“Human Heart” Reasons Women May Not Leave Abusive Relationships, 2 of 2

To truly understand why women do not leave, the reasons are better understood in light of seeing first and foremost the human reasons, as human beings, women have hardwired emotion-drives to matter and create meaningful connections to self and others, life and self. These drives are connected, as discussed in Part 1, to “real” or “perceived” fears that can interfere with clear thinking and decision making processes.

The traumatic experience of desperately seeking to contribute, feel loved and worthwhile, in intense survival-love contexts, forms trauma bonds that are highly addictive.

There are at least 7 “human heart” reasons that activate fear response and addictive patterns of thinking, in that women do not want to believe the man they love:

1. Has no capacity to love.

Women have been socialized to make excuses for men, when it comes to their couple relationship, to let him off the hook or, on the other hand, to look for how she better contribute, support him, help him “get” what love means. This can be reinforcing as it fulfills the human need to feel needed, valued in some way. “Surely,” she may tell herself, “he must love her; he just doesn’t ‘know how’ to show it.” A woman feels so needed when she says things like this to herself.

In other words, women are socialized to follow the “boys with be boys” script, just as men are, albeit in different ways. What a woman doesn’t know, however, is that the narcissist in her life has been socialized to play by different rules; and he guards these rules closely. For example, he regards it his job to “fix” this “love thing” that only “weak, needy and inferior” persons demand, and uses this to play an array of bait and switch games. She needs to learn what a narcissist really means when he says ‘I love you’; he’s referring to the pleasure he derives from feeling “superior” by exploiting, using her like a punching bag.

2. Derives pleasure from hurting them.

Women were socialized to link their self-identity to bringing happiness to others and succeeding in their relationship.  There is a vast gulf between where a woman wants to go in a relationship, and where a narcissist is overtly or covertly leading her. Overall women today think of their relationships as partnerships in which both persons support one another’s happiness and wellbeing. A narcissist however is 24/7 guarding the dominance image. For a woman, it’s confusing when they bring up hurts and concerns to their partner, and he gaslights her to derail the focus she wants, and to make her think she’s crazy. To the narcissist, the more information he has on what “hurts” her, the more successful he feels in accomplishing his goals. From his worldview, he intentionally “hurts” her to ensure she is less dangerous to him.

3. Intends the abuse and lies as means of control.

The socialization of women, as a group, teaches them to adhere to “toxic femininity” rules, subconsciously, to some degree, and to romanticize dominance and believe that proving her devotion to make him feel happy and secure in her love, at her own expense, will eventually “work” to change how careless he is about her feelings, wants and needs — or pain. He’s been socialized to perceive women as “fierce competitors” out to dominate men, and to block her attempts at closeness (warned this “emotional craziness” is dangerous to his masculinity). In contrast, she has been conditioned to believe in a fantasy, that: Once she finds a way to get through to him that her love and devotion to his happiness are real, he’ll magically trust her, and then treat her like a real, and valued human being.

 4. Will not benefit or be rescued by their efforts. 

Women are trained to believe and refuse to let go of their belief that, somehow and someday, her love and sacrifice will turn a heartless abuser into a caring prince that, at last, sees and loves her with his whole heart! Not only will her sacrifice not make a difference, it enables his arrested state of emotional development to get worse. In a paradoxical way, getting women to serve as narcissistic supply is a set up to enable narcissism in men, for example, women are expected to prop up a man’s ego by letting them think they are dominating, making it easier for them to display their superiority to themselves and others.

5. Feels scorn for the idea of a meaningful human connection.

Women have social permission to enjoy the deep gratification and meaning it brings, to merely yearn to love another, to yearn to make them feel valued, important, loved. That is so human; and that, is love. No one can take it away from her, She felt the love. It just wasn’t coming from him. It was her own love for him, and the rest was her imagination of how loved he felt, and how much he must love her in return. It’s how love works, in a sense, between two humans. Narcissists however disdain and hate human traits of caring, love, kindness. To them, these are abominable weaknesses. They were socialized to learn to hate these impulses in you to prove you’re a “real” man. This leaves men miserable, fighting 24/7 to prop up fragile egos. What women do not realize is that a narcissist’s own lust to hate and be hated is what leaves him vulnerable. Nothing she does can change this. The disorders of narcissism and psychopathology are serious cognitive disturbances. What can be worse than for a human being to detest his (or her) own “true self” and to seek to make their “false self” appear real? The narcissist has been deceived by his socialization to follow the rules of “toxic masculinity” that cost him his human connection to love and meaning.

6. Keeps her in a fog of illusions and fantasies to her disbelief.

Who can blame her for not wanting to accept, much less believe, that an intelligent person like herself was deceived to such a degree or length of time? This, she tells herself, would mean she is stupid; and she’s not. It can take a long time to come out of the fog to accept what she’s known deep inside. He has no capacity, or desire, to bring her love, to emotionally connect in intimate ways. He’s after his fix, opportunities around the clock to prove he’s in control of her mind, emotions, behaviors, and thus, superior to her inferiority. He proudly does not feel her pain, to him, that’s more proof of his rightful dominance.

7. Has no sense of morality in the treatment of those perceived “weak.” 

Who can blame her? It’s only human to want to think the best of others. It’s also human to project our own inclinations to others. In the same way a narcissist projects himself onto the way in his life, i.e., sees her as a fierce competitor, dangerous, out to control him, and so on, a codependent thens to project her own caring, kindness toward others to the narcissist. This is not only undeserved, it is unwise. A narcissist has no conscience, feels no remorse for harming others, indeed, he derives pleasure from inflicting pain. Even in cases where he’s a church goer, or political leader, he likely defines “morality” overall as a code of ethics that is set of double standards designed to grant impunity to those in authority positions to use any means to keep “the weak” in their place. It is human to not want to accept that he feels scorn for her “weak” traits of wanting him to care about her pain and hurt feelings.

In sum, socializing women to deny or make their wants invisible to men is not only unhealthy for women and their relationships, but also even a greater disservice to the man in their lives. It’s not easy to leave because trauma bonds are highly addictive. Notably, although these norms may hurt women, they still have permission to feel human, to bring love and happiness to those they love, to know the joy of making others feel important and participating in their success. In contrast, arguably, nothing worse can befall a human being than “living” in emotionally arrested states of development of narcissism, and more so, sociopathology or psychopathology.


** The term narcissist, or narcissism, refer to persons that fully meet the criteria (as opposed to mere tendencies) for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) — or its more extreme version on the spectrum, sociopathology or psychopathology, labeled as antisocial personality disorder (APD) in the DSM.

These character disorders are cognitive disturbances that, unlike other mental health disorders, predispose persons to intentionally act out their rage and scorn to harm others, in characteristically patterned behaviors (known as narcissistic abuse). 

**** The use of male pronouns is supported by decades of research showing that domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, mass shootings, pedophilia, and other acts of “false-power” violence are not gender neutral. They are rooted in rigid adherence to gendered might-makes-right norms for “toxic masculinity” for men (and “toxic femininity” for women). These norms idealize violence and intimidation as means to male establish status and dominance. See also “5 Reasons Violence and Narcissism Are Not Gender Neutral.


Photo by Patricia Pierce

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