how annoying I must have sounded. Everyone listened to me. Everyone told me how bad they felt for me. I wanted to leave…so why didn’t I?

Because I didn’t consider what I was getting from the relationship. My counselor and I talked about the pay-offs during several sessions and the truth was, those payoffs were too high a price to pay for the abuse I endured. He played on my weaknesses and fears to keep me from leaving and it took the harsh realization {that staying was far riskier} to give me the incentive to do something about my situation.

  • The Unknowns ~ Although psychological abuse can be terrifying, not knowing what my abuser was capable of, if pushed, was even worse. He’d become more unpredictable and less tolerant of me as a person. His vibe screamed, “You don’t wanna know what happens when you cross me.” I had nowhere to run, nobody to protect me from that potential threat.
  • The {prospect of living alone} ~ The reality of escaping from the “marital home” meant moving to a neighborhood that was potentially more dangerous. I didn’t relish the idea of living as a single mother with 2 kiddos, particularly as my family and friends were all 4,000 miles away. The last thing I needed was to feel vulnerable…and my anxiety/PTSD didn’t help any.
  • {Losing my daughter in a custody battle} ~ By the time I filed for divorce, he’d already almost filed a residence order. After I moved out, he resorted to using our daughter as a means of getting back at me. Sadly, he succeeded in parental alienation when she permanently moved in with him. My heart broke into a million pieces…and that’s what he wanted.
  • Self-doubt ~ After so many years of having him tear me down, I felt afraid of failing on my own. He made me feel stupid and unwanted. He would often ask me, “Who do you think would ever want you? You’re 42, with 2 children and you’re useless.” Another particular favorite: “You churn my stomach.” When I moved out, I created a home for myself and my kiddos, from SCRATCH ~ I {with the help of my daughter and a couple of decorators} painted the whole house, had carpet and tiling put in, and then I assembled almost all of the furniture. I set up utility and internet accounts, put up curtains and made that house into a home for the 2.5 years I lived there.

As abusive as a relationship may be, there’s always a pay-off.

  • By staying with him, I kept him from acting out against me in anger.
  • By staying with him, I didn’t have to face life alone and vulnerable as a single mother.
  • By staying with him, I didn’t have to face losing my daughter.
  • By staying with him, I didn’t have to worry about failing on my own.


  • I wasn’t staying with him because of the love we shared. {There was no love. There wasn’t even “like” or respect.}
  • I wasn’t staying with him because I was happy with him. {I was far from happy. I felt depressed, anxious, and suffered the physiological effects of the stress he caused.}
  • I wasn’t staying with him because I wanted to. {He was forcing me to…or else. Love isn’t forced or cultivated out of feelings of obligation. We can’t love or stay with someone because they demand us to.}
  • I wasn’t staying with him because he made me feel safe. {That safety was merely an illusion and, either way, he was going to destroy me.}
  • I wasn’t staying with him because he fulfilled my needs. {He did nothing for me, despite that I did everything for him.}
  • I wasn’t staying with him for the lifestyle he offered me. {Living in a nice area, nice house, nice neighborhood meant nothing to me. Those were all external factors and they were negated by the abuse that happened within our house.}

So, back to the question. Why do you stay? What’s the pay-off? Once you identify your pay-offs/reasons for staying, you can then plan what to do in order to overcome or replace those pay-offs. Will there be sacrifices? Of course. Will it be difficult? Without a doubt. Will there be times when you feel like giving up because people make you feel like it’s easier to stay? Hell yes. But we’re talking about your life, your health, your safety, your happiness, your well-being, your independence.

Abusive relationships are unequal, similar to those of a parent/child dynamic. If one person assumes control over his or her partner, it doesn’t work. Ever. The parent/child relationship ends when we turn 18. From that day on, we assume responsibility for our own life and, eventually, find someone to share our life with, “share” being the operative word in that sentence. We don’t submit and relinquish our free will to someone else. It’s not a healthy dynamic.

Further, we must be mindful of people who offer to “love”, “take care of”, or “spoil” us at the cost of our self-worth, freedom, self-esteem, overall health, acceptance, support, and personal safety. When we’re paying too high a price for the things that come naturally in a healthy relationship, we must question why we continue to pay.

As always, we’re here to help.




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