Are you planning to leave an abusive relationship? All plans involve future events (that’s why they’re plans and not actions). If so, it’s time to check your thinking. Are you “planning to leave, but…”, or do you have a realistic plan that will get you out of the relationship once and for all?
One type of thinking involves no action, only wishful thinking followed by feelings of defeat. For example, a victim may want to leave, but their planning ends at “I am going to leave, but…” The “but” may be followed by
- “I don’t have anywhere to stay” (and that’s not likely to change because I’m isolated with no resources) or
- “I can’t make it on my own yet” (and even if other people have made do with less, I do not want my children or myself to suffer financially) or
- “my partner will be heart-broken and I’ve got to find a good time to do it”(so I’ve got to build them up before I go)
A second type of thought hinges on a future goal like
- “When I save two months living expenses, and that will take six months” (and I know this because I’ve worked out a plan) or
- “When I graduate at the end of this semester” (and, in the meantime, make use of my college’s job placement services) or
- “My friend’s lease is up next month and we can move in together at a new place” (and I’ve already discussed this with my friend).
When you are planning to leave, goals like these are not excuses to stay. They are realistic goals that, when accomplished, will allow you to leave the relationship with a bit of stability.
Deadline vs. No Deadline
One very important difference between the two types of thinking is that the first type is open-ended – there is no deadline. The victim who believes that s/he must accomplish impossibility number one before moving on to “really” leaving sets themselves up for failure time and time again. The right time will never come, you will never have enough money set aside, and no one is going to come to your rescue with a place to stay if you don’t reach out.
The second type of thinking sets a deadline. It is time-based, well thought out, and unlikely to fail. And, if it does for some unforeseeable reason fail, the motivation to leave at the original deadline could be so strong that it doesn’t matter that the condition to save two month’s living expenses isn’t quite met – you are likely to leave anyway knowing that you can “make it work” despite the problems you will face outside the relationship.
Another great thing about creating a realistic plan to leave is that it gives you a vision of a new future. Once you make the plan, you open up possibilities for yourself that you hadn’t considered in a very long time.
Imagine Your Future Without Abuse
Under your abuser’s thumb, your future becomes stifled. Living with abuse cripples your ability to see any further ahead than what mood she will be in when she gets home or if making his favorite dish for dinner will change his rotten attitude. Living with an abuser limits your future to a few minutes down the road.
Imagining a future free of the abusive dynamic’s restrictions frees your mind before you free your body. When you make a plan to leave that involves a deadline in the NOT TOO DISTANT future, you’re able to imagine what you will
- look like when you walk out that door for the last time,
- feel like when you plop on the couch at your new apartment,
- smell like when you receive a flower on graduation day,
- sound like when there is no butt head around to disturb you at all hours, and
- taste like when you cook the first meal for yourself in peace.
The point is that when you have a real plan, you can begin imagining a life without abuse. Imagining a new life can be a rewarding escape in itself, but the funny thing about imagination is that you often get what you imagine. Yet, you must allow yourself to “see” your new life before it can happen.
Take a minute right now to imagine life without abuse. Use all your senses during your daydream. You may start to cry or feel sad during this daydream because at first it can seem so impossible to achieve! Fight through those feelings of sadness, imagine it anyway.
With practice, the sadness will give way to possibility and your mind will begin to unravel ways you can make that possibility your reality.
Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He was right. If you will dare to imagine a better future for yourself, the knowledge of how to get it will follow. Imagination opens doors that allow you to find new realities. Set a goal with a deadline based on an event in the near future, imagine the possibilities, and then pay attention to “how to get there”.