Why An Emotionally Abusive Husband Stays

by Annie Kaszina on October 6, 2015

greekchorussmallWhen you are in a  relationship with an emotionally abusive man, you are always aware of the judgments of Other People.  They’re like a Greek chorus commenting on your life.  You just know they spend their time wondering, none too compassionately, “Why does she stay?”

Mostly, there are plenty of good reasons why you stay: like finances, and the children.  There are also less good reasons: like the hope that your emotionally abusive husband will soon reach the head of the personality transplant queue, have the operation, and morph, overnight, into the man you always thought he was.

The question less asked is,

“Why does an emotionally abusive husband stay?

You only have to listen to him when he’s on a roll to hear that:

  • You don’t deserve him (true, but not for the reasons he’s suggesting)
  • You’ve disappointed him every which way
  • You’re a waste of space and a failure as a wife, a mother, and a woman
  • He’s suffering in the relationship – because of your failure to meet his needs
  • He’s too good to you
  • You’re driving him crazy

You’d have to go a long way to find anyone else who’d paint such a damning portrait of you – except, possibly, your family of origin. 

Sooner or later, you have to ask yourself the question, as I did:

“If I’m so ghastly, why does he stay?

Let’s look first at the possibilities that simply don’t ring true.  An emotionally abusive husband doesn’t stay because:

  1. He loves you. He couldn’t possibly love you.  He sure as hell doesn’t even like you.  That’s evident from the way he speaks to you.
  2. He’s concerned about the best interests of the children. If that was only true, he wouldn’t a) behave like that in front of them or, b) badmouth you to them.
  3. He still thinks the relationship is worth working at. When did he ever work at it?
  4. He’s seen the error of his ways. This is about as likely as his undergoing gender realignment! 
  5. He values what you have/could have together. No, he T-R-A-S-H-E-S it on a regular basis. 

So, why would he stay?

He stays for a number of really important reasons.  From where you and I sound, those reasons may look cold, hard-hearted, or even toxic.  But from his point of view they make sound sense.

An emotionally abusive husband stays because:

  • He’s trained you to his ways: he only has to look at you in a certain way and you inwardly cower.
  • You’re splendidly low maintenance. Of course, that is not what he’d tell you, but it’s the truth.  You’re used to living on the emotional bread-line.  That works for him.
  • You save him the trouble of having to look after himself. You’re an adequate – or  better – PA, housekeeper, child-minder, etc. etc.  And you probably ‘scrub up well enough on social occasions.
  • He doesn’t want to lose any of his assets. An emotionally abusive partner totally believes that what is yours is his – by right.  He has no intention of giving you any share of what he regards as his, if he can possibly avoid it.
  • He needs to exercise power and control over someone. That means you.
  • Driving you crazy is sport for him. It’s not sporting of you to make that harder for him. 

If your emotionally abusive husband is anything like mine was, he’ll threaten to leave you on a regular basis.  In the case of my Mr Nasty, we went through the Leaving Scenario every 6 weeks.

Being horribly naive, at the time, I thought that all that threatening must mean that he was on the brink… and I had to restrain him.

In fact, it meant that he loved the sound of his own voice threatening.  He could cast himself as the wronged hero, the much put upon good guy, the man fighting superhuman odds to stay in the relationship with… a basket-case.

In the end, he left when I insisted on it; but only to humor me – because he thought I was guaranteed to see the error of my ways.

Even when he and I were both paying lawyers to arrange the divorce he still thought he could get me back.  

If, as you read this, you find yourself thinking:

“This sounds quite deranged.” you’re right.  It is.

But deranged doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

It happens all the time.

Despite everything he may say, for your emotionally abusive husband, you are – and will remain – the goose who lays the golden egg.  Unless, and until, he opts to find your replacement.

Your replacement (poor, silly soul) is a whole other topic.  For now, all you need to keep in mind is this: your emotionally abusive partner sees you, above all, as a convenience.  Whereas you have viewed him as the agent of your happiness.

That’s why you can never hope to truly meet.

Whether an emotionally abusive husband stays with you inasmuch as he continues to share the same physical space, at least some of the time, or whether he vacates that space, in reality he and you parted company a long time ago. Which means it’s pointless trying to save him/heal him/make him love you. You need to can heal yourself.

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