Using a grounded formal theory approach, 13 qualitative research reports were analyzed with the goal of synthesizing a middle-range theory of women's responses to violent relationships. The combined sample numbered 282 ethnically and geographically diverse women ages 16-67. Within cultural contexts that normalized relationship violence while promoting idealized romance, these women dealt with the incongruity of violence in their relationships as a basic process of enduring love. In response to shifting definitions of their relationship situations, many women moved through four phases, which began with discounting early violence for the sake of their romantic commitment ("This is what I wanted"), progressed to immobilization and demoralization in the face of increasingly unpredictable violence that was endured by the careful monitoring of partner behavior and the stifling of self ("The more I do, the worse I am"), shifted to a perspective that redefined the situation as unacceptable ("I had enough"), and finally moved out of the relationship and toward a new life ("I was finding me"). Variations in the manifestation and duration of these phases were found to be linked to personal, sociopolitical, and cultural contexts.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.