I have worked with many abused women* who have left their abusers, but, instead of jumping for joy as one might expect, felt drawn back into the relationship. Why might this happen?
- You still love him and miss him
- You are struggling financially
- Your kids miss him and want you to return
- Your friends, family and church are pressuring you to return to him
- You have low self-esteem, and doubt your ability to make the right decision.
The following is taken from my upcoming book, A Journey to Healing After Emotional Abuse, which will be available in January 2016.
I will use myself as an example. My abuse came from my ex-husband. He used emotional, psychological, verbal and spiritual abuse to break my self-confidence, which allowed him to slowly gain power and control over me. During the last years of my marriage, I followed his every demand; still, I didn’t fully realize I was being abused, only that I was deeply unhappy.
One day he asked me to tell our children he had never abused me. I began looking for a definition of abuse and realized he had been abusing me for many years. My spirit balked at the idea of lying to our children, so I refused to do it. Secretly, I visited my local women’s crisis center and found a lawyer. Together with my lawyer, we petitioned the court for a restraining order. Later that day, a process server delivered the restraining order to him.
Though I had demonstrated courage in removing him from our home, I hadn’t yet learned to change the dynamics of our relationship. He continued to try to control me any way he could, and I had little self-confidence. He first tried to reconcile with me by going into the honeymoon stage of the cycle of violence. Though my restraining order forbid using other people to contact me, he called my parents, our pastors, and our children to try regain control over me. He told them how much he loved me, that he had been wrong, and he was going to change. This was from a man who had not spoken to me for the entire previous year except to rage at me.
Though he had broken my trust continually for years, I was confident the Lord didn’t want me to continue accepting his abuse, and I had no love left for him; his seemingly “loving” behavior caused me to stumble. I began to second-guess my decision to leave him . . . had I made a mistake? Was he really willing to change? Had I given up too soon? Perhaps this has happened to you.
Does this mean we are weak? No. It does mean we have experienced emotional abuse at the hands of someone we once thought we loved, and may still love. We also thought he loved us, and we built a life with him. In my case, I had been married to him for twenty years, had children with him, and had gone to church with him. Everyone I knew thought of me as his wife and the mother of his children. My status at church came from being his wife. Suddenly, in one day, my reputation and self-worth were wiped away, and my children were without their father. Fortunately, I wasn’t dependent on him financially, as most abused women are.
Given that you have so much to lose when you leave your abuser, and your self-esteem is probably low, is it surprising you might be second-guessing your decision to leave?
Abuse victims leave and then return to their abusers, on average, seven times before they finally leave and don’t return. The fact they continue leaving demonstrates how unlikely it is that their abuser will make substantial changes in his behavior. However, the fact they return so many times demonstrates how difficult it is for them to leave and not return.
You will have a difficult time healing from your abuse if you are still involved with your abuser. Your abuser doesn’t want you to heal. In addition to your abuser, you have another foe that doesn’t want you to succeed in your healing. Satan will use:
- The abuse you’ve experienced
- Your feelings of low self-worth
- The love you have felt for your abuser, and
- How much you have to lose
to cause you to doubt your decision to leave your abuser.
Thankfully, we have Someone on our side Who is stronger than Satan. (Tweet This) 1 john 4:4 says:
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
I pray you will realize just how strong you can really be. Blessings dear friends.
* In this blog, the former abuse victim is female, and the abuser male. The same principles would apply if the abuser were female and the victim male, or if the abuser and victim were of the same sex.