Leaving An Abusive Relationship: Why Can’t I Just Leave?
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
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.
Holly, K. (2014, January 22). Leaving An Abusive Relationship: Why Can’t I Just Leave?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2014/01/why-cant-i-leave-abuse
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
Thank you for commenting here. I'm sorry to hear you're in this situation. Are you in a position to seek legal advice regarding your home and assets? It would be worth contacting a woman's refuge or domestic abuse charity in your area to get some practical help. Our <a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">hotlines and resources page</a> has contact numbers for domestic abuse helplines that you might find helpful.
I know it feels overwhelming, but it starts with one small step toward reclaiming your life. That phone call to a helpline could be your first step. Good luck, and please come back here for support and information any time you need.
<a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2018/03/10-ways-your-abuser-is-sabotaging-your-life/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Relationship Abuse is Sabotaging Your Life</a>
<a href="Reasons to Leave Abuse" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2017/11/verbal-abuse-reasons-to-leave/</a>
<a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2017/10/coping-with-verbal-abuse/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Verbal Abuse Coping Skills For When You Can't Just Leave</a>
<a href="Reasons to Leave Abuse" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2017/11/verbal-abuse-reasons-to-leave/</a>
<a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2017/11/gaslighting-emotional-abuse-and-manipulation/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Gaslighting, Emotional Abuse and Manipulation</a>
I am now finding it harder to leave and its ripping at my heart. See is now crying all the time telling me she will change and to give her one more chance and she also told me she wanted to kill herself. I'm so confused. I don't want to see harm come to her or see her in pain. Any advice? Sigh with heavy heart..
Thank you for sharing your story. I'm Emma-Marie, one of the author's of this blog. What you're describing is coercive control, which is illegal in the UK and carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years. Where do you live? Sadly no law exist in the U.S. as of yet, and it's not necessarily a route you'd want to go down, but I think it's helpful to know your struggles are valid and your pain is recognized.
Coercive control looks different in every relationship, but it is characterized mainly by threats of violence (including homicide or suicide), attempt to control the partner or family, and verbal abuse -- all of which you describe here.
I can't tell you to leave the relationship, but I think you're right for wanting to get out for the sake of you and your children. I think you should seek some legal advice and speak to your nearest domestic abuse shelter or charity. It's important to have a plan in place. And if the situation does turn violent, don't hesitate to call the police.
I know it feels like there's no way out at the moment, but a life free from abuse is worth fighting for. Good luck!
My recent log happened 2 days ago
I live in a house, a beautiful house with a big yard in a nice neighborhood. Everything in this house beside a few things belong to me. I work and pay all the utilities in this house + groceries. I clean,cook,laundry,decorate, and a few other things that are needed to be done in a house. I don't pay anything on the mortgage, it the only thing I don't contribute to. Life should be easier now, kids are all grown and on their own,so that responsibility it over. I should be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor..
But no, this is just what it is a house not a home, the man that I share this house with and life for 26 years, has never stopped being verbally abusive.
My kids all left the house earlier then many do and I believe it was for this same reason. But now am left behind, with the abuse. As a cost of this I have isolated myself from family and few friends because I don't have many, the put downs and insults are imbarasing. I fear that he suddenly gos off on me, because of something I may do or say on front of people. I mean he does it but I don't know them because its usually in the street, I just walk ahead and avoid eye contact with anyone, I make it look that it's not with me. Oh so many times this happens, I get chills in my chest that go deep in even feel chills in my heart. Usually those episode are followed by in the car screams and insults put downs, threats of crashing, and so many more. In all this i try to defend myself and argue back but it only make him more angry and things worst. All I think about is getting to the house so I can lock myself in the room. And then is the silence, while I always get emotional because a thousand thought go through my head, he carries on normally. Like nothing. I usually stay in the room for a couple of days, I go down and fix myself something to eat when I can no longer hold the hunger, and he just sits there watching this programs on TV laughing, enjoying every minute of my misery,his doing, his accomplishments seeing me this way is his goal at that moment. I usually can hold the silence more then 4 days, and by this time I am all cried out, have convinced myself things would get better and I go and start a conversation. Everything it's always my fault he apologizes but explains that if I would not piss him off things would not happen, he tells me that I need to learn how to talk to him, that if things don't change we would have to go our own ways. But remember I have no savings all my money go's in this house, I don't have money to put down for any apartment. And I can't afford the 1200 rents. I have my dogs not all places accept pets, moving truck..I don't drive.. I can probably call someone to help but again I am a shame of people knowing what I go through... So what I do?
I put on a happy face, to the world of Facebook we are perfect, those that he associates with think he is the most proud and loving husband ,because he brags about how beautiful his wife is and how good she cooks and always keeps everything on point, perfect. Noone knows how he is behind closed doors beside our kids and a use to be good friend,but I keep away from her now as well. My outside look doesn't look nothing like my inside, I use to convince myself that my kids needed me so I had to be strong for them and be here to defend and try to protect them from their fathers mouth. But they gone now, they live their own life's. Oh it's taking so so much of me to stay in this world, My grandson is what keeps me going,seeing his little face makes everything go away. But one day he is also going to grow and live his life. By then I am probably to old and broken, most likely still being abused and hoping death would give me peace.
The house is silent now, in max 4 days my happy face would be put back on....
Thanks again for reaching out Sandy, we're here for you anytime. -Emily
I am one of the authors of this blog and I'd like to thank you for your brave and honest post. I am really sorry to hear what you're going through, but I can only say that perhaps it is a blessing in disguise that you didn't have a baby with this man. I agree with what Jamie has said -- you can't go on like this. Emotional abuse and cohesive control are incredibly damaging, and you will only continue to feel like a shell of your former self if the situation doesn't change. Whether you make a plan to leave him or you try to create boundaries within the relationship, something needs to change.
If you want to leave, you could call a <a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">domestic violence helpline</a> to find out what your options are. I know you say shelters aren't an option, but there are other charities and organizations set up to help women in your situation, depending on where you live. If you can find a free legal advice session happening near you, a solicitor could answer any questions you have about what might happen to your home and work arrangements if you split from your partner. Please don't give up -- you deserve better than someone who crushes your spirit. Good luck!
Thank you for commenting here. I'm sorry to hear what you're going through, but I am glad you can realize that your situation is toxic and dangerous. I know it feels impossible right now, but it seems your only option of being safe and happy is to make steps to leave and take your daughter with you. Your partner will be reinforcing your feelings of isolation and hopelessness because that's what keeps you under his control, but not everything he's saying is necessarily accurate or true. You do have rights here.
That said, you do need to seek some advice. Lawyers quite often do "pro bono" work to help people in similar situations to you, particularly women, so that is worth exploring. You should also get in touch with your local Women's Aid or domestic abuse shelter to see if they can help. There is a Domestic Abuse Hotline number on our <a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">resources page</a> that you can also try.
I am by no means an expert on family law, but I think any case he puts up in court will be dismantled if you can prove he's been abusive toward you. Start recording incidents, taking photos of injuries and consider reporting him to the police. All of this could be used as part of your defence, and the police may be able to help you prepare an exit strategy.
Good luck, and don't forget how brave you are for having to face this every day. There is a better future out there for you, I promise.
<a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2018/01/toxic-relationships-friend-and-family-estrangement/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Toxic Relationships: Friend and Family Estrangement</a>
<a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2017/11/verbal-abuse-reasons-to-leave/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Reasons to leave a verbally abusive relationship</a>
<a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/" target="_blank" rel="noopener nofollow">Hotline Numbers and Resources</a>
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.
I know how you feel, I have been there before. I left my husband on two weeks ago today and took our young son with us - from the sounds of it your daughter is older.
If you haven't done some of these things, I highly recommend doing them:
1. Call the National Abuse Hotline - they are trained and can help you talk through what you are going through. They can also help you get a plan together and figure out what action steps you need to take. They also can provide you with Resources for your area which can help you - shelters if you need it, legal, etc. They are wonderful.
2. Start Journaling - if you can't explain what is going on from memory, don't. Start writing it all down in a journal after it happens! Be discrete about it. The journal will ensure that you don't forget anything and you can see that you are not making it up, and you will have something to go on.
I didn't realize the abuse was happening to me until I started writing down my observations in a journal. Two days later I left because it was SO clear.
Now when I look at my husband as he is seeking counseling, I see a very weak man. He was so cruel so me and our son because he didn't want anyone to see how weak he really was. He had tricked me into believing it was my fault, and that I had to be "perfect," to have him act "good," when in reality, the only person who can "fix" him, is himself. It's not my responsibility. He must do the leg work.
I can say that finding a good church has been hard, but a wonderful resource for support. Not many, but a few people have offered out numbers to me and have been there for me. Be deliberate in your actions and go to places where you can be showered with love. You need to thaw out for a while and feel like a sensitive, loving, human being again.
I will be praying for you.