Younger Daughter has been somewhat distressed for the last couple of days. That’s because, for nearly the first time, she’s caught a glimpse of how stupid women can be.
She’s been lurking on some forums concerning an issue of interest to her. In the midst of the chatter about this particular issue, she came across a 25-year-old woman named Anne who is “engaged” and has been living with a man for the past five years. Anne has been writing that this man screams at her a lot, belittles her, and otherwise makes her feel lousy. Anne stays in this relationship because she believes her fiancé is a good man and hopes he will change.
This is part of what Anne wrote: “He gets enraged and our argument escalates from me being upset to him screaming at me. I want to spend the rest of my life with him, so I don't know how I can cope with this. I've considered leaving times over the course of our relationship (we lived together on and off for 5+ years). My fiancé has anger issues (which I think stem from his childhood) which he acknowledges and is working on improving. He tends to let things build up inside and then erupt emotionally over a relatively minor trigger. However, he's been able to work on his issues and his anger has gotten MUCH better over the years. The screaming happens rarely, and when it does I'm usually able to ask him why he's screaming at me and that seems to calm him down. In the end, the upsides of our relationship outweigh the negatives, and I'm in this for the long haul – so any suggestions that I break up with him are not going to be helpful, I'm really just looking for strategies.”
Even at age fourteen, Younger Daughter instantly knew this man was trouble. She spent some time mentally wrestling about whether she should make some practical suggestions to Anne, but hesitated because after all, who’s going to listen to a fourteen-year-old? Reading about this kind of behavior was hopelessly baffling to Younger Daughter, who genuinely wonders how someone could still hope – after five years – that her “fiancé” would change.
Meanwhile other people on the forums were all making soothing nicey-nice “poor you” comments: “”Oh you poor thing.” “Oh dear, he sounds harsh.” – without ever stating the obvious: Run, don't walk, in the other direction -- this guy is trouble.
“You can lead a horse to water,” noted my husband, “but you can’t make him drink. You can point out how bad or dangerous a man is, but you can’t make a woman recognize that.”
A bit over a year ago, our county had a rare murder which sadly happened on Christmas Day. A young woman (18) was shot in the face by her jealous and controlling boyfriend (29). Three days before her death, the young victim assured her worried mother that just because her boyfriend choked her and held a gun to her head, it meant nothing. “I know he really loves me,” the victim said, dismissing her mother’s concerns.
This tragedy particularly affected our close neighbors, who know the family well. The young woman who was killed had graduated with our neighbor’s oldest son. The murder shook our rural county because it was so…. violent. Senseless. And above all, preventable.
So Younger Daughter has been exposed to some of this kind of behavior. And here on this forum, she was seeing a similarly distressing situation in action.
I have no training in psychology or counseling, and would probably be useless if a friend came to me and told me that her boyfriend/fiancé/husband was beating them, because I would have a simple piece of advice: LEAVE. In this woman Anne’s case, she has no children to complicate the equation, and nothing prevents her from moving out and starting a new life without a screaming man. So why does she stay?
I know there are a lot of women with such low self-esteem (I hate that term) that they don’t believe they’re worthy of a better man. I also know that many abusive men are charming and charismatic (when they’re not being abusive). Yeah yeah, I know that. I just don’t understand it.
A recent CNN article entitled Why Abused Women Stay in Bad Relationships did not, despite the title, truly address the reasons why women stay in bad relationships. “We want the abuse to end. We don't want the relationship to end,” says Leslie Morgan Steiner, a formerly abused woman. “This fact about ‘crazy love’ surprises many people. How could you still love someone who has hurt you? The answer is as complicated as love itself. We victims tend to be hope junkies, open-hearted and optimistic. We believe that our loved ones are capable of change. Some would say we are naïve. Others say we are too kind or too forgiving. Often we cannot find the courage to leave an abusive relationship until our life (or our children's safety) has been threatened.”
Sorry, not good enough.
After much discussion in our family, Younger Daughter finally posted a restrained reply to Anne’s comment as follows:
Hi Anne. Having read both your posts on the subject, I decided to give my input on your troubles. And, I’m sorry to say, in your position I wouldn’t stay with this man.
According to almost any website on that topic, shouting or refusal to accept your spouse or partner’s differences is one of the first signs of an abusive relationship. While it can start out minor, many times it will escalate into a life-ruining situation. If he isn’t willing to accommodate – or even be civil about – your differences, why would he do so about any problems you may develop in the future?
My mother, who knows more about this subject than I, suggests that you check out this link. Good luck.
Okay, folks, so what am I missing? Why would Anne continue to live with a man who treats her this way, especially when she herself recognizes all the red flags that are waving in her face? Why would anyone stay, especially if there are no children involved? What advice would you give to someone like Anne?
I don’t mean to sound harsh or unsympathetic – I’m quite serious when I say I don’t understand this. Can you help me out?