Why do people stay in and repeatedly return to abusive relationships?

Bonnie Lynn Wright, PhD
Geriatrics Nursing

Dr. Joy has given a very comprehensive answer to this question. Dealing with and/or leaving an abusive relationship is not a linear process. The learning is one step forward two steps back and vice versa, often resulting in little forward movement to the outside observer. The learning happens in stages: knowledge, application, skill development and competency. A person must learn what abuse is for themselves and decide that what they are experiencing fits the description. Then they must apply that definition to their reality in a deeply personal sense such as beliefs and values. After that, they must develop and practice their skills in dealing with the relationship. They will 'practice' leave and return more than once usually before they feel competent to leave permanently. Finally they have to see themselves as being successful and finally resolve the problem. It is a process. It takes time.

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