Monday, March 02, 2009

Why Would She Get Back Together With Him?

"Why would she get back together with him?"

I've been asked this question all weekend long with regard to this story in the news,chris-brown-rihanna-back-together-diddy-022809.article.

The short answer is - I don't know why those two people may have gotten back together, because I don't know those two people.

But I do know in situations of abuse and domestic violence why people get back together and why this is confusing and hard to understand (and yes, frustrating) for friends, family and co-workers.

First of all, many people I know who are involved in domestic violence say "I love the person. . .I just want the violence to stop." So when a person says they will get help and promises they will not do it anymore, the person who is being abused wants to believe them. And who can blame them? They want things back the way they were before the abuse started. They love the person...not the hitting.

Second, relationships are often very complicated. There are often children and lives involved. Victims are hesitant to tear children away from another parent, family, grandparents. Think about this in your own life. Break-ups are terrible. Does anyone just "walk away" from another partner? It is not easy to do this. Add in the complications of abuse and it is even more difficult.

Why is this more difficult? One of the reasons is that a victim is often told over and over and over and over again that the violence and abuse is his or her fault. If the victim would not behave in a certain way it would not have happened in the first place, so why wouldn't you reconcile since you think you are kind of "guilty" for getting abused anyhow?

It takes a victim of domestic violence an average of 5-7 times to leave a relationship. Each time the person goes they are in the process of leaving. People most commonly stay for their children. . .but then most commonly leave for their children.

So when looking at domestic violence and abuse the focus is really better on safety. . asking your friend or loved one "Are you safe in your relationship?" rather than "Have you left?"

I know this is difficult to understand. But it is not helpful to say things like "Unless you leave that person I am going to break off my friendship with you" or "I am so disappointed in you." Because this doesn't leave the door open for discussion when your friend may need to talk to you. You can certainly express concern, and you can ALWAYS ask if the person is safe in the relationship because you care.

Please feel free to comment on this blog or add thoughts about why a person may get back together.

And thank you, as always for caring about making this issue "Everybody's Business." If you ever have questions, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).


Anonymous said...

Hey Kim;

This is a great post!

I've discovered that unless people have a relationship with someone in an abusive relationship, the question of "Why do they stay?" is a very natural one. They really don't understand.

I know I didn't fully understand until I found myself counseling a woman in an abusive relationship. Asking a very honest question she said to me, "You mean you don't beat your wife?"

Yes, she was serious. In her world, it was so natural she found it odd that everyone wasn't doing it.

Again, great blog post!

Dr. Rus

Kim Wells said...

Thank you for your comment, Dr. Jeffrey. You make another very good some people, abuse is "normal" because they have seen it in their homes and lives. That is why we have to work so hard to make this "not the norm" for anyone.

Unknown said...

Dr Jeffrey's comment is so very true. So many of us whom have been in abusive relationships, either mental or physical, often think all relationships are like that. We also feel that we somehow caused it, that it is OUR fault & that we deserve it.

We think, I'll do better this time. I'll make it the home/family he wants. Deep down we truly believe that it is something we are doing wrong and that is the reason he isn't happy etc.

The only thing this story proves is that it happens to all types of women in all types of situations...even those whom seem to be so successful and together.

Kim Wells said...

Laura - thank you so much for your comments. They are so much more eloquent and beautifully said than those in the blog and get at the heart of what I was trying to convey. Thank you so much for sharing in such a personal way.

Cheri said...

Hey Kim,

As I said to you on Twitter, I think that in some cases it almost becomes an addiction not only for the abuser, but for the person being abused. The person I knew who admitted to me that this was true for them, it had become a case where she knew she was going to be abused so why not see just how far she could push him. It was a battle of wills, of control, and strength. She even described for me the rush that she would get from the fighting and abuse. It took years to get her away from him and even longer for her to change her entire way of thinking about relationships.

In my own case, it only took one time of the verbal and emotional abuse to turn physical and I was gone. I haven't looked back.

Kim Wells said...

Cheri - thanks for your comment and making the point it is very different for different people. I also know people who have shared with me that when the "walking on eggshells" part of things has gotten so bad (they know the abuse is coming) they have pushed the person to "get it over with" because they can't stand not knowing when it is coming.

Just writing that makes me sick to my stomach thinking what it must feel like for a person to feel like they might have to make a choice like that. No one should have to. Ever.

Miragi said...

Putting the celebrity aside, these are two people with a unique situation that only they know about. Gossip, second-guessing, and constant media examination of what happened won't change it.

She is only an 'automatic' victim in the public eye, and he is only an 'automatic' "monster" in the public eye, because we humans seem to have to categorize everyone. The details are unknown, and seemingly irrelevant, and frankly, none of our business.

Whether you're the abuser or the victim, no matter the gender, you'll only take what you take until YOU, yourself, want to change it.

Speaking solely from personal experience, I didn't leave. I stayed. I don't give up. Period. It's never been easy, but it's also been my choice. He's not a monster, and I'm not a victim. We are two people that continually work together to get through our problems. We are two people who chose our own behaviors, our own responses, our own mistakes and eventually chose to do something to fix what was wrong in our relationship.

NO relationship is a cake walk. Abusive or not. They take hard work, and effort and the willingness to make changes when needed. So, if she has decided to make it work with him, it's not like she doesn't know what 'can' happen.

The short of it all: We all make our own choices and choose our perceptions.

Thanks for letting me babble :)

Kim Wells said...

Miragi - First of all you did not babble. Second of all, thank you for your very personal and insightful perspective. I am so glad you chose to comment and to help people understand a broader perspective and think in terms of bigger relationships. You did a much better job than I did in the blog in trying to make that point.

Kim Wells said...

Also wanted to add this great piece from Good Morning America featuring a wonderful woman I am honored to know - Brooke McMurray. She gives a personal perspective on why people go back:

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful post.

Nice to distinguish mental from physical abuse: because I knew I wouldn't tolerate physical abuse, I missed the signs of emotional abuse.

Great advice: ask 'Are you safe?' - I sometimes say 'Are you taking care of yourself?', or 'Never give up on your desires!'.


Kim Wells said...

Louise - Wonderful post! Your points are so important - first, that domestic violence is not just physical - emotional abuse is truly abuse. One of the things that my friends who are survivors share with me is that while the physical scars heal, it is the emotional scars that are harder to bear.

I also love your thoughts on asking "Are you taking care of yourself" and "Never give up on your desires." So lovely and loving. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I hesitated to comment because of some guilt issues I have about one of the things you said.

Your point about trying to force a loved one to leave the situation struck a chord with me big-time. A family member was in a very unhealthy, abusive relationship and I told her I didn't want to be a part of her life until he wasn't.

I haven't spoken to her since. not because I don't want to. I realize now that what I did was wrong. But she felt so betrayed by me that she will not respond to any outreach by me. And she is still with him.

Thanks for increasing awareness like you are! I wish I knew you back then!

Kim Wells said...

Mister Noodle - Thank you so much for your really truthful and from your heart comment. Do not blame yourself for doing what you thought was the right thing to do - you did it because you cared. And clearly you still do! Thank you for being you.

Anonymous said...

Having been in this situation myself many years ago, I can personally say that there are so many different "unsubstantiated" reasons that we stay or return to such a relationship. Some like already mentioned, because we think that is how relationships are for everyone else and also because of the level of our own self worth. We don't walk away for fear the next relationship will be worse or that this was the best relationship that we may fine. Yes, even the those that seem so strong and confident in public are often the victim of abuse behind closed doors. Then we throw even more into making the outside world believe that we are a different person away from that relationship. I also agree that the strong-armed intervention method does not work in these situations. It only instills greater fear that the victim will loose yet another connection to the outside world as if yet again they are not worthy of that person's loyalty or friendship to stand by them regardless. I would love to say that these situations always have a happy ending and that I believe that abuser's can change, but have yet to see concrete evidence that abusers do change. Thank you for the great work you are doing KIM!