It may be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. Whatever the type of abuse, it eventually destroys the abused and, ultimately, the abuser.

The problem came to national attention again. ESPN reported, “U.S. women's soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo and former NFL tight end Jerramy Stevens were married Tuesday, according to reports, after an altercation that left Stevens in jail and their wedding plans up in the air…Stevens [had been] arrested early Monday for fourth-degree domestic violence assault [against Solo].” When police found Solo wounded and blood on Stevens’ shirt, they arrested him. The next day a judge released Stevens for lack of evidence connecting him with the assault. Apparently, Solo did not press charges. Later the same day, she married Stevens.

Only their athletic reputations made this event newsworthy. It certainly is not unique. Many marry a person who abuses them physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually.

Why would a person marry someone who treats them badly?

Why would anyone stay married to a person who continues to hurt her or him?

Why Are They In The Relationship?

Providing all the potential answers to this question would take a book. Maybe volumes. However, among the more common reasons are:

Unrealistic Expectations Wrapped In Emotional Involvement

When a person feels loved by and feels love for another, logic often plays little to no role in their relationship.

The clearest example exists in love-struck teens. Try explaining the self-centeredness of your daughter’s current crush. She will perceive you as the enemy and romanticize him as her tragically misunderstood knight.

In similar fashion, even when an abused person cries out her pain, if she loves the abuser she likely will rush to his defense the moment you appear to say anything negative about him. Why? Typically because he does not always abuse. More often than not, she enjoys being with him and the way he makes her feel. Therefore, when he abuses her physically, emotionally, sexually, spiritually, or any other way, she brushes her pain onto a mental painting of what she feels is his true self. Believing that at heart he is not a bad man, and bolstered by the times they spend together that fulfill her, she places her hope in a change that she trusts will come.

Some eventually realize their hope is only a wish that never reaches reality and remove themselves from the abusive relationship. Others remain for years, hoping against hope that eventually the change will occur. A few resign themselves to hopelessness and choose to live in their pain rather than take action against it.

The abuser commits his acts because of his own pain and confusion. The abused spouse cannot heal him. Loving and understanding him is admirable. Continuing to live in the abuse is emotional suicide. Allowing him to continue the abuse eventually destroys the good within him and the essence of life within her. Her best hope for saving them both is to remove herself from his presence and influence until he gets the help he needs and changes his behavior. If he does not, she at least can save herself – and her children, if there are any – even if he never makes the changes to save himself.

True love compels her to force him to change or admit he never will. A love that allows him to continue their mutual destruction may seem noble, but in reality lacks the most important element of true love, the courage to do what is best for all involved.

Difficulty of Termination

Michael Johnson, PhD, published insightful research into why people stay in a relationship. He divided reasons into want to stay, ought to stay, and have to stay. He called that last category a structural reason; a person feels he has to stay in a relationship for reasons other than feeling he wants to or ought to. Johnson describes four structural reasons that people stay. They include things a person invested in the relationship that will be lost if the relationship ends, anticipated negative reactions from people he cares about, and a lack of attractive alternatives to the current relationship. The other he calls difficulty of termination. The more difficult the termination is to accomplish, based on the resources available and the strength he has to approach the effort, the more likely the person will feel he has to stay in the current relationship.