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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.

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

  1. 8 years started to have unpredictable outbursts of rage beginning in our 2 yrs of dating. They continued into our marriage where I’d get hit. That stopped, bt the cycle of rage continued interspersed with great periods of kindness/love only to be sideline, isolated/not talked or touched for weeks or months if I said the wrong thing. Tried counslng 3 times and now have a counselor telling me I need to leave. It scares me to be alone; I often wonder if I am making a mistake or perceived things incorrectly. I think back on going to sleep and wishing I wouldn’t wake up to make the pain stop and know I should leave bt still difficult.

  2. I have been in an emotionally abusive relationship for 35 years. The truth of the abuse did not become clear until recently. I want to leave and live my own life and regain my self-esteem, feelings of self-worth and to finally find some peace and joy for myself. But I am scared. Scared about money, scared my grown children will side with my husband. Scared about navigating things like health coverage… I’m 59. With my low self-esteem I have become quite isolated and do not have any family or friends for emotional support. These are the reasons I stay.

    1. I understand Cathy although I have been married for 18 years. I’m isolated in a state where I know no one and have no living family. I have realized that it will never get better it has escalated. I called a lawyer today only to get a voice mail. I left a message for a consultation and I pray that I have enough courage and strength when he returns my call. Of course it’s a Friday. I pray that you can find the support you need. I hope and pray to live the rest of our lives with love and laughter.

    2. Hi My name is Ann
      I’m 51 yr s old My grown children moved to other states My Husband gets furious if I call or try to go out with my sisters I don’t go because I think to myself it’s not worth the argument.Here I am talking to strangers about my problems and feel hopeless. The worst part about all this is I don’t drive I can’t find a job bc I have nt worked in yrs do to raising family disability etc I wake up every day with a positive attitude but as the day goes on it grows weaker. To boot all one of my sisters just passed away My husband refused to go to funeral because he doesn’t get along with my sisters
      He got upset with me the other day because I spent $35 on my dog He has allergies he needed Medicine the poor thing was itching so bad it’s all I have left

  3. My wife will never see how much she hurts me by the way she abuses me emotionally. I feel so worthless like im nothing to her. I constantly feel like taking my own life because i feel so hated by her. I just feel like a ghost to her i don’t exist in her world even though she says she loves me. All i expect from her is love, trust and respect but i feel like i will never get that from her no matter how hard i try. She will never see the harm she is causing me i love her to death but i cant keep looking past the way i feel inside she could never understand and doesn’t want to understand. I feel like every step i take is a mistake always feeling like im walking on eggshells not knowing what i will get yelled at for even stuff that isnt my fault. She just keeps punishing and threatening me for everything. Everything makes her angry and doesn’t see how she is towards me. Im just so frustrated with all of this when i talk to her its like i dont even matter or that my feelings don’t even matter to her. All i want is for her to spend time with me, trust, love and care but idk what else to do when all hope is gone.

  4. I’ve been in a relationship for 8yrs going on 9 and he has never assaulted me in the past. But we have a baby a year ago, and 2 months into parenthood he started to get abusive. He fails to support both me and our son, he’s quit work and seems to have suddenly lost ambition and it drives me crazy. I have to make ends meet to take care of all 3 of us, while in college trying to get a qualification. I wanna leave so bad, sometimes I try to convince myself that I’m doing for my son to have a relationship with his dad. Coz I’ve left in the past, when it all started, but he didn’t come around to see our son.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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 .

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