As a therapist I am often asked, why do I choose abusive men? There a couple of answers to this. The one answer that I think is missing in rational thinking is that YOU didn’t choose an abusive man; rather he chose you. The other answer is if you are raised in an abusive environment and have not had outside validation of what is a healthy relationship, you too could end up with someone abusive because it is familiar.
Let’s start with the abuser choosing you. What is an abuser looking for? He/she is looking for someone they can control. You are a nice person, kind, generous, treat people fairly, don’t judge others, when you meet someone respect and trust are a given. That is exactly the type of person an abuser wants. He will already have your trust and respect and believes that you will forgive his transgressions because you don’t judge and you are kind. Does this mean you should change whom you are? Absolutely not but rather learn to read the warning signs of an abuser.
There is a lot of information you can glean on the interest of an abuser. I will share my knowledge of one. The abuse normally starts out slowly and is insidious. What starts out as compliments can quickly turn to demands. He/she likes the way you wear your hair down and long (for example). The next time he sees you, you have your hair pulled back into a hair band. He reminds you how much he loved it when you wore it down and would you mind doing that as he really loves it and it would make him so happy. You in your initial state of a relationship happily oblige because it sounds like a simple and reasonable request doesn’t it? Next they may comment on your style of dressing. Initially they liked the look of you in your sweater with a couple of buttons undone and your body fitting skirt. Soon though, they don’t want others to be looking at you so the requests will start again, maybe you need to do up a button or all the buttons and you look real nice in those boot cut jeans or slacks. This is control ladies!!!! You may stand your ground and tell him that you like your look and he will carefully explain to you why he wants to “look out for you” and “look after you”. How wonderful that his man cares so much about you that you take his request to heart and change your dress style. The Friends!!!! In the beginning he joins you with your friends and begins to make subtle comments about them. Maybe one is too loud and he reminds you that you are who your friends are so maybe you could see less of this friend or not invite her when he is around. Soon that turns into never seeing her again. When your friends start to comment on how you are no longer available to them, you stick up for your man and tell them that they are just jealous because you have such a wonderful attentive man in your life. Now he knows you are hooked.
There will be many more changes that he has you make in your life as he insinuates himself more and more into it. Soon you find yourself with no other outlet in life but work and him. Some of his demands may be demeaning, such as “allowing” him to have sex with another or talking you into threesomes. He “loves you” so much that you do these things for him even though you start to loathe yourself. When you bring these issues up to him, he either sweet talks you into believing you are wrong, gives you the silent treatment ( and remember you have no friends left) until you give in, or physically harms you and you now feel you don’t have a choice. You do have a choice! Call one of those past friends and confide what is happening they will be there for you because they knew all along what was going on and tried to help before. Call the Crisis support line in your area or call a counsellor, confide in family (who he has also managed to isolate you from), talk to you peers or boss at work. There are many avenues available to you to help you get out of this unhealthy relationship and build your self back to your authentic self.
The second answer was coming from abusive home. The familial behaviours have a big impact on the decisions we make in our lives. If we know put downs, sarcasm, emotional trauma, verbal abuse and mental abuse then that is what we know. So very often women finds themselves married to the likeness of their father, the abuser in this case. Too often once you realize what you are in for you find your family is NOT a support zone. Mom will tell you that that is your lot in life, you chose to love and honor this man and that is your duty no matter what. Yes, even in today’s society that answer is still passed down from mom to daughter. You father won’t see anything wrong with it because he acts the same way as your partner. It is your duty to see to your husbands needs and if you don’t then a little “encouragement” is okay.
The same advice is advisable if you find yourself in this situation, call out for help to anyone you can. Especially if you already have children. You do NOT want them to become part of this cycle.
You are still a kind, generous, warm, trusting, respectful woman who did NOT choose to be abused.