The Harsh Truth: Why Women Go Back to Men Who Abused Them

The Married to the Mob blogger tries to make sense of these unfortunate circumstances.

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Tabatha McGurr is a Brooklyn bred-writer currently residing in Bed-Stuy with her boo and dog Coco. She's been running to the Married To The Mob blog for the past six years. In her weekly column, she gives Complex readers insight into what today's young women really think about love, sex, and relationships. 

I try to keep these topics pretty mellow and light-hearted, but every once in a while it’s important to discuss the more intense issues that some of us face in relationships. Lately, there’s been a ton of media attention glamorizing domestic abuse. You see it on shows like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which banked on the crumbling marriage of battered wife Taylor Armstrong and her now-deceased husband, to Twitter, where Rihanna and Chris Brown are still subliminally jonesing for one another.

Those who aren’t in such situations never understand why some women stay in them, hence the classic question: Why on earth do women go back to men who hurt them? It’s a complicated answer, and females caught up in bad romance often don’t know how to get out until it’s too late. It’s not like this is a new phenomenon. Women have been sticking with men who abuse them for centuries. Even today, with all the available support that we couldn’t get access to in the past. That just proves how mental abusive relationships are, and usually, it’s our own traumatic histories that cause us to keep seeking the wrong things as adults. Let’s delve a bit deeper...


Humans are such tortured creatures. Everyone I know--no matter their race, fortune, or location--has some issues, and for the most part, we tend to keep the worst ones hidden deep down inside. Abuse is like a contagious domino effect. Once it’s inflicted upon you, there’s a huge chance that you’ll either become dependant on such abuse, or start abusing others. What happens to us during childhood is carried throughout the rest of life. I know a fantastic woman and mother who was always in the middle of her neglectful parents’ violent fights as a child, and now, as a middle-aged adult, she’s still in an abusive relationship with her man of 10-plus years. Since she seems like such a strong woman inside and out, I asked her how she can stand to stay with him. She said that she feels emptiness without the sounds of shouting and anger around her. You could ignorantly dub such women as “weak,” but we’re all allowed our weaknesses. For some, it’s alcohol and drugs, and for others, sex or money. Then, sadly, there are those who are forced to associate pain with fulfillment.


I know that an abusive man making a woman feel secure is a paradox, but being in love can make such contradictory behavior seem reasonable. The offending men in question are experts at what they do, which is luring in women with obvious self-esteem issues and buttering them up to the point of no return. They’ll say they love and want to protect us, then shower us with bullshit gifts and compliments, until one day when dude goes totally exorcist on that ass and shows his demonic side. It almost becomes like a pimp/ho relationship, where you’re seduced into a false sense of comfort only to have the rug pulled from under you once you get comfortable. At that point, she’s probably divulged all of her darkest secrets to this guy, which he’ll surely use as ammo to dissuade her from bouncing. Perfect example: “You wanna leave me? Fine then, have fun finding someone else to wife your slutty ass.” Any empowered woman would respond to that with a “fuck off” and never look back, but not everyone believes in themselves enough to get past that thought. Remember, these are girls that have probably been neglected or abandoned in the past, so being alone is, like, their biggest fear in life. To escape the clutches of someone who makes you feel worthless without them, it’s crucial to surround yourself with other positive people who can instill some security in your world.


There’s a huge difference between a chick who likes it rough in the sack and one who actually enjoys physical and sexual abuse. Some women choose to transcend the roughplay boundary and head towards full-on violence. Every girl likes her ass spanked and hair yanked every now and then, but I’ve heard of extreme cases involving bruising, lashing, cutting, burning, vomiting, and pretty much any other atrocity you can imagine. If it’s consensual and you’re into that, then go for it, but don’t think getting off on abusive practices doesn’t have its pitfalls.Some people just take sex too far. David Carradine accidentally killed himself because of a fetish. Feel free to have sex however you want, but if it’s your choice to stay with someone who berates you just because the sex is good, therapy and major life reassessments are certainly in order.


While many abused women are stuck in awful situations because of controlling men and their own lack of self confidence, some are forced to stay because other things are invested in the relationship, like marriage, kids, or property. Perhaps it’s the man’s income that allows for a certain lifestyle, pressuring wifey to stay for a fear that she couldn’t make enough on her own. That’s when shit gets really nasty, and not every woman caxn afford the court costs of a custody battle. I’ve seen countless females get put in positions where they have to grin and bear the abuse for the sake of their children, when they would have otherwise ran at the first sign. Whatever course the woman takes at that point is sure to be painfully long, exhausting, and expensive, presenting the impossible decision of having to either stay and pray or leave and risk the terrifyingly unknown.


I really feel for women caught in these awful webs of abuse, and though I have never taken shit from a guy, the amount of girls I know in similar situations makes the issue too close for comfort. You can reason as much as you want with someone being abused, but they’ll either try to justify their reasons for staying or remain in complete denial. At the end of the day, they know it’s wrong too, but only the affected individual can truly walk away from that relationship once they’re ready. Until then, do your best to look out for friends in these predicaments and show concern rather than judgement. They’ve already got plenty to deal with from their significant other.

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