Myth two: ‘You have to hate an abusive partner’

This myth is derived from the sometimes simplistic belief that abusers are intrinsically evil and hateful. 

While we read stories of abusers and often think of them as vile individuals, undeserving of our sympathy and even consideration, this is a very removed view to take of the situation, and espousing it vocally and loudly can create problems for those who are experiencing abuse.

The experience of being with an abusive partner is not a straightforward one. You may realise that your partner is abusive or, at least, displays unhealthy behaviours, but that might not mean that you hate them or stop loving them.

Even those who leave abusive relationships often continue to love or care for their partners. 

And that is part of why the abuse worked in the first place. The love for an abusive partner is often what convinces victims to remain in a dangerous situation. They may feel that life is not worth living without the love of that partner, or they may care so deeply for that partner’s feelings that they can’t bear to hurt them by leaving. Emotions towards an abusive partner are never straightforward; an abuser rarely keeps a victim locked up and under physical constraints (though this does happen, through genuine false imprisonment and fear). Often, an abuser relies on knowing that their victim loves them to feel enabled to perpetuate abusive behaviour and continue to feel secure in the relationship. 

Encouraging victims or survivors to hate their abusive partner can be counterproductive. Many abusive partners position themselves as victims and usually elicit their victim’s sympathy by presenting themselves as a victim of the world’s injustices. Thus if other people too stridently attempt to make a victim ‘hate’ the partner, this action might just push a victim away.

There is no obligation for a victim to do anything – least of all hate their abusive partner. If you’re an observer of a suspected abusive relationship, your main concern should be helping the victim stay safe and potentially exit that relationship. Insisting on the victim ‘hating’ their abusive partner is unfair and not a helpful step. Hate does not equate to safety.