That lovable man who abuses you

That lovable man who abuses you September 12, 2014

A very upset and lonely woman sitting down crying against a wall

A lot of people right now are asking why some women stay with the men who abuse them.

I wrote the short book  Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How to Defeat Each One of Them. I’d be surprised if I ever wrote anything that I knew did more good for more people. When the number of letters I received from woman who were inspired enough by this book to leave their abusive relationships reached 100, I stopped collecting them.

Here’s an excerpt from that book I’m hoping might speak to someone today:

Reason #5: You Love the Lovable In Him

“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. He sees how you react to them, every single time.

And he uses that to play you like a finely tuned fiddle.

Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How To Defeat Each One of Them

Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships “An excellent piece of writing that speaks very practically about the reasons someone stays in a bad relationship. Worth looking at, even if you are not someone, nor do you know someone who is abusive. The answers John gives helps us understand how it is that we may do things that do not seem like it’s in our best interest. It is a wonderfully well written, easy to understand and non-clinical approach to answering the question, ‘Why do some women stay in abusive relationships?'” —



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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I can’t stop recommending this book enough. I know how your writing on this topic helped me during my initial recovery, the timing of its discovery I do believe was divinely sent. I know I am one of many women who is forever grateful for the compassionate, yet difficult work you do, in being the voice of those who’ve found themselves silenced.

  • Judy

    I have given this book to a few of my patients.Our job is not to stand in judgement of the “why” but to be there to support and love, and when allowed, to supply concrete help.

  • Bones

    RC Sproul SR and John McArthur claim that abuse is not grounds for a divorce. It’s the Lord’s way of testing women and making them prayer warriors.

    This is what passes for ‘great’ Bible teaching.

  • BarbaraR

    May I add this is not just for women.

  • Thank you, Allegro.

  • not dave smith

    Nor does it just apply to abusive men.

  • facepalm

  • not dave smith

    Hi, John. I thought I should clear up that I’m not actually trans at all, I’m a cis woman and Dave Smith is a character I play on the Internet. I don’t want to appropriate trans identity. You could always ask people’s pronouns if you’re not sure.

  • Jill

    Yes, and hopefully if someone gets a pronoun wrong accidentally, a person can be given the chance to correct it themselves or be kindly corrected so that conversations do not have to be tiptoeing on eggshells.

  • sharon peters

    hope this will get thru as per our convo.

    your next post after this one is closed, i’m assuming, b/c of a class of trolls dominating the comment board and attacking you. since i’ve been commenting on various blogs i’ve noticed there are lots of trolls for every ’cause’. i think they identify with the ’cause’ and abuse the privilage of commenting b/c it intoxicates like a drug. really, when i have trolled or was tempted to troll i think it cames down to a damaged sense of who i am are and how i was abused and who abused me. also the ‘mega’ reasons underlying our culture. here is a quote i like;

    “Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others… but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God ‘sending us’ to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE hell unless it is nipped in the bud. ” THE GREAT DIVORCE~ C.S.Lewis