10/26/2011 08:44 pm ET Updated Dec 26, 2011

Are You Hiding From Life Inside an Abusive Relationship?

Sometimes when we don't trust ourselves, we feel very insecure about stepping out into the world to live life. I know I was afraid to go out and be my own person because of the abuse and rape I experienced at a young age. I feared that I, again, wouldn't be able to protect myself if put in a compromising situation. As a result, I entered into an abusive relationship and subsequently continued this pattern for years. I was attracted to these types of relationships because, on a subconscious level, the aspect of control imposed limits that made me feel "protected" when everything around me felt very out of control. Alone, I felt vulnerable; like I could become a victim again at any time.

Like a textbook abusive relationship, the imposed limitations ended up including a list of things he didn't want me to do, people he didn't want me see, and places he didn't want me to go. Somewhere in my psyche I knew this and permitted it to happen because I felt more insecure out of the relationship than I did in it. Ironically, I ended up existing in this cocoon for several years instead of navigating the world on my own.

Fundamentally, I stuck with the wrong guy because I felt the alternative was much worse. Regardless of the horrible treatment, I feared that on my own, I would be hurt, raped or coerced into doing a number of things that I didn't want to do. Many of these fears ended up playing out anyways -- but within the confines of the relationship. I still felt safer involved with an abuser than I did throwing myself into a world where I had not been able to successfully defend or take care of myself previously.

I was attracted to these relationships because in the beginning, the control aspect mimicked boundaries that made me feel safe and protected from harm. The irony is that none of these men ever defended or protected me. In fact, they often sided with my opposition. If anything, it was a false sense of security with disloyalty being the most common component, not safety or security.

Eventually, I overcame these fears and feelings of insecurity. I was starting to get over the whole thing when I got sucked into a relationship with another abuser. I was not yet ready to grow and thrive on my own, but quickly got past this dependency after we broke up. Growing out of these fears was an evolution in which baby steps were the only steps. In the end, I found that the only way to I could ever feel secure in the world alone was by building assurance and confidence through doing the very thing I'd been avoiding doing: stepping out of my comfort zone.

Doing this was actually very simple yet scary. I went out on my own and did things I was afraid to do. Whenever I left home and did something that previously terrified me (and not only lived to tell the tale, but had fun doing it), I felt a little more empowered. As I pushed the boundaries of my comfort level, I became and felt stronger. I continued this practice until I no longer had the desire to enter what would inevitably become an abusive relationship for a false sense of security. As I began to rely on myself, I no longer needed limits imposed on me from an outside source. I learned how to uphold limits and boundaries on my own.

If you are "hiding" from life in an abusive relationship, you might want to speak to a counselor or do some reevaluating. The truth is abusive relationships are not the only place where people "hide" from life. There are people who hide in jobs they hate because they feel that stepping out into the unknown would be much worse. Another one of the most common ways people avoid actually living is through various addictions.

Many times we get caught up avoiding life without even realizing it. The good news is you can make the choice to live and turn your mindset around at any moment.

Need help standing up to domestic abuse? In the U.S., call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233)

More articles on abusive relationships can be found at Hayley's Comments