Develop an Exit Strategy – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 5)

When you’re in a verbally abusive relationship, verbal abusers want you to “be a man” or “have the guts to hear the ‘truth’”. They expect you to stand there and take the abuse because without you, the abuser cannot regain control of their Self. When an abuser looks at you, he sees a target, not a person. He sees something to throw garbage at until he feels less threatened – like a monkey throwing poop.

Your abuser sees you as a threat. Your abuser flings poop at you like a scared monkey because you threaten his version of reality. He wants you to stand there until he brings you down to size and you no longer threaten him. Tell me, if someone were actually throwing feces at you, would you stand there to catch it or would you get out of range?


In “Reach Out“, we discussed telling others about your abusive situation, your verbally abusive relationship. In “Educate Yourself” we discussed filling your mind with actual truth about the abusive relationship. In “Self-Reliance“, we discussed the need to set personal boundaries to protect yourself from abuse. If you’ve employed those three strategies, then you’re in a very good place so far as taking the next step to stop verbal abuse and get out of your verbally abusive relationship: Develop An Exit Strategy.

Your Exit Strategy for Verbally Abusive Relationships

An Exit Strategy is similar to a safety plan; both of them help you to stay safe. The difference is that an Exit Strategy comes into play at the very first sign of verbally abusive behavior and its goal is to move to an emotionally safe place now. Returning to the abuser later is an option.

When in a verbally abusive relationship, the benefit of an Exit Strategy is that you do not have to stand there and listen to one single abusive statement. When you sense the beginning of an abusive attack, you leave the presence of the abuser. He doesn’t have to say anything for you to employ your strategy. He could be slamming cupboards or looking at you in “that certain way”. You know your abuser best, so you know what behaviors predict his abusive outbreaks. Watch for those behaviors, and leave his presence before he has a chance to say one bit of nonsense.

Leaving the presence of your abuser ranges from calling a friend or listening to music on headphones to leaving the house to run an errand (the “errand” can last as long as you need it to last).

Verbally Abusive Relationships Exit Strategy: Plan B

Your strategy must take into account a “plan B” – sometimes, leaving his presence to visit another lovely room in your home isn’t enough. He may begin the verbal assault because you chose not to stand there and experience the emotional build-up with him. You may have to take off your headphones (or whatever your first plan was) and leave the house.

When you employ your strategy, it is up to you whether you tell him what you’re doing or not. Sometimes it feels good for us targets to say, “Hey! I’m going to listen to music because I feel anxious when you start pacing around like that.” But sometimes, telling your abuser that you’re “leaving him” (and this verbally abusive relationship) in his time of need (to fling poop) only fuels his desire to abuse you and guarantees a quick onslaught of abusive statements. If you do tell him and he responds with a smart-aleck comment, ignore it and go do what you said you would do (he’s trying to provoke you).

Verbally Abusive Relationships Exit Strategy: Cash

When you live with an abuser in a verbally abusive relationship, you will have to leave your house more often than you want to believe. This isn’t fair. You aren’t the one acting like an idiot, so why should you have to leave?

The answer is simple: Because you are not an idiot. You wouldn’t expect a poop-flinging monkey to suddenly realize “Hey – this isn’t very mature of me!” and you can’t expect your abuser to realize it either. You are the smart one, you are the one who needs the protection of space, so you are the one who must leave.

Because you will be leaving often, it is a great idea to have $10 or $20 bucks stashed into the lining of your purse. That way, while you’re out running your “errand”, you can actually pick up that milk or even sit at Starbucks and drink a mocha.

Safety Plans recommend large amounts of funds set aside in case you have to leave the relationship permanently. An Exit Strategy is not that kind of plan – the goal for this strategy is to get away temporarily in hope that when you return home, he has managed to redirect his frustration.

Warning Regarding Exit Strategy for Verbally Abusive Relationships

I would be wrong not to tell you that this here Exit Strategy for verbally abusive relationships could lead to the need for a Safety Plan. As time passes and you begin to realize just how often you are required to excuse yourself from your abuser’s presence, you may begin to think about exactly how much “good” there is to be had in the relationship. You may start to doubt your decision to stay with a person who pushes you away, pushes you out of your own home and your emotional safety zone so darn often.

You may find that upon returning home, your abuser has not redirected his anger/emotions, and has instead patiently waited for his target to return. If this happens, you’ll have to enact back-to-back Exit Strategies involving your children, your friends’ homes, and overnights.

For now, write down your Exit Strategy to include many different options for “escape”. But promise yourself that the first night you find yourself sleeping on a friend’s couch because you’ve had to leave home three different times that day, indulge in creating a safety plan. But first, focus on taking the bright red and white target off your chest and develop your Exit Strategy.

How Do I Stop the Verbal Abuse? (Part 1)
Reach Out – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 2)
Educate Yourself – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 3)
Self Reliance – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 4)
Develop an Exit Strategy – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 5)
How To Stop Verbal Abuse – Wrap-Up (Part 6)

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16 Responses to Develop an Exit Strategy – How to Stop Verbal Abuse (Part 5)

  1. JGM27 says:

    I have used exit strategies more often than I care to mention. The more empowered I become with the help of my therapist the more explosive he gets so I have a list of places to go such as the mall, a movie, or going to the park with my Ipod to sit, listen to music, and enjoy nature. To think I used to play the victim but not any more!

  2. Al says:

    I’ve tried a lot of exit strategies, including trying to ignore the person’s abuse. However I’m at a disadvantage in two respects: 1.the attacks normally happen unexpectedly and at the most inopportune times and places but normally when we are alone or with our kids; 2. when I try to exit my wife, being obsessed with the idea tha I WILL listen to what she has to say, tends to become physical and backs me into a corner or drags me where she wants me to be so I can’t leave without having to beat her up and she must know I don’t have the stomache for that. The last fight happened when, whilst she was partying with her friends an drinking, I was unfortunate enough to mistakenly feed the baby with breastmilk earmarked for the next day instead of older milk. As I was sitting with my older daughter who was about to sleep, enters my wife in the bedroom shouting at me like I’m a child like I’m not allowed to make mistakes. Telling her that I don’t appreciate being treated like a child and not being allowed to make mistakes really set her off. I felt I had enough and told her in a ver impolite way that I did not want her in my life. I felt very bad that my daughter had to witness this including my response, so I apologised to her that she had to witness this and that I love her ver much.

  3. Amanda says:

    I got my lightbulb moment after 22 years of marriage. I knew from the day he verbally abused me out of the blue there was something terribly wrong. I am now divorced and have nothing to do with my ex husband every so often I get a ranting email and it just reminds me how his mind works. Although now married (poor woman) he obviously needs to still blame me and make me responsible for how he feels. It is crazy making stuff . At the end of our relationship his abuse escalated to new heights. Not til I got him away from me did I truly recognise what his game was and was shocked more about the way he used his charm to hook me back in far more than the abuse for some reason that seemed far more sinister.

  4. Angela says:

    I’ve often thought of hiding cameras in the house so that my husband can see the evil look in his eyes. When he’s telling my daughter’s or myself to f off, calling us stupid idiots, the look on his face is so scary. Our relationship started off abusive. I tried to leave but he lured me back in. Ive been in this for almost 20 years now. Last night he went crazy again. Of course he was drinking. I recorded him and tried to email it to him so that he could hear how he sounds. When it didn’t go thru I told him he needed to hear it and he told me no. He’s acting like he has no idea of what I’m upset about. I have no running vehicle
    because he won’t fix it. So trying to find work outside of our business is very
    difficult. My credit is horrible because he has a f’em attitude towards
    collectors.So my dream is to have an income that will support my two daughters and I so that we can leave. My spirit is gone. ..

  5. Kellie Holly says:

    Angela, I understand your desire for security before leaving him. However, it will be easier to find that income without him in your home constantly abusing you. When I left I had no job and no prospects of a job. I did have $2400 (enough to get into a rental home at $600/month). I talked to the landlord and told her I would find a job within three months, and fortunately, I did. I don’t know if you believe in God or a higher power of some sort, but I believe that God helped me as much as He could while I lived with my abuser. When I took the leap of faith and left, God was there to catch me, help me, comfort me, and provide for me and my boys.

    Since you work together, perhaps there is a way you can squirrel some money aside. Or, if you have a plan in place for where you can go, instead of depositing a large check into a joint account, put it into your own account and fix your car or have a friend come get you and the kids. The problem with waiting for an income to support you and your daughters is that it sounds eerily similar to the thought “things will be so much better when he (quits drinking, understands creditors are important, feels bad about hurting us,….). The abuse thinking can wreak havoc with safety and plans to leave.

    One way to begin getting clear is to download and use the safety plan here:

  6. Hashimi says:

    I left my abusive husband after being married for less than two years. Of course things did not start bad since day one, but I felt that there were some strange and usual behavior from his side. I loved him then, or so I thought. I trusted him in everything including my money. His choice of residence and lifestyle cost my job. He forced me to live a rental unit were it took me almost 4 hours of commuting every day to go back and forth to work. I was not able to work weekends because he would drag me with him to the cottage every weekend. Eventually, I got laid-off and that is when the abuse and control became so obvious.
    We tried counseling but it did not help. Actually, the counselor supported my decision in leaving him. The good thing is that we have children between us. So, I left even-though, I had no money, no job and I was planning on one year of schooling. You can’t change an abuser, but you can walk away.
    It has been a full year since I left and we are filing for divorce. I just finished school and did not get a job yet. I still don’t have money and not sure how I will pay for my expenses. But I am happier and stronger than I was before.
    Separation and divorce are hard, but it is harder to imagine myself living the same self loathing period that I lived through last year.
    I gained back my self-respect. There is life after abuse. Trust me.

  7. Kellie Holly says:

    Congratulations, Hashimi! I did not know how I would survive when I left, either. The stress of not knowing was much easier to deal with than the stress of being abused. At least without him abusing me I was able to make good decisions for ME. I also know there is life after abuse. It is a BETTER life, even with the hardships. Thank you for sharing your story.

  8. Free says:

    Very good article.
    My abusive husband was charming during the time we dated. However, on our honeymoon he shocked me and the abuse started. He used every method to abuse me that the professionals write about. The more trapped I was with moving, buying a home, the kids, the more abusive he was.
    After 18 yrs I had had it. I found myself detached from the marriage, using some well developed defense mechanisms to simply interact with him. My world was caring for my children.
    I finally broke the silence and told my friends and family about how I have lived. I needed to know that I was not crazy, or overreacting, etc. And all those things he told me I was. I got such support from my friends! I was able to get the courage to leave him. He refused to move out of the house. That would mean giving up his control, not allowing him to work on his issues like he should have been doing. That was a miserable time.
    But, as the divorce proceeds, I am in my own place. It is so peaceful and I am finally in a better place.
    The safety plan is key to a smooth transition. My advice, stash money. Little by little take extra money out using the debit card at the store every chance you get!

  9. Maria says:

    I am getting tired of my boyfriends procratination and not letting himself live his full potential. Because of he tries to put laundry off, responsibilities ex. He finally got a job after two years of me supporting us. He has left me twice and both times i brough him back from Orlando, I live in Miami. When he left the second time I was a little wild and I did see other men. I was honest with him as I believed we “broke” up. Now when we argue he throws that in my face he calls me a “Wh**e” and he say’s that I have other men to tend to me and take his place. But says in a very nasty manner. He goes through a rge type faze. Even though we agree to put past behind he won’t let go. The he will start talking to him self where i can here and say thing to provoke and tells me to shhh! Don’t say anything. I can’t take it anymore. We make up and he apoligizes I accept. Each time i hope and pray that he will get over me with other men. When I tell him that I don’t deserve this abuse. He says, “u are always the victim” in a sarcastic way. He is very dependant on me but doesn’t believe that he is. Everything he does he asks me with approval as if he is constantly trying to please me. Then he flips… I am so confused and yes I sometimes wonder how far will this go. Will it ever go away..

  10. Kellie Holly says:

    Nope. It will never go away Maria. What you’re seeing is what you’ll get for the rest of your days. He’s attracted to you because you see his “potential”…BUT, in time, he is going to snatch your potential away from you. You will become his pawn and have little motivation to do good things for yourself because his manipulation and control will take all of your energy.

    His potential isn’t your responsibility. Perhaps if you left him he would be forced to rely on himself instead of sapping the life force out of you. Or he’ll find another woman that he can drain of her potential.

  11. Maggie Johnson says:

    If you are living, or married, to someone who is abusive and drinks you might want to find the nearest Al Anon meeting. I read in one of the posts that “my spirit is gone”. You will find your spirit again through Al Anon. Through time you will find the strength, and desire, to do what needs to be done…..whether that is staying in the relationship or moving on. Living with substance abuse is hard, and we become enablers without realizing it. All of us have responsibility in helping create a bad relationship, and unless you own your part, another bad relationship might be in your future. Al Anon is free and most places in the civilized world have meetings. Google the nearest meeting place and time. Good luck. I still live with my alcoholic but I am living a great life in spite of his drinking and drugging :) When my last child graduates from high school (three years) it might be time to move out…….we shall see.

  12. Amy says:

    Your blog is very well received… Sadly that is.. But all the same, what is that saying, once your ready the teacher will appear.. First off I am deeply saddened but have to accept what you have explained.. I know my husband had emotional deficits for years and I know he has always been abusive. But you always find a reason to excuse their bad behavior.. An ex model, turned RN I have always taken pretty good care of myself.. All of a sudden I am a shell of what I once was. He isolates me and does whatever he wishes… He throws money at me after bad behavior and in the beginning that was was I took away from the relationship.. Now I grow weaker and know I must go… He threatens to go until I’m so stressed out… And than comes home and I’m like why??? Cuz obviously he needs me to knock down cuz he feels so low… I want to run screaming!!!! I now see he couldn’t possibly care for me.. But this time no more belittling me.. I’m soo angry but I know communicating with him is useless.. He blocked me from leaving before, but I will figure this out before my health deterioates further and my children suffer more abuse…

  13. alexis says:

    I need help on my very verbally abuse relationship, I have been with my husband for 2 1/2 years and all he does is criticize me for any and everything, for the way I dress, cook, everything. I am only 19 years old and we have a little boy together. I don’t make enough money to be able to support my son fully and that’s what is really stopping me from leaving. I love him with all my heart but I already have mental illness and he makes it ten times worse. He isn’t a good father. He makes good money and works really hard but, he’s very materialistic and selfish. If we do not have intercourse every night he proceeds to tell me that he is going to cheat on me N record it and make me watch it and calls me names like cunt and whore. I got no idea of what to do for the sake of my son. I want out but I think of it as just take it and take it until your break, and I can’t get to my breaking point. I’m lost and don’t know what to do.

  14. ma says:

    My husband always said things to remind me of how desired he was. Aside from his 10+ marriage that ended in divorce (according to him she cheated) he had sexual relationships with random women and tried to get married a few times before we married. He was on many dating sites but promised to stop going to them. After finding that he was still visiting theses sites we argued. He said he would stop and naturally by then I had a complex and low self esteem. When he’s angry he calls me horrible names. I was a complete lady when I met him so his words are empty but it hurts because he’s saying them. I want to leave but I’m ashamed to fail. He always tells me that I’ll fail at everything that I do even in this marriage. I guess I’m stubborn. Do I leave? I know I’ll be better with out him and his abusiveness. He goes as far as throwing my school books around and calling me a whore and bitch that I’m sure the neighbors can hear him. He’s says he’s leaving tomorrow and that his life will be better than living here. He says itleast he lived in a house. We live in a studio. What he fails to understand is that with every word he only closes the door on our marriage. I know now that I must leave. I hope he does go. I may be a failure and have no money but I’ll itleast have a clear mind. Aside from failing which seems inevitable I’m afraid too. How am I going to pay my bills with no job? He also said that if I stay here it will only be because I’ll cry and the victim otherwise I’ll go to the streets. He always says that I have no home no country. These are all words to hurt me so I ignore them. In my defense I was not jealous or had low self esteem but he created this monster. I only blame myself for allowing him to manipulate me. It’s a sad good bye because I lost my marriage. I’m glad that this suffering wasn’t a long one and that better times are coming.

  15. “I want to leave but I’m ashamed to fail. He always tells me that I’ll fail at everything that I do even in this marriage. I guess I’m stubborn. Do I leave?”

    Abusers turn your weaknesses and strengths against you. Either you told him that you are “ashamed to fail” or you are very persistent and rarely fail. Either way, he’s using your words against you. Because they are familiar words, your brain falls into his trap.

    I’ll bet he promised to love, honor and cherish you. When was the last time he showed any of those emotions consistently? He has ALREADY FAILED YOU.

    Don’t listen to his nonsense. Get out of there.

  16. Jessica says:

    My boyfriend tells me I’m immature when I leave the house and spend the night somewhere else to avoid his abuse. He tries to guilt me into staying by saying that I need to act like an adult, stop being childish and not “run away” when we argue because according to him, everything we argue about is “minor.” I told him I leave because I”m not going to stick around and take the verbal abuse and he retaliates with “You don’t know what verbal abuse is” It becomes hard to leave because he will just call me incessantly and continue the abuse. And not answering my phone doesn’t help that much. He calls me to say that he “wants to know I’m safe” such bullshit. But then he’ll rant on about my “childish behavior” It really is a no win.

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