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
Thank you for that comment, and for sharing those details with us. I'm so sorry to hear about what you're going through. It sounds to me like you already know you have to leave him. By staying in the relationship, you're endangering your physical safety and allowing him to diminish your self-worth. I'm sure that you love him very much, but your love will never be able to keep his violence at bay -- because it's not about you, it's about him.
First, I'm going to urge you to call a domestic violence hotline (like 800-799-SAFE) because it sounds as though you're in real physical danger. I would strongly advise you to document any abuse that occurs (emotional and physical) in case you decide to go to the police for protection -- which again, I think you should. If both of those options feel like too much right now, at the very least you should try to confide in a trusted friend or family member about what's happening. It's going to be difficult for you to find the strength to get through this on your own, so allow others to help you.
It can be difficult to really grasp what's going on in your relationship when you're always caught up in it, so try to get some distance -- even if it's just an hour in a coffee shop thinking things over. Get away if you can. Then, rather than focusing on all the things he does, think about how his actions make you feel -- afraid, vulnerable, in emotional and physical pain -- and ask yourself if you want to feel like that for the rest of your life.
I don't think you're pathetic, but it sounds as though that's what your partner is making you feel. Abuse doesn't discriminate, and often it's the "strongest" women who become victims of violent behavior. I don't consider myself a doormat, but I too have been in an abusive relationship and I know how it feels. Please get help before the abuse gets worse. Good luck.
Our entire marriage I have felt he never loved me for me and has always been trying to change me. He had an affair 12 years ago that went on for 2 years all the while I was pregnant with our first child and after. I served him with divorce papers back then and he moved out for 6 months but I ended up taking him back. He is also a cross dresser and promised he could stop that, purged all his clothes only to rebuy an entire wardrobe and continue the dressing. He guilts me when I want to do things with friends and picks and chooses the family events he wants to attend.
He always has something to say about how I dress, what kind of job he wants me to have, that I don't show him enough affection or ever want to have sex with him(which I don't because of the abuse and the crossdressing). Nothing I ever do is enough!
I had breast cancer 3 years ago and feel like he wasn't really there for me then. He wanted to keep it to ourselves and not let people help us during that time. He didn't go to my first chemo treatment with me after he told me he would. I have decided to take out my implants after a double mastectomy and stay "Flat" to be told by him that I should wear my prosthetics because otherwise I look like a boy and that it is "shocking to people" to see me without breasts.
I could go on forever. I just don't know why I am still here. He is doing everything now that I have wanted for so long but I know it won't last. We are in the honeymoon phase and I know it.
I just want to know why am I still here? Why do I feel so much guilt in leaving? How do I get feet out of the cement I feel like they are in!! All I want is to be happy and stop walking on the eggshells I have been walking on for years.
Please check out my most recent article as I feel it directly pertains to your current predicament -- <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>
This sounds like a very dangerous situation for both you and your baby. I know this is a difficult thing to hear, but your boyfriend could be putting your unborn child's baby's life at risk.
I'm sure you already know this, but the reality is that the damage to your child in the long run will be far greater if you stay in this relationship. If he is capable of hitting you, don't think he's not capable of hurting a child. Please call a domestic violence hotline (like 800-799-SAFE) and seek immediate help and support. I would also urge you to document any incidents of abuse as you may need them when it comes to claiming custody of your child further down the line.
Your first priority is to leave this man and get yourself and your baby out of harm's way. Is there a family member you can stay with? A trusted friend? Abuse often isolates us from those we love, so if you don't have anyone you can call, please call your local Women's Aid shelter for protection.
I'm Emma-Marie, co-author of the Verbal Abuse in Relationships blog, and I just wanted to reach out and thank you for your comment.
I'm sorry to hear you are encountering relationship abuse so young. I was 20 when I entered into an abusive relationship, so not quite as young as you, but I do understand how easy it is to fall for a guy and not realize he is an abuser. Your situation sounds truly awful and it's way too much for any woman to try to deal with alone, no matter how old she is. Please know that you are worth so much more than this, and there is nothing you could do to justify his abuse. Identifying domestic abuse and reaching out is incredibly courageous, so well done for reading this article and leaving your comment.
Please, please tell your parent or guardian what your boyfriend is doing to you. His actions are illegal and need to be stopped. He probably blocked your sister because he doesn't want you to tell her what he's doing to you, but you need to. You need to tell the people who care about what is happening in your relationship and let them help you. The alternative is years more misery, isolation and pain and you could be putting yourself in serious danger by staying with him.
Please don't try to deal with this alone. You need the help and support of others to break free from this relationship.
Good luck, and please come back to this site whenever you need support or advice. Emma x
Well done for reaching out. Please call your local domestic abuse victim support service and ask a professional about what your next steps should be. If you're not sure where to turn, you may find 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</a> page helpful.
Good luck, and know that, sadly, you are not alone in this struggle. That's why these organizations are out there. Please lean on family and friends and accept support wherever it is offered. You CAN get through this.
I am a co-author of this blog, and I just wanted to thank you for your comment and let you know you're not alone. Verbal and emotional abuse can be difficult to define. However, it does sound like your husband is exhibiting some of the classic signs, and the key to deciding whether or not to act is by looking at how his behavior makes you feel. You may find my latest article, <em><a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2017/11/early-warning-signs-of-verbal-abuse/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Early Warning Signs of Verbal Abuse</a></em>, helpful. Even though you say this has been going on for several years, some of these behaviors don't change, so you may recognize some of your husband's traits and gain some insight into why he makes you feel so broken inside.
You say you want to leave but are afraid to leave your daughter. Is leaving her with your husband your only option? No one can tell you how to resolve this situation, but there are domestic abuse organizations who can help you plan your escape and map out your next steps. I urge you to visit 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> and call one of the numbers listed. You may not feel like it now, but there is life on the other side of this, and it is ten times better than what you're currently living with. Good luck, and please come back to this page for support any time. Emma x
Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233
Healing Woman Foundation (Abuse): 1-800-477-4111
When you're ready, they may be able to help you to know your rights, and maybe lead you in the direction of a lawyer. I hope this was helpful Julie. Again, I'm so sorry for everything. Reach out anytime, Emily
He's put me in a state of confusion and I feel lost.
<a href="https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2017/09/5-ways-to-end-verbal-abuse/" rel="noopener" target="_blank">5 ways to end verbal abuse</a>
Family Violence Prevention Center: 1-800-313-1310
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
I really hope you're able to reach out for help, your situaton sounds very scary. Come back anytime, we're here as well. Thanks, Emily
He is now drunning everyday and pee on the bed or couch or pee in whatever he felt asleep on and when I try to confront him and tell him how I feel about what he is doingenile he will storm out of the house for another drink and blame me to have pushed him to do so.
One day he passed out on thebathroom floor naked and I trI'd to take some pictures with my phone so that I could show him how he behaves when he is drunk in his soberness but unfortunately he had a "click" sound of my camera and he woke up chased me around the house, naked mind you.... when he finally reached me he took the phone and broke it in half... that was the startrip of him breaking things.
We have recently moved to another city away from peoplease I know because of his work his alcoholic behaviour has escalated again and whenever I confront him he will breal something: eget door handles etc... I'm now afraid that hevery will now start to break me.
Last night he peed on my bed again and when I confronted him about it, he told me to leave him alone when I trI'd to remind him of some financial responsibilities he told me to leave the room , I left and sat in our lounge watcheddar TV with my 5 year old daughter, he came storming out of the room asking me what I just said, I told him I'm having a conversation with my daughter he pull down a power switch and told us to go to sleep and never to turn it up because of my disrespectful behaviour. I was so scared that he may do something to me or my daughter in the dark, as I type iam in.my daughters room locked the door and I can't sleep cause I'm scared and depressed. That's when I realise that the person I live with is an abuser and I don't wanna stick around to see the end of it. I wannam get out of this relationship for the sake of my childrensites safety. There is no love or happiness for me in this relationship .
I just want the right emotional support
Keep your friends close.
Talk to your family everyday
Pray and believe in his words.
Talk to as many people as you can
DO NOT PROTECT HIM BY BEING QUIET ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON.
O KNOW ALL THOSE THINGS. NUT ITS HARD TO LEAVE AND START ALL OVER...
I completely understand your situation as I'm in a similar one myself. It's so difficult to put an end to a relationship when you're so reliant on the other person e.otionally. it sounds like you're very intelligent and probably never thought you'd end up in a situation like this. Thank you for sharing .
Sorry to hear about what you're going through, and well done for reaching out for advice.
I have to ask, do you have anybody else you can confide in? While this website is great for support and discussion, someone in your position could really benefit from having someone onside who can offer practical help as well as emotional support. Family, friends and therapy were lifelines for me when I came out of an abusive relationship, and I don't think I could have done it on my own. Not everybody understood, and many of them were hurt that I'd pushed them away for so long, but they came through when I really needed them.
I know these kinds of relationships can be isolating, but if you can tell just one trusted friend or co-worker what you're going through, that would be a start.
You are right to say you'd be better off without him, but we all know it's not always that simple. if it were easy to just pack up and leave, domestic abuse wouldn't be so difficult to understand. It does sound to me like you're worried more about his wellbeing than your own, which is common for victims of abuse. We are made to feel like everything is our fault and we are diminished by the other persons wants and needs without even realizing it.
You are worth more than this, though, and you do need to leave him. Threatening to kill himself if you leave is emotional blackmail, but it's something we've all heard before. If you're worried he might try to take his own life, the best thing you can do is call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the details of which can be found on 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>. Aside from that, your only responsibility is to yourself. Good luck and stay strong.
Firstly, I feel it's important to point out the obvious -- that your life is in danger and you need help escaping this relationship. Although there may be reasons why one person cannot leave a certain type of abuse, when your life hangs in the balance there is no question. It sounds like the people you love are already trying to tell you this, so don't be afraid to lean on them for support, no matter how absent you've been in the past. Trust me, I know first-hand how complicated all this can be, but I also know how good life is on the other side of an abusive relationship.
Secondly, you cannot prevent him from committing suicide, no matter what you do. It sounds like he has some serious issues to resolve, but you are not the person to do that. The best thing to do if you truly care for him is to confide in a professional and let them know he is a suicide risk.
Please consult 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> for information on the Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Domestic Abuse Hotline. Good luck, you can do this!
I'm so sorry to hear what you're going through. Please consider getting help, as it doesn't sound like either you or your children are safe with this man. I'm glad you can see that it's time to find a way out, and there are people who can help you deal with the logistics of leaving an abusive relationship and keep you safe.
The first thing to do is call the Domestic Violence Hotline on 800-799-7233 and ask for advice. The people there are trained and willing to help you. It's a good idea to confide in a trusted friend or family member so you have someone on side. Second, keep a record of any evidence of his abuse -- text messages, emails, hospital records and photos of any injuries -- in case of any legal action.
If you consider yourself or your children in danger, please don't hesitate to phone the police.
Stay strong. There is life on the other side of this for you. Good luck, and please keep using this site as a helpful resource, it really is a great community to belong to. x