I grew up in an alcoholic/abusive home. As a child, I was terrified by my father’s tendency to physically abuse. Actually, when he was intoxicated, he was more likely to be “nice.” And his abuse was not confined to my mother. My mother stayed with him for about 18 years. She finally left him (and us 4 boys) with barely a shred of her soul and sanity left. Prior to her leaving, my father used to look me in the eye and say, “If your mother ever leaves me, I will make your life a living hell.” I guess it made him feel better, or something. A few months after my mom left my dad, he threw me out. I didn’t argue with him at all…I just left. Within seven years of leaving my father’s home, I married an abusive woman.

I guess what I want to share is this: I think it is a waste of time speculating about “subconscious activity.” People stay in abusive relationships for several reasons, I think: First, negative bonds can be very powerful…even more powerful than positive ones. It is generally true that women tend to try to “fix” their “broken” partner. It’s a lifelong project that almost never works out for either partner. Secondly, as unpleasant as suffering abuse is, it activates the “fight or flight” response, which releases adrenalin, dopamine, etc. into the bloodstream. This can be highly addictive, as any extreme sport enthusiast, or jogger can attest to.

I’m going to break my own rule and speculate about the heart of man: On some level, and there are so many levels that are affected in an abusive relationship, the “victim” may feel like they deserve to be mistreated. This is especially the case if they have been abused in the past. I think there is a part of us that thinks we need to fix that which was broken in our previous relationships. We may even set ourselves up in an attempt to re-create our earlier situation. I thank God that I am no longer in an abusive relationship. But I am even more grateful that I never abused my 2 adult children as they were growing up. Although, to be honest, for just about their entire childhoods, when I was disobeyed or disrespected, my first instinct was usually to spank them. Many times, I remember feeling as if I was trying to hold back a locomotive, all by myself, while resisting this tendency to abuse. I firmly believe that, if I had not invited God into my life, this would have been a completely different story.