on why she stays in an abusive relationship or experience

Please note: If you are a Facets community member, you have experienced my commitment to keeping this online space full of energy that is light and love-filled, refreshing, uplifting. This article might seem ‘heavy’ in comparison; however, it is something my heart has asked me to share, so I am. I thank you for reading, and I thank you for understanding that while you might not have been (or be in) an abusive relationship with another – you might possibly be in one, with yourself  (consider the words you use with yourself and the way you treat your physical being and heart whispers). So, please turn my reflections inward, see where they might fit, and, together, let’s add light and love to this energy of abuse that seems quite prevalent in world.

In my previous article “Wolf Energy, Full Moon Intentions and a New Chapter” I shared:

You don’t belong in abuse, you aren’t meant to stay!! (and if that abuse is self-generated – meaning evident in the way you speak to your self and treat your self – which is very prevalent, that ‘counts’ as something you are not meant to experience).

Here is the thing: sometimes….she stays. And that confuses some people, who push and judge and condemn her for staying, so let me shed some light on that for you.

I know why she stays, because I lived it.

And, although you mean well and your heart aches for the pain you perceive she is in, when you tell her to leave, she can’t hear you.

And, when you make your presence / friendship / conditional upon her ability / willingness to leave, you are adding ‘salt to her wound’.

All she feels is that you judge her as unlovable where she is at and that judgment strengthens the cords with her abuser. (For he is telling her she is wrong and you are telling her she is wrong – all she hears and feels is….she is wrong.)

Would you like to understand why she chooses to stay?

From personal experience, when one is the recipient of clear-cut abuse – intentional emotional and/or physical energy meant to inflict pain – one is *always* warned to ‘not tell’.

And, if she does tell, I can promise you that it is ultra-rare, pretty much unheard of, for the abuser to say ‘yes, I am beating her in this way.’ Instead, stories are spun, excuses are accepted and the “punishment” for speaking is often far worse than anything previously experienced.

(I know, because one time someone who felt they were acting in my best interest very unexpectedly, publicly ‘called my abuser out’ and guess what happened?  My abuser of course denied it, and I went through hell as retaliation. It wasn’t helpful. At all!)

She stays in what others looking in might label ‘horrific’ (and often what she knows somewhere deep inside is neither loving nor healthy) because it has become familiar to her – even if it royally sucks – and she believes that she is ‘not enough’ / undeserving / not worthy or capable of anything different. Each incident of abuse serves to amplify that belief.

She stays because she has shelter, food to eat, clothes to wear and a space to be and she feels that is far more than she could provide on her own.

She stays because he is physically strong and intimidating and she has experienced his rage. It dissolves her ability to think and her entire being becomes stuck in reactive mode – her goal is to survive and she becomes so focused on that, creating and thriving is something that isn’t in her current realm of being.

She stays because she has learned to numb her feelings and shut off her pain receptors and she doesn’t realize that choice to numb also affects her ability to vision, dream and manifest movement and experiences beyond what she is in.

*Eff you* can’t touch her, but neither can love. (Rather, Love has to find its way beyond that ‘eff you’ and that can sometimes be quite tricky.)

She stays because, although she was incredulous and shocked during the first incident, she was able to rationalize her way through it – to find a bit of peace in it. And while her heart screamed no, her mind came up with a billion reasons why leaving just wouldn’t work for her.

He has told her, quite seriously, sometimes whispering into her ear at night when he thought she was sleeping, that if she leaves, he won’t kill her but he will with certainty inflict pain upon her children, when she least expects it. And she knows she might possibly qualify for a court order but that is a piece of paper that doesn’t offer protection until he is caught in the vicinity of her children. It is a chance she would never dare to take.

Or, he told her he will kill her, and how he will do it, and he will make sure it is directly in front of the children so they will be scarred for life. And she knows this to be very possible, so she quietly and quite subserviently takes all that he dishes out, because that to her is protecting her children.

And the religion she was raised in speaks about ‘carrying a cross’ as a spiritual practice and how eternal hell is hers if she puts that cross down, so she figures she best keep carrying it, even though it’s killing her, because eternal hell is not where she wants to be. (She doesn’t realize she is currently in it, she is too busy attempting to carry her cross!)

The thing is, he might look to others to be a spiritual leader – someone who writes and ‘preaches’ about love and kindness and compassion to and for all. Someone well revered in their community. That he screams ‘eff you’ because he can, and slings poison arrows right into her most vulnerable spaces and then intentionally inflicts pain upon her in all ways, confuses her – and he blames her for his rage so she thinks that, yes, maybe he does have the right to wipe away her smile.

She forgets who she is and what she is made of. And, others can hold mirrors full of radiant love and light, but she has been in darkness so long, that light blinds her and what she feels is the coldness where there was once warmth and she is so afraid that she has lost the capability to be warm that she refuses to stand in the sun.

(She may even hold mirrors full of love and light for others. She just never turns them around to peer into them.)

And people might share their own examples of leaving, or research on the subject, with the intention of inspiring her, and she is glad for them that they have chosen something different but until something opens and shifts within her, each story weighs her down.  She feels more incapable and inadequate because they left and she couldn’t.

Why is it that people judge and criticize her for staying, always urging her to leave…but people rarely speak about the person inflicting the pain. That contributes to her sense of unworthiness. She is absolutely thinking about the health of her being….the children…..’more and better’…..but until she feels capable, that urging contributes greatly to her feeling very incapable.

And, frankly, she can see the spaces where you tolerate abuse in your life (the criticism you direct inward; the way you push your body through life – so angry with all it cannot do, instead of celebrating what it can; the spaces in which you cheat and compromise your beliefs and squash your heart whispers instead of living them and the excuses you use to justify all of it) so she can’t understand why you feel authorized to ‘coach her’, when you are in it, too.

Soon, she learns not to talk about it, to simply bear it as best as she can. She feels that disconnect greatly.

Editor’s note from Joy on 11-11-2014: Two more reasons she stays:

Their relationship began in a lovely way. He is charming and his energy delights her. There is a seed of love and joy. That is what she holds onto during the chaos. She thinks if she puts her energy into nurturing it, it will blossom and when he folds her into his realm of being, it temporarily dissolves the pain.

And, she understands his history and why he lashes out – that compassion blinds her to the fury, until she is the recipient of it. She thinks enough….love, holding space, being there …. will eventually touch him / inspire him to change. And, he asks her to stay. Says he would be lost without her. And she believes it.

And, so…she stays.

As Isabel Abbott says in her evocative article Speaking out about silence:

We need to stop blaming women for the violence done against them and stop blaming them for not preventing or ending it. It does not originate in the victim, and as such, the solution cannot primarily be found in modifying their behavior or their responses to the crime.

Because I understand why she stays, when I work with a woman who ‘is staying’, my purpose is to understand her in the space that she is in and to appreciate her, as she is

To look together to find that little speck of light in the darkness, to find something she can be grateful for (because seriously, she likely isn’t grateful for her breath as it is the element that keeps her in the space she is in). I hold that speck until she is willing / able to hold it and I sit with her and listen, which is far different from therapy or even intentional energy healing. It’s the power of presence.

My intention is not to leave you feeling hopeless. My intention is to spark understanding and compassion. 

When you share love, with neither judgment nor an agenda, simply to be present with love – that matters. Each time you share, that matters. (Please remember to turn that love inward, as well!)

Somewhere deep within, external love waters seeds of hope that eventually blossom into the courage and trust to move into something new and different. 

Dear Reader: As you feel into the energy of this message, what arises within for you?  May you share an experience in which receiving external love into a ‘hopeless space’ has inspired/encouraged you to change/move/create? (when you share, you inspire)

And, if are someone who stays, I invite you to share your insights, if you feel comfortable doing so.

Editor’s note from Joy on 11-11-2014: I have received a few emails from people in my life asking one: is this about them (ha.) and two: who is this about. I have personally been in abuse for much of my life. It took me a few iterations before I was able to change patterning from childhood and ‘cycle out’. In writing this article, I shared a few examples from my significant relationships, so it’s not about *one* specific person, the essence of a few are represented. Thank you.

Thank you for your presence!

Much peace and abundant love,


Presence to Love Deeply in Daily Life begins December 1, 2014. Pre-registration with a 20% discount is open now through November 16, 2014. To register, please click the title link.

Pre-registration (with a 20% discount) for *Your Body is a Gift* is open through November 16, 2014. When we look at our body as a sacred container and learn to bring energy *into* that container, we then have the choice to create from a naturally centered, empowered space. To register, please click the title link.

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Comments on: "on why she stays in an abusive relationship or experience" (12)

  1. Joy, this was beautifully written, and an important message for those who *don’t* always understand why someone stays in an abusive relationship. It’s easy to judge from the outside looking in. You’ve given us a glimpse from the inside looking out. Thank you for being so raw and vulnerable with us, and helping us all learn. LOVE ETERNAL TO YOU!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Megan.

      I don’t understand the energy of judgment or why people (especially heart-centered people) find it easy to judge. It’s my mission to guide us each to substitute compassion and kindness for judgment.

      I wrote this article because I really want to open the door to connection and the only way I can see, at this point, to do so is to share conversations that might feel vulnerable, but allow heart-truth to be expressed.

      There is lots of talk about ‘self-love’ – part of that process is learning to release judgment (much of what we have learned from external sources). I feel the prevalance of judgment is the reason many ‘self-love’ practices don’t seem to work for people, in general – we can’t hold judgment and love together.

      Yes to love eternal, for each one of us!!!

  2. Thank you for being brave. For being vulnerable. For sharing why you stayed. For noticing the hypocrisy of well intentioned people. Mostly, thank you for owning your story.

    We’ve known each other a long time in the blog sphere. We both were writing about love and light and warm fuzzy animals. Neither of us were sharing the darker side. The transformational soup (or goop) or the toxicity of our own behavior. Look at us now – both sharing the deep dark doo-doo that got us to the other side.

    Blessings and light,

    • Thank you, Peggy – your presence brightens my heart smile! I was silent because I was afraid to speak but I have to trust in Divine timing here as I do in all other areas of my life. So many women are afraid to speak – afraid they will be judged (or hurt) when they share their experience. I feel true peace is found when we understand that we each have ‘deep dark doo-doo’ *and* radiant light and we learn to accept both/judge neither.

      Thank *you* for being brave – you inspire me greatly. Lots of love and gratitude to you!!

  3. Sweet Joy,

    Thank you so much for this. I read with tears flowing because my best friend whom I love very much has been staying for years now and I needed the guidance on how to truly be there for her. Thank you, thank you, thank you ??


    • Hi Marjorie,

      Your comment touches me greatly – thank you for taking the time to share!

      I have been ‘that best friend whom is loved’ – do you know what she truly needs from you? That love, your radiant smile, a big hug, laughter. Let your eyes sparkle when you look at her. If you know something is her absolute favorite (a song, a piece of chocolate, a hummingbird photo) share that with her. And, tell her about your favorite song, or the pie that you made (and share a piece with her if you’d like). If she is bruised or thin or tired, let your eyes pass over all of that and your vision latch onto whatever lightness you might see (the color of the shirt she is wearing or a bow in her hair) and point that out to her. Let her feel your love.

      And, she might not have anything to give back to you – or she might give you the bit of light and love she has. Receive that from her, if you may – allow her to know if anything she shared lit your heart in any way.

      The *greatest* gift a person gave to me, when I was in it, was the gift of listening – not judging or questioning or criticizing or even blaming the abuser (or me, or world, or anyone). Just listening. Oh. My. What a refreshing relief – did my heart a world of good! I know it’s hard to listen. I know it hurts to listen. But. What a gift, if you are able to give it. And a hug. A true, genuine heart-felt, hug.

      If you ever have any questions, please email me.

      And, Marjorie, I believe that tears are barriers around heart dissolving and watering world’s heart garden – so thank you for your tears – it matters. May you feel abundant peace and delightful surprise as the rest of this season unfolds in your life!

  4. I stayed for 17 years. I stayed for all the reasons you mentioned. I stayed because I didn’t want “to break his heart”. I stayed because it hurts to leave. I left, but I’m still hurting

    • When you left, Nikky44, I was (and still am) so inspired!! I understand it hurts and I also understand that with time (and because you do inner work to heal) that pain will dissolve. It’s challenging to rebuild a life from square one – especially with children – but you are doing it. And I know Source is meeting you each step of the way. You are living love and you have done (are doing) what so many women cannot.

      I have written that I met a woman whose daughter was murdered by her (daughter’s) husband. That changed my perspective – instead of wondering why some stages felt so challenging, I thank God for this gift of life. My personal challenge is that I have been stuck on ‘surviving’ mode, I didn’t even consider *thriving*, which I am now learning to do. To breathe fully, peacefully, is something many people (fortunately) can take for granted, but I appreciate because for years – most of my life – I’ve been ‘holding my breath’.

      Thank you *so much* for sharing. Lots of love to you!!

      • Thank you Joy. Your words help a lot. It makes sense. I feel guilty for not being “happy” yet. I’m much happier, but I still feel I have something stopping me, a certain fear of being happy and I think it’s guilt. I feel guilty to be happy although my kids are separated from their father.

        • Thank you for sharing, Nikky44. I understand that when we experience trauma, it is imprinted in our cells. So, although you have left, you may still have some patterning to understand and work with (if you wish) around happiness. In my personal experience joy/contentment/happiness was followed by some over-the-top drama/pain, so as a coping mechanism, I learned to deflect surprises and gifts and daily peace and happiness. (Of course, deflecting it just meant I was consistently less than joyful and didn’t protect me in any way!). In these new safe spaces I had to learn to allow myself to experience full joy. What helped me were affirmations (like I am safe to experience fullness of joy and love), surrounding myself with enriching/nourishing energy, and time.

          Ultimately, when we are at peace, we can tap into the pain we previously felt, but we might forget the depth of it. Separating your children from your father means that they have opportunities for peace, joy, ease that they might not otherwise have had. It helps to draw into your (and their) life mentors for them – not to ‘replace’ their father but to model for them and allow them the experience of healthy, enriching bonds. They may miss the idea of having a dad,but you are gifting them with the experience of peace and possibility. You are gifting them life.

          When you feel guilty, allow yourself that feeling and it will eventually naturally unfold to peace. Each time it arises, it will be less potent, until one day, it won’t arise at all.

          Lots of love to you!

  5. Joy, thanks for writing such a moving and heartfelt post.

    And it is wonderful to know how you’ve got through and the new life you have created for yourself and your children.

    I can see many women being inspired by your courage and insights.

    Lots of Love


    • Thank you, Arvind, for taking the time to share kind words and presence.

      I think it’s important to note that so many people speak to (and treat) themselves in an ‘abusive way’ – so this article is for all of us who have choosen (still choose) to ‘stay’ in that.

      Lots of love to you, too!

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