Why Do Smart People Fall into Abusive Relationships?

  • How do intelligent, functional people get sucked into abusive relationships?
  • Surely, anyone with an ounce of intelligence would see the signs early and get out?
  • Are victims of abuse both naive and to blame for the mess they find themselves in? Or are they the victims of a calculated and dastardly plan?

Having suffered in an abusive marriage for 8 years, I believe there are two common routes for falling into abuse:

  • Eyes Wide Open
  • Deceived; hook, line and sinker

My route in was Eyes Wide Open. From early on, I could see there were problems. My partner/girlfriend was a broken woman with probable, mental health issues; she had bizarre mood swings, uncontrollable rage, an all-consuming need to be in control and a fundamental need to be utterly adored without question.

Unfortunately, as a young man in his early 20s, eager to please, caring, attentive and with no sense of personal boundaries or self-awareness, I was a textbook victim. But lets be clear, there was no pretense from her: her behavior didnt change during our 8-year relationship. In the end, it was how it had always been since the beginning.

I just wanted to help her and foolishly, I believed I could mend this broken person by standing with her and being kind to her.

Naive? Absolutely

Stupid? Definitely stupid in some areas (as many young people are) but not deserving of abuse because no-one is.

On the other hand, plenty of people are groomed. Its a set-up, a deliberate plan to make you fall in love so you dive deep, then, bit-by-bit, the abuse begins. Its like cooking a lobster: the water gradually heats up and the lobster barely notices until its too late, no way out, boiled alive and they make for a tasty meal.

Naive? Thats a bit harsh!

Stupid? Even harsher!

So other than extolling the virtues of lobster, whats the point of this post?

Men abuse women, women abuse men, women abuse women and men abuse men. Sometimes its a set-up, other times, its a car crash from the outset, but victims are often nice, accommodating people who see the best in others and in both cases (eyes wide shut OR caught; hook line and sinker), one fundamental thing is missing:


Until we start teaching children and young people the value of boundaries; how to create them, adhere to them and act on them, people will keep falling into abuse however smart they may be.

I deliver bespoke coaching on boundaries through my leadership development business, to leaders and managers, using my unique, Triple Landmark Model and my A.D.U.L.T. model. As a start, I recommend you follow this 4-step plan:

  1. Reflect on each area of your life: your family, friends, hobbies, personal development, health/fitness, finances, self-esteem, work, spiritual.
  2. As you move through each part of your life, ask yourself key questions about each area:
  • What am I prepared to tolerate and not?
  • What am I prepared to compromise on and not?
  • What will I say yes to and no to?
  • What is enough and too much?
  • What am I prepared to sacrifice and not?

3. Armed with the answers to these questions (and take some time to ask these questions every day), there are two more questions

  • What will I do if my boundaries are breached?
  • What does a breach look like?

4. Stick to your boundaries: to the point of walking away from an intimate relationship if the other person objects to them and cant/wont compromise. Your boundaries are your guide. They protect you. They are your lighthouse. Never turn your back on them because you cant face letting go of something which feels precious to you in the moment. Ships that ignore lighthouses get

This post was previously published on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.

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