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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: Kellie Jo Holly

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.

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

  1. I’m am a victim of mental torture. I so much want to leave my relationship but I just can’t. I feel that no one will believe me what I’m going through. I just don’t know how to explain what hell I’m going through. My wife has it that way I can’t even talk to my daughter, who thinks it’s all in my head. I have read about gaslighting and it’s exactly what is happening to me . I’m scared to leave, I will have nothing. I don’t know what to do. I need help.

    1. Hi Michael,

      I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through — and thank you for commenting. A lot of people who are abused fear that they won’t be believed, and part of what makes psychological abuse so insidious is that the perpetrator has a way of making the victim feel that it’s all in his/her head, as well as influencing those around them.

      If you’re sure you want to leave, could you start preparing an exit strategy? Saving a small amount of money on the side, for example, or arranging to stay with a friend for a while? These things can feel impossible at the time, but there might be ways (granted, less than ideal ways at first) you could make it happen if that’s what you want. Speaking from experience, however awful it is to find yourself alone, living in a toxic relationship is far worse.

      In the meantime, speaking to a licensed therapist will help you deal with what’s going on and perhaps come up with ways you could respond to your wife to curb her abuse. A therapist may also be able to point you toward some other resources that could help you leave the relationship and help you deal with the fallout.

      Good luck, and please know that it does get better.

  2. I am in the process of leaving my narcissist of almost 4 years. He will not change, ever. I am not kidding myself anymore, I am getting out. It is very hard but doable.

  3. I’ve been in an emotionally abusive, on and off relationship with a straight up narcissist for two years already. I’m so drained, but I don’t know what else to do. He keeps coming back too, and things seems better for a while and then….

    It’s just so hard to leave or stay away from him.

  4. I have been living with my abusive partner for 8 years now. He calling me different names, scream at me, humiliated in public, treated as if I am a nanny, commpared to his exes and other woman. He says bad things about me to my kids , he never give credits to my good deeds, I am physically, mentally, verbally and financially abused. I tried to escape so many times but I always ended up returning home. I badly want to leave him and get out this abusive relatonship. I already told him that I dont want to be humiliated but doesnt listen. I dont want my kids to grow and see how I am treated.
    I dont how to get out of this relationship!!!!

      1. Me too. But I’ve now told him I want a divorce. And guess what now he wants to listen. Now he wants to understand. Now he wants to show me love respect and honesty. It’s not the first time he shows his amazing side when I say enough is enough but it’s going to be the last. I feel terribly torn as I have been married for 21 years and we have 2 children but I will go mad if I stay with him any less beer and I know in two months time it will all be happening again. I’m done. And you will be when you have finally had enough.

    1. Is there a shelter near you? I know that sounds horrifying, but I too am in an abusive relationship. I’ve tried to leave, but always end up coming back or staying… But one of the times I left, I went to the local women’s shelter. They have a lot of resources. They can help you get a protective order, find work, apply for help from the state..etc.
      I know it’s not the comfort of your home. But if you get the protective order, you can ask that he vacates your home so you and your kids can move back in.
      Good luck to you and your kids. Just try to keep your head up, you and your kids deserve so much better than that! God bless!

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