Why Women Sometimes Become Addicted to Abusive Partners

Have you ever wondered why anyone might become addicted to an abusive partner and simply cannot leave them for long?

As most adults know, a lot of women seem to have a great deal of emotional difficulty leaving an abusive spouse. In fact, some women will stay forever with such a spouse, though he (or she) destroys their mental and emotional well-being, crushes their self-esteem, and — perhaps — even threatens their lives or the lives of their children. And, sometimes, abused men have much the same problem leaving an abusive spouse as abused women do.

However, it now appears that science is in the process of revealing the underlying reasons why (1) women seem to have such difficulty leaving an abusive spouse, and why (2) women seem to have much greater difficulty than men leaving an abusive spouse. But to understand what science has to say about it, we must begin by discussing popular notions of love.

If you ask most people who are in lasting relationships — including marriage — to describe love to you, they will most often describe the warm and fuzzy feelings that oxytocin produces in us of trust, love, and so forth. Oxytocin is a neurochemical that creates in us the emotions we usually associate with our most important emotional bonds to other people. Such as our warm and fuzzy emotional bonds to our kids, to our parents, to our siblings, and to our spouses. When people talk about their feelings of love for someone, they quite often describe the emotions produced by oxytocin.

Oxytocin is highly addictive. Some scientists even describe oxytocin as being more addictive than heroin. And — although it doesn’t have all that much to do with newly minted romantic love, oxytocin seems to very frequently dominate the feelings we have in long-term, lasting relationships. It’s addictive qualities are cumulative. That is, the longer you are physically with someone, the more oxytocin will bond you to them.

Like many addictive chemicals, oxytocin does not immediately produce withdrawal symptoms. Usually, there’s about a three (3) day wait between your last oxytocin fix and the onset of withdrawal symptoms. So, if you are like most of us, then you can expect to go from two to four days before you start missing — painfully missing — someone to whom you are heavily bonded.

To put all of the above in context, a woman leaving an abusive relationship has roughly three days before the onset of oxytocin withdrawal symptoms, when she will discover that she is painfully missing her ex. And, according to some scientists, those withdrawal symptoms, when they hit her, can even at times be more severe than if she were withdrawing from an heroine addiction.

But the above is further compounded by the fact the poor woman — the woman leaving an abusive relationship — has been taught her entire life to call the feelings produced by oxytocin — to call those feelings, “love”.
So, three days after she leaves the person who is beating her, and/or in some other ways abusing her, she starts to crave him. She starts to miss him painfully. And she thinks — she believes — that her painful feelings of oxytocin withdrawal mean she is still in love with him.

Both her feelings and her beliefs about her feelings encourage her to return to her abuser.

Up to a point, abused men go through the same process as women. But there is one major difference between men and women here. It seems that the effects of oxytocin on us are significantly stronger in women than in men. Studies have now shown that estrogen, the so-called “female hormone”, multiplies the effects on us of oxytocin by — at the very least — a factor of 10. Hence, women usually find it far, far more emotionally difficult to permanently leave an abusive partner than men do.

At any rate, that seems to be the most recent, up to date, explanation that science currently offers as to why anyone might become addicted to an abusive partner, and why women tend to become more addicted to abusive partners than men. Do you think the science on this matter sheds any light at all on any relationships you have known about? Why or why not?

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59 thoughts on “Why Women Sometimes Become Addicted to Abusive Partners

  1. This type of behavior in women is fostered by Christianity, which encourages women to be considered as less than human. For example, you will find very high percentages of assaults on women in Latin America which is very, very rigidly religious. Truth be told, things are so bad in El Salvador that a woman’s genitals are considered a crime scene subject to penetrating inspection by the belief police to make sure that a woman hasn’t had an abortion.

    “There are other countries in the world that, like El Salvador, completely ban abortion, including Malta, Chile and Colombia. El Salvador, however, has not only a total ban on abortion but also an active law-enforcement apparatus — the police, investigators, medical spies, forensic vagina inspectors and a special division of the prosecutor’s office responsible for Crimes Against Minors and Women, a unit charged with capturing, trying and incarcerating an unusual kind of criminal. Like the woman I was waiting to meet.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/09/magazine/09abortion.html

    I was brought up in a relatively non-religious Scandinavian household where women were respected — and I did not experience violence from a man until I moved to Alburquerque, New Mexico, which has a distinctly non-Scandinavian aura. I was absolutely stunned by my treatment by a puto of a man and I was extremely angry for quite a while, frightening therapists and others who could not comprehend that a woman could be angry about such a thing instead of merely accepting violence.

    In a casual chat with two women co-workers in Alburquerque, I discovered that both of them had been assaulted. Sixty-six percent. I joined their number very shortly thereafter, 100%.

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    • This is utter nonsense! I am so sick of this new fad of hate for Christianity and blame on Christianity for anything negative in society! Domestic abuse is just as prevalent in the secular world as in the Christian world! People in the secular world also become alcoholics, dive into pornography, hate women, are addicted to drugs, and have major anger issues. I am really sick of the Christianity bashing that Obama and his cronies have strategically powered over the minds of lazy people who are blind to know truth for themselves!

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      • To the poster “ii”: It has been necessary to edit some of your comments on this blog post in order to remove remarks you’ve made about other posters that were abusive. That is, remarks that were not just critical of their ideas, but critical of them as people, too. Please refrain from abusing people you disagree with.

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  2. But how does this make women leaving abusive relationships different that women leaving a regular relationship? Presumably there is the same oxytocin effect in non-abusive relationships.

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    • I think that any woman I have ever heard of leaving a non abusive relationship (only my personal observations) has possibly already replaced the high she was feeling with her old partner with someone or something else. Usually someone else, though. For any other situation I’ve known about, it was difficult and almost impossible for the woman to walk away. I think the three day withdrawal could be on point.

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    • Yea I missed that too. Forgot to mention how Oxytocin and an abusive ex are related. Assuming that they are.. My girlfriend of nearly 4 years up and left me and our 3 year old son 12 days ago for the ex who threw her through a shop front window. The ex who gave her a std because he cheated on her with a whore who he then presumed to date up until. Well, now. Ex that use to bash her regularly. Now me. ..im actually quite the catch… good looks. charming, I’m decently rich at 32 , big heart, great with kids, very good in the sac. Own my house in a top suburb in the city im in. I play 2 instruments and delve in a little woodworking. Our son is beautiful. .we love our boy so much. We have perfect matching starsigns. Very spiritually combined. Many telepathic coincidences have occurred with the 3 of us. Basically picture perfect life ahead of us and she leaves us for this loser leaving only a txt message saying she was going to a hotel to sort her head out. And she’s kept in touch with us for our boy. He’s 3 and she’s willing to fuk his head up and a the rest of her shit’s damages for some dropbeat loser. Yes this article would be a very satisfying answer to the many questions I’ve had branded into my heart. I think a more in depth look may reveal that it’s not just more potent than heroin… It’s way Way WAY more potent then heroin.

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      • Oh and her narscisistic mother, who has caused hell to her throughout her life, recently thumbs’d up her daughter’s facebook page’s new photo of my S. O. and her abuser.

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  3. A love drug? Ha. Good try to get science to explain love. Women or men who are addicted to abusers think that if they were more (insert physical or mental quality here) they could fix the abuser and cause the abuser to become normal.

    Well – it might just be about oxy-cotton-candy addiction? Ha.

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    • There’s a circular dance that is done here between the abuser and the abused. Its goes like this: Take 2 steps forward, Take 3 steps back. Take 3 steps forward, Take 5 steps back. All fall down! Its a push-me/pull me situation founded on a deep fear of intimacy/rejection/abandonment. Once the person crosses invisible boundaries, the abuser gets hostile, verbally or physically in order to push the other away. The abused is always told its their fault. After a while you develop stockholm syndrome and start to believe they abuser is right. Some people never get past it, instead they attract the same type, over and over again, and continue the dance of insanity, unknowingly at first, hoping maybe it would end differently this time.

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  4. I don’t believe this study. Correlation does not mean causation, and that is the flaw of this work. These relationships go in cycles of abuse and then flowers and perfume make-up sex. These women were all abused by fathers and/or older brothers and they believe it is all they can expect and/or deserve. It takes some years and years to leave for good, and when they do, they look back at the horror with enormous guilt that they didn’t rescue their children sooner, usually because they were afraid for their lives.

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    • Christian households, no doubt, where men are next to God and women are slightly higher than animals. Perhaps these households do not associate with a church, but their heritage is Christian, and women in such households are desperate to be valued and men in this sort of culture are skilled at manipulating and lying to women.

      If a woman is brought up in a household where women are respected and valued, she is not so likely to connect with violent men — unless the surrounding culture overwhelms the values of her immediate family, not to mention the oppressive message of American media.

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      • MY DAUGHTER WAS BROUGHT UP IN A LOVING CARING HOUSEHOLD SHE AND HER BROTHER WE’RE VERY LOVED THEIR DAD WAS AWESOME WORKED HARD I WAS A STAY AT HOME MOM NO ABUSING TI MY KIDS AND MY DAUGHTER IS IN A SERIOUSLY BAD EMOTIONAL N PHYSICAL RELATIONSHIP IM SICK OF HEARING IT’S HAS TO BE FROM THE HOME GOSH DAMMIT PEOPLE IT’S NOT ALWAYS THE CASE FUCKIN SOCIETY MEN THAT ARE GOOD TO THEM THAT KNOW HOW TO CAPTURE SUCH LOVING CARING OUTGOING WONEN SO QUIT BLAMING PARENT’S WE WE’RE DAMN GOOD PARENT’S

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    • I have been in several abusive relationships but let me assure you that my father nor my brothers were abusive. You simply cannot make that assumption. My mother left my father when I was two years old–so I have no memory of their married life together. However, they both agree the reason for the divorce was my mother’s unhappiness because my father was a coach and his job required alot of his time outside the home. The men my mother hooked up with next was the problem. She began entering one abusive relationship after the other–it was the example of my mother and thinking that “if a man really loves you then this is how they treat you” that lead me down that path despite having a good father who actually winded up raising me. But as a girl, despite the good example of a man in my household from my father and brothers–it was the example place before me by the “mother” in my life that I patterned myself after. Long story short–don’t assume that the men in a woman’s life is what led to her abusive relationships–on contrary, it could be the example set forth by the mother or other woman in their lives.

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      • my mother is narcissistic and she made me a target of her jealousy and rage for as long as I can remember. I’ve grown up believing myself to be the source of many problems in my immediate family and was easily set up with a narcissistic husband, from whom I’m now fleeing with my children to escape his abuses. I find it flabbergasting to go from a cool, reasoned list of why he endangers the health of myself and our children to feeling lost without the “normal” dance we do. Who am I if not busy coddling a sociopath?! It’s a brave new world! Can you tell I’m in Day 3?!

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      • My dear Jules,

        I promise you that your life will fall into a way or organizing around something other than your local, neighborhood psychopath. For now, just get through it one hour at a time. Literally look at your watch and tell yourself that you can stand this lack of structure for the next hour. When the hour is up, do it again. Soon, you’ll notice that you are going longer and longer without having to do the “one hour exercise.”

        Eliminating a habit, whether it’s an outward behavior or a habit of thinking, is easier if you can substitute another behavior or thought process. So, when you find yourself experiencing that feeling of “dissolution,” try deciding that for the next hour you will be doing something else– taking your kids for some playground time, reading, writing, doing a craft, cooking, etc.

        Depending on your children’s needs, you might consider putting yourself on a daily schedule– a time for getting up, a time for tidying the kitchen, a time for preparing meals, a time for loafing in front of the TV with the kids, etc. That kind of outward structure might help you keep your feelings of panic at bay.

        Hugs,
        S.W. Atwell

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      • Hang in there, Jules! When you get through the withdrawal it just gets better and better! You’ll wake up some morning with your heart singing. So hang in there! And if you’re inclined to do so, let me know now and then how it’s going with you.

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    • A lot of men don’t even give the flowers or the perfumed sex. They are so controlling and hateful and arrogant that they have conditioned the woman to take the blame as the bad little girl, and the poor victim goes to the abusive monster and asks for forgiveness. It is really sick out there in these situations.

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  5. If it were really based on a hormone which causes contractions of the uterus, then giving battered women a good vibrator (with batteries 😉 would go a long way to solving the problem!

    I was in an abusive relationship for a few years. I know the guy experienced more lovey-dovey feelings than I did.
    I had been conditioned by my church to think of myself as worthless scum. When this guy told me that I was worthless scum, it felt like home. It seemed true. He also held out the promise that if I stayed with him and did what he wanted, then I would be redeemed – I had potential. (Just like my Christian god)
    I kept breaking up with him, but would take him back out of sheer exhaustion since he was so persistant. The fears of being alone, unlovable, and a complete failure didn’t help either. Finally I ran away to another continent to get away from the mind torture.
    When I started spending time with my now husband, it was such a relief. I felt guilty for being treated so well. I ‘knew’ I didn’t deserve it, but I wanted it. I tried to push him away and prove to him that I was scum too.
    Thankfully, it didn’t work.

    I would have taken confidence over a vibrator.

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    • Would this explain why all the women in my life have treated me like garbage- but I have broken the cycle by being alone for 13 years? I always treated them well but they rewarded me with abuse, while the violent monsters have women falling for them constantly. I have grown tired of women’s endless pathological behaviour. I give them care, love and respect and love and they give me hell in return.

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      • There is a lot of wisdom in your post. I am so sorry you have been so abused by women. I hope you do find a woman who is real and loving and cherishes you. I have seen a lot of abuse by women in my life and it is just as prevalent as with men. No one wants to talk about it because our society is too fanatical about the “mother” image that we are not supposed to think of mothers sexually abusing there sons AND daughters. But I feel that there are more sexually abusive mothers than fathers. It is just very well hidden.

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    • Oh please! I don’t know what kind of a “Christian” church you belonged to but I have been to many churches, and I have NEVER heard any parishioners teach women that they are scum. This sounds so far-fetched to me. It is the MAN who told you that you were scum. No Christian church that I have visited (even what society labels the old fashioned ones) ever ever condoned verbal or physical abuse!!! Always they have spoken against it with ardency!!! I hope this is not just a weapon to do the modern fad of Christian church bashing! It is a cheap trick.

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  6. The irony of all this is that Jesus himself was a lover of women.

    For example, Jesus and Mary of Magdala. For centuries, Mary of Magdala has been portrayed by the church as a prostitute. One must note that an older tradition, the Coptic Christians of Egypt had no such concept of Mary of Magdala. According to Coptic tradition, Mary of Magdala was a woman of wealth and position who had a great kindness for Jesus and his followers and fed them and hosted them.

    The Roman Catholic Church, however, because of its fear and hatred of women, decided to portray Mary of Magdala as a “fallen” women, creating the Magdalene asylums for “fallen” women, where so-called “fallen” women were rounded up to be essentially imprisoned and enslaved, reaching an exquisitely high level of evil in Roman Catholic Ireland:

    “The Magdalen laundries were workhouses in which many Irish women and girls were effectively imprisoned because they were perceived to be a threat to the moral fiber of society. Mandated by the Irish state beginning in the eighteenth century, they were operated by various orders of the Catholic Church until the last laundry closed in 1996. A few years earlier, in 1993, an order of nuns in Dublin sold part of their Magdalen convent to a real estate developer. The remains of 155 inmates, buried in unmarked graves on the property, were exhumed, cremated, and buried elsewhere in a mass grave. This triggered a public scandal in Ireland and since then the Magdalen laundries have become an important issue in Irish culture, especially with the 2002 release of the film “The Magdalene Sisters.”

    “Focusing on the ten Catholic Magdalen laundries operating between 1922 and 1996, Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries and the Nation’s Architecture of Containment offers the first history of women entering these institutions in the twentieth century. Because the religious orders have not opened their archival records, Smith argues that Ireland’s Magdalen institutions continue to exist in the public mind primarily at the level of story (cultural representation and survivor testimony) rather than history (archival history and documentation).”
    http://undpress.nd.edu/book/P01180/

    Women in these institutions were sexually abused by priests and nuns alike, starved and otherwise abused.

    I have never forgiven the Roman Catholic Church for this monstrous lie about Mary of Magdala and for their satanic abuse of women.

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    • This is the absolute truth. Thank you for the post. And yes, Jesus loved women as equal to men. He LIBERATED women! But yes, the Catholic church adulterated His ministry.

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  7. I worked very closely with shelters for abused women for 8 years, even sat on one’s board for several years. When these women mustered the courage to come to the shelter they were in a state of despair and feared for their lives and those of their chidren.
    And to coumpound things they were financially destitute. The shelter workers had to arrange for welfare, lawyers to take care of the legal aspects and they had to protect the secrecy about the women being there.
    The shelters had a phone number but no address listed.
    In rural areas the problem was even how to get out of the home and get to the shelter many miles away, very often at night time when the husband was out with friends drinking and cavorting. Often the police became taxi drivers for the fleeing family.
    It took much courage for these women and adrenalin played a much greater role than oxytocin. Some eventually returned to the abusive spouse for lack of other resources only to run away again. Usually the third time was the final breakaway.
    This is not scientific, just plain experience of daily life.

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  8. I have been in a very abusive relationship for about three years. The guy kicked me out many times, humiliated me both publicly and privately but still I loved him and held on until one Saturday morning he physically threw me, our two year old son and our belongings out and brought another woman in.

    Anyway my observation is that it is just as difficult for some people to leave abusive partners as it is for the to leave non-abusive partners. They “love” too much and get completely emotionally involved with their partners thus clinging onto them for life.

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    • I appreciate your sharing your experience. What a horror story. I agree with you about getting so emotionally involved. This can happen to anyone. It is scary and a sick way to live. Especially when a person was born into it and think it is normal to be treated like that. No one can understand unless they have gone through it.

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  9. I understand there is some research that shows that people get the an adrenalin rush when they talk about traumatic incidents in therapy. It may have something to do with our system’s getting their adrenalin up just at the memory. It may also account for some people’s inability to “get past” their traumas and leave therapy. It has long been accepted that talk therapy feels good because it releases pent-up negative feelings, including those associated with past trauma. Perhaps, then, it’s a matter of degree, with the optimum situation being one where the therapy doesn’t dwell on the traumatic memories at the expense of working on concrete strategies for living with trauma and avoiding it in the future. It can be a tricky balancing act, however, because understanding the traumatic situation and understanding one’s own functioning as a trauma survivor inevitably require recalling the trauma. I am guessing that once the therapist has full information about the traumatic events, therapy might be more affective if therapist and patient just reference the events, without actually detailing them.

    Speaking for myself, I used to find it very cathartic to “vent” about situational problems. It it still of some use to me, especially if the person in whom I am confiding is able to affirm my perspective. Of course, it’s functionally useful if my confidant can offer some constructive criticism. For the most part, however, middle age finds me talking less about things that upset me because it means reliving the upset. It just wears me down. That sounds negative and I suppose it is. However, it comes with an awareness that the most important language in the serenity prayer may be about having “the wisdom to know the difference” between the things we can control and those we cannot. I don’t know that we should always accept the former with serenity, but identifying the uncontrollable things certainly helps me know whether discussing them will only agitate me instead of bringing peace and resolution.

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    • People get an adrenaline rush when they talk about trauma because the memory of the trauma re-triggers the amygdala, which is responsible for the fight/flight/freeze response in what the body perceives as life threatening situations. The amydgala was triggered when the traumatic event first happened, and the memory remains associated within the amygdala. Each time one recalls the trauma and has a fresh stress/adrenaline/cortisol response, it reinforces the connection of the memory to the original physical reaction felt during the trauma and re-engages the amygdala.

      In fact, there are ways to de-couple the memory from evoking the physical stress reaction, when the trauma is recalled or talked about. The fastest ways are through the use of energy techniques like acupressure desensitization. These are often called “meridian tapping”. The best known of them is Emotional Freedom Technique. It’s very effective at allowing you to recall stressful events without having a stress reaction to the memory. It is quite useful in situations such as attempting to leave an abusive mate.

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      • My pleasure, Audrey. I like to let people know that there is a practical tool that can be self-administered when we are struggling with stress, anxiety, and past trauma.

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  10. A Tribute to My Papa

    I must offer tribute up to my atheist father whom I never addressed as “Papa” or “Daddy” or God forbid “Father” but by his unusual first name “Elis.” We were quite modern and I was on a first name basis with both my parents, my Mom’s name was “Sig.”

    Elis was a modest man who besottedly adored my mother and bethought me the fond apple of his eye. He did not come off as a “manly” man, if you please, full of bluster and self-importance. He did not feel he needed a quiverful of children to prove his manhood. I was his only child.

    But he would have fought off a thousand dragons of the fiercest sort in my defense. Fortunately, there weren’t any dragons lurking about in the dusty plains of South Dakota.

    The most important thing I got from Elis is that I, by damn, did not have to take shit from anyone in the form of any sort of abuse. He never laid a hand on me. He could quetly make a comment and bring me instantly around because he was always righteously in the right – without making a big deal about it.

    I’m offering up this portrait of Elis in order to contrast his history and persona with that of the abusive religious demagogue Fred Phelps. This is what Phelps’ son Mark had to say about him:

    “’Many people have been asking me, over the past several weeks, about my father. They want to know what I think about him and ‘What is he really like?’ People’s interest in what I think baffles me, but after careful consideration, I decided to respond.

    ‘”What is he like? Well, it’s been 19 years since I left home, but his behavior still appears to be the same. He considers his environment to be against him without admitting, acknowledging or taking responsibility for how he contributes to that. He likes to show himself as being moral, pro-family, pro-Bible, but his actions just don’t add up to that. I believe in God and the Bible, and my father’s behavior doesn’t fit the description of behavior that would show in the life of one who loves God; behavior characteristics such as Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control. Instead, my father’s behavior characterizes, I believe, Hate, Outbursts of Wrath, Contention, Jealousy, Vengefulness, Misery, Harshness, and Selfish ambition. He mis-states the truth about his own behavior, about others, about the Bible, with apparent ease and regularity. He behaves with a viciousness the likes of which I have never seen. He accepts no genuine accountability in his life and is subject to no one. His lifestyle betrays the sacred trust of what a pastor, husband, father and grandfather should be. I suppose if a comparison were made between the life of Jesus Christ and my father, there would not be much to compare.’”
    http://www.plattsburghforpeace.com/fredphelps.htm

    And this is from Phelps’ gay son Nate:

    “‘He used his fists. He used his knees and he used … the handle of a mattock [a pick-like digging tool]. He used that in such a way that it split the skin on the back of the kid’s legs so they bled.

    “‘If they want to call that discipline, that’s fine. But I call it abuse,’ Phelps said. He also said that Fred Phelps beat his wife, although not with the mattock.”
    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2011/03/18/son-of-anti-gay-pastor-fred-phelps-claims-he-abused-family/

    I look at this contrast between fathers and I cannot help but think, Religion is not a good thing.

    I apologize for the length of this post but I think it points out why women are abused in our pitiful culture.

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    • My dear Lord!!! Such poetic sardonic effort!! What a total waste of space on this discussion board. What? To bash and hate and discriminate anything that has to do with a certain religion – oh my, could it be – oh oh- Christianity? Oh, you mean the new Obama-indoctrination of a dirty word?????? Of course – we must read that the atheist father is the glorious wonder man! Well, I know of atheist men and women who have sexually and physically brutalized their children!!! Oh Oh Oh and guess what??? I know of MANY CHRISTIAN men and women who NEVER abused their children and who loved them.

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  11. I don’t see any reason why we can’t stipulate that a commonly seen behavior has a lot of ingredients. Biochemistry does influence behavior, and behavior also influences biochemistry. Childhood experience can make abuse seem normal. Social institutions can frame experience in an invalidating way.

    The estrogen-oxytocin connection is an interesting one. Women often remark that menopause results in a feeling of independence and freedom not previously felt — right when estrogen levels are dropping and oxytocin bonding is therefore undermined. I think there is validity to this. I knew a guy who liked to bitch and gripe about every instance he encountered of women leaving their husbands at the age of around forty-five or fifty. I would say “that’s the age where we realize we don’t need to put up with your asses unless we actually like you.”

    But we are not helpless puppets of our peptides. It is possible to recognize cravings as biological and overrule them, and that is what candor and social support are all about.

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  12. I strongly feel that if women are beloved by their parents, that sense of being beloved keeps them safe from abusive men who can never love women.

    Our culture has been carefully crafted to hate women — and parents favor sons more than women — this is a stupid and intrinsic part of many backward cultures.

    And, frankly, the number of men who feel totally free to love women is not large. There’s a lot of sentimental prosing about “respecting” women and putting them on a pedestal and “protecting” them and doing their thinking for them. When a man speaks disdainfully of whores and harlots — you know he hates women.

    It goes way beyond a hormonal response — it’s a cultural and religious thing.

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  15. The attention from the abuser makes a women crave the attention she was getting. Especially, if she is not getting any attention at all. Very sad to think about.

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  16. Thank you for your article – I have realised that my relationship addiction is only caused by the fact that the man I am living with is the first man I regualry slept with. 3 years of relationship has drained my financial resources and halted my career, as I never entered serious work force. Since I am at young age, I was more susceptible to the brainwash. Brainwash was about the bad economy, and that it is not worth to work. I have tried to regain my life about 4 times, but at this point, I have little hope. I have tried to suicide. After growing up in poverty, beign abused in family and bullied at school, I have regained my life, got a good education and have enjoyed many friends and good life for about 5 years.

    When such bad experience of the relationship hit me at the top when my life was going great, I felt pulled down back to hell and I struggle to find optimism for good change again.

    I really need to understeand what is the purpose of such bad thing happening in my life, so I have turned to astrology and past life hypnotic regressions-however never found the answer. If there was something I knew I could do, I would certainly do it.

    By now I have turned away from my family and have no more friends.

    I am thankful for sharing of your stories, and I will keep fingers crossed that one day I will come back to this forum and write that all has turned well at the end.

    Best wishes

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    • I am so sorry to hear of your pain and torture. I can truly emphasize with you. I have found comfort and identity in a couple of discussion boards as well. I hope things did get better for you and you finally left this abusive relationship by the time I am writing this.

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    • Felicia, I am friends with Paul. I am a woman who survived suicidal depression. I hope Paul has already seen your message and contacted you. If not, please phone me NOW at (412) 628-4287.

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  17. I have been abused all but sexualy my entire life, my father, my first boyfriend and now my second. 22 years with maybe a year break. I do not think I return because of an addiction to oxytocin. I return because I am addicted to the normalcy and perhaps the adrenaline from it. It nearly seems normal to get hit and then afterwards hear their “I’m sorries”. It almost is like how the casino is used for some. You sit aimlessly at a slot machine so focused and “busy” that all while you arent thinking about nothing else, no other pain. When I am and was fighting with them nothing runs thru my brain. I get an adrenaline rus and a fifteen minute involuntary break from whats really going on. Sometimes I fight back hard hoping they would just kill me, exposing them to the world. I am seeking counseling and I know they dont love me. But when you are so used to something eventually you accept it and use it to your advantage if even for fifteen minutes.

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  18. I never thought that I could say I was in an abusive relationship because I am so strong mentally and physically. But I was. The withdrawal is as traumatic as any thing I have ever experienced and I have done so much and learnt so much in my 54 years. It is a culmination of many things and as far reaching as I could ever imagine. I month ago now and desire is not diminished as I wouldn’t expect it to. But recognising the oxytocin hit …the abusive father added with my own ego and my age what a cocktail. A perfect match. I always wondered why I craved to see this man when I didn’t like or respect him. Sex was psycho always initiated by me and after 3 days I wanted more. It was demeaning humiliating and a waste of my good heart and my own strong sense of value from a human beings. He was a master of manipulation but not clever. I want revenge but then he still has control of my actions in life. I will try acupuncture with meridians for I understand it blocks without side effects. I swim and cycle. I cherish my son and being well respected by others at work I hope one day I can help other women but in the knowledge that you ultimately have to help yourself. I’m not afraid. I just want the desire and demons in my head to go away and never come back. It took 5 years and extraordinary energy to arrive at where I am now. I do not ask myself too many questions for I can’t answer them now. I just need to be away from that which was so powerfully destructive and at times uncontrollable. I don’t need luck . I just need the belief that I can do this as I am worth so much more than I thought I was.

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    • I so appreciate your post. I can identify with you on so many levels. I am in the process of seeking help and I like your philosophies. Thank you for sharing.

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  19. I have a brain chemistry related theory, but can find nothing in the scientific literature so far to back it up. I think the oxytocin element is part of a wider pattern of brain chemistry patterns typical to abuse victims. Neuroscientists need to study neurochemistry in abuse victims; this type do research is long overdue! Personally, I think they will find brain chemistry patterns that show similarities to those in Stockholm syndrome. I think that the prolonged periods of fear, anxiety, depression and emotional distress create a brain state dominated by particular chemicals. The rare and intermittent instances of profound relief, prompted by the abusers “kindness”, then trigger an overwhelming flood of feel-good chemicals, which the depressed brain then interprets as a “high”. You see where I’m going with this? I believe abuse victims do become “addicted” to their abusers a very real sense; I would be very grateful to hear if anyone has actually investigated this idea. If it could be proven that emotional abuse has these kind of physical effects, then society might begin to understand that there is a biochemical mechanism by which abuse victims are harmed and which impacts on their self-agency and ability to protect themselves. I am absolutely convinced this is the case- psychological factors seem only part of the picture to me.

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    • This is my theory too, and I would love to see a scientific inquiry into it. It would help women leave their abusers and stay away if the process could be treated like detoxing from a chemical dependency.

      Frim the outside, people don’t think of me as someone who would stay with an abuser, but I have continually gone back, to my own bewilderment. I don’t even LIKE or RESPECT him, but the promise of those good times keeps me hooked. When we are on the outs, I am so low, reduced to an even lower level than in previous non-abusive relationships that went wrong, that I want another fix from him, ANYTHING good that will give me a dose of something that will take away that low feeling.

      I know that if I go long enough without him, if I occupy my time with other new things and people, I would succeed in staying away. Instead I cave, time and time again. I’m almost off the roller-coaster, but not all the way.

      To all abused women: look forward to the day that you will be emotionally free from your abuser. It will happen if you want it badly enough. It’s just a matter of kicking the habit.

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      • Exactly, then it’s almost like you’re unsure that you really want to let go because you’ll miss the times that will be better when youre better. Sometimes I think if I was better he wouldn’t hurt me anymore, if I accomplish more, if I grow my hair longer, and get in better shape, and not care if he cheats. Maybe I would happy, maybe if he always loved me instead of the push and pull, I would be happy with him

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  20. I appreciate many of the comments on this discussion board and the courage for many here to share their experiences. I appreciate the title and the article. However, to the poster called Karen Hedwig Backman: her comments are utter nonsense.

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  21. Pingback: trauma of love and the constructed identity | vivian broughton

  22. I’ve been in 2 Mentally and Emotionally Abusive relationships, one on and off for 12 Months and once again after The other year and a half shit relationship, I can see the Biochemical stuff,though I’m not a fan of Science. But it was also all The guilt or Physical attraction that kept me coming back or staying.

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