I've never really been in an abusive relationship. But someone really close to me has and I often wondered why she would stay with him. I guess many people wonder the same thing when it comes to victims of abuse.
And in all honesty, it doesn't make sense.
He yells at her, insults her in public, insults her at home, hits her and pushes her around. She's not allowed to speak to another male and most people. She can't walk around on her own or be alone even for a moment.
He has to control every aspect of her life.
Yet, she never leaves.
As I wondered why, I realized that there might be some people out there more knowledgeable than me in this subject. And after reading their thoughts, the truth becomes a bit more clear.
The Nature of Narcissists
Before I dive deeper into the why, I'd like to take a look at the type of person who does the abuse.
These people are usually narcissists which means that they are self-centered, think highly of themselves, ignore other people's needs and have delusions of grandeur.
A narcissist will often lie about his achievements or talents to present himself in a better light. Every bit of their story will work in their favor.
They strongly believe that they are better than everyone and they need constant praise. At the same time, they handle any sign of rejection very badly. It's not even about rejection - it's can be the lack of praise too.
So, people who live with a narcissist often find it easier to fulfill their demands rather than dealing with anger, rage or the cold shoulder. This doesn't just involve a partner, but also parents or any family member.
Intermittent reinforcement is a pattern of abusive behavior mixed in with sudden appearances of affection. For example, one person is abusing the other for days but then they bring their victim flowers or make a nice dinner.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how victims get hooked.
Narcissists are, by nature, very manipulative. So, they will hand out these small amounts of affection unpredictably. It's not just gifts either - it can be affection of any kind.
The victim is hooked on the "good side" of their abuser and they are constantly looking for that. These sudden outbursts of good behavior reinforce, in their mind, that the abuser is not all that bad.
They crave their abusers approval, especially if they are isolated at the same time.
What's frightening to me is that victims can perceive the lack of abuse as something good, as affection of sorts.
Chemical Reaction of Abuse
That's not all there is to it. The body actually creates a chemical reaction which keeps the victims infatuated with the abuser.
When you are in love, this activates the same region of the brain as cocaine addiction does. Abusive relationship creates reactions that are even more powerful than those of a regular relationships.
The cocktail of hormones involved with being in love is only stronger when someone is in an abusive relationship.
Take dopamine, for instance. Dopamine means pleasure but also survival. So, when someone is a victim in an abusive relationship, there is more dopamine than normal. Especially so during the intermittent reinforcement.
In essence, you could say that victims get addicted to their abusers.
They fall in love with a person that lies to them straight from the beginning. Narcissists are often great during the honeymoon phase. But then the abuse starts, and so does the trauma bonding, which is caused by intermittent reinforcement and hormones.
Nothing really works in the victim's favor - not even their own bodies.
So, instead of judging the victim for staying, we should all try to help them separate from their abuser and recover from their addiction.