Why women go back to shitty men

Robin “Rihanna” Fenty, making the mistake of her life. Let’s hope it doesn’t actually COST her her life.

Okay. So lots of people are asking why women who seem to otherwise have everything going for them keep going back to shitty men who only abuse them, put them down, and take advantage of them. Recently, one of them became yet another sad statistic in the annals of domestic violence. You’d think that these women could learn to stay the fuck away from these Bhad Nhews Boyz, and yet they keep going back. And the body count just keeps on growing.

So why IS that?

Well, I’m not an expert of any kind, so take this with the obligatory heaping teaspoonful of salt. But I’ve been one of those women, and so have several others near and dear to me. And so I’ve gleaned a bit of insight into what keeps us going back to guys we ought to put behind us for good. I’ve listed ten reasons — some rational, some not, and some just plain fucked up, but all powerful and compelling:

1. Traditional family values. You married him, for better or for worse. And it turns out you got “worse”. He drinks, he’s mentally unstable, he beats the shit out of you. But since divorce is either verboten or extremely difficult to get, or considered shameful, you strive to love, honor, obey, and stick it out until death does you part. And if death comes by his hand, so be it. You are property of your husband and there is not a damn thing you can do about that. You were raised to believe this, and you do, devoutly, even to your own detriment. If your religion values female martyrdom, you might even go to your grave this way…and gladly. Your deeply held values leave you no other choice.

2. You are a Nice Girl. I suffered badly from this one myself. Couldn’t say no, couldn’t say boo to a goose, couldn’t say shit if I had a mouthful. And when my drunken on/off boyfriend of five years got too deep into his beer, which he did every time I went out with him, he wound up the evening not with sex or kisses or a promise to see me again soon, but with ugly insults. I was a “candy-ass”. For being a Nice Girl. And I took it, because if someone I cared about told me so when he was drunk and his inhibitions were down, it must be true. In vina veritas, etc. I sat there and took it until he passed out. Then I would walk home, holding back my tears all the way. And sometimes, NOT holding back. And wondering why I could never work up the nerve to at least tell him to sober the fuck up. Why not? Because Nice Girls never tell guys what to do. And because if they try, they get shouted down and told to stop being such a fucking cunt. Which is the absolute worst thing anyone can call a Nice Girl. And short of actual physical violence (which, mercifully, I was spared), it is the most painful thing in the world to have the very good thing you are trying to be thrown back in your face.

3. You’re afraid to be alone. You’d rather be with the wrong man than no man at all. You’ve totally internalized the idea that a woman without a man is nothing. And, so as not to be a loser yourself, you put up with one instead. And you put up with whatever he dishes out to you, too.

4. You are codependent. He’s hooked on booze, drugs, or some combination of the two, and you are hooked on him. Sober, he’s the nicest guy you ever met; loaded, he’s a goddamn motherfucking piece of shit. But since you see the good side of him as well as the bad, you think that the one MUST eventually win out over the other. So you keep hanging on, trying to get him to detox and get into recovery. Even if he doesn’t want to go. You haven’t yet realized that until HE realizes he’s got a problem and needs to do something about it, all your pleas are falling on chemically deaf ears.

5. He is a master manipulator. This is the kind of dude who could teach the MRA/PUA “community” a thing or two about fucking with a woman’s head and yoinking her around like a yo-yo. He knows exactly where all her weak spots are, and he exploits them callously and without shame. He undermines her self-esteem until there’s nothing left. Then, when she’s just a hollow shell and sucked dry, he leaves her, forcing her to chase after him, and ignores her…at least until he finds something new that he can suck out of her. Then, suddenly, he just yoinks that ol’ yo-yo string, and boom, she’s back in his clutches. Some guys do this to several ladies at once. All of them notably lacking in self-esteem and the wherewithal to say no to him. Strong, assertive women don’t interest this guy, except maybe for the perverse thrill of bringing down an especially bitchy “high-value target” and turning her into a terminal Nice Girl. Low-hanging fruit is more his style. Pimps usually fall under this rubric.

6. DRAMA. Love and suffering, writ large! One or both of them may thrive on it, and consider a relationship “dull” unless it’s constantly on the rocks. This is especially true of basically insecure people who are only mildly to moderately talented, and whose careers therefore depend on keeping their names in the headlines as much as possible (hello, young lovers!). Normal sex isn’t thrilling enough; it has to be angry and violent, or else it has to be the make-up kind. Adrenaline rushes take precedence over feelings of warmth and security. Other chemical (co)dependencies may also feed into this.

7. You take a tremendous pride in your own “strength”. You are an awesome woman, with talent to spare and a résumé to prove it. Instead of using all that to help you get away from him, though, you tolerate and conceal his abuses. Running away from him spells failure and weakness on your part. Besides, what would others think if they knew that you, a strong woman immersed in a good career, were abused? Better just to daub an extra layer of makeup on those bruises and hope nobody notices.

8. He is so violent that you don’t dare try to escape. When he threatens to hunt you down and kill you, you know he means to make good on that. So you don’t call the cops; you don’t report it; you don’t press charges; you don’t do anything that you fear might set him off. It is a perverse sense of self-preservation that keeps you hanging on. Or that sends you back to him, rather than staying in the women’s shelter and filing for divorce.

9. Economic dependency. This one is blindingly obvious. When you’re paid only 70 cents to every dollar he makes, or are not allowed by Mr. Macho (or your #1 or #2 upbringing) to work for a living at all, you have every reason to go home to him and stay there, and none at all to strike out on your own. And if he’s a pimp-type (refer back to #5), chances are he’s taking every buck you make for himself, and beating you if you don’t hand over enough money to him at the end of a working day. Again, self-preservation takes a perverse turn here.

10. Love. Or rather, “love”. Note the quotation marks! If you are in love with him, or at least are convinced that you are, and have no better frame of reference to tell you differently, you’ll put up with just about anything…and go back to it, too.

I’m sure there are more reasons; these are just the ones that occurred to me off the top of my head. (Please feel free to fill me in on anything I may have missed in the comments!)

Bear in mind, too, that usually it’s not just one reason or another, but several at once, that keep women ensnared. The more often she goes back to Mr. Shitty, the more complex the brangle of causes. In addition to #2, I fell victim to #3, #4, and #10. Luckily, I was able to overcome them all; it took me five years to sort myself out and find the wherewithal, but when I dumped the drunk, I dumped him definitively. That was 20 years ago. I’ve been in sporadic contact with him since then, but never once did I look him up; it was always him contacting me, not the other way around. And when I did see him, it only reminded me of how much better my life is without him.

Today, I’d rather have no man than the wrong man. I still dream of falling in love — who doesn’t? — but I have no intention of landing under anyone’s thumb ever again. That’s not love, that’s misogyny.

And there is no greater hindrance to real love than that.

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