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“Why Do They Keep Going Back?”

It can be so tough to watch someone you care about deal with an abusive relationship. Even more difficult is watching that person leave and return to their partner, time and time again. You might feel frustrated, angry or you may even feel like giving up on your friend or family member. These are all totally normal and understandable feelings to have.

But it’s important to remember that dating abuse is extremely complex. Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy, and it isn’t always the safest option. In fact, some studies say that survivors of abuse return to their abusive partners an average of seven times before they leave for good. That may sound unbelievable or unreasonable to a person who has never experienced abuse. But there are many reasons why a person might stay or return to their abusive partner. As frustrating as this may be, someone in a position to support a survivor can play a crucial role in the survivor’s ability to stay safe or even leave for good.

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Playing Their Part: How the “Good” Behavior is Part of the Act

By Bri, an advocate. Adapted from the original post at thehotline.org.

“He’s really a great guy, though.”
“I know this isn’t okay, but she’s made me feel so special, and I just love her so much.”
“They were so loving and sweet, and the good times are the best I’ve ever had.”

We often hear people say these kinds of things. Many of them struggle to understand why their partners, who were once so kind and loving, now treat them in hurtful and abusive ways. It can be so confusing because the abuse isn’t happening constantly. Most partners aren’t abusive all the time, so it makes sense to think they could go back to being that “kind and loving” person and stay there. In most of these relationships, though, when a partner acts nice, it’s really just that: an act. Thinking about their behavior in this way can be helpful by allowing you the space to prioritize your safety and well-being.

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Photo of a young man in a baseball cap looking down at the ground as he leans his hand on a chain-link fence

Excuses, Excuses…

Just as people make excuses for their own poor behavior, it seems to be human nature that we often make excuses for others as well — in particular, our significant others. Have you ever found yourself apologizing for the actions of your partner? “Sorry about that, they’re just tired and had a really long day,” or, “They don’t mean to act like that, they’ve just been stressed at work.”

Has a family member or friend ever directly asked you about the way your partner treats you? How did you respond? Did you come up with an excuse to put them at ease — or, to put your own mind at ease?

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Am I Abusive Too? The Myth of Mutual Abuse

This post was contributed by Jessica, a loveisrespect advocate

“What you said made me act that way.”
“You hit/shoved/pushed me, too.”
“You started this.”
“You’re abusing me, too.”

Has your partner ever said things like this to you? Here at loveisrespect, we talk with a lot of people who are able to recognize that their relationship is unhealthy or even abusive, but they also believe that the abuse exists on both ends, or that both partners are at fault for the abuse.

Many times, we speak with survivors of abuse who want to address concerns they have about their own behaviors. They will often express that their relationship is mutually abusive, a concept used when describing a relationship where both partners are abusive towards one another. But the thing about “mutual abuse” is that it doesn’t exist. Abuse is about an imbalance of power and control. In an unhealthy or abusive relationship, there may be unhealthy behaviors from both/all partners, but in an abusive relationship one person tends to have more control than the other.

So, why doesn’t mutual abuse exist?

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Apologies and Excuses

“I’m sorry. I won’t ever do that again…”

If your partner is abusive, you’ve probably heard your share of “I’m sorrys” and excuses for their behavior. When it comes to people making apologies and justifications for their unhealthy actions, it can be difficult to see through their words or recognize them for what they are.

Why do we accept an abusive partner’s apologies over and over again? Why do we want to believe the excuses a partner makes when they’re treating us badly? Sometimes the justifications sound really good. Especially when we’re looking for something — anything — to help make sense of how this person we care about is acting toward us. It’s normal to want to rationalize what’s going on because abuse is pretty irrational.

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Is Your Long-Distance Relationship Unhealthy?

This post was written by Gabriella, a loveisrespect intern.

You might be in a long-distance relationship because of a high school graduation, a connection you made with someone over the internet, or any number of reasons. Long-distance relationships have a bad rap for being notoriously difficult and complicated, requiring even more commitment from both partners than usual. Sure, everyone knows they aren’t easy, but how do you know if your long-distance relationship is healthy or not? Are they all doomed?

Thankfully, the answer is NO, not all long-distance relationships fail! But it can be tricky figuring out if yours is healthy. Here are some warning signs of an unhealthy long-distance relationship:

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Teen Mom 2: Dealing with Dating Abuse

If you watched last night’s episode of Teen Mom 2, you witnessed a scene that involved dating abuse between one of the couples. It happened during an argument, when one of them grabbed the other by head.

The couple, Kailyn and Javi, have recently moved in with each other and are still adjusting to the stress that comes with it. In this particular argument, Kailyn was upset with Javi for not taking the couple’s two large dogs outside while she had friends over.

After yelling at Javi to take the dogs outside, she went into their bedroom, yelled some more and then grabbed or shoved Javi’s head. Contrary to what her friend says later on, ‘at least you didn’t punch him in the face,’ what Kailyn did is abuse and there are not different levels, only right or wrong.

After the incident, it seemed Kailyn was distraught about what happened and swore she would work to change.

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Can Someone Change?

Possibly, but it’s not quick and it’s not easy.

By the end of the episode, Kailyn had begun to reach the first step needed to change, which is admitting her behavior was wrong.

It’s a Choice.

It’s common to make excuses for abusive behavior such as stress or alcohol. Know that abuse is always a choice and that outside factors do not make someone abusive.

At the beginning of the fight scene, Kailyn said the extra dog had been stressing her out.  The dogs then become the source of the argument. After she grabbed Javi, she said she was just so frustrated she couldn’t control herself. But she’d made the choice to engage in abusive behavior while she was walking up the stairs and she announced she was going up there to (and this is putting it nicely) mess him up.

Learn to Communicate.

In healthy relationships it’s important to communicate things that are stressing you out so they don’t keep building up inside and come out in an unhealthy way.

Take a second to breathe if you find yourself getting really angry. Step back from the situation and try to calm down before approaching your partner.

Listen to what the other person is saying. If you’re upset you want to be heard, but it’s just as important to respect what your partner has to say if the two of you are going to come to a compromise.

Kailyn and Javi’s argument escalated quickly with no real communication.

Get Help.

If she wants to make it work with Javi, Kailyn will have to work hard and focus not just on anger management classes but also an abusive relationship program to get to the root of her problems.

This usually cannot be done alone and requires professional help. If you or someone you know needs help, you can always chat with one of our advocates for resources in your area.

You Can Only Change Yourself.

Toward the end of the episode, Javi said he wanted to do something nice for Kailyn because of the tough times they’d been having.

It’s common for someone getting abused to take it upon him or herself to make the situation better. Unfortunately the only person we can change is ourselves. Sometimes, even if you love someone, it is best for everyone to step away from the relationship while the other person works to get help. If you do decide to distance yourself for a while, your partner needs to respect that. Every relationship is different and we’re here to help you find out what’s best for yours — even if it’s not the same as what Javi chose to do.

Have They Changed?

Thinking boxing classes might solve her problems is a potential red flag that Kailyn’s still not taking full responsibility for her decisions.

We’ll be watching as the season unfolds to see if she’s truly ready to change.

If you’re wondering if someone in your life has changed, take our quiz. It’ll help you see if there are any red flags you might be overlooking and if they’re committed to change.

Tell Us What You Think!

What did you think when you saw the argument?

Will Kailyn work to get help?

Do you think someone can change?

Let us know below!

Stay Tuned for the Next Post:

Looking the other way: Why didn’t Kailyn’s friend say anything during the fight?

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No More Callers Who Think Abuse is Normal

Our first guest post comes from our very own advocate Jackie Stone. As someone well-trained in addressing dating abuse, Jackie says “No More” to viewing abuse as normal behavior in a relationship.

When I first started work as a loveisrespect advocate, I realized exactly how little teens and young adults – myself included – are taught about what is okay in a relationship.

Teens are flooded with tons of advice and ideas from friends, from family and from movies and books about what it takes to make relationships “work” and what it takes to be “in love.” The information about what it takes to make a relationship healthy for both people is much harder to find. A lot of teens make it to their 20s or 30s before learning not only that the way they were treated isn’t okay, but also why it wasn’t okay.

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