People who have never been abused often wonder why a person wouldn’t just leave an abusive relationship. They don’t understand that breaking up can be more complicated than it seems.

There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships. If you have a friend in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, support them by understanding why they may not want to or be able to leave.

Conflicting Emotions

Fear: Your friend may be afraid of what will happen if they decide to leave the relationship. If your friend has been threatened by their partner, family or friends, they may not feel safe leaving.

Believing Abuse is Normal: If your friend doesn’t know what a healthy relationship looks like, perhaps from growing up in an environment where abuse was common, they may not recognize that their relationship is unhealthy.

Fear of Being Outed: If your friend is LGBTQ+ and has not yet come out to everyone, their partner may threaten to reveal this secret. Being outed may feel especially scary for young people who are just beginning to explore their sexuality.

Embarrassment: It’s probably hard for your friend to admit that they’ve been abused. They may feel they’ve done something wrong by becoming involved with an abusive partner. They may also worry that their friends and family will judge them.

Low Self-esteem: If your friend’s partner constantly puts them down and blames them for the abuse, it can be easy for your friend to believe those statements and think that the abuse is their fault.

Love: Your friend may stay in an abusive relationship hoping that their abuser will change. Think about it — if a person you love tells you they’ll change, you want to believe them. Your friend may only want the violence to stop, not for the relationship to end entirely.

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