Abusive romantic relationships negatively affect the victims physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, thereby sucking them dry and leaving them empty. Some are left with or without enough willpower to walk away or move on.
During my posting in one of the remote areas in Botswana, I became close friends with a colleague who was going through difficulties in her relationship. To the outside world, all seemed well; people envied her small family, yet there was nothing to write home about. There were days when she would appear not to be okay, with bruises and swellings. Her usual cheerful demeanour would be so withdrawn that you would think it’s her doppelgänger.
With time, I got to know a bit of the behind the scenes as I became slightly acquainted with her. At first, it was not easy for her to speak up, and I understood where she was coming from. It’s quite a norm for people in abusive relationships to hide in their shells in the name of protecting their loved ones. Some believe that the person will change, which is not always the case for some become worse and ungovernable. The abused damage become vulnerable in the eyes of their abusers hence the continuity in abusiveness.
In light of that, we should be careful about handling such victims because once we mishandle them, they run back to their abusers, whom they consider as their anchors. The toxicity in their relationships suddenly makes sense to them. They begin to justify the actions of their abusive partners. In their eyes, their lovers or instead abusers will be giving them tough love. An illusion is developed in them. Therefore, the beatings will not matter to them; they come as they go.
Why do men and women stay in toxic relationships, and what are the effects?
People get stuck in such relationships for different reasons.
The fear of being judged by society for failed relationships consumes them. Society has made it complicated for people to walk away from their not so perfect relationships without being nailed on the cross. Men and women who partake in gossiping end up diluting the truth, and by so doing, lives are affected. The words are spoken and tossed around destroy the victims of abusive relationships. It’s not surprising to come across headlines of people who take their lives because they could not handle society’s persecution. The abused would rather stay in the relationship than leave! There is so much stereotyping in society. Sad.
Again, society has placed a particular belief in victims of abuse. You hear certain individuals advising the abused to be strong for the situation will eventually change. Such bits of advice instil hope in the victims such that they end up tolerating and getting used to being abused, all in the name of ‘he/she will change’. Although some do change, we need to be transparent and honest enough to advise our loved ones against staying in abusive relationships.
The other reason might be the fear to start afresh. Some do not believe they are worthy of another relationship. They end up insecure and would not want to get involved with anybody. For others, it is
the fear of losing their breadwinners, so they end up acceding to the demands of their abusers. These abusive demands can be in the form of sex. Victims are forced to indulge in sexual activities to maintain a relationship with their abusers as they will be taking care of their needs and wants.
Abusive relationships are toxic: These and many others are reasons why men and women stay in abusive relationships.
We might sometimes think we are protecting children from growing up in a broken family by staying in an unhappy relationship, but that can also damage them emotionally as the environment wouldn’t be healthy. Assuming that they witness the abuse taking place, the constant exposure to such will damage their perspective on love and relationships. I have heard of people who do not wish to indulge in relationships because of what they witnessed in their upbringing. An abused person might not be able to trust again. Their hope and belief in love are shattered. The repercussions of such can cause them not to be affectionate to their loved ones.
The big question is, how do you help either a friend, a colleague, a relative or someone you know who is still in an abusive relationship or is only from one?
Through patience and good communication skills, one can interact with the abused and make them see reason. We have to give them the platform to express themselves without being judged. Some might relapse and go back to their abusive partners, which should not stop you from helping them.
The story of my colleague is one of the many taking places everywhere. Here is what happened later on.
One late night while I was sleeping, I heard a loud banging on my door. I was so scared, but when I heard my friend calling out my name in agony, I rushed to open the door. The sight of her holding her baby with blood oozing from the cuts and wounds on her body greeted me. My heart was so shattered, but I had to be strong for her. I immediately called the police; I didn’t even wait to ask her what happened as I was scared that maybe someone was following her. Hearing her statement to the police broke me. She was a victim of an unhealthy romantic relationship and the depth of her suffering stirred something within me.