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 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2014/01/why-cant-i-leave-abuse
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
I'm sorry you're in an abuse relationship as well. It takes a lot of strength and courage to leave, and I do hope and pray that everything for you turns out for the better.
Thank you for your kind words and understanding. In times like this, it means more than gold. Bless you.
My emotions are a mess!
My partner verbally abuses me and has started to punch, kick and hit me along with death threats. He literally flys off the handle at the smallest thing, eg. Me not stacking a plate in the dish washer the way he wants it, me slicing cheese to thick for his sandwiches,
He screams in my face and leans in trying to scare me. I stand there paralysed with fear, sometimes I nearly pee myself. He went fishing and woke me up early to go, he took me out in the middle of the ocean and stopped the motor of his boat. My blood turned cold. He started to tell me how worthless and pathetic I am as a human being (this is because I couldn't help him pack as much for our camping trip, because I was working all week and even though I asked if he would like help he would say no) he started screaming at me and I thought I was going to die. I thought he was going to drown me since a few hours earlier he told me he was going to bash me up and leave my body in a ditch. He forced me to get in the car before our trip but I was too scared. I tried to hail a car over to help me but no one saw me.. so I got in his car. He either thinks I'm the best thing ever or he wants to kill me. There's nothing in between. I know I'm in a bad relationship but my emotions are a mess and I feel like I'm stuck and helpless.
NO GODDESS NO
The very fact that you have written this on December 19th…less than a week before Christmas, tells me much. I know this is going to be long but I ask that you read it anyway. Take what you want and leave the rest.
I can’t possibly share in this response all that I have been through in the last five years with my ‘boyfriend’ but I can tell you...implore you…leave the relationship now while you still can. The pain you feel in doing so will fade…I promise you. I don’t want you writing in response to someone else in five years like I am to you right now…because you stayed.
Mackenzie, I too saw ‘red flags’ early in my relationship. Because I hadn’t dated in a long time, I questioned whether it was him being a jerk or if it was me over-reacting. I too experienced very painful emotional abuse but second-guessed myself every single time after the anger and pain subsided.
At that time, what I experienced weren’t blatant forms of abuse such as name-calling, ridicule or attempts to isolate. I didn’t experience physical, sexual or financial abuse…nothing that I recognized as ‘signs’. The things he did or said all seemed like ‘singular incidents’ that left me feeling shocked, hurt and saying ‘What the hell?’ There was nothing blatant…in the beginning. If there had been blatant signs of abuse, the relationship wouldn’t have gotten off the ground. I wouldn’t have stayed long enough to fall in love with him. But it wasn’t blatant. Back then, I just found myself saying ‘What the hell?” an awful lot.
Things got worse and after five months of being hurt over and over again, I broke things off with him. At that time, five months together had felt like a long, long time…now I recognize that I could have left after five months without a lot of damage to my life. It just didn’t feel that way back then.
The first few weeks of the break-up were brutally painful. I had believed the relationship was going to be permanent. I loved him deeply and felt like I couldn’t breathe. I could hardly concentrate at work and cried myself to sleep every night. I believed that this man was everything I had wanted in a relationship and couldn’t understand how he could tell me he loved me with such sincerity yet say and do the things he did. The desire to want it all to go away, to have him just hold me in his arms and say, “I’m sorry…everything will be okay,” was so strong. But despite the pain, I stood my ground.
Unfortunately for me, he came to the dance classes I helped teach twice a week. It was very painful to see him there…like salt on an open wound. Could I have avoided going to those classes? Yes. But I was stubborn and felt the unfairness of losing something that I considered to be mine for several years (he had been a newcomer). It was my undoing. Within thirty days after the break-up, we talked after one of those classes and got back together. I can honestly say today that if I had not seen him again after the break-up, I would have been okay in time; the break would have been permanent. Had I done this, I would not be living the life I live now.
Instead, I placed myself in a position of seeing him at those classes. I thought I could handle it and obviously, I expected too much of myself when I was in such a vulnerable state. Now I live with the consequences of that decision…of having him in my life…living in my home. We are now legally considered common-law which could negatively, financially impact the remainder of my life. The explanation of this is too long for this forum.
Before I met this man, I was happy. I remember that. I was truly happy. I wasn’t even looking for a relationship. We just happened to meet each other the old fashioned ‘boy meets girl’ way. Who knew that in that moment, life as I knew it was about to be over.
Five years ago, I was well loved and well respected by my family, friends, workplace and community. I was a hero in my grown daughter’s eyes. I was healthy, fit and active. I had a career that I loved, I was making good money and for the first time in my adult life and I had a healthy savings account. I was able to travel to beach resorts with friends each winter and spend time doing bucket list things each summer. I went out for dinners with family and friends and bought my clothes from shopping malls. I went to salons to have my hair and nails done. I wasn’t ‘wealthy’ but I had reached a place in life where things had finally become financially comfortable.
Then I met him…and lost my career.
I had worked hard for so many years to climb the ladder and at that point I was a Director in a large company doing a job that I found very fulfilling. But the constant overwhelming shock, hurt and subsequent anger over his lies, cheating and abuse towards me, I found myself constantly trying unsuccessfully to concentrate, constantly struggling to keep up with my workload on massive amounts of relationship stress and little to no sleep. After a year and a half of round after round of abuse, I lost the career I had worked for so many years to grow. I will never forget sitting in my office hearing my boss tell me that I was being let go for ‘performance issues’. I was devastated. I was embarrassed. I was horrified. Yet despite knowing that this loss was directly due to my partner’s abuse, I didn’t end the relationship.
After that, my savings quickly dwindled. I wish I could say that the loss of all my money was solely because I was trying to stay afloat while trying to find work but a lot of that money was lost due to me constantly trying to appease my partner in one way or another. Again, much too long of an explanation for this forum.
So now I am completely stuck. No job, no money…I am now financially dependent on him. I NEED the amount he gives me each month as his ‘contribution’ to the household. It doesn’t pay the bills but it goes a long way to staying almost afloat. My attempts to find work keep getting sabotaged. I secured a contract position a year ago and he started cheating on me as soon as |I was away from the house. I was once again focused on him, on the shock, hurt and anger. I struggled to maintain an image of professionalism while under a tremendous amount of stress and not enough sleep. The contract ended early due to ‘performance issues’. I don’t even know what the ‘performance issues’ were…I thought I had been doing well despite what was going on in my personal life. Obviously, I can no longer see the impact his abuse has on me but clearly, others can. The humiliation is unbearable.
Attempts to concentrate on job searches during round after round of different forms of abuse becomes almost futile and it keeps me stuck. It’s one thing to say, ‘just ignore him’ and quite another to successfully do this.
It is a week before Christmas. I am so broke that I have had to borrow money from a family member to pay utilities so that they wouldn’t be disconnected. I can’t tell you how mortifying it was to make THAT phone call. I have had to utilize every penny of my overdraft to buy small Christmas gifts for the kids and grandkids. I have less than eight dollars accessible in my bank account, my credit cards are full from using them to stay afloat after my savings were depleted and I have no idea what I am going to do. I feel like my life is a giant game of Snakes and Ladders and I have somehow ridden the giant snake back to square one. How is it possible to go from having a great career and well over a hundred thousand dollars in savings to having no job and only eight dollars left in the bank…in five horrific years? And all of it because of a man? How the hell did this happen?
I look back at that first year with him and I honestly wonder, “Why didn’t I leave the relationship back then?’ If I had, I would still have my career, my money, my friends and the respect I used to have in my world.
Mackenzie…the bottom line is that over the last five years I have experienced emotional abuse, sexual abuse and financial abuse that has been traumatic and has been so horrific that today, I experience symptoms of C-PTSD and have an ulcer. The ulcer is a result of five years of constant traumatic events, weight-gain as a result and swallowing too many Tums each night to battle the heartburn. Eating feels like I am swallowing glass; this is the long-term effect of this stress I have been under. I am trying to get this ulcer cleared up before it turns cancerous and I end up losing my life because of this man.
I have lost all of my friends and my family has become distant. I know my reputation and good judgement is in ruins. I can’t seem to gain decent employment and I have lost everything I worked so hard for through so many years. Somewhere along the way, I went from staying in the relationship because I couldn’t bear to lose him to HAVING to stay in the relationship because I am completely broke and without work.
And as for that dance class that I so stubbornly continued to attend after breaking up with him five years ago? I ended up losing that too. At some point I stopped going because he had stopped going and I learned that he was using the time I was away teaching dance to go onto dating sites, porn sites or connect with other women in other ways. Going to dance became just another source of stress. All those years doing the dances I enjoyed and all those friends are also now gone.
I have fought hard to try to keep depression at bay and I keep praying that I can find work that pays well enough to pay the bills so that I can have a voice and kick him out of my house. Love? He stomped that to death a long time ago. And yes, periodically even today I get suckered in. He acts nicely towards me and I find myself thinking that maybe everything will be okay…but it never lasts long before another round of abuse occurs and I realize I’m just being used.
Mackenzie, I don’t know how your relationship with your boyfriend will turn out. All I can tell you is that if he has done all of this to you in the first five months, what will YOU experience in the next five years? Please don’t wait to find out. Sometimes, there are simply no do-overs and the losses can be horrific. Be strong, find your courage and say, “No more.” Mean it and leave the relationship. You have one shot at living the life you choose on this planet…don’t waste it walking a path that you already know you’ll regret. Hugs.
So thank you for sharing it helps alot. Good luck to you and your children.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
<a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2017/11/verbal-abuse-reasons-to-leave/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Reasons to Leave an Abusive Relationship</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>
<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>
Thank you for reaching out Flower, I'm so glad you're trying to better your life and find ways to stay away from this person that is hurting you. You wil be so much better for distancing yourself from him. Take care and please feel free to reach out anytime! -Emily