Barriers To Leaving Your Marriage

Dorchen A. Leidholdt

Why doesn’t she just leave?

Even under the best of circumstances, leaving a relationship is difficult. Violent relationships are complex, and victims in these relationships are faced with many barriers to leaving. These can include:

Safety                                             Fear that the abuser will find her and kill/harm her, the children or                                                                 other family members.

Coercion                                        Abuser threatens to take the children away if victim leaves.

Guilt                                               Abuser convinces victim that the abuse is her fault, she is to blame.

Economic dependence                Few choices and support for living independently.

Shame                                            Does not want anyone to know.

Low Self-Esteem                           She believes that she deserves the abuse and will never find anyone                                                               better.

Parenting                                        Wanting to co-parent for the children.

Love                                                Victim loves the abuser and at times the abuser is loving and lovable.

Religious/cultural pressure           To keep the family together.

Lack of support                              Pressure from family and friends to stay.

Fear of being alone                        Having to cope with her loneliness and being alone with the children.

Loyalty                                            Victim is committed to staying with abuser.

Misplaced pity for abuser              Women are socialized to put others’ needs before their own.

Rescue complex                              If she stays, she can save him.

Fear of partner’s suicidal threats   Abuser threatens to commit suicide if victim leaves.

Denial                                                “It’s not really that bad.”

Sex role socialization                       “This is just the way men are.”

Hope                                                   “Things will get better.”

Chemical dependency                      If victim uses drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with the abuse,                                                                 victim may be less clear or strong.

Immigration status                            Lack of immigration status or fear of deportation






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