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, July 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2014/01/why-cant-i-leave-abuse
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
GREEN PIXIE - you said everything I could never put into words. I am in a 21 year marriage, and have been controlled, accused, and treated as though I've always had to prove who I am as a woman. I have checked out of my marriage emotionally...I just need to find the strength and courage to get out for good and be happy while I am still young. I have faith I will do this soon. I would love to talk to other women that are in the same situation. I feel it would be very therapeutic and empowering.
I just realized this past weekend that the man I've loved for 18 years and had empathy for has become abusive. He cried out to me for help two and a half weeks ago. In one weekend, my best friend and onlookers are shocked at what they perceive as my stupidity because they had such a high opinion of me. I feel so stupid and embarrassed. He's made a fool of me and I'm so sad about it. I'm fighting tears ever day. Right away, I searched emotional abuse online and found this article. If I can feel so horrible now and this is only the beginning (which I'm trying to make the end too), I know the sickening feeling you must have. Feeling trapped. I too feel a little unsafe because he knows where I live. My best friend who is a male is staying with me temporarily and he is so upset about it. I'm concerened for the safety of my friend. It's like being bullied. I'm a grown woman who suddenly feels like a small child. Allowing these abusive ppl in your life is the biggest injustice we can bring to ourselves. I feel it and it is only the beginning. The hardest part is leaving. The other side of that is so much better. Let your mind lead you, not your heart.
And as I'm telling you this, trust me, I'm also trying to convince myself.
My own experience is that leaving can be so very difficult because:
* Sometimes emotional abuse is very difficult to identify and even name. Some abuse is so subtle and "clever" that people may not even realise it's abusive (myself included). It can just be that sickening feeling deep down that something is wrong and feeling terribly upset/distressed by certain behaviours or words from your partner but you can't think straight or even articulate WHY you feel this way.
* Abusive people can be highly intelligent and convincing in their arguments so that you do really end up believing the problem is YOU and that the difficulties in the relationship are due to your own issues, faults and failings. Therefore, you keep trying to make things better, "work" on the relationship and "improve" yourself etc.
* It is still possible to truly CARE about the person who is abusive (though maybe this is an illusion?). He obviously has some deep issues and as a compassionate person, I can see his pain and find it hard not to want to help him, even if he sometimes deeply hurts or frightens me.
* These relationships overall are very "difficult", taxing and draining. I can feel so engulfed by my relationship and all its complexities that I don't even have the energy to begin to do all the things necessary to leave (finding a new house, buying a car, getting a different job and whatever else...)
* My partner CAN be incredibly sweet, caring and look after me well. We DO have some fun/interesting/nice times together. So when abusive behaviour does happen, it is so disorientating, confusing and almost surreal that I am paralysed by shock and disbelief. When things go back to "normal" and he is being sweet again, it almost feels like it never happened so I deny or lessen it in my mind or start to believe, "perhaps I am the crazy one" (overreacting, imagining things, being too sensitive, being "forgetful" etc - as he has suggested).
* You do just feel SO alone when awful things happen and "paralysed" as to where to go or what to do so it can feel like the best/easiest thing is simply to stay, try not to say or do anything to "set them off" again and simply hope things improve.
Reading blogs and information like this is so helpful in feeling less alone; in feeling less "crazy"; that perhaps it's not ME and that it's not my fault I've ended up in this situation. I am not going to beat myself up for choosing to stay for now. I do hope to have the strength and courage to leave if/when the time is right and if things don't change. Until then, I will definitely try to use your suggestions to lessen the impact of any abusive behaviours/words that may occur and to use this time in my life to become a stronger person.
When I came to MY personal boundary- 40 years old- Unfreaking believable- he still one last time gas lighted and guilted me, and threatened me with being cut off from other people I love. It was a horribly verbally and emotionally abusive scene, which his 20 year old daughter over heard and recognized as toxic. Long story short- keep reading and educating yourself, as horrific as it might sound, yes I've chosen to stay in this relationship until I can figure out how to let go. I'm closer every day.
Keep going! You'll find your way. Thank goodness for websites like this for us "inbetweeners" who are just beginning to realize what is going on, but not quite sure what to do next or where to turn.
The abuse didn't seem blatant. He has never hit me or the kids, he does not control my money, who I see or what I wear, but his words do still control the family in some way. When he is unhappy we all must be made unhappy as it is our job (especially mine) to make sure he is made happy again. We walk around on eggshells not knowing when a happy time will turn ugly just by saying something that will set him off. We always feel off balance around him. I have been in such denial. It is only now that our kids are suffering from depression in their teens years that I am realizing how bad things are and the terrible affect it has had on our kids. It sounds awful, but even 3 years after discovering this I am having difficulty leaving despite knowing the kids are suffering. My husband and I have been together for 30 years and I feel worn down and exhausted mentally and physically. The mind games that he plays that make him sound like the victim have taken their toll. It's so difficult to sort things out in my head. I feel so confused at times and other times it all seems so clear. I am working on building myself up so that someday I can save us all.
This is sooooooo true. I can't tell my partner anything about my past, desires, frustrations, bad days at work, anything. Anything I say can and will be used against me when she feels like it.
And, a source of frustration for me right now ...
And the bit about isolation is so true too. Whenever I see my family, there's a debt that's hard to pay. But I have decided to try to stay connected with family. I would add friends, but I really don't have any right now.