“Why Do I Love My Abuser?”

Why do I love my abuser: graphic of a white heart with a question mark over a red background; a silhouette of a couple walking close together is also in the background

“Why Do I Love My Abuser?”

why-do-i-love-my-abuserWe hear from many people who are in abusive relationships, and even those who have left relationships, but say that they love their abusive partner. They wonder, “Why do I love someone who has hurt me so much?” It can feel strange, confusing and even wrong to love someone who has chosen to be abusive.

While these feelings can be difficult to understand, they aren’t strange and they aren’t wrong. Love isn’t something that just disappears overnight. It’s a connection and emotional attachment that you create with another person. Love comes with a lot of investment of time, energy and trust. It’s not easy to just let go of a life you’ve built with someone, whether they’re abusive toward you or not.

If you’re struggling with feelings of love for an abusive partner, it could be for a number of reasons:

You Remember the “Good Times”

Abuse typically doesn’t happen right away in a relationship, and it tends to escalate over time as an abusive partner becomes more controlling. You may remember the beginning of the relationship when your partner was charming and thoughtful. You may see good qualities in your partner; they might be a great parent or contribute to their community. It’s not shameful to love someone for who they could be, or for the person they led you to believe they were.

After hurtful or destructive behavior reaches a peak, there may be periods of “calm” in your relationship when your partner makes apologies and promises that the abuse will never happen again. During calmer periods, it might seem like your partner is back to being their “old self” – the wonderful person they were at the beginning of the relationship. You might feel that if you could just do or say the “right” things, the person you fell in love with would stay and the abuse would end. But, there is nothing you could do or say to prevent the abuse, because the abuse is not your fault. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the choices your partner makes. Those periods of calm are often a tactic that an abusive partner uses to further confuse and control their partner.

Your Partner Has Experienced Their Own Trauma

Abusive partners are human beings who are complex, like everyone else. They may be dealing with their own traumas, past or present. As their partner, you care about them, and maybe you hoped you could help or “fix” them. But whether they’re dealing with a mental illness, addiction or an abusive childhood, there is NO excuse for them to abuse their partner in the present. Abuse is always a choice and is never okay. The truth is, even though you love your partner, you can’t “fix” another person. It’s up to them to get help addressing their own trauma and their abusive behavior.

Love Can Be a Survival Technique

For many victims, feelings of love for an abusive partner can also be a survival technique. It is very difficult for a non-abusive person to understand how someone they love, and who claims to love them, could harm or mistreat them. To cope, they detach from their pain or terror by subconsciously beginning to see things from the abusive partner’s view. This process can intensify when an abusive partner uses gaslighting techniques to control or manipulate their partner. The victim begins to agree with the abuser, and certain aspects of the victim’s own personality and perspective fade over time. By doing this, the victim learns how to “appease” the abusive partner, which may temporarily keep them from being hurt. The need to survive may be compounded if a victim depends on their abusive partner financially, physically or in some other way.

You might want to believe your partner when they say that things will change and get better because you love them, and they say they love you. It’s okay to feel that love and want to believe your partner. But it’s important to consider your own safety and that what your partner is giving you isn’t actually love. Love is something that is safe, supportive, trusting and respectful. Abuse is not any of these things; it’s about power and control. It IS possible to love someone and, at the same time, realize that they aren’t a safe or healthy person to be around. You deserve to be safe, respected and truly loved at all times.

Want to speak confidentially with an advocate about your own situation? Call 1-800-799-7233 any time or chat with us here on the website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time. 

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Comment section

25 replies
    1. Hi Jolene,

      Thank you so much for reaching out to us. It’s totally understandable for you to feel betrayed by your partner’s abuse. Love is never supposed to hurt, and what they showed you was not love. We hear that you’re afraid, and we’d like to help in any way we can. Whenever you feel safe enough to do so, please contact us at 1-800-799-7233 anytime, or you can chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

  1. I have never been so embarrassed or humiliated in all my life. I was raised strong and tough, never to put up with any type of insolence or scare tactics.

    When I was 22 I left the love of my life so we might find ourselves separately, and because I admitted that I was tough to live with and had a lot of issues that I needed to work out. Instead I went to a big city where I knew nobody and the first person you showed me any kind of nice attention I latched onto right away and stayed there. He was in college and put on a very good con that he was normal and nice man and 6 months into the relationship and everything changed. I got stuck there for almost two years I ended up having a daughter out of it so I would never ever go back and change God damn thing. Unfortunately I lost the love of my life and my life has gone off on some other parallel path that I chose but did not use. So for the rest of my life I have to live with that. And here again after 7 years of being in a great relationship and having a father for my child and feeling supported and loved I still felt like there was something missing and lately it’s become back to that place where I do not want to be. Anytime any tension permeates the air I send my daughter off to her grandmother’s without a word of malcontent or a clue what’s really going on but here I am I find myself back where it was and it’s even worse this time around because I should know better. I do not need protecting or guiding but I do have a child who will still pick up on things that are awry. I don’t know what to do with the situation I felt safe enough to let myself fall into thinking I was still that tough 15 year old girl who knows how to handle people and get where she should be.

    But I’m not. I’ve accomplished nothing but suffering and pain to all those around me and I am nothing but a hindrance. I ruined my sweethearts life and changed his course forever because I was not strong enough and too naive to be the person I need to be. Shall I continue on this path of self destruction or will I put away my shame in a deep dark corner so I can do what I need to do?

    Sometimes I think I should be on my third fictional novel about other people’s lives that are screwed up. That was my path….but again, I wouldn’t change a thing.nit will happen …it’s happening now all the time all around me at every second to myself I see things I hear things I observe things and one day when I get my s*** figured out and I am okay with me it will all be put out into the ethers, accepted or not I don’t care.

    I wish everyone a safe night.

    1. Hi aoife,

      Thank you for sharing your story with our community. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot and are still dealing with pain and trauma. You deserve peace and a chance to heal. We would be happy to help in any way we can. If you feel ready to do so, please reach out to us at 1-800-799-7233 anytime, or chat live here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

  2. My abuser leaves me confused thinking it’s me I’m at fault I love him and I hate it. I want to leave but not financially able so I feel stuck and helpless having no support from family members and scared to call the police cause he’s not afraid to get arrested.

    1. Hi Meeks,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s understandable that you are feeling confused; this is a tactic used by many abusive partners to maintain control. However, the abuse is NOT your fault. There is nothing you could ever do to deserve being abused. We’re so sorry that you have not found the support you need. Please know that we are here for you whenever you are ready. Just call 1-800-799-7233 anytime, or you can chat live on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

    2. Hi Meeks,
      Feeling confused is part of the control. It took me a long time to figure that part out. You need to understand, no matter what you do you dont deserve to be abused. There are ways to work out a disagreement, but abuse is not one of them. Isolation and financial reliability is another part of control. When all you have his him 24/7 its easier to get into your mind and inflict that control.
      It will be hard when you first leave. A lot of things will be uncertain to you and sometimes you might feel like you cant do it. But I promise you, you can.

  3. I was hoping to find a great guy who I would spend forever with. So I met a guy and he was amazing. We talked everyday, hung out like everyday for the entire day and had so much fun. He was smart, funny, cute, nice, sweet, honest, compassionate and everything I was looking for. I started to really like him. We dated and things were great. Still the same guy I met and liked. Then one day out of the blue, I noticed something wasn’t right so I thought its the male hormone that is doing it. I was wrong. It was a nightmare. I remember one time I wore this cute shirt and shorts thinking he’d like it. Nope. He said I was fat. I cried. I wore makeup and he said don’t ever wear it again. If I was talking to friends, he’d say don’t ever talk to them again. I have the best job ever and he said I don’t deserve to have it as a career. He would be so jealous and controlling on where I went and if I hung out with friends, he’d call me and if I didn’t answer he’d leave me like 10 messages in maybe 5 minutes. One time we got into an argument and he almost hit me. One hit I could’ve been dead. I cried so hard when that happened and he said look I’m sorry. I will never do that again. What can I do to make you stop crying? I said don’t ever do that again. He said I won’t. So I forgave him. He would always talk about his ex girlfriend and put me down by saying that I’m cheating when I’m not. He would call me fat, stupid, ugly, worthless, I can’t have a career, no friends, no family, I have to be with only him. His parents always asked why I don’t date guys my religion which is true I don’t date guys my religion but its my choice. I got a transformation and he said he didn’t like it. I don’t deserve the new look. So one day, I didn’t eat a lot and felt miserable because of it. I couldn’t take it. I finally told my family and friends and they were so supportive. I lost weight and didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t like that I was disappearing and my clothes didn’t fit. I felt worthless. I felt ugly. I felt like everything he said. I showed happiness but deep down I wasn’t. I had no self confidence and kept smiling to show that I was confident. He called when I was getting ready to go out and I said I can’t because I have plans. That’s when the screaming, yelling, threatening, cursing got to me. I couldn’t believe the guy I now loved was Saten! He was so scary, made me walk on egg shells. I couldn’t talk to him otherwise he’d yell at me. He was so mean towards my family that he had a temper, yelling, screaming, cursing and saying rude things to my mom. He hated my sister. After 6 years of dating, I broke up with him. At first I was scared of how he’d react but he messaged me saying I didn’t mean to hurt you. Take me back. I said I can’t. I can’t do this. You hurt me so bad I just can’t. He scared me so bad with the behavior that I was so negative about myself thinking maybe I am fat. Maybe I’m stupid. No guy will want me. I don’t deserve a career. Now, I’m happy. I still have my job, amazing friends and family, I gained the weight back, I’m eating a lot, I feel pretty, gorgeous, confident, happy, I made new friends and best of all, I lost him! I didn’t need negativity in my life. When I dumped him, I cried but slowly I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. If anyone is being abused, leave! I’m so happy I did! I’m free!!!! I am 3 months free and I feel so amazing.

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Thank you for sharing your story here. We’re so glad to hear that you were able to break free from that abusive relationship and that you are now happy and thriving. We know that leaving can be a difficult and even dangerous time for a survivor, so it may not always be the best option in the moment. But reading your story may give hope to other survivors who are considering leaving their abusive partners, and we appreciate you speaking your truth.

  4. [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    I am in an abusive relationship of about fourmonths now. It started out great. He was everything I wanted in a man. He was strong, caring, loving, sensitive. But about a month into the relationship, it all changed. I found out he was a drug addict. And I’m ashamed to admit that he convinced me to try meth, and now I’m an addict too. The insults started out with just calling me a bitch and a whore. He would call me stupid daily, several times a day. Everything I did was wrong, whether it was cleaning the house or cooking his dinner. I’m not allowed to touch his food ever again because I didn’t heat it in the microwave long enough. The next phase came about when I made a silly mistake, walking out in front of a car in a parking lot that was trying to get around me. This enraged him. He told me he hated my guts, I was worthless, he wanted to kill himself just to get away from me, I was the absolute stupidest person he has ever met, etc… then, just a few days ago, he hit me for the first time. He hit me in the face. All because I didn’t answer his question quickly enough. That’s the basics of our relationship. He has threatened to kill me (jokingly but in graphic detail), he has burned me with a cigarette jokingly, he tells me I’m fat, and there’s so much more. But I’ll leave it at that. Yet, no matter how much he abuses me, I love him and cannot leave him. Is there anyway I can get him to change? I’m usually silent when he yells at me, but I have tried every other way there is. Nothing has worked. He sees everything as my fault. I would very much appreciate actual steps I could take To heal this relationship. Thank you.

    1. Hi Melanie,

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your story. This sounds like such a difficult and heartbreaking situation. It is unacceptable for your partner to treat you this way, regardless of his drug addiction. Making death threats and burning you with a cigarette are not “jokes” – these are serious abusive behaviors. It’s understandable that you want your partner to change and go back to being the loving person he was at the beginning of your relationship. Only he can make that choice, however – there is nothing you can do to change his behaviors. You deserve someone who will treat you with kindness and respect, not someone who chooses to call you names, put you down or hit you. We are here to support you. Whenever you feel safe and ready to do so, I encourage you to call us anytime at 1-800-799-7233, or you can chat live here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

    2. Hi Melanie,
      I hope this message finds you. My eyes swelled with tears as I read your post on this blog because everything you wrote is the same as my relationship (or whatever it is) with my boyfriend of 2 1/2 years. I just recently returned to the house where we have been living after I left for a short period. He recently broke my nose and strangled me in a fit of rage because of meth but I felt that I was no better off wandering the streets. He’s isolated me from my friends, my parents, and I’m so ashamed to say even my 6 year old little girl. I sent my daughter to start school across the country where her dad lives because I couldn’t subject her to such a negative environment anymore. I’m hoping I can make a safety plan and travel to where my daughter is and never look back. Right now, I feel hopeless that maybe that day will never come. The only strength I seem to find is thinking of my beautiful little girl and how much she misses me and needs me. I never pictured myself to be this girl that is being bullied by a man. After I was raped in the military I thought I had experienced the worst but being physically hurt and threatened and humiliated by a man you tried to love is the ultimate pain. You aren’t alone & I’ll keep you in my prayers. I hope you find the strength and courage to leave. God bless!

      1. Hi KK,

        Thank you for your kind words of support. It sounds like you have been through so much – please know that we are here for you, too. You can call 1-800-799-7233 any time, or chat here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time.

  5. [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    wonderfully happily married to my husband who after 2.5 years of marriage randomly comes home one night after emptying our bank accounts …came home got beat me to death…severely injured and unconscious…. my daughter came home to find me bloody, unrecognizable, and almost dead…he was convicted of Attempted Murder … 3 years ago and now …it was accidentally recorded …..based on an appeal that I did not convent to being taped..his Attempted Murder Charge was Toss by the Appeals court

    I can not believe there is happening… There has to be something that can be done

    I lost my home, he had emptied the bank accounts, leveraged our cars and my life imploded while I was hospitalized learning to walk and talk again …

    There must be more than can be done to help!
    A voice to stand up for us who stood up in court and faced our abuser and then left alone to fend for ourselves as those who continue to try and control, guilt, and shame…there has to be a voice for us who stand up to the bullying …

    So glad you are here !!

    1. Hi Sheryl,

      Thank you for your comment. Your story is heartbreaking, and you are brave to reach out and share that story with others. We are so sorry that your partner has been so abusive toward you – you deserve support and justice. If you’d like to speak with an advocate about your situation, we are here for you. Please call 1-800-799-7233 anytime, or you can chat online here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time.

  6. I started dating my ex abuser when I was 18 and in college. I had a heartbreak before college and I wanted to start new. He was charming and not exactly the kind of person I imagined myself dating but I had never been a relationship before. My father was emotionally abusive and I did not trust anyone. I gave us a shot. Three years into the relationship I said something that upset him so much that he started to abuse me to the point I had bruises and I cut my hair preventing him from hurting me the way he did. That night was one of the longest I had ever endured. I thought he was going to rape me. He didn’t. However he did a lot of psychological damage that to this day he does not want to acknowledge. After that day nothing was the same. We were together for a year until today we broke up. I hurt and I feel that I love him but I see what he did and I also feel relief. However I am still dealing with the aftershock of what happened.

    1. Hi Mel,

      Thank you so much for sharing your story with our community. It must have taken a lot of strength to share this so soon after your breakup. We are so sorry to hear that your ex chose to treat you that way. You never deserved it, no matter what. Your feelings of hurt and love are totally normal and understandable, and you deserve to take the time you need to heal. Please know that we are here to support you in any way we can. You are welcome to call 1-800-799-7233 any time, or chat here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time.

  7. I have been dealing with my other half on & off for the past 7 years. I am at a point where I feel lost and miserable because he has done so much from cheating to abusing me physically but I don’t know why I can’t leave him. I want to leave him so bad. I try to make it work but truth is ,I always refer to the past and it makes me upset and feel stupid. I changed locks several times and he has left for weeks at a time but he always comes back with the sad crying face,”I love you , lets make it work.”. I am tired of working it out. This is taking a toll on my health, my job, I am totally stressed. I need help, I don’t know what to do but I do know I want to leave him!!!!

    1. Hi Jolie,

      Thank you for sharing your story here. We are so sorry to hear that your partner has chosen to treat you this way, and we definitely understand how difficult it can be to leave. We are here for you whenever you feel safe and ready to reach out by calling 1-800-799-7233, or you can chat online here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time. We may be able to help you brainstorm options and locate resources for your plan to leave.

  8. I met my bf when we were 14. He was a foster kid from a bad background, he struggled with anger issues and bi-polar …

    [Admin note: This comment has been edited for safety per our community guidelines]

    Even though I feel like that though, I still remind myself daily that I CANNOT HELP SOMEONE WHO WONT HELP THEMSELVES. I remind myself daily YOU CAN LOVE SOMEONE FROM AFAR KNOWING THEY ARENT GOOD FOR YOU. I remind myself daily ITS BETTER TO BE ALIVE AND LONELY THAN DEAD. I remind myself daily that NO CHILD DESERVES TO SEE WHAT MINE DID. I remind myself daily I CAN DO THIS. I AM STRONG. I AM NOT WRONG FOR HOW I FEEL. I AM NOT WEAK. I WILL MOVE FORWARD AND NOT LOOK BACK.
    Its a struggle, its a daily battle that gets easier, but you all can do it. Your not wrong for loving them, just love them from afar.

    1. Hello Kd,

      Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts here. We removed much of your comment due to potentially identifying details, but it sounds like you have been through so much. You’re right, you can’t make your partner change, and you absolutely do not deserve to be abused in any way, for any reason. We hope that you have found safety and the space to heal. If you would ever like to speak with one of our advocates about your situation, we are here for you 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, or you can chat online here on our website from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Central time.

  9. I have been with my abuser for 9years and I finally had him locked up. I have lost so much dealing with this man but I also felt like I could not do nothing without him. I had so many black eyes and knots on my face and head then he will always cry and say sorry and I will take him back.he will get drunk and just make up stories so we can fight one time he told me that I said to him that he did not love me unless he hit me .i have lost custdy of my son,lost my apartment and lost myself I finally said I am not looseing no more.now I am seeking therapy and finally have a little piece of mind .and foe some crazy reason a small part of me miss him and I know it’s sad and crazy but this time I am not going back.i pray he stays in jail becouse I feel a little good about myself thank all of you people for your comments this is the most I have ever said to anyone about my situation ..good luck to all pray for me please

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Thank you for sharing your story here. It sounds like you have been through so much pain, and you have shown such bravery by taking steps to get away from your abusive partner. You never deserved to be treated that way, and now you absolutely deserve support and space for healing. We are here to help if ever you feel like reaching out. Just call 1-800-799-7233 (24/7) or chat here on our website between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Central time!

  10. I was in an abusive marriage for 20 years. My husband was an alcoholic, smoked pot, and other pulls his friends would give him. He partied with all the neighbors and then I had to deal with his abuse when he finally came home. I finally got my last TPO. I finally divorced him. Unfortunately, he died a few months after. I had no closure. I miss him terribly, even after all the name-calling, emotional, mental, physical and financial abuse I still love him. I have PTSD since this whole part of my life. I try to get past this but I am not succeeding is there any advice for me?

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