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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.

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.

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

  1. Hello, you can call me Rafaela (not my real name for privacy). I’m a mom of 3 kids and I’m from the Philippines. I’ve been with my husband, who is also my first and only boyfriend since High school and we got married after 6yrs when I fell pregnant with my first child. We were happy, we sure had ups and downs but there are times when the verbal abuse will roll out. He calls me names, and disregards the fact that I’m too tired to do a house hold chore for example yet he demands that I be the one to do it. If in the event that I’m able to tell him to do it instead, a series of insults and banging and loud noises can be heard. He also has the ability to shame me in front of my kids, even at the mall and other public places. It just makes me feel That I dont deserve to be respected and I lose my morale everytime it happens. Aside from verbal, emotional and physical abuse, there was something like smashing expensive gadgets like throwing the phone across the room, slammed my laptop so hard it broke to pieces etc and these are my things, things that I bought with my own money or a gift for me. And then, the physical abuse which at first it was just a single slap, then a punch and a kick or two, then whoah full out boxing. This really doesnt happen all the time, say once in every 2-3 months. In between we will be the picture perfect family before the abuse will happen again. It felt like everytime was my fault and that I deserved it. Then I had the courage to leave with my then 2 kids. We spent 3 weeks away from him and he begged me to take him back. I decided to give him another chance, i prayed so hard and i felt it was the right thing to do. Then i discoveredthat I was actually 6 weeks pregnant with my 3rd child! So theyall yold me that its just hormones and all that’s why i left him. He promised to look for a stable job to support us, promised never to shout and cuss and all at me and all that shit. As time goes by, the shouting came back, the cussing came back but thank goodness the physical abuse never came back. I learned to be careful with my words and how i act and I also submitted myself more to him as a wife doing everything from being a house wife to the sole breadwinner and slave of the house. He also works sometimes as a part time freelancer but most of the time its me who puts money in the table. I wouldnt have minded if that was the case but they way he insults me and talks to me just feels so degrading. Fast forward 3yrs after we got back together, i met up with some friends and there was a misunderstanding on when we should meet. He is to meet me at the mall with our 3 kids after my meet up with my friends. Unfortunately my meetup got extended and I almost lost track of time and i just remembered when i got an angry text. So i hurried off to see them and left my friends, and what does he do? He shouted at me in front of other people and made a small scene at the mall. It was horrible. Then I decided to turn back and not go with them since he already walked the otherway holding my kids hands. I decided to spend time walking alone thinking of what to do. When i cleared my head, i went home and i realized i could not bear to talk to him. So we went 24hours no talking. After that, he made the first arrogant move. Things got escalated so fast that he attempted to slap me, and me being frustrated already, stood up (first time i provoked him fyi), and I said “go ahead! I’m all you can beat anyway” then in a snap he puched and kicked and threw me across the room, threw things at me, punch kick pulled my hair and strangled me a lot of times. All the while cursing and telling me that I was the one who provoked him so I so deserve to be beaten. He even taunts me to go ahead call the police file a case and to facetime my mother who is in the USA so he can show her how he beats her only daughter. The whole time I was being hurt physically, all i felt was numbness and fear and also I felt sorry for him. So instead of fighting back i attempted to hug him to pacify his anger. This worked previously but not this night of december 5, 2017. Instead of stopping, he grabbed my arms and strangled me. I was the one who begged him to stop but everytime i do, it just makes him more eager to hurt me. Then a miracle happened, he stopped, prolly tired and I’m aching all over. Then he apologized. I decided to test him, one last time and i pretended to forgive him and admit it was my fault and i accepted that I deserved to be beaten etc. The next day, i could barely move, i have bruises all over but thankfully they are concealed in clothing. Even though he is well aware of what he did to me and how I must be feeling physically, he is more concerned that his foot is aching from all the kicking he did, and his wrists seem dislocated and his shoulders are aching as well! I decided to ignore it. He seemed empathetic specially when he saw the biggest angry bruise on my shoulder and he kissed it and whispered “I’m so sorry, please do not do that again as i cannot control my anger”. Today, i’m still aching all over, walking is a struggle, my neck feels broken and swollen but I still manage to do my normal house routine but at a slower pace. There was just one thing that I asked him to do for me since I’m unable to stretch my arms fully because my rib and back are really painful, he shouted “so what?! My arms ache too you know?” He also said “you asked for it and now you’re complaining?” How can he do this to me? How can he treat me like this? He is normally very sweet but if i do something stupid or make a mistake or if we run out of food or money, you can expect a drastic change of behavior from him. Despite all, i dont think he is a bad person. I think he just dislikes to be in a bad situation, example, car battery ran out. Instead of looking for a solution, he tells me “i dont care about the car, let it rot”. Please help me. Should I leave? What should I do. I have 2 daughters aged 11 and 7 and a son aged 2yrs old. The 2 daughters are still at school. I feel like I should leave ASAP but I just dont know if its right or should I be planning first? No one from his family nor mine knows that the abuse happened again btw. Thanks for your time in reading my really long comment!

    1. Yes….plan then leave, i am currently going through a similar abuse. We need to do whats right for our kids. Hes never going to change believe me i know.

      1. Thank you. I think I don’t feel any love for him anymore. All I feel is anger and pity for him. He doesnt care if I cant move too much because of my injuries, even had the guts to say “you asked for it right? You provoked me to do what I did to you now shut up!”. Every time I wince in pain he will just say he feels the same way and even pointed out my scratch marks on his neck. The nerve. Thank you again. You dont know how your response affected me. I have been praying to God to give me just 1 sign, and here you are. I hope you find your peace as well and please take care of yourself and your children. I would hug you if I could but cant so I’m just sending prayers along your way that we both be successful. God bless you

    2. I read your story and I cried. 4 weeks now since I made the call to the police, and he is out of the house by court order. I am in the process of divorce. Today I feel ok. Other days I question my sanity. But I get through each and every day. And am always thankful at the end of the day to make it through stronger and wiser and with more clarity. It’s hard. And I wanted someone to tell me to get up and leave and to deal with it. But no one will, and when you do leave you will find you will be on your own, other than the juicy gossip it’s too much for anyone to deal with. But that’s ok. I actually stopped speaking to everyone about my situation for the 18 months before hand. But I started planning. Researching. Learning. And that in its self gave me purpose. Strength. Taught me I could rely on myself. So what I am saying is that don’t beat yourself up for staying or going back. They don’t change. And they just get worse. But start planning, that might give you some piece and purpose for now, and the support you need when you make that choice. Trust yourself. As I look back and for me, I am glad I stopped speaking to others about whether I should stay or go. I found that each time I did, I somehow found another reason to stay. I wanted out. That much I knew. Today is a good day. Thank you for sharing your story and as I read your comments where he has said you deserve it, I know I made the right choice for me. One of the last things he did say to me was I deserved it. For me and in terms of moving forward I have not spoken to him since and all communication regarding the children go through a third party. No contact for me is what I need, otherwise I would fall for the same charm again.

  2. Its been 3years and yesterday I thought it would be the day I die. I begged for my life as I gasped for what I thought would be my last breath. Just when I thought he’d let up strangling me, he put a pillow over my face. How did I stay so long this isnt the first time. He has spent hours brutalizing me over a text or me not wanting sex, or if I caught him lying or cheating. He has no car, no job, 3kids, and is epileptic gaww I feel like such a fool. I’m educated, with a career, house job, beautiful kids of my own. After this latest beating, I’ve had enough and I will never forget the look he had in his eyes, he won’t be happy unless he kills me or ruins me somehow.

    1. I wanted to add that thankfully we live apart should be an easy fix, but I keep letting him letting him in. Its over now, but now the complete loneliness sets in (my support system is shattered now) . I have no one now.

  3. My name is Alexis and I am 18 years old I’ve been in a relationship w my boyfriend for almost a year and he’s beaten me idk how many times , emotionally & mentally abused me as well and cheats on top of that . I am Tired He doesn’t allow me to have friends barely family or even any contact w the outside world . He currently has a case where he will have to go to court because of beating me so badly . Every time I give Him a chance he takes advantage of it & I’m just sick he tells me I’m ugly, broke, fat etc and doesn’t appreciate me at all . He says there’s other girls who look better that he should be with than me . I’ve prayed for a change but It doesn’t seem like I’ll get one 😔

    1. I’m in a abuse relationship just like this one girl I’m still here and trying to leave I️ left once for 8 months and it was the greatest thing but i don’t live near any family and lost my Apartment so I️ moved back in with him. I️ have 2 dogs and evictions on my record from him so I️

      L

      l moved back with him worst thing i could have done please be strong and get out as soon as you can’t never look back because we all deserve so much better and a real man in our lives that we can see having children with.

  4. I am with a mostly verbal, Sometimes physical abuser and I want out. 4 years of HOGWASH. The most important bit of info I’m taking away from this article is to not share your heart with the abuser. I’ve shared and shared and shared…and it always gets used as ammo against me…to hurt me to make me feel bad. Reading this has been so helpful to me on how to ‘escape’. Thank you.

  5. I can’t leave as bad as I want to
    My son still in school
    I have no money because he takes it all from me
    He degrades me disrespects me
    Emotionally mentally and physically abuses me
    I’m not allowed to see my family
    Have friends. Have a job or tlk to anyone or he beats me
    I feel like a slave a prisoner a punching bag
    I hate him with all my heart an soul but he threatens to blow my head off in front of my kids if I leave
    Somebody please tell me what to do
    If I stay or leave i fear he will kill me

    1. Misty my goodness what your going thru is absolutely scary for you and your son
      You need to leave and seek help from local authorities
      Im sure you fear doing that but if you can get number for a womans shelter but you cannot stay in that your to wonderful of a woman
      I know your scared but please start finding resources to GET OUT!!!!
      Remember your worthy of so much more

    2. im so sorry to hear that. u need to seek help. do u have any relatives you can contact? ask them for help. they may be able to help you so you can feel strengthen to leave him.

    3. Misty , if you can find a way to do this
      Get an app that can allows you to Audio or video record some incidents whether physical abuse or verbal to use as evidence when you get into contact with authorities which is the best approach I recommend
      And after you do record it
      Download an app that you can put the videos in , like a secret app with a password lock , the one I have is called calculator vault where the icon of the app is a calculator so it’s not suspicious at all and work exactly like a calculator would
      However , this is on my iPhone
      So hopefully you have one
      If not , search in the App Store either way
      I hope for you to be free of this soon enough

  6. I just got smacked in the face twice after 5 years of emotional abuse I have no friends or family to turn to zero dollars to my name and I have to go to work tomorrow. I threatened him with the police, he doesn’t care. I’m dead in a shell of flesh that resembles me.

    1. Hi Kylie,

      I’m so sorry this is happening to you. What your partner has done to you is against the law, so do document his violence and file a police report — it doesn’t matter whether or not he cares. I know how impossible it feels when someone is trampling all over your self-esteem and sense of worth, but you have to care about yourself . Please confide in a trusted friend or family member, and contact a domestic abuse hotline like 800-799-7233. You don’t have to do this alone. Good luck, and please come back to this site for support any time you need.

  7. My boyfriend and I have been together for almost six months, and I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing by reaching out. But every day is a non-stop jealousy fight. I can not even leave my house to go with my family with out his permission, and if I do get granted the permission he still gets mad at me. He accuses me every day of cheating or lying. He has all my passwords, all of my information yet still doesn’t trust me. Be complains I never spend enough time with him, but I’m with him nearly every day. I’m physically, and mentally drained. I hate going to his house sometimes because he never allows me to be on my phone. If my mom or even a close family friend was to message me we will fight over it. I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been treated like this. It’s more like he treats me like an object. If I smile, I’m being “too friendly” when we go out or see people, or if I’m just sitting there I’m “acting different,” or being a bit**.” I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve invested so much time and effort that it literally frightens me to leave, because I’ve had to cut everyone off. Even friends, and hobbies.

    1. Hi Katelynn,

      Well done for reaching out. You may not feel as though you’re doing the right thing, but what your boyfriend is doing is far from OK. In fact, I would go as far as to say that he is abusive, and that you should seek help. Over time, his controlling behavior will only get worse and it could even turn violent, so please don’t keep this to yourself.

      It sounds like you need a break from the relationship to figure out whether or not you want to be treated this way, so is there a friend or family member you could stay with for a while? You must tell your boyfriend in no uncertain terms that unless his behavior changes, you can’t stay with him — and mean it. You might feel like you’ve invested a lot in this relationship, but it’s nothing compared to what you stand to lose, and what you’ve possibly lost already. Nobody reserves the right to call you derogatory names or tell you who you can and can’t talk to.

      Good luck, and please reach out to your loved ones, even if you’ve cut them off in the past. If they love you, they will understand. You can’t do this alone, and you don’t have to.

  8. Ive been with my current boyfriend for about four months and he shows signs of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. He constantly starts fights with me and calls me names which causes me to worry and say sorry because I feel that it is my fault. He isolates me from my friends and family and constantly wants me to hang out with him, I am exhausted. Part of me really does want to leave but then the other part of me is afraid of being alone especially since im clingy and got used to him. Every time I say it’s time for me to leave he gets upset and yells and name calls me. Ive told him how I felt and that I want to break up with him and he threatens to kill himself which is guilt tripping me. Yesterday I went over to his house with my two friends to try to end things because I was afraid he was going to hurt me he threatened to hit me and my guy friend had to hold him back. He has split personalities and is bi polar and claims he cant remember what he did. He also used me a lot for sexual favors even tho I cry and say im not in the mood right now. I honestly just feel trapped and I want to leave but im afraid he is going to hurt me or my family I need advice.

    1. Sierra, Thanks for reaching out to us at HealthyPlace! I’m so glad you did because you are most certainly in an abusive relationship. The way he is behaving, the way he is treating you, is absolutely unacceptable. If you have been with your boyfriend for four months and things are already as bad as you’ve described, you need to get out of that situation as fast as possible. He sounds dangerous Sierra, and statistically speaking, things will continue to get worse and worse. He clearly has some very serious issues and needs to get help for those issues on his own. If you think you’re ready to leave but you’re scared, I recommend you reach out to those close to you and communicate everything that’s going on. Have you told your family? Have you considered reporting his behavior for your safety? From what I gathered, you’re not living together, and that’s a very good thing, leaving will still be complicated but you won’t have to worry about that aspect. Have you thought about maybe sending him a text or email so you’re not on the phone or in person, that way you can say what you need to say uninterrupted and end the conversation there? Maybe your best option would be to send a text explaining why you need to break up, that you need to put your safety and self-respect and self-care first and foremost and that you don’t want to continue the relationship. After you send the text, if you’re open to this, consider blocking his number. I think in a situation where a guy is sending you threats, trying to manipulate you with guilt and blame tactics, and making you feel unsafe, the best route is no-contact. I hope this was helpful Sierra. If you have any more questions please feel free to reach out anytime. I’ve attached an article below I think pertains to your situation. Thanks again, Emily

      Reasons to Leave an Abusive Relationship

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