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“Why Do I Love My Abuser?”

We hear from many people who are in abusive relationships, and even those who have left relationships, but say that they love their abusive partner. They wonder, “Why do I love someone who has hurt me so much?” It can feel strange, confusing and even wrong to love someone who has chosen to be abusive. Let’s dive into what might be contributing to this feeling of love for someone who is being abusive towards you.

While these feelings can be difficult to understand, they aren’t strange and they aren’t wrong. Love isn’t something that just disappears overnight. It’s a connection and emotional attachment that you create with another person. Love comes with a lot of investment of time, energy and trust. It’s not easy to just let go of a life you’ve built with someone, whether they’re abusive toward you or not.

If you’re struggling with feelings of love for an abusive partner, it could be for a number of reasons:

You Remember the “Good Times”

Abuse typically doesn’t happen right away in a relationship, and it tends to escalate over time as an abusive partner becomes more controlling. You may remember the beginning of the relationship when your partner was charming and thoughtful. You may see good qualities in your partner; they might be a great friend to others, or maybe they contribute to their community. It’s not shameful to love someone for who they could be, or for the person they led you to believe they were.

After hurtful or destructive behavior reaches a peak, there may be periods of “calm” in your relationship when your partner makes apologies and promises that the abuse will never happen again. During calmer periods, it might seem like your partner is back to being their “old self” – the wonderful person they were at the beginning of the relationship. You might feel that if you could just do or say the “right” things, the person you fell in love with would stay and the abuse would end. But, there is nothing you could do or say to prevent the abuse, because the abuse is not your fault. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the choices your partner makes. Those periods of calm are often a tactic that an abusive partner uses to further confuse and control their partner.

Your Partner Has Experienced Their Own Trauma

Abusive partners are human beings who are complex, like everyone else. They may be dealing with their own traumas, past or present. As their partner, you care about them, and maybe you hoped you could help or “fix” them. But whether they’re dealing with a mental illness, addiction or an abusive childhood, there is NO excuse for them to abuse their partner in the present. Abuse is always a choice and is never okay. The truth is, even though you love your partner, you can’t “fix” another person. It’s up to them to get help addressing their own trauma and their abusive behavior.

Love Can Be a Survival Technique

For many victims, feelings of love for an abusive partner can also be a survival technique. It is very difficult for a non-abusive person to understand how someone they love, and who claims to love them, could harm or mistreat them. To cope, they detach from their pain or terror by subconsciously beginning to see things from the abusive partner’s view. This process can intensify when an abusive partner uses gaslighting techniques to control or manipulate their partner. The victim begins to agree with the abuser, and certain aspects of the victim’s own personality and perspective fade over time. By doing this, the victim learns how to “appease” the abusive partner, which may temporarily keep them from being hurt. The need to survive may be compounded if a victim depends on their abusive partner financially, physically or in some other way.

You might want to believe your partner when they say that things will change and get better because you love them, and they say they love you. It’s ok to feel that love and want to believe your partner. But it’s important to consider your own safety and that what your partner is giving you isn’t actually love. Love is something that is safe, supportive, trusting and respectful. Abuse is not any of these things; it’s about power and control. It IS possible to love someone and, at the same time, realize that they aren’t a safe or healthy person to be around. You deserve to be safe, respected and truly loved at all times.

Want to speak confidentially with an advocate about your own situation? Call, chat or text with us any time!

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10 replies

Comments

  1. Collette
    Collette says:

    [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    I have never seen my situation on a site about abuse. My college student daughter is verbally, emotionally and mentally abusing me. As a single mom, she is dependant on me as a place to be when on school break, for student aid applications, and most motherly things. So, how can I set boundaries? I have set them, enforced them, and increased the consequences many times, but it is at the point of, if continues, I am at the final stage of “stay somewhere else”. But I can’t bring myself to do that . In high school, after a very difficult time, she literally became a different person. I know she must have a serious mental disorder, has gotten counseling at college, can see an increase in effort to change, but her rages come out of nowhere, are extreme, with head banging, wild eyes, throwing herself on the floor, screaming and is relentless. Most disturbing are the times she insists on an apology for an imaged harm I have done. I consistently refuse to give a false apology, instead remaining calm. Instead, I will try to gently hug her, however, the last two times, I caught her expression and it was a contemptuous smirk and fear ran through my body. Sure enough, I just learned that she has expressed at college that I was mentally ill and she suffered neglect and abuse at my hands. I calmly confronted her about it and her response was to try to “gaslight” me. It was a complete betrayal, slander, and horrifying, yet I am sure she actually believes it. As you have mentioned, I always have this thought that somehow, someday, she will return to the loving, delightful, happy, sincere, thoughtful, person she once was. But that hope has faded to almost nothing. How does a mother handle this without abandoning her child?

    Reply
    • LIRAdmin_BR
      LIRAdmin_BR says:

      Hi Collette,

      Thank you for sharing your story with us. This sounds like such a difficult situation, and we are so sorry to hear that you are being treated this way by your daughter. It sounds like you have tried your best to make things better, but your daughter is still choosing to be abusive toward you. Abuse is always a choice, and only the person who is choosing to be abusive can stop the behavior. Even if your daughter is diagnosed with a mental disorder, that is not an excuse for abusive behavior. We specialize in dating abuse and intimate partner violence, so we may not be the best resource for you. The BoysTown national hotline might be a good place to start finding help and resources for your situation. We wish you the very best moving forward.

      Reply
      • Collette
        Collette says:

        Thank you for your kind and supportive words. I will try the BoysTown. The idea that abuse is a choice really woke up my mind. Seeing it that way changes everything. Thank you.

        Reply
  2. Stockholmsister
    Stockholmsister says:

    [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    Yup,it feels like an impoosible to overcome barrier keeping me from moving oni love my abusive husband. Its just my situation looks so different from the sterotype. My spouse is really strange i know he has adhd out the ass but there’s something very sinister about his antics, my husband abuse looks like something out of a 3rd grade bully, he rough houses and wrestles with me like its all just fun and games, ive play fighted with others but he is the only person who doesn’t stop when asked. I’ve had neighbors athreaten to call the cops cause he was tickling me and wouldn’t stop even though i was screaming my head off asking him to stop, the other day out of the blue while driving nol less he grabbed my wrist pulled my arm up and back and held me like that and demanded i call him ‘daddy’ cause he knows how creepy i think it is,he get off,not sexually, on making me uncomfortable or angry, thinks its cute when im mad. He’ll try and tell me quit overacting quit screaming this doesn’t hurt or im not actually going to break your arm relax. He’s also a terrible driver who insist hes great and im just crazy. He’s messed up both of our credit because weve had to apply for so many car loans cause he totaled two cars already and is working on number three he just hit a semi cause he drives like hes in a fast and furious movie and drnted our front end so now the driver door popps when you open it and it pisses me off that yet again a car i like tyrns into and ugly beat up ugly mobile. If i crashed a car i would learn from it but to this day i cantbe in the car as a relaxed passenger iim constanly like stop tailgating breaks or just screaming gasping or flinching. Sometimes he drives worse or gets mad at me when i freak out. He also does the whole mutal abuse thing when i defend myself so the day i hit him cause he was holding me down, tickling wrestling playing would not stop gave him fair warning so i hit the closest r thing the top of his head and threatened to divorce and call the cops, i wish he did it would of been his dumbest mistake. I could go on and on this motherfucker is going to kill me but i freaking cant stay mad. The thought of dumping him seeing him sad or hurt never having him in my life never seeing or talking him holding him . Were practically newlyweds i cant stand to see him sad. He was crying because his mom wanted to put down his childhood dog, even though the poor animal is suffering from chronic infections, i put the dogs needs aside and went crazy to find a no death solution at the expense of the poor animal and did so he cried and got what he wanted. He has me tied to his finger. I know i should leave but i dont want to, i guess ill have to waste years of my life until i either die or something changes and i hate him. Ive always sucked at breakups, a bit of wisdom for you dads with daughters, dont ban her from dating, she will do it behind your back and you wont beable to teach her how to be safe whats healthy and whats not. If your never allowed to date you wont go to parents for advice, like how and when to breakup, and end up like me. Anyway thats my rant thank goodness for resources like this at least now im willing to admit and recognize that this is an obviously abusive situation whether i do anything about it is another matter. Right now my thing is i draw a hard line at having kids I’m not bringing innocent children into this and he wants kids for some reason as soon as possible even though we are in no way capable of supporting one … its crazy he has no respect for how hard parenting is, and impact it has, very naive cavalier additude. I could do this all day so just going to cut myself off here thanks again great blog.

    Reply
    • LIRAdmin_BR
      LIRAdmin_BR says:

      Hi Stockholmsister,

      Thank you for sharing your story here. We know that abuse looks different in every relationship, because every relationship is different. It sounds like there’s a lot going on in your relationship that concerns you or doesn’t make you happy. You absolutely deserve to be in a relationship where you feel safe, heard and respected. We’d be happy to talk through your situation with you any time. Just call 1-866-331-9474, chat here on our website or text loveis to 22522!

      Reply
  3. Sam
    Sam says:

    So, for my senior project I’m gathering resources about abuse in relationships and putting them in a booklet format, I really want to use this article. Can I use this article? How should I go about putting it into my booklet? I can’t find a way to just contact the website besides the “online chat” which is for people who are in bad relationships and need help. Is there just an email that I could contact?!

    Reply
    • LIRAdmin_BR
      LIRAdmin_BR says:

      Hi Sam,

      Thanks for your comment! We’re glad to hear this article will be useful for your project. You are welcome to cite any content or information from our website in your project, as long as you credit loveisrespect.org as the source.

      Reply
  4. Star
    Star says:

    [Admin note: This comment has been modified for safety per our community guidelines]

    Hi I thank you for this article. Everything mentioned here applies to my situation. I am currently separated from my abuser. we have two boys … I still struggle with this issue since I feel that I love him and wish that he is the person that he is to everyone else. As time passes by my will power, self esteem and especially my personality are slowly returning but do struggle with other areas. I am especially concerned for my children since it is their father and they love him and they suffer if he disappears for too long. But if he is around his way of bonding with them is abusive; he plays rough like biting their cheeks, pretending to tickle them but digging his fingers too deep, having no conversations with them, he does not have an emotional bond with them or when he does he ends up getting mad at them or at me at some point and disappears for days or weeks unless I contact him again. Unfortunately i depend on him financially. He is abusive weather he is around or not.

    Reply
    • loveisrespect
      loveisrespect says:

      Hello Star,

      Thank you for your comment. We hope this post was helpful to you. It can be so confusing and difficult to love and depend on someone who is abusive, but please know that you are not alone. You and your children deserve someone who respects and cares for you. We are here to listen and support you, if ever you feel like reaching out. Just call 1-866-331-9474, chat here on our website or text “loveis” to 22522.

      Reply

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