Too Weak to Leave Abuser?
Q: I've been in an abusive relationship with a guy for the past nine months and I don't know what to do. I love him very much. I've tried so many times to break it off but somehow I always keep going back with him. I know he's not the one for me, and if I don't get out I'm probably going to regret it. I feel so weak because just when I think I'm strong enough to tell him it's over, he comes crying to me and telling me he's sorry. He says he'll never do it again, and that he's going to really change this time. Should I give him another chance or should I move on? And if I do, how can I move on? Please help. --Jennifer, 18
Dr. Susan: You've got one thing right, Jennifer, and it's that you definitely need help. You don't have to tolerate abuse from anyone! Let me try to explain in simple terms: Some men get off on bullying women. When a woman threatens to leave one of these guys, he realizes he has to take evasive action, so he gushes tears and says he's truly sorry. The woman takes him back. And it all begins again. Studies have shown that it's extremely difficult for helping professionals to get abusive men to really change their act. And for YOU to change this guy is a pipe dream. You have to get out of this sick system and the sooner the better. But it would be best if you got someone older and stronger and wiser to be there for you, because abusive guys sometimes up the stakes when their victim tries to leave. We wouldn't want this guy to get angrier than ever when you stop taking him back, but it could happen. When tears don't work, they try whatever they have, which in an abuser's case is their muscles and meanness.
So if you have access to a school counselor, a free clinic, a parent, or a compassionate doctor or psychologist or therapist, take the trouble to ask for help. No more chances for him! The answer to "how" you move on is a little harder. First of all, you need to believe you deserve better. And you DO. So choose to be strong and value yourself. And get help because once you're in one of these situations, there are no simple answers.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.