“Why do I love my abuser?”
We hear from many people in abusive relationships, and even those who tell us they love their abusive partner. They wonder, “Why do I love my abuser, someone who has hurt me so much?” It can feel strange, confusing, and even wrong to love someone who has chooses to be abusive.
While the feelings of loving your abuser can be difficult to understand, they aren’t strange and they aren’t wrong. Love doesn’t disappear overnight. It’s a connection and emotional attachment you create with another person.
Love comes with a lot of investment of time, energy, and trust. It’s not easy to 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.
Let’s dive into what might contribute to these feelings:
- You remember the "good times"
Abuse typically doesn’t happen right away in a relationship, and it escalates over time as an abusive partner becomes more controlling. You may remember at the beginning of the relationship when your partner was charming and thoughtful.
Having good qualities
You may see good qualities in your partner; they might be a great friend to others, or contribute to their community. It’s not shameful to love an abuser or 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. This is when your partner apologizes and promises never to abuse 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 your partner’s choices. Those periods of calm are often a tactic an abusive partner uses to further confuse and control their partner.
- Your abusive partner experienced 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 hope you can 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 trauma and 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.
Loving and coping with abuse
To cope, they detach from their pain or terror by subconsciously seeing things from their abusive partner’s view. This process can intensify when an abusive partner uses gaslighting techniques to control or manipulate their partner. The survivor agrees with the abuser, and certain aspects of their 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 survivor depends on their abusive partner financially, physically or in another way.
Abuse isn’t love
You might want to believe your partner when they say that things will change and get better. This is because you love them, and they say they love you. It’s okay to feel that love and believe your partner. But it’s important to consider your own safety and what your partner is gives you isn’t love. Love is safe, supportive, trusting and respectful. Abuse is not these things; it’s about power and control. It IS possible to love someone and, at the same time, realize they aren’t safe or healthy to be around. You deserve to be safe, respected and loved at all times.
Want to speak confidentially with an advocate about your situation or need to unpack the reasons you love your abuser? Call, chat or text us any time!