Are you stuck in an abusive relationship?
Have you discovered that you are stuck in an abusive relationship? Have you noticed that you are drawn to partners who mistreat you? Do you seem to like the ones who do not want you, cannot commit, abandon you or abuse you? Could there be a reason behind this? Is there something about you that makes you choose these relationships?
Why do you stay stuck in an abusive relationship?
We hold on to abusive relationships to stay attached with our past
Firstly, we attach ourselves to an abusive relationship as a way of trauma bonding. When we’ve endured abusive treatment in our past childhood, it can be the only way we know how to receive love. So, there can be some comfort in staying attached to the abusive loved object. Somehow abusive treatment keeps you stuck in feeling loved , because that might be the only familiar way you received love, by staying attached to your past. So, you repeat the pattern of accepting abuse in exchange of getting love. Holding on to abusive relationships can feel like you’re being loved and feel comforting, in fantasy. In reality, it is the opposite.
Are you holding onto abusive partners or unavailable partners into your life, as an unconscious yearning to reunite with the abusive or a rejecting parent? Are you repeating your past wounds through mistreatment and abandonment.
In order to preserve the notion of the good parent, the child splits off any bad feelings towards them, by internalising the bad as existing within them. Instead of seeing the parent as mistreating them, they end up feeling bad about themselves; feeling worthless, unwanted, and unlovable. In the hope of feeling loved, the child maintains a fantasy of the positive image of the parent, by shutting out the bad memories towards the parent (splitting). These bad feelings remain repressed, and end up creating the lenses which distort how we see ourselves and loved ones. The more we internalise the bad feelings within, the more we feel bad about ourselves; while we see the other as good, by continuing to split.
Secondly, individuals can hold on to the parent who mistreated them, by seeking abusive or unavailable partners, in order to remain attached to the parent. By idealising the abusive boyfriend, one can deny the abuse by maintaining a positive image of them; repeating the pattern of feeling abused, in the hope of feeling loved by them. The pattern of searching for unmet love can therefore be destructive to an individual.
Splitting occurs when we are triggered to our past feelings that reoccur in our present relationships. Individuals with borderline personality disorder use splitting to push out the bad feelings, as an attempt to feel good. They can also cling to relationships to feel good, to avoid the self-loathing.
Splitting can impair ones judgment; by not seeing the whole picture, or denying aspects that they do not want to see in a relationship. Splitting causes the individual to have a distorted perception of their relationship, either idealised or devalued. They feel either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’ about themselves, while see others as either ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’. They cannot see the good and bad aspects of a person at the same time.
In reality, a boyfriend who is loving (good), is also a boyfriend who may have some negative habits (bad). A impaired sense of self is when the individual only sees all the good qualities and not the bad, or vice versa.
Why you cannot let go of bad relationships?
Have you wondered why you cannot let go of bad relationship? Splitting is another reason why individuals stay stuck in bad relationships. In splitting, when people feel bad about themselves, they’ re ignoring all the good qualities about themselves; perpetuating the belief that they are not good enough in relationships. When an individual sees all the good traits in a partner, they are denying the bad traits in the person. This can protect them from feelings of abandonment; by only seeing the good aspects in a partner, ignoring the abusive aspects.
One cannot make the right judgments about partners, if they only see one side of the split, good or bad. A healthy relationship means you can see both the good and bad aspects of a person. Have you ever wondered why a friend loves a man who mistreats her? My bet is she doesn’t see the bad aspects; yet.
A woman may feel good when dating a man because he shows an interest and wants more (seeing him as all good}. She may be denying the warning signs that he was possessive, and not respecting her boundaries. The more you idealise the person, the more you ignore the bad aspects about them; often putting up with a person with narcissistic personality disorder abuse, or making the wrong choice of partner. The more you want to reunite with the caregiver, the more likely it is that you will see the positives of a partner, in order to feel loved. By over-looking the negative aspects of a person, you are likely to make risky judgements when it comes to love. Furthermore, ignoring the bad aspects means you do not address the areas that could cause problems in your relationship.
Splitting can cause individuals to hold on to a toxic relationship. Splitting can cause some to stay attached in abusive relationships, because they uphold the positive images of the abuser (good), denying any abuse or mistreatment (bad), so they can fulfil their unmet needs in order feel loved. It is the same reason why women stay in relationships with domestic violence, they forget about the abuse and remember how caring he was. As a therapist, my role is to help them see the other part of the split, so they can make a clearer decision and see the whole picture: “You said he was making changes and improving, but I am confused, didn’t you tell me that he hit you last week and you feared your life?” With this session with a client, addressing the denial of reality and showing her the other side of the coin, helped her to see more clearly and gave her a real perspective; so she flipped out of denial into action. It gave her the strength to protect herself and her children. It integrated the split, so she could make an informed decision, instead of staying stuck in denial.
A woman may feel smitten when she is in a relationship with a charming man because he makes her feel good, but she denies that he is cheating with other women. By splitting, she feels bad about herself and see’s him as good. In the hope of finding love, she denied the bad aspects of that person and ignored the truth.
Splitting can occur when one denies reality or mistreatment because they want to uphold the positive aspects of that person, so they ignore the bad aspects. It can cause them to stay in stuck unhealthy relationships or not protect themselves. Often splitting occurs because individuals want to feel good or loved, hoping a partner will get rid of the feelings of the self-loathing or feelings of abandonment from past loved ones. Instead, they repeat the wound and relive the pain, re-enacting the past, until these patterns are worked through in therapy.
These individuals struggle to express themselves, since they encounter abuse if they are not serving the narcissists needs. Once children are involved many vulnerable women feel economically trapped and unable to cope on their own, causing them to stay attached in an abusive situation, for survival. However, usually the children and the parent are better off if they can leave a toxic situation. Unfortunately the toxicity becomes the norm whereby the partner feels so beaten down and worn out, and protecting oneself becomes scary, when you fear what the narcissist will do if you leave. Unfortunately it is a realistic fear, since many malignant narcissists will become revengeful when their supplies are gone, often putting the fear of leaving into them with threats of losing everything, in order to keep them there. Many stay because they fear what will happen to them. Therefore, organising a safe escape route is paramount. Often domestic violence is escalated once the partner decides to leave, since the narcissist fears separation. Many attend anger management counselling once domestic violence has escalated.
Nancy Carbone provides relationship counselling . At Counselling Melbourne, she specialized in dealing with abusive relationship and relationship trauma. You can visit her at Counselling Melbourne on http://www.counsellingservicemelbourne.com.au/, Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, http://www.counsellinginperth.com.au/ .
Back to Blog Home