Women in Abusive Relationships: He Uses That He’s Lovable Against You

Women in Abusive Relationships: He Uses That He’s Lovable Against You May 7, 2009

“So why don’t you just leave him already!?”

If you’re a woman in an abusive relationships, that’s a piece of advice you’ve probably heard before. You’ve probably said it to yourself before. It seems so simple. A guy hits you, or is forever treating you like something vile that got stuck on his shoe—so you should pack your stuff and get the [beeeep] out of Dodge right? What could be simpler than that?

Except that if love were simple, they wouldn’t keep making new movies and writing new songs about it. If love were simple, by now someone would have figured out how it works, and why—or how to predict it, or how to avoid it, or something about it we can use (and that preferably comes in a spray can).

But that hasn’t yet happened, has it? And it never will. Because love is … well, insane.

A man beats you, for instance, and somehow you still love him.

Talk about insane, right? What the heck is that about?

Well, for starters, it’s about the fact that everyone—everyone, everyone, everyone—-has a whole bunch of stuff about them that is, objectively speaking, absolutely lovable.

The man who beats you is cute. He has adorable ways. You see that little boy in him, and you melt.

He needs you. He’s powerful. He’s got that charm thing some guys have.

He’s got that way of talking, of moving, of boldly taking control of stuff; he’s brave like that. He does things in the world. He’s smart, capable, confident.

Underneath it all, he’s a good man. He was raised poorly. His dad never gave him a break. He tries.

He’s got those arms you love.

All of these sorts of qualities that you love in your man really are lovable: there’s no doubt whatsoever about that. If you’re a woman in an abusive relationship, though, here are two things that you must bear in mind about all the sorts of things that make you love your man in spite of the awful way he treats you:

1. Every man has all kinds of qualities that are every bit as attractive and lovable as any characteristic possessed by your man. You just don’t know any other guys like you know your man; you’re just used to your man’s lovable qualities. Your man’s qualities seem really unique because they belong to him. But you could love those same qualities (and a whole bunch of new ones!) in another man—in a man who doesn’t treat you like garbage.

2. Your man uses his lovable qualities to keep you hooked on him. He does that on purpose. He knows exactly what things about him you love, and he consciously, purposefully, and constantly uses those qualities as weapons to keep you vulnerable to him. He knows he looks cute in that one shirt. He knows how good you think he looks in his cowboy boots. He knows you like how he looks with his hair all mussed up in the morning.

He knows those things.

And he uses them to play you like a fiddle.


(This is taken from Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How to Defeat Each One of Them.)

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  • Gwen meacham

    Very good points.

  • toni

    Once again, John, you have “hit the nail directly on the head” and perfectly described what is or was happening in so many of our lives. And we know it is all true. Even the part about another man being just as lovable as we “think” this cruel love of our life is. Unfortunately, it is like a drowning person hanging onto a life-preserver…we are so afraid we are going to drown that we won’t let go of the ring, and all the while we almost hope THEY will just cut the rope and let us go down. Or something like that.

    But how do you understand so well?

  • Penny

    You allude to it, but I’ll state it baldly: Even when abuse includes not one whit of physical contact, it’s still abuse, and it’s just as vile and harmful. My stepfather was a very verbally abusive man. He didn’t beat my Mother physically, but he beat her with his words, just as surely as if he had used his fists.

    Sometimes women in verbally abusive relationships have a hard time convincing themselves to get the hell out, rationalizing it away with, “But he’s never hit me.”

  • A. Nonymous

    Your articles have kept me from returning to an ex-husband who thought choking me was normal. Thanks John, you are saving lives.