Why Do Women Stay in Abusive Relationships?

The reasons why women stay in abusive relationships are highly complex and varied; I could not possible hope to cover them right here. This summary attempts to break down the major motivators causing women to stay. All of these factors are not found in every situation, but a combination of some of them is usually enough to keep women with abusive partners.

Frequency and Severity

  • The abuse may occur over a short period of time.
  • He may tell her “I’m sorry, it will never happen again” and she will believe him.
  • Generally, the less severe and less frequent the incidents, the more likely it is that she’ll stay.

Her Childhood

  • She may have lived in a home where some form of abuse occurred and accepts it as normal, either consciously or unconsciously.
  • The more she was abused as a child, in any form (physical, emotional etc) the more likely she is to stay.

Economic Dependence

  • She may be economically dependent on him and see no real alternative . In her eyes, it may be worth putting up with abuse in order to gain economic security.
  • Economic conditions today afford women with children few viable options. She often has no marketable skills. Government assistance is very limited and many women dread welfare.
  • Her partner may control all their money and she may have no access to cash, checks or important documents.


  • She believes her partner to be omnipotent. She sees no real way to protect herself from him. Many of her fears are justifiable.
  • If she or a neighbor reports him to the police, he will often take revenge upon her.
  • She believes she has no power to change the situation.

Beliefs About Marriage

  • Religious and cultural beliefs, or the eyes of society demand that she maintain the facade of a good marriage.
  • Often she stays for “the sake of the children”.
  • She may believe that abuse is part of every marriage.
  • Many women are raised to believe the overwhelming importance of a good relationship with a man, and that good relationships are her responsibility not his.

Her Beliefs About Men

  • She often still loves him and is emotionally dependent.
  • She believes him to be all powerful and able to find her anywhere. Many of her fears and beliefs about him are based in reality since some of the violence exhibited by these men is lethal.
  • Often, motivated by pity and compassion, she feels she is the only one who can help him overcome his problem.