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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.

You

  • 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.

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

  1. In a relationship 8yrs. Married 3. Dated 5. 3 children 2 of which are from a previous marriage. He never accepted my boys but because I was “so in love” I married anyway. Verbally and Emotionally abusive to me since the beginning. My boys eventually felt the lack of attention and affection and it created a huge wedge and tension anytime all of us were together. Feel like crap now because my boys (now older) dont want anything to do with him or even to come by. He recently went out of town for 1wk and upon dropping him off to the airport I felt relief and then I was shocked at that relief. Im numb now and don’t know what to feel. He wants to try to fix things now but I have heard this before and dunno if I should trust it but also feel guilt like i’m giving up. I never wanted another divorce but if I stay I feel like i’m betraying my boys again. Help

  2. I am in a abusive relationship. I have two kids and other one on the way. I want to leave but he had all the money because he won’t let me go to work. His father just got out of jail for stabbing his wife. I really don’t want this to happen to me. Please help me.

  3. I’ve been in an abusive relationship for 3 months now. I want to leave but I love him so much. I just don’t know what to do. He stole everything from me including my license, birth certificate, social security card, credit card, insurance cards..
    Everything of importance in my wallet. When I do actually pack my stuff and leave, somehow he pursuades me into coming back with the I’m sorrys and I love yous… Help me I need to get away!

    1. Hello Gia, I’m gonna give you some advice , I’ve been in an abusive relationship for nearly two years now , at the start of my relationship when things began to get abusive I used to believe he was only being that way temporarily and I thought he would change , he did change but in the wrong way, he “changed” as in “he got worse” I know it’s really hard to leave because I still haven’t either but I wish I did early on in the relationship because the longer I’ve stayed the more he’s made me love him by doing all the nice things in between all the nasty things , I wish I could go back to the start and leave early on, he will get worse , he will make u feel more loved by giving u more good memories and he will take your mind off the bad ones , I know leaving is really really hard because I’m in the same position as you, but trust me , it will be much much easier for you to leave him now then to let it go on, block him once you’ve left so he can’t make u forgive him. Get a new phone number , new Facebook account , new everything , delete all your photos that you have of him. Make it easier for yourself , don’t let it go on because he will definitely get worse , it will be much harder to leave him once you let him get away with everything , if you can’t leave then you need to say no to the things you don’t wanna do, don’t let him win. Don’t let him control you, play him at his own game, if he dumps you don’t go running back to him straight away , make him wait a few weeks or days for you, the longer you make him wait and less you allow him to control you the more likely he is to stop, not many abusive people change though so if playing him at his own game a couple of times doesn’t work, then leave , don’t be abusive to him just don’t let him control you and don’t let him get away with anything xx hope this helps x

  4. I can feel this. Right now i am crying and thinking why can’t i get over with him and stop loving him. He is cheating on me and then he apologizes me and we get close again. He ignores me i will be crying and he walks away. I don’t know might be i have become too sensitive. It has been 6 years and i am still not emotionally in peace and secure. He give different names to his cheating. I think he knows how to play with my heart and brain. I really want to get out of this relationship but i can’t live without him might i am addicted to him. I have been through depression 4 times and literally got upto point where i wanted tp suicide because life with him was miserable and without him impossible. I wish i knew some magic where i can make him loyal and become his priority.

    1. I have never related so much to something ever. i thought i was the only one who felt like that. I’ve been in the same situation for 2 years now. I would love it if you emailed or texted me so we could talk more about it. i’ve just never met someone who could relate to me before

    2. I know exactly what you mean. For some who do not I have not been able to find a job and all of the money is in his name. The online application screens me out from the 50 or more questions and I cannot leave plus I do not have anyone to help me financial and extremely little help to find a decent job.

    3. Skittle , I’m in the same position like you ,can’t breathe, can’t function his always on my mind .I wish there is a pill to take this misery .I finally left my ex abusive narcissist boyfriend of 4 years .I end up filing a restraining order and called the police on him .I knew then I was done with him .That was the end of it .I need to do this for my safety and sanity and no other way out .Otherwise the abuse will never end and I will end up dead, miserable or live unhappy life .
      I’m still struggling everyday and have a hard time moving on without thinking of him every single day
      I’m driving a therapist ever since I started dating him.Im confused battered verbally,emotionally and physically.Nothing I do is right .I lost my self esteem, my self confidence and self respect .I didn’t no who I was anymore .I work in healthcare setting and no matter what professional you’re in there’s no immunity when your heart rules your head .I lost my self .Please get some help , Donestic violence support group in your area and see a therapist .You have to sever your ties .Its very hard but the pain is only temporary but staying with him gives you more intense pain emotionally and the abuse will never end .

  5. I just recently left an abusive relationship. He calls my phone block and he sends me messages through an app. Stating that if I come back to live with him I’ll never leave. I’ve blocked every number he contacts me from. I’m afraid to change my number because I feel he will go as far as stalking me to find out my where abouts. He knows nothing about where I live now. But he’s popped up at my moms place and we had to threaten to call the cops for him to leave. God and family helped me to leave him and I know God and hopefully the law will help protect me from him. You can leave an abusive partner. Know your worth. Cross the bridges when you get there. You only get one life. Money comes and go, you can find love elsewhere, kids deserve better, and more

    1. how did you leave? I am afraid every time I want to leave he beats me and threatens to kill my family. and if I call the cops he will have one of his friends hurt my family. idk what to do I feel trapped and need help getting out!

  6. This sounds also too familiar to me. I moved countries to be with a man who I did grow very close to, the problems started when he was drunk, he would get very aggressive (with everyone, not always just me) and then one night we came home and he started screaming at me and told me to leave. I spent the night sat on a bench wondering what i’d done. It got into a cycle where things would get better and he’d apologise and we’d get close again and have really good times, but whenever he had a bit of stress, he would abuse alcohol and turn into this monster. He would spend hours screaming at me about how useless I am and how sh*t I am and how my family hate me and using things about my past (I was married, to a cheating user, now divorced), he would say that it was my mistakes that ended my marriage and no one needs someone like me in their life. This would go on and on, then he stopped drinking and for the last three months we had no problem. He runs a restaurant and I work with him and live with him so I don’t take a wage, even though its his, not ours, (now I write it I realise how stupid that sounds). I help him look after his two dogs, I shop, clean, cook, while he lives the life of a 20 year old, stays out when he wants, does what he wants etc, (I’m 33, hes 39). If I want to go see a friend, and I only have a few here, he will question why I need to go now, why not another day, then ask me what I did and call me and say to say hi to my friend so he knows that I’m where I say I am. One minute he says we’re a couple, and I’m so important to him, the next he tells me i’m nothing but disgusting and I’m only here because he needs me to do all I do for him. Id always put his aggression down to his past, his mum died when he was very young, and he has a child with an ex, but she moved away with the child without telling him so he has no contact anymore, plus numerous other things. But after this last period of us getting on great and growing closer he started to drink a few days ago… he’s hurt me physically in the past by throwing things at me or trapping me between the bed and the wall then shoving the bed at me, hes also smashed my glasses off my face which broke them and hes smashed up my laptop and mobile phone. Hes also shoved me to the floor a few times in anger, but this time he had only drank two or three beers, we started to fight at work as I had asked to change the music because people had complained about it (he always listens to techno when he starts to drink, not great for a restaurant atmosphere) and hed got aggro with me over that, then the insults started, he called me into the kitchen to scream at me about how sh*t I was and how I could just leave. Despite knowing when I say I leave it makes him worse, I couldn’t help but shout back that I will go then and he can work the whole shop himself. When we closed the evening I asked if I should take a hotel or was I going to be in for a night of sh*t and he kept saying listen when I answer you, I don’t answer you again, which made no sense. I should have known, he got in first, and I heard him screaming at that dogs, said that they had destroyed something, which they hadn’t. Then he turned on me, screaming again about how he hates me and my family (who are coming to visit next week), they gave him money to help start his business and he is not one bit grateful for it and I ooubt they’ll see it again… but anyway he screamed on and on all the usual abuse about how I’m worthless and an awful person, then he said he wasn’t even so drunk this time, so I cant blame alcohol, threw me on the floor, so I started trying to get away from him, then he threw his keys at my head with such force they came off the keyring and I had an instant lump on my head, then as I covered my head started punching and kicking me as I lay on the floor crying. He told me to apologise and I said I was sorry and he said for what, tell him for what, I kept saying I was sorry but he kept kicking me. He laughed at how pathetic I looked and then punched me again and kept laughing. Eventually he stopped, and went to sleep on the sofa. I went to bed. When I woke up the next day my whole arm and leg are black and blue, swollen and painful, as well as the lump on my head which is still sore to touch. That was the night before last and he has acted like everything is fine, he hasn’t mentioned anything about it, hasn’t apologised, hasn’t asked why I’m limping or swallowing painkillers, and ive made sure to wear clothes that show the bruises at home so he knows what hes done. I think its time to accept that he doesn’t care about me, he only cares about himself and the help he needs from me and anything else is just spin to make me stay with him. So after all of this, why the hell am I finding it so hard to be able to leave? I would have to leave overnight or when hes out because as before, if I have tried to pack my bags and go, he either throws me to the floor or rips my bags open and throws all my stuff around. But I know he is stuck without me, his business would fail and he wouldn’t be able to look after the dogs and the shop and have any kind of life also. I also know that this is what he deserves, and when he tells me I deserve to be punched and kicked that that’s not true, but why would I feel so guilty for leaving him?

  7. I’m in a abusive relationship and realizing it now. planning to leave soon I live with him and I’m acting like everything is OK I don’t want him to know I’m leaving he says I’m his and I’m not going anywhere im dying on the inside the other night he choked me and punch me in my face it seems like things are getting worse when we argue this time was bad but I guess every time is I was crying and he said when your done come lay down how can a person be so cruel he won’t give me any space very over barring he doesn’t look at what he did is wrong and that’s what scares me I don’t have low self esteem I know I deserve better I’m making the decision to leave this abuser and never looking back.

    1. I know how you feel. I’m at this moment crying and laying next to him and yet he doesn’t care. I scream I’m not shot and he laughed ok… I hate how he makes me feel! I want to leave! But I don’t know why I stay. Is it for my kids or why! God help me before it gets worse.

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