Victims of Abuse May Be Too Good To Leave
Are you abused because you are you a good wife/husband? A good child? A good employee? What else are you besides "good"? If you don't know, then you could be stuck in your abusive relationship for a very long time.
Good wives and husbands go about fulfilling their roles as they believe a "good" person should. But guess what? If you describe yourself as good, then you must keep a counter-balance in sight - you must keep someone around you who provides the bad because good cannot exist without something bad with which to compare itself.
This is problematic for both groups of abuse victims: the ones currently entrenched in the abusive relationship and the ones who escaped it. Being good keeps you glued to current bad behavior and causes you to unconsciously seek it after your escape.
Why do they stay? Because they're good people. Why did he marry that type of woman? Because he's a good person.
No More Good People, Please!
In front of me is the book "The Survivor Personality" by Al Siebert, PH.D.
Dr. Siebert says that to survive and thrive beyond our dysfunctional relationships (and other hardships), we must be willing to behave in whatever way the situation calls for. To survive, we must be flexible with our ideas about our Self. When we limit ourselves to being good, we cripple ourselves mentally and emotionally.
Our parents laid out the rules for what it meant to be a good child: don't be selfish, don't cry, don't complain, don't be "bad". Bad kids argue, steal, and disobey and nobody loves them. Don't be bad.
The "good person" mentality follows us into our adult life. We do as we're told at work instead of putting forth a better idea, we suck up abusive nonsense from our spouse, we dutifully listen as our mother calls us stupid and lazy. We're good people because we don't make a fuss.
Being a good person is the wrong kind of person to be just the same as being a bad person is wrong. Dr. Siebert proclaims that it's time to give up the "good noun" labels we place on ourselves and just be simple people who do the best we can within any circumstances we find ourselves.
An Alternative to Good that Isn't Bad
The alternative to being good (and putting up with someone else's hurtful behavior) is to understand, in Dr. Siebert's words, that it is okay to display "pessimistic optimism, ... tough sensitivity, selfish unselfishness, loving anger, ... cooperative non-conformity, responsible rebellion, ... and many more paradoxical combinations."
So if we can show those behaviors, then we can definitely find better words to describe ourselves than "good".
When I was living with my abuser, I flat out told him I was siphoning money ($20/month) into my own account in case I had to temporarily leave the house due to his temper. I explained that I may need to buy gas or breakfast in case I didn't feel safe to come home right away. I was honest with him, like a good wife.
Being a good noun in this case was also stupid. I would have served both of us better if I hadn't said a thing - if I had lied. He wouldn't miss $20 a month, I would have been able to leave more often when the strain was too high to stay, and he surely wouldn't have thrown me over that table.
If I had stopped trying to be so "good" maybe he wouldn't have been so "bad". I'm not excusing his behavior, but what did I expect him to do? Smile and hand me $40 to start my new account? If instead of asking myself what a good person should do I had told myself "Sometimes I have to lie to protect myself," well then, things would have worked out a lot differently that day.
What Are You?
I no longer want to describe myself as a good person. I want to be curiously cautious, mysteriously transparent, and internally extroverted. I want to be able to say things like "I transferred $9600 out of our joint savings account the night I left" without feeling the urge to explain myself because the actions may sound bad.
I am more than good or bad. What kind of person are you?
Holly, K. (2012, May 6). Victims of Abuse May Be Too Good To Leave, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2012/05/victims-of-abuse-may-be-too-good-to-leave
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
You were born for a darn good reason, and that reason was not to live with a foul spouse your whole life. You're 57? How does spending the next 40 years with him sound to you?
I have decided that I have put this man and his needs first in my life for too long. I need to be a good mother to my children and by allowing this to continue; I am not. I have also realised that I shouldn't have to live a life under the stresses of fear and being controlled. Thank you for your advice and for your blog, through it I have been able to recognise that I am in an abusive relationship. I think I knew from the start but if I had to admit it then it would mean that I would have to do something about it. Does that make sense?
I will be giving him an ultimatum; family counseling, or I will have to leave. I will make it clear that although I love him, I cannot tolerate his abusive nature and if he does not want to try and get help (not holding my breath on this one) then I have no choice to take myself and the kids out of the situation. Scary! Especially since he's being so kind and loving at the moment. I have to fight against the temptation of once again just settling for this side of him and hoping it will be ok. It won't. I used to choose not to linger on the bad times, 1 Corinthians tells us not to bear a record of wrongs against those we love, but now I understand that it is talking about the mutual respectful love that non-abusive relationships have. Now especially, while he is busy smiling and telling me how much he loves me; I will have to re-play those traumatic times where he has threatened us and terrorised us so that I will be strong in my resolve to follow through with my decision.It will be difficult, financially he has a hold on me and he knows it, I also feel bad when I think about how much this will hurt him, it goes against my nature as well as my faith which teaches forgiveness and compassion. BUT I know now that his behaviour is unacceptable even to God. My faith will see me through, God has surrounded me with amazing friends and family. I am not alone! May God bless you for revealing the truth to people. Know it and it will set you free!
I read your comment- I understand competely what you're saying; I could have written your comment.
I feel the same about my husband. Sadly though now, when I ask myself "Do I love him", more and more my answer to myself is "No". Nevertheless I feel that I can't leave him. I don't know why not - I don't depend on him for anything - I have a job, money, a place to go to, a family who love me, we don't have children. But there is something that compels me to stay here.
While I am being a "quiet wife" my husband is so charming and loving, and like you I ask whether he really is abusing me. But the minute I express my own personality in someway (e.g.disagreeing with him or asking him where he's going) he's horrible. He's like a child - he sulks, swears, slams doors, insults me.... He's told me so many times that I will get home one day and he will have just packed up his things and left to another area so I won't know where he is, he'll change his phone number and I'll never see or hear from again. He said he's done it before to "too many girls" (who are, aparently, always more beautiful and clever than I am).
On Sunday I had a monster migraine but he asked me to give him a massage. When I said that I've got a migraine and just want to lie down quiet, he was so horrible - he told me to leave and that he didn't want to be married to me anymore. Then he wouldn't speak to me for about an hour. A ridiculous over-reaction! Really I should have laughed at his childishness, got my coat and gone.
But, when he's like this I plead with him to stop, to be nice to me. I cry, which he can't tolerate. After, I think "Why didn't I just walk out the door, why did I demean and belittle myself?" I hate myself. These episodes leave me drained, physically and emotionally, and it takes me days to get over them. I have panic attacks and my doctor prescribed anti-depressants. I think I would be happier without him but for some reason, for the same reasons as you I think, I can't go. I despise myself for that.
There are plenty of other options. You can stay but detach yourself (not much fun, not the best for you or the kids, but it's an option). You can stay until you just can't take anymore but believe leaving him is better than dying. You can stay forever, just as you are, and believe you live in hell (change nothing). You could leave him. You could separate from him for a year and return if he meets your conditions and you still want to take him back. You can leave in the middle of the night with the kids and live on the run. You can leave when he isn't home and file for divorce. You can do anything, any combination of things, in any order you want. But death is not an option. Don't let the Abuse Demon take your life.
It's ridiculous! I'm far more complicated than 'good'.
the Abuse/Marriage Lasted Only 3 Years because he decided he is a victim of abuse and deserves a better wife.