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Leaving An Abusive Relationship: Why Can’t I Just Leave?

Leaving an abusive relationship usually can't be done the moment you figure out your partner abuses you. Leaving abuse takes planning and time, if you have it.

So many people beat themselves up over the question “Why can’t I just leave?” You want the easy answer? You aren’t ready to leave yet.


  • haven’t been convinced that the abuse warrants you leaving, or
  • you lack financial resources, or
  • you’re in business with your abuser, or
  • the kids are too small, or
  • the kids are almost out of school, or
  • the abuser needs you, or
  • fill in your reason here.

Notice I said fill in your reason here. These are not excuses. The reasons you stay may sound like excuses to someone else, but don’t let anyone belittle your decision to stay. I really want to end that sentence with “to stay for now” but truth is that you may never leave. You could be 70 years old and wondering how your spouse is managing to exceed life expectancy, them being so miserable and nasty and all (lots of people are doing this right now).

I want you to be okay with choosing to stay, because making decisions is empowering. Staying is a choice you can make.

Leaving An Abusive Relationship Is Important

Irresponsible Advice

It would be very irresponsible of me if I don’t say a few things at this point.

  • I want you to end your abusive relationship. Life is too short and precious to spend it with a person who hurts you.
  • If your abuser physically assaults you, I hope you leave right now. Verbal abuse escalates to physical assault and assault escalates to death. Additionally, you may not be the only one to die -your abuser could murder you and then your children and anyone else on the scene.

Point is that choosing to stay with an abuser will have very serious emotional and/or physical consequences. It is only a matter of time.

Leaving An Abusive Relationship Is Not Your Only Option

Honoring a person’s choice to stay in an abusive relationship is a relatively new concept to domestic violence social workers and other domestic abuse helpers. You might find helpers who support you no matter what you decide to do. On the other hand, you might find helpers who decide there’s nothing they can do for you if you do not leave the abuser. That hurts, I know, but just because they’re the experts doesn’t mean they always know the right thing to do.

Additionally, many of your closest friends and family members may distance themselves from you if you choose to stay. Often we tell ourselves that they’re tired of listening to us complain when we won’t do anything to change it. Remember though, the ones who love you need to keep themselves sane, too. If they’re in the battle with you, they may not be strong enough to pull you out if you change your mind and leave the relationship.

Don’t take it personally if people don’t support your decision to stay, and please don’t beat yourself up because you feel you can’t leave. Let’s just roll with this for a while and see what we can do for our mental well-being when we choose to stay.

Key Concepts to Accept About Your Abusive Relationship

You cannot make your abuser happy, therefore you cannot make them mad, either. You do not have magic powers that control your abuser’s words or actions and no combination of your words or behaviors will result in an end to the abuse.

Most everything you do and say will be “wrong”, and if you are right today, you’ll probably be wrong tomorrow. So you may as well do exactly as YOU please at all times. Make your own decisions, act on your hunches. It doesn’t matter what you do, the abuse will continue.

You are in a relationship that thrives on your honest disclosures about yourself. However, unlike healthy intimate relationships, your significant other uses your deepest secrets against you. You cannot trust your abuser with your heart, so keep your mouth shut about it.

There will be moments of joy and pleasure in your abusive relationship. Go ahead and enjoy the sex, the compliment, the joke, etc. But leave the joy in the moment. Don’t assume that because s/he smiled a minute ago that the smile will be there when you look again. Humans need joy in their life, so grab all you can.

You need a safety plan. Period. Abusers are unpredictable and you never know when you’re going to have to get away from them. Thinking through a safety plan during moments of peace will help you to think more swiftly and clearly during moments of danger.

Keep people on the outside of your relationship close. Isolation is the abuser’s best friend. When you’re isolated from others, you lose the most valuable lifeline an abused person can have – ideas from people other than the abuser. You increase the effects of abuse by only hearing your abuser’s opinions, so stay connected to the world outside your home.

Educate yourself about domestic violence and abuse. Search words and phrases like verbal and emotional abuse, side effects of abuse, gaslighting, crazy-making and brainwashing. Learning a little bit each day about how your partner manipulates and controls you lessens their ability to do it.

Concepts to Accept About Yourself

You are human; a delightfully imperfect person who can do the very best you know how to do in this instant. Every instant.

You are lovable.

You deserve respect.

You can choose one thing today and another thing tomorrow.

You are powerful.

You can learn, grow and adapt.

You do not have to accept or absorb lies, even if the lie has a grain of truth to it (see Detaching from Verbal Abuse Hypnosis MP3).

You hold God’s hand, even when you cannot feel it, but sometimes you must do something differently so He can help you in another way.

You decide who stays in your life.

You decide when leaving an abusive relationship is right for you.

You can also find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

Author: kholly

Kellie Jo Holly advocates for domestic violence and abuse awareness through her writing. You can find Kellie Jo on her website, Amazon Authors, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

564 thoughts on “Leaving An Abusive Relationship: Why Can’t I Just Leave?”

  1. Emotionally Abused? I am 36 years old and I have a beautiful 2 1/2 year old girl that is my life. After reading hundreds of articles of being emotional abused I feel as if I am in one. My husband and I have been together for 5 years. Just the other day my husband came home and told me we have to discuss my phone habits. The reason is because I checked my facebook messenger to see if the snow plow guy replied and my husband say that I was online and accused me of talking with another male which is NOT the case. I found out that he is now tapping the house phone to listen to my mother’s conversations that she is having with her sister because he is convinced others are talking about him. My mother stays with us Mon-Friday to watch my daughter while we both work. My mother sees how he is and yes she does talk bad about him. I feel like he is trying to take me away from my family saying they are not good people which breaks my heart because I love my family. He always says “Me, you and our daughter against the world” I thought that was sweet but now I am not sure how this makes me feel. He always says he is sorry and says I don’t deserve this and then is father and husband of the year. I am broken because this has been going for for almost 2 years. I want to leave but I am afraid of leaving my daughter with him alone. I know I can do this on my own but I don’t know where to begin.

    1. Hi Lindsey,

      I am a co-author of this blog, and I just wanted to thank you for your comment and let you know you’re not alone. Verbal and emotional abuse can be difficult to define. However, it does sound like your husband is exhibiting some of the classic signs, and the key to deciding whether or not to act is by looking at how his behavior makes you feel. You may find my latest article, Early Warning Signs of Verbal Abuse, helpful. Even though you say this has been going on for several years, some of these behaviors don’t change, so you may recognize some of your husband’s traits and gain some insight into why he makes you feel so broken inside.

      You say you want to leave but are afraid to leave your daughter. Is leaving her with your husband your only option? No one can tell you how to resolve this situation, but there are domestic abuse organizations who can help you plan your escape and map out your next steps. I urge you to visit our Hotlines and Resources page and call one of the numbers listed. You may not feel like it now, but there is life on the other side of this, and it is ten times better than what you’re currently living with. Good luck, and please come back to this page for support any time. Emma x

  2. I been with my partner for 6 years we have a soon to be 4yearold son. At the start everything was perfect until I fell pregnant with my son things started to change he was aggressive with me leaving me alone I struggled so much as I was only 19 having a baby. he always said he be there for us yet it was the opposite, yes we had good times but now I’m 23 and it’s gone to the point where I can’t have friends when I’m out with them he’s consistent calling and texting them to find out we’re I am, I can’t go anywhere without being questions even though I always have my son with me he accuses me of being or talking to other men which was never true..everything I do is worthless he makes me feel so low in myself I feel stuck. I don’t know how to leave without him freaking out on me.

    1. Iv been emotional abuse all my life by my own blood, and when I finally got away I’m back in the same hole and can’t get out

  3. I’m 31 years old. I been living with my boyfriend 4 years ago, I have a daughter she is 6 that he is been racing like if it was his. I came from a very bad relationship before with the real dad of my daughter I don’t know how it’s happening to me again. I don’t get fiscal abuse. But verbal, he has mood swings, he also do drugs which always denies but always find put he is back at it. We separate one time like for a month he said things will be different etc and we still argue for stupid stuff, he don’t trust me he is insecure he call me horrible names when he is mad and always say you make me mad… and after that apologizes and say it wasn’t him. And he is sorry, I care about him he is been good to me and my daughter, not all the times are bad, but I know a person like him will never change, I don’t know why I can just leave him, I really think about it lots of times, when we argue y always defend myself but he never leaves and if he do always comes back. I wish I could just delete the emotions and get done with this.

    1. Pamela, I’m so sorry, your comment broke my heart. I imagine that must be incredibly difficult for you, especially because I’m sure his place in your daughter’s life holds emotional value for you as well. I completely get that. The verbal abuse and drugs are not a healthy environment for yourself or your daughter, it’s toxic. I know you won’t be able to leave until you’re ready Pamela, that’s just how it goes for everyone. What do you think is the next best step to give yourself and your daughter a better quality of life? Have you reached out to any close family or friends? I think it’s always a good idea to reach out to someone you trust and to start thinking about what leaving would look like, start to develop a safe plan, even if it’s just in your head, for now, think about it. You deserve a happy life filled with love and happiness and you deserve a healthy environment to raise your daughter in, free from the verbal abuse and free from the drugs. Please reach out anytime to us here on HealthyPlace. Thanks, Emily.

  4. Hi I really really need some help!! I’ve been with my partner for over 5 years now. At first it was great but then drugs became involved and he changed! Since then I’ve been on the receiving end of countless verbal abuse and physical abuse too. He’s put me in hospital many times and earlier this year he broke my hand. I wanted to leave him and when he broke my hand I finally went to the cops. I had an avo and he was up on some serious charges! He found me and was so sorry etc. Next thing I was given a friendly reminder that I’m a coppa dog and it’s in my best interest to have all charges dropped! I had no choice so I did it. He then got out of jail and came to. Live with me. Things still werent the best but it was better. Then the drugs started again! Now he’s right back to cheating on me and verbally abusive to me! The physical stuff hasn’t started yet but I know it can’t be far away, it never is… No1 in my life knows I’m still with him because they’ve all said they’ll cut me off if I see him and I can’t risk losing my family and friends that I have left! I know this sounds stupid but I really really do love him! I know after all he’s done I should hate him more than anything but I don’t! I feel worthless and fat and just not good enough for anyone. Please help me! I don’t know how to ask him to leave and I can look after myself no problem but I’m not sure I want him to go… Does that make sense? I know other men find me attractive etc but I don’t want anyone else. WTF do I do???

    1. Stephanie, Wow! Your comment was like reading my diary in my early 20’s/late teenage years. Honestly, that was exactly my life back then. I’m so sorry you’re going through such a tough time! Okay, first of all, I understand how hard it is to leave someone when you just aren’t ready, but with that being said, you should take an honest look at what you are gaining from this relationship. It sounds like you are going through some pretty traumatic, chaotic, unstable, craziness with this relationship. When you are in a relationship with an addict, you subject yourself to some very serious issues. There is a fine line between enabling and loving an addict and it is very tricky to figure out how to lovingly set boundaries in that kind of situation. I’m sure you want to care for him but you also have to think about yourself and your own well-being, you have to remember to not disregard the quality of your life because you love someone, it is no way to live and you deserve better than that. Sometimes with addicts, the most loving thing you can do is to tell them you cannot be with them while they are using, and until they change their life completely, you cannot be apart of theirs. I know that is much easier said than done, but it is often the best way to love them while also loving yourself. I imagine you may feel like he would be/ could be the guy you fell in love with again if he could just get clean and so you may not want to give up on him. I understand those feelings completely but drug addiction is a disease, a very serious disease that can be extremely difficult to overcome. You have to consider that his sobriety may not be anywhere in your near future, and you may subject yourself to some terrible things while you wait for him to get better. Now I know you can’t exactly talk to your friends and family about this because you’re keeping things under the radar for the time being, but could you reach out to a therapist or counselor? They may be able to offer you some really helpful insight, to help you get through this. I’ve got to tell you, I went through the exact same thing, fell in love, my boyfriend got hooked on drugs, everything started to unravel, our relationship turned really dark and before I knew it I was in the hospital from an awful fight, my family and friends were adamant I not have any association with him, I did it anyway, the police got involved, and we did all of that in a cycle, again and again for several years. I thought I couldn’t live without him, but you know what? That was so long ago now, a lifetime ago it feels like, and I am so happy with my life now. Separating myself from all of that chaos was the best thing I ever could have done for myself. I’ve gone on to go to school and I have a beautiful family now and I just got this awesome writing job, I could never have done any of this, in that relationship because it was toxic. We loved each other but it was just plain toxic. You deserve to be loved and valued, you have the potential to have a fulfilling life with a good man who adores you, who your family loves because they see how well he treats you, this is not an unrealistic standard. You are worth so much more than what your current circumstance is suggesting. You can one day too look back on this and think what you do next is the best choice you made and look at what a beautiful life you went on to have… I believe in you!

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