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Love in a Hopeless Place


Do you know what you would do in a situation of extreme violence inflicted upon you from someone you trusted? It is easy to assume what you would do, how you would act, but how can we be sure until it is happening?

Superstar Rihanna has been back in the press this week due to intense rumours of her being romantically involved again with Chris Brown – her ex-boyfriend who in 2009 assaulted her leaving her with several serious injuries shown on the picture below.

Source: TMZ Online

A very public break up ensued and a restraining order placed on Chris Brown which was dropped last year. The potential rekindling of this relationship has sparked a huge debate, especially as Rihanna is considered a role model for so many women around the world. Perhaps the controversy comes from an inability to understand why a beautiful, talented and successful singer would take back a man who treated her so appallingly and who she seemed to have stood up to.

Domestic violence is never something to be taken lightly, neither is it straight forward. There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships and return to them. One potential theory explaining this is The Investment Model (1):

Here we can see four factors affecting the victim’s behaviour; the satisfaction to the relationship, the alternatives available and the investments that are tied to the relationship. All these affect the commitment levels to the relationship. Higher commitment levels result in lower likelihood of a break up. One study looking at this model (2) found that those with high satisfaction, low alternatives, and high investments had the highest relationship commitment and were therefore most likely to return to their abusive relationships. From what we know about Rihanna’s situation, the fame that surrounds her may restrict her in finding and meeting suitable alternative partners. She may feel she has invested a lot in the relationship as he could be considered a big love and due to the time period they were together, resulting in higher investment feelings towards him. Perhaps she is also satisfied with his apologies and is willing to give him a second chance.

Whatever the reasoning domestic violence is a very serious problem and seeking help if experienced is always advised. Help is also available for perpetrators of violence.

Rusbult, C. E., Drigotas, S. M., & Verette, J. (1994). The investment model: An interdependence analysis of commitment processes and relationship maintenance phenomena. In D. J. Canary & L. Stafford (Eds.), Communication and relational maintenance (pp. 115-139). San Diego: Academic Press
Rusbult, C. E., & Martz, J. M. (1995). Remaining in an abusive relationship: An investment analysis of nonvoluntary dependence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 558-571

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