Missing a Destructive, Abusive Relationship: Stockholm Syndrome?

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Reader’s Question

I was in a relationship that was physically, mentally, verbally, and emotionally abusive. Yet, for some strange reason, I find myself missing the relationship. I also don’t understand why I tolerated it for 18 months. The jerk also had the nerve to hang up on me and not answer my calls, like I it was me who did something wrong. He is the one who gets severely drunk and becomes abusive. Why would I miss anything like this?

Psychologist’s Reply

What you describe sounds an awful lot like the Stockholm Syndrome. Several articles on this site discuss this phenomenon in which victims of abusive situations come to identify with and strangely “bond” to their abusers.

Victims also sometimes come from a background of abuse. This makes abusive situations seem very “familiar” and can lead to the victim gaining a distorted sense of security by being in or staying in situations that have this type of familiarity.

Some abusers have great manipulative skill. They know how to prey on the sensitivities, vulnerabilities, and most especially the insecurities of others. By relentlessly assailing their worth, they can make the victim feel like the crazy one who needs them in order to feel safe and secure.

Don’t fall prey to this kind of thinking. When you find yourself thinking such thoughts, re-direct them to almost anything else. Give yourself messages of affirmation. Recognize the value of being on your own and out of the abusive situation.

It would be a good idea to seek the assistance and support of a counselor or therapist who has special expertise with abuse survivors, or one of the many victim support groups.

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