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Cisi Eze: The Choice to Stay in an Abusive Relationship



Your body has become a canvas of red, blue, and black.

Your mind has become a wasteland wrecked by cruel words that fall like hail.

Yet you stay!

You’ve built an altar to that which loathes you (…)

My mind says I should make this a poem.

Loving someone that hates you is stupid, not romantic. Toni Braxton’s “Let It Flow”, which was one of the soundtracks of the movie “Waiting to Exhale”, is very apt for people in abusive romantic relationships.

It goes:

You see the thing ‘bout love is that it’s not enough if the only thing it brings you is pain. There comes a time we could a make a change. Just let go. Let it flow. Everything is going to turn out right… We all demand respect, but we can’t get respect without change… Sometimes love can work out right; sometimes you’ll never know. But if it brings only pain in your life, don’t be afraid to let it go.

When Toke Makinwa published her storm-raising memoir, some of us read it and blamed Toke for staying in an abusive relationship. They make it seem as though walking out of an abusive relationship is as easy as eating ipekere. People are stuck in Stockholm.

Emotional Stockholm syndrome is a real thing; however, people that trivialise mental health will dispute this.

Then again, some people romanticise abuse. If you are in doubt, listen to the lyrics of Niyola’s “Toh Bad”. The song goes: “But sometimes it kills me – the kind of things that you do. I’m trying not to cry. Tears are hard to fight. It is hard to let you go (…) I’ve tried to run away from you baby. How can I live without you?”

Well, for starters, there are several reasons, varying from person to person, that explain why people – men and women – stay in abusive romantic relationships. Unfortunately, love is not one of the reasons. Other sinister, negative emotions make us stay. When you consider these factors (emotions), you might not be so quick to victim-blame anyone in an abuse romantic relationship.

Below are few reasons that explain why women stay in abusive romantic relationships:

The first is fear. Fear clips your wings before you know you have the ability to fly. Some of us in abusive relationships are scared of the unknown. The concept of starting anew with someone else could be petrifying. Something about change, a break from routine, is quite daunting. The married ones among us begin to fear what society would say. Society places such importance on marriage, and when your marriage fails, it sees you as a failed woman. There is fear of financial security, too. Not having personal financial strength could hold back a person from leaving an abusive relationship. It could be that he/she gets certain benefits from the abuser.

In a twisted way, imagining our lover in someone else’s arm could stir jealousy in the pit of our stomachs, and we just stay to see if we can it better. Also, feeling we have invested much into a romantic relationship makes us try to make it work. “We have come so far and I just can’t quit. I can’t leave a house because the windows are shattered. I have to stay and fix it.” That is what some people say. But houses are not people. You can fix a house; you cannot fix a person.

Pity is another factor that contributes to people staying with abusive partners. Lover goes on to quote Chicago’s song. “If you leave me now, you’ll take away the biggest part of me. Baby, please, don’t go”.  Abusers are manipulative. They know the right things to say to guilt-trip us into staying with them. We pity them and feel obligated to stay behind because they make it seem as though they have built their world around us.

At times, it could be that a woman is “dickmatised”. The sex is just so good and she does not want to leave. It happens. Talk about toxic, chemical romance.

People in abusive relationships believe they stay for love, but in the real sense, dark emotions are at play. Leaving is not always easy.

Then again, should we feel pity for women that DECIDE to stay in abusive relationships? From the onset, your sixth sense would tell you the person is bad for you. Tell-tale signs float before your eyes. Watch the way they react to other women, especially sex workers. Asides that, it could be that they are manipulative. They seek to control you, too. The prospective lover shows signs of misogyny – talks down your achievements; patronises you; doesn’t listen to you and respect your perspectives; asserts masculinity to the point it stifles you (that is if it is a heterosexual love affair); sees you as a body, not a mind; becomes too possessive. You can’t miss these signs. You don’t stick your finger in fire when you know it is hot, right?

For me, the best we can do for loved ones in abusive romantic relationships is to drag them out of it, because they are not thinking straight. In fact, at that point, your words are like water flowing into a sieve.

Leaving is hard – it is going to hurt so bad, but we all have to leave toxic relationships for the sake of our sanity.

P.S. This post refers to all types of abuse – physical, emotional, and sexual.

P.P.S. Many types of relationship hurt us. They could be romantic, filial, business, or platonic, you name it. There is no point staying in situations that don’t favour us. Maybe we are scared to leave out of fear of the unknown. But “if you never try, you’ll never know”.

P.P.P.S. Men are also victims of abuse in different relationships, but society seems to dismiss and mock men that speak up; hence, men are compelled to suffer in silence, not vent their pain. We need to stop ridiculing men that speak up. Having a penis doesn’t mean one should suffer in silence. Men should be vocal about their issues.

P.P.P.P.S. I’m in an abusive relationship with Arsenal. Why haven’t I left? I don’t even complain about the club anymore because it doesn’t make sense. I mean, I can quit, but I have decided to remain. There is Chelsea and Barca, but look at me. Why do I keep hurting my feelings by myself? Kanu Nwankwo that made me fall in love with Arsenal is no more there, but here we are.

Photo Credit: Georgerudy |

Cisi Eze is a Lagos-based freelance journalist, writer, comic artist, and graphics designer. She feels strongly about LGBT+ rights, feminism, gender issues, and mental health, and this is expressed through her works on Bella Naija and her blog – Shades of Cisi. Aside these, she has works on Western Post NG, Kalahari Review, Holaafrica, Mounting the Moon, Gender IT, Outcast Magazine, Rustin Times, 14: An Anthology of Queer Art Volume 1 and 2, and Sweet Deluge (Issue 2). Her first book, published by Tamarind Hill Press, UK, is titled “Of Women, Edges, and Parks”. Cisi’s art challenges existing societal norms.


  1. Ify

    May 2, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Awww, no bashing of Nigerians today.

    • Vee

      May 2, 2017 at 5:45 pm

      Lol…..seriously tho. She made so much sense today

    • northern princess

      May 3, 2017 at 9:35 am

      praise god! no one is calling us hypocrites today. i hope the writer has finally realized that we Nigerians are all struggling to do the best we can both ethically and spritually. nice article, i wonder if there is a proper english word for deadbeat football clubs?

  2. john

    May 2, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    CICI is trying to give una BN feminist the kind of articles u all orgasm article will be about just basing Nigerian men and all will be forgiven and she will be welcome back with open arms..she will make a good politician

  3. Zinay

    May 2, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Cici some people stay because its more dangerous to leave, they stay because if the partner realizes that they want to leave, they’d kill them. Abuse is a power thing. Its dangerous to stay, but some stay because they have to be strategic about leaving. Some make it, others don’t, but there are women who up and left and the men came after them to kill them- watch Kaye Wright’s story on YouTube. Leaving sometimes is the easiest part, staying alive afterwards is harder. May God give these women the strength to not just leave, but to stay safe afterwards.

  4. mimi

    May 2, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    you forgot to mention children…..that is the first reason married people stay……and a mental degradation

  5. Nitomeya

    May 2, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    Why will you get stuck with them gooners? Cisi you can do better you know. I am sending you a Man United form lol scratch that, I know you will not leave Arsenal, if you didn’t leave them all these year (11 years without winning the league and possibly no champions league next season) then you are not going to leave them ever.

    I wish you the best of luck.

  6. ally

    May 2, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    john must be retarded… because this article was very neutral and also discussed men who are victims of abuse… May the feminist that showed you pepper keep soaring high. Perhpaps the BN comment section is the only place where you can ‘win’, even if the only thing you’re winning are likes from your fellow retards.

  7. Another voice in the crowd

    May 3, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Such a pity that the insightful observations made throughout the article on the nature of abusive relationships are undemined by the spurious and unnecessary comment at the end, describing her relationship with a football club as “abusive”.

  8. Voom

    May 3, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    No bashing today? How disappointing. I was looking forward to all the angst i would find in the comment session. Always cracks me up. Oh well..
    Having said that, this was a good article. But you failed to mention some women’s need to “wicked” the man just as much as he is/has “wicked them”.
    Yes, some women stay in abusive relationships out of spite. They believe leaving the man after all he has done would be doing him a favor. They are no longer thinking about themselves, they are fueled by bitterness and anger. This is more common than you would think sadly.

  9. Doris Nwanne

    May 17, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    This is a beautiful masterpiece my dear Cisi. Learnt so much!???????????

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