She lives with an abuser, is the mother of a pre-schooler, and caught in a maze with only minimal work abilities, and no healthy survival skills. ..she says she wants to 'get out of here', but is clueless as to how, nor does she have the necessary confidence in herself, or life, that she could possibly take on the total responsibility of not only her child, but herself. She does not realize that she is already doing it. The husband has total control over her -- withholding all financial support, and with his constant belittling and demeaning rants, her self-confidence, and respect, sits at zero -- emotionally and financially, she is held hostage.
None of this is new. The story is old -- different names, but the picture is the same.
It is easy for those of us not in the same difficult situation to sit back on our haughty haunches and critically ask: why do you stay?! Easy say, easy does? Nope, not quite.
There is always more than meets the eye to the complex situation such as this, much more than can be recorded in a blog such as this...such as defining our concept of what love is, our habits and emotional/relationship addictions, not to mention the chemical toxicities such as alcohol and/or drugs....etc.
However, it is to understand that this woman, and others, do not have the self-confidence that they CAN leave, and so continue choose to live in a valley of fear -- fear of the husband, fear of the consequences if they DO leave, fearing of the responsibility of making a drastic mistake, but most of all, it is the overwhelming factors of facing the abyss of a future unknown.
Always the optimist, they stay, hoping against hope he will come to his senses and miraculously change becoming the prince she's always wanted, praying the chaotic situation will simply melt away as Dorothy's green wicked witch in Oz did and then they can will live happily ever after....
Unfortunately, it does not work that way. In fact, the crisis lifestyle cycle generally worsens, repeating itself over and over, only occurring in shorter spans of time -- his perpetual mentally/psychologically message, berating her of her worthlessness, that she definitely does not deserve him, and she could never make it out there on her own without him -- 'if it weren't for me you'd in the streets....'. And his heaviest artillery? He will make certain she will lose custody of her children.
And she believes him. He has her convinced. She's a loser....or so she thinks of herself.
So she stays, and does whatever it takes to not upset the apple cart, to not make waves, nothing to upset him or the household....and always, always, hoping she can fix the situation.
When she finally reaches out, asks for help -- with good counsel and encouragement, with positive feedback and basic education about abuse, with the insight that she can help herself and her child(ren) -- perhaps she will leave. It is her choice -- as is her decision to stay -- which is not unusual. The idea of change is a dream; actually setting it in motion is too much to handle.
Statistics tell us it takes her an average of leaving seven times before making the final break. Although even though she goes back, each time she leaves again, she gains a little more confidence in herself; each time mustering up more courage and foresight validating that she CAN leave, and that she really can make a new life for herself and her family. Yes. It can be done. The journey is an intense one, as it pulls, and severs, a tremendous number of emotional strings. It is not easy, but the destination of self respect and confidence is well worth it.
Our concepts of self-worthiness and our being lovable is a learned one, generally programmed within us at an early age. Life is a mirror. It is to understand that through our judgments and choices we make, we are choosing our life circumstances and situations -- literally our realities and our futures -- whether for the good or ill, and in these circumstances we will remain until we are ready to do what it takes to make the positive changes for our life.
As counselors, we, too, are eternal optimists....always hopefully she will get her belly full enough that she refuses to take more of it, that she has the will to pick up her family and escape the toxic emotional/psychological/financial confinement and move in a direction that leads to a healthy, fulfilling life for all of them. Greener grasses are waiting out there in front of her, if she so chooses to come out of the cave to see it.... And then, of course, if she has learned to think enough of herself that she does not need to run to another for more of the same.