A red haired woman sits crouched down with one arm across her chest, resting on her shoulder, her other arm holding her head, a pensive expression on her face.

Stockholm Syndrome was coined 40 years ago at the end of a six-day bank siege in Stockholm, Sweden. Sometimes women who are experiencing abuse from their partner wonder if they are experiencing Stockholm Syndrome because they feel a certain alliance with their partner. They may also be worried about their partner and care about what happens to him. We do not think anything as complex as the Stockholm Syndrome needs to be applied to what we have come to think of a normal human reactions in the context of abuse. There are two simple ways to explain why you may feel a deep connection to your partner (or ex-partner) despite what he has done to you.

The first explanation is that you are a relationship oriented person and you have, perhaps, invested years of your life in to a relationship with your partner. You have cared deeply for him for years – maybe even decades. That does not go away over night just because of his horrible actions. Human beings are wired for connection. We bond with our significant others and while abuse will destroy that bond eventually, it does not go away immediately. The human race would not do well if we all immediately disconnected from a person we are really close to the first time they hurt us. We know that your partner has hurt you many, many times and you may be trying to disconnect from him emotionally but it is normal that it takes time to disconnect.

Second, part of experiencing abuse is that you learn to adapt to survive. Part of adapting is paying very close attention to what you partner is thinking, feeling or doing. By paying close attention to him, you have attempted to avoid explosions from him. Employing this survival skill has been wise on your part. (You may not be conscious of doing this. It is sometimes unconscious.) There is nothing wrong with you for paying close attention to him as a safety strategy. Remember, survival is your strength, not your shame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Stockholm Syndrome in the context of abuse?”

  1. My x boyfriend accuse me of being selfish and he asked me to go see a psychologist he tried to be friends with me when he broke up with me and I said no we cant be friends until i stop loving you then after 4 months my mom passed away and he was angry i didn’t told him about then when I called him just to fix things as friends he was very mean and said we are over and you need to get over it and that Im selfish . and I need to see a dr

  2. Karen McAndless-Davis

    So sorry to hear this. This is typical behaviour for an abusive man. It is very upsetting and crazy-making; he gets angry and hurtful no matter what you do.

  3. My boyfriend and father of my child has seen his grandmother die and had to pull the plug on his father all before he was 20 years old. He is now bitter towards people, always blaming others when things go wrong, and has freak outs. His freak outs are usually calling me stupid and telling me to listen and making me feel like nothing i do is right and when i try to talk to him about it and tell him that i want to leave he tells me he will commit suicide. I make excuses for his behaviour because of all the sadness in his life and i know that because i believe that one day he will realize all the good things and forget the sadness and then maybe he will be a nicer man. What do you think of this; do you think men can (without therapy because he refuses to go) heal and when they heal can be nicer happier people?

  4. Karen McAndless-Davis

    Thank you for your message. I hear how very hard your situation is. I have never known an abusive man to change without working really, really hard in therapy and accountability designed for abusive men. I would urge you to get support and information and focus on yourself and your child. Threatening suicide is a textbook tactic that abusive men use to keep women trapped. His excuses are just that, excuses. Many people have very sad things happen in their lives. It is never an excuse for abuse. Keeping reading stuff on our website. I hope it will be a support to you.

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