Leaving An Abusive Relationship: Why Can’t I Just Leave?

January 22, 2014 Kellie Jo Holly

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.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2014, January 22). Leaving An Abusive Relationship: Why Can’t I Just Leave?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 17 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

September, 10 2016 at 11:20 pm

I need help. I have no family and no where to go. I have my son and he's just a baby. My husband has problems and I'm afraid. He blames me for everything and I'm starting to believe it. I feel so depressed and alone. I need to be strong for my son but I'm so broken. At times I think of just killing myself. But I can't think of leaving my son with him
He's an abusive asshole. Help me anybody.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 20 2017 at 11:21 am

I feel very much for you reading this. (HUGS) It's horrible to feel trapped and not know what to do, even more so when you have a baby to consider. I think you are brave to ask for help. In the meantime, use your resourcefulness, creativity and intelligence to look for opportunities to get out of this situation and to protect yourself and your son. It seems to me that you are going to need to leave at some point, or this unhealthy dynamic will hurt your child too. Keep that goal ahead of you, and work towards it. You are valuable.

September, 9 2016 at 7:30 pm

I have been on and off with my ex for 12 years. I lost my virginity to him, got pregnant at 14, had an abortion since he told me he'd leave me if I kept it. I went through the abortion alone just for him to leave me anyways for my "best friend" at the time. Then through the years there were always other women. We finally broke up for 3 years the lightest we separated and I had a son with someone else. I could never get over him and I don't know that I ever will at this point. He compares me to his ex that he said he wasn't dating when we reconciled... Constantly throws it in my face that I had a kid with someone else. We got past that we moved in together, got pregnant. I miscarried from all the stress he causes me... He's mentally abusive and emotionally abusive. And as of three days ago he's showing more signs of becoming physically abusive. I have never called the cops on him as I should have up until three nights ago. I caught him lying again and I asked him nicely to leave. He then begged me to stop and said this wasn't what I wanted that we wanted to be together bla bla bla and I again just nicely said to leave. I am in no way shape or form innocent. I am guilty of saying really mean things back to him when we fight. However, this night was different. He shoved me hard into the wall and even spit in my hair, he also repunched the holes in two of my doors that he recently fixed from previous arguments we've had when he put the holes in there. He said I didn't deserve to have my doors fixed. I pay for everything. I'm a single mom living on my own paying for absolutely everything. Including anything he needs. Yet he never buys me anything... Ever. He is so controlling he doesn't even let me steaighten my hair anymore or else it means I'm cheating. If I shave my legs or anything for that matter it's cause I'm having sex with someone else. I can't go to the store or anywhere without him. He even pumps my gas so I don't have to get out of the car (not to be nice just so I won't be looked at) he constantly compares my job to his (which he finally has a job he never had one the entire time and he complains about it every single day) constantly tells me I just sit at a desk all day. The night I called the cops finally he then told me I was fat and ugly and no one would ever want to date me. I'm convinced he just hates me and always has. Now we haven't spoke since that night and it's killing me. I feel so stupid. Sick. He even tried to take my sons bed apart on the way out cause "he put it together for me". The cops said I needed to file the protection order but I just can't bring myself to do it. My family and friends Have already just distanced themselves from me. I'm not allowed to even go around my family or wear shorts because of him. Idk I know it sounds so dumb because everything is a red flag. But I'm so physically sick to my stomach. I can't eat. Sleep. Function. I'm so lost and confused without him. But I know the best thing to do is leave and stay gone. It's just tearing me apart he doesn't even care. I can't stop crying and beating myself up for calling the cops but something clicked that night and I just had it. Had enough of the emotional and now physical abuse. And I can't get the image of him spitting on me the look on his face out of my head. Not sure why I'm so concerned with if he's upset or not. I didn't deserve that. And I'm not fat I know that but it hurts to confide in someone you consider your best friend and they then use those insecurities against you. I don't even know what to do. I'm just existing. I feel dead. And numb. And I can't stop imagining how much better off everyone else would be if I wasn't around to constantly worry people. Everyone that does care and love me all say the same thing about him that they all fear some day he's going to kill me and they'll have to come identify my body and or see me on the news. Again I'm fully aware how tragic this really sounds so why do I love him so much? He does nothing to benefit my life just makes it harder and more hell. He controls my every move. So why am I sitting here crying my eyes out st work and crying myself to sleep and slugging through my days and nights like someone died? I have been seeing a counselor but I don't think it's enough. This has been 12 years of on and off and I have never felt good enough. It blows my mind someone like him has manipulated me so badly that I'm convinced I'm the issue. I keep reading different websites to try and cope or heal and found this one this morning before work. I asked my counselor for support groups.. Which I wanna go to one but I'm just scared too. I guess writing has made me feel a smidge better.. Enoigh to fall asleep I guess... I'm 26 and successful and I think that bothers him... Who knows my mind is everywhere right now...

September, 9 2016 at 3:43 am

I have been in my marriage for 21 years. I stopped working as soon as I had my first child to raise my children. We've never had outside help from any one. My husband owns his own company and is a hard worker- definitely a workaholic. He provides a nice life for our children. Of course, there's a however, he has been physically abusive, emotionally abusive and verbally abusive over the years. He's extremely controlling about my friends and finances. We live in another state than my family so I never see them. He never has anything nice to say about them. The last time we had a visit from my sister, he caused such a fight and scolded my sister that they haven't been back.
We started in therapy 4-5 years ago and it helped for a while. In the past year , he has refused to go back to the therapist with me. I believe the therapist exposed him and he didn't like it. We have 3 children that are getting older and see my unhappiness and some of his behaviors. I haven't worked for 18 years and wouldn't know what to do if I left. He tells me if I go back to work it will not be good for the relationship or family. I'm well aware that is manipulating but I'm not strong enough to deal with the backlash should I actually get a job. I'm not afraid of being alone. I'm worried about the emotional well being of my kids should I ever decide to leave. My husband would never let the kids be without anything in their lives but would most definitely punish me. I'm wishing I made changes years ago when the kids were smaller , in hind sight. I can't relax around him or be myself. He's critical of me and comments on anything I say or do.
I'm only 50 and feel I still have a life to live . Any lifeline would be nice to hear.

September, 9 2016 at 1:57 am

Hi I'm currently living in Turkey and I am in a mentally and physically abusive relationship, I have nobody to turn to my family have cut themselves off from me because I am.with this man. I have no financial help so am unable to get a flight back to the UK, any advise would be wonderful

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 20 2017 at 11:26 am

Tracey, can you go to the UK consulate and ask them to help you? They might be able to provide you with protection and a flight back to the UK. Do you think your family be more supportive if they knew you'd made the decision to leave him? So sorry you're going through this, especially being in a foreign country too! (HUGS)

September, 7 2016 at 6:11 pm

It just crazy how these things happen im not in a realtionship with this person but sum how he still has a hold on me we were together in highschool i was with him for 2yrs it was all great in the begining till his jealousy started kicking in he controled every moment i had from what i wore to who i talked to and where i went. Imagin i was only 16 thinking i was in love. Things got out of hand when he started being verbaly abusive like calling me names such as hoe slut etc... He used to harras me and threaten me if i didnt do certain things he asked espically threats like exposing me. I thought he loved me he said he did he said he didnt mean the thinngs he said i always forgave him toke him back. Then one day i found the strength to leave him and not to long ago we reunited idk what it wAs that brough me back to this man i assumed we werent 16 anymore we were older and i guess i thought things would be different so we tryed talking again and it the begining was good i neve rmade us offical because deep down somethjng was telling me he aint do much changing it well i was right he back to his old ways cursing me out name dropping and again with the threats of exposing me with things from highschhool which i was young and dumb he assume im out here doing wrong things calling my phone sendinfg me messages with just full of disrespect i told him plenty of times to stop that we are lil kids let communicate and well it doesnt work it back and forth i started fearing him again he says sorry all the time but for what he goes back to his old ways. I ask my self how can i keep letting this happen we not even together and he still seems to hve control over me i really want to have the strength ot leave and walk away. And reading all these comments it just like how much can u take open ur eyes girl that aint love. Right !! I hope all you good women fight happines as wel as u good men out there kuz i know it happens to both genders.

Linda Schmidt
September, 4 2016 at 1:38 pm

My name is Linda. Im 48 years old. Right now im in a verbally abus ive situation. I""ve done everything that I can do to get away from him and get out of the situation. For some reason I cannot find help anywhere. I refuse to go to a homeless shelter. Im not going to give him that satisyfaction. He yells and screams at me everyday. Everyday he tells me that hes going to kick me out of the house. He calls me names. Hes turned my mother against me. He acts like he does nothing bad to me at all. He blames me foe everything. He says hes mean to me because Im mean to him. Its the other way around. He thinks its fine for him to be mean to me and treat me like garbage. But he expects me to put up with it and never complain about it. He thinks he can treat me badly and thers nothing wrong with it but he thinks im supposed to put up with it and be nice to him When I treat him the way he trears me he raises hell and teels me that hes noIt going to put up with my shit. He turns everything around on me. He thinks that he never does anything to me for me to have the bad attitude that I have towards him now. i CANNOT TAKE THIS ABUSE ANYMORE. pLEASE HELP ME. dO YOU KNOW O ANY PLACES I can go to get away from him, besides a homeless shelter. Thank-you, Linda Schmidt

Ro Ro
September, 4 2016 at 11:34 am

I have been an emotionally abusive relationship. I can't say how long though because we have been together for five years and the abuse started this year. First few years were peachy and things started to take a turn for the worst after our families met because we had gotten pregnant. This man has cheated on me, lied to me, ignored me, made me feel as though I'm not worthy of simple things like effort, respect, calls and appreciation. He got so used to me being there for him and attending to his needs the best way I could possible do that he stopped appreciating me. I'm a mess. We have a son. He's amazing. I want so bad for him to get his act together so that my child can have us both in his life. He recently had a brain haemorrhage and things have just gone beyond control from that point. I know I have to leave. I know that. But I am thinking for our son and a part of me feels like he's acting out because of deeper things he has internally (watching his mom suffer and die of cancer, having his grandma whom he was very close with die, the financial responsibility he has incurred, his father dealing with alcohol abuse and then the brain haemorrhage). I'm terrified of leaving. I fear loneliness. I fear that I will be unlovable with all the baggage I have. A part of me feels like I have to stick around to force him to just deal with his emotional baggage once and for all so that he can move on. I want so desperately to leave and be okay with everything but I can't. I want to be better. I want to be healthier. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin again. I don't understand why I can't leave. :'(

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 20 2017 at 11:37 am

It sounds like you're wanting closure? Or at least some kind of acknowledgement that he has let you down, and is ready take responsibility for the hurt he's caused you (a totally fair thing to want and need, by the way) I can understand that, having stayed in a toxic relationship for 6 years, hoping that the person I invested my life in would turn around and love me the way he should have. It didn't happen, and I had to basically go through the process of grieving the loss of that significant part of my life and my wasted efforts to make that work. But, there is hope for a better quality of life apart from this toxic person. Don't give up on YOU, and don't give up on your future! (HUGS)

Jessica Hurst
September, 2 2016 at 9:05 am

I need help I'm confused

peaceful bliss
August, 17 2016 at 9:05 pm

Thank you for this article. I could so relate. I have been married 15 years and been with my partner for 18 years. We have a son together. I have never had a relationship with a man apart from my husband. I feel quite betrayed by him as the person he presented to me while courting is not the person i live. I have been physically abused, sexually abused, verbally abused by him for 15 years. This year he almost to me to my death by trying to suffocate me to death. I felt the life drain out of my body. I have been reading and researching the avenues to leave this relationship. I have expressed my need to leave to him and he says he understands, that he knows he did wrong and that he loves me, he is totally dependent on me and i feel so much of guilt for wanting to terminate the reaationship. We have done many things together but i am not happy even though I have all the comforts of life. I am not short of anything but I live on eggshells. He says he understand my feelings and that he is changing and i should give me another chance, but over the years i have done that and was promised it would not happen again but it still does. My son has no relationship with his father if anything he actually hates him and tells me to get out. I am so conflicted right now, and would appreciate help from anyone who could offer any. thank you

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
August, 17 2016 at 10:35 pm

You can get specialized help for your situation at the NDVH:

August, 15 2016 at 9:24 am

I have been. In an unhealthy relationship for four years now, married for one. Most verbal and emotional. And no I will not say it is all him, I can be mean, throw things, swear and insult him but his actions bring out this terrible pain person in me. He has crushed the girl I once was I had so many friends and family and now I have not a single one that isn't his friend. I have tried everything I can from talking calmly to treating to leave. I love him to death and I don't want to be a failure because I believe in marriage but how do you make things work if in the back of your head you just want to curl up in a ball and die.i have tried to kick him out but he has no family or really good friends, no job, no savings, no motivations. His last job he held for three weeks and had been a year unemployed before that. The money, the dogs,cleaning my house etc has taken a toll I just can't be a mom to a grown adult and get treated like a child. I know this isn't a healthy marriage but I'm so stuck and lost and I need a friend

August, 11 2016 at 3:48 pm

I have been in a abusive relationship since I was 18 years old. I am now 30. I have left and he has found me threating to kill me and take our daughter away from me. I have been hit anything you can think of in front of our children. he threatens to kill my brothers if I get them involved , or call the police. I'm scared out my mind and feel like the only way out and away from him is death. I be scared to do things with my family because he always playing the mind games of jealousy. The crazy part is I know exactly what he doing all the time and I do speak up on it and it makes him even madder. no matter what i'm always wrong. even when he mess up which is often its still my fault. I can support myself and I know he's jealous because I make more money then him and i'm beautiful. I know he's here holding on not cause he loves me but what i'm capable of doing financially. I don't need him for anything and he is scared another man can come in and take his place. I have lost all respect for him and hate to be around him I just need the courage to leave without him taking my children

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
August, 12 2016 at 4:30 am

Talk to an attorney about the custody. Sometimes there are free consultations. It is very doubtful that he'll "take them away from you," but talking to an attorney could put your mind at ease.
Call your brother(s). When they get there, leave with them. Try to have your husband out of the house when you leave. Go with your brother(s) and be done with your husband.
Who cares what he's scared of happening? He beats you. He beats you in front of the kids. He is going to kill you and if that happens, you'll never have a chance to leave. So go.
Get a restraining order, too.

August, 10 2016 at 9:53 am

I'm one of those guys that ended up in an abusive relationship. Thanks for this article! I do love my wife, even so, I tried to leave 6 years ago, but found that it left my three children more vulnerable. I went back because she promised to change, and while the violence has stopped for the most part, her verbal attacks, the yelling, the constant insults against me and my live at home daughter have not.
This article helped me understand where I am, and why I am there, and why I tense up before I head home at the end of the day, even if she's in a good mood on the phone. I love your advice, and every time I start to get ready to leave, she nicens up for a few days and I always fall back to your first bullet point.

August, 9 2016 at 2:27 pm

I am in an abusive relationship that started when I was pregnant. I know big red flag. But I stayed for the sake of my son. Then he was stillborn. I have no job, am 21, no homes other than his, or car. I literally depend on him and his parents for everything. I leave for college in a week and I don't want to come back here. But I have no where else to go. My family doesn't talk to me anymore, nor do my friends. He knows where my college is and my phone is under his name and he pays the bill so he'll take it away if I do leave. I have nothing to be able to stand on my own two feet. How do I leave? When I'm not financially able to?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
August, 10 2016 at 10:48 pm

Would your family and friends re-enter your life if you asked them for help? If they knew you were leaving him for good? Give them a try. And contact the NDVH at

August, 8 2016 at 3:41 pm

I do everything to please my abuser boyfriend, even if I don't want to because if I don't then he'll get mad. I'm in my home country right now, but I suppose to go back for school in another country and that means I have to see him. Even though I know I shouldn't, but I know I'll still meet him. That makes me want to stay in my homeland. It is hard to leave this abuser who push me down verbally, and emotionally. He expect me to support him in whatever he does, but he contempts me and say I'm not good enough to do what I love, I'm not good enough at doing what makes me happy. I don't even know why I can't leave him, I know all the reasons to, I have all the reasons to. WhAt I know is he will leave me like nothing more than a piece of trash on the street, we got in an argument and he said 'I wouldn't care if you were dying on the street like a stray dog.' The more I explain the more I feel like a stupid, insane person myself. Sometimes I feel like I was about to be as insane as him, which scares me a lot. I do wish for death sometimes so I don't have to see him, and not risking the chance of getting hurt by him. I just seriously have to do anything for this abuser, to keep him happy, so me, myself can be happy too. And I really want to get out of this cycle but I really do feel hopeless and desperate about getting out. I really do seek for help, I just wish I'd never ever ever have to see him or someone like him again once I leave this unhealthy, insane relationship.

Abused girl
August, 2 2016 at 2:52 pm

He also asks me to do degrading things and says he will contact me or see me only if I do those things like if you spend a night with your ex again like you did in the past then only I will see you or if you wear the short you wore in the beach with your friends like a whore in your locality then only I will unblock your number.I am always afraid, whatever I say or do always proves I am a horrible person to him.He makes me feel like a sewage worm all the time He ssays that after what I did nobody can trust me or love me or even like me,ever.I deserve this kind of treatment only in life.Can't I be in a normal relationship AGAIN? Am I not good enough not to be treated as a street dog all the time? and all the while he doesn't have any problem being physical with me because according to him I didn't have any problem in the past even with a committed person so why I am having problem when I act like I love him.And pathetically I cant say no thinkng may be this will help our relationship to be strong or he is doing this time may be because he loves me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
August, 3 2016 at 2:16 pm

If you strengthen a relationship with someone who degrades you, then the abuser will feel MORE enabled to abuse you. This guy is stealing your life from you. He's lying to you about you, and you want to prove him wrong, I know. But some people will never believe they are wrong. I believe this guy is one of them. I believe you deserve a happy, healthy relationship. But this is NOT the one. He does not, cannot, love you. Someone else will.

Abused girl
August, 2 2016 at 2:39 pm

Hi! I think I am in an abusive relationship for past 6 months.I met him through a dating site and thought he is the one.I was so happy about it.He once was cheated by his girl friend so ge is always suspicious that every girl is cheating on him.I was once in a relationship with a commited person I used to work with.I tried to come out of that relationship many a times but somehow couldn't.So after meeeting this new person I was sure that I can move on.But this new person somehow came to know about my past and then it all started.He started saying I am cheating on him sinply by going to the hospital I work where the previous person also works.He is threating me of telling everything to my frinds and families,calling me names all the time,constantly bullying me.But I feel so good when I am with him and he is also so affectionate many a times but I don't know what triggers his abusive nature.He also physiically abused me 2 times..He says I am not in a relationship with you but has problem when I talk to someone,checks my phone without telling me,calls my ex es to check whether I am in contact with them.Shouts,threatens me over things he thinks are happening.Always thinks I am cheating even when I didn't pick up his call because I am sleeping or I am with my family or friends.He is trying to separate me from my friends by saying I am doing this because you did a horrible thing in thr past so you deserve this and in the end you will be good and your friends don't want you to be a good human being.I am always depressed and scared nobody will accept me after knowing about my past so scared to leave him.please help

July, 30 2016 at 6:55 pm

I'm 24 we been together 3yrs , he hits me with any object he can find. At first he only did it in our home now he has started in public places. I can work to take care of myself if I leave him but he knows where I work . I'm so scared so ashamed and so hurt

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
August, 3 2016 at 2:36 pm

Leave anyway. It's okay if he knows where you work, but you'll have to be proactive in protecting yourself on the job. Talk to your supervisor so s/he knows what's going on. Get a restraining order before or immediately after you leave. You've got to get out of there, no matter how scared, ashamed or hurt you feel. The only way to get out from under those feelings is to take care of yourself and leave him behind.

July, 28 2016 at 11:39 pm

Hi Kellie Jo. I have contacted you previously. Always good to get as much advice as possible. Seeing a counsellor and speaking to online counsellors too.
I am at a crossroads. Have been in a verbally and emotionally abusive relationship for 20 or so years.
We are separated at the moment (have been for 12 weeks), and he wants me to come home. He is being on his best behaviour but has still been manipulative and threatening.
I recognise he had changed over the years but probably just changed tactics from screaming and throwing things at me to screaming and name calling.
So many different emotions. I realise he has a major personality problem - sees simple things as acts of disrespect. Jealous of me spending time with family, doing things for others, staying up late to make children's birthday cakes etc - efforts which he doesn't feel I make for him. I wonder if it's just the profile of the abuser or if he has an actually personality disorder - do not know. However, he can be so normal most of the times which makes everything so confusing.
I think I have long ignored the issues, denied them due to the confusion and irrationality of some of his ideas and arguments.
Such as not putting hose back in the reel properly seen as a sign of disrespect, me always putting in a half arsed effort. Accidentally leaving the gate open as lacking diligence. Tea bags left in sink as a symbol of being spoilt and my lack of gratitude for what I have been provided. Needing to go to classes to learn organisational skills and needing lessons on phones if I failed to answer my mobile. He has hidden jewellery to teach me a lesson about putting my personal possessions away properly.
During our separation I have stated boundaries which he has broken again but because I work with him in our business and have kids call him regularly, I talk to him about general things and he is fine.
In fact we get along well unless the topic is personal or sensitive which I guess in itself is telling. However it's hard to make that final decision to leave. My gut tells me I don't want to go back because I know that my life won't be fulfilling with him. However, I do love him, even like him at times. I feel a sense of obligation to him. I feel sorry for him and don't want to have my kids for half the time. I also realise i have family support, a place to stay, a career and a need for emotional support. I feel a need to make the right decision now because if I go back, the next time I leave if that's the case, I may not have a place to stay.
I was feeling emotionally drained with his circular arguments and the reality is, He must have a very low opinion of me. I have given too many chances and don't see a future with him. It's also hard to envision a future without.
So difficult to make a decision!!! All advise welcome!

July, 27 2016 at 8:11 pm

I don"t know what to do. This has been going on for so long. I can't leave him. I have tried many times. He makes me think its my fault when he hits me. Im starting to believe it.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
August, 3 2016 at 2:57 pm

"Starting" to believe it means you know it isn't your fault. And it's never your fault or responsibility for what someone else does or says. Think about the times you left before. What caused you to return? This time, make a plan for how to deal with those problem areas. Because the physical violence is already in place, it's important you leave as soon as possible (today).
You can deal with the fallout better from a place of safety - or a place more safe than the one you're in. Download the safety plan at the bottom of this page:

July, 27 2016 at 1:54 pm

I'm 18 and in a verbally and physically abusive relationship. I love my boyfriend more than anything and I know I need to leave, but I can't bring myself to it. Most of the time, I bring it on myself when I really need to keep my mouth shut but I can't help it. What do I do? I'm so miserable but I can't imagine life without him.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
August, 3 2016 at 3:02 pm

Have you heard of Visit that site, and also Use the chat/phone features to speak with a trained volunteer.
Also, MAKE yourself imagine life without him. Nothing ever stays the same, so no matter how miserable you feel for awhile, you will not feel that way forever. Fast-forward your imagination to the days that are light-hearted and free from abuse. Days where you say what you want and have no fear of retribution. Don't include him in those times - you can't change the way he treats you, so keep him out of your happy place. Simply imagining what life will be like without his hassles and without fear will make you stronger and less tolerant of his behavior in the present.

July, 27 2016 at 9:09 am

Hello all, I have bought myself a three week reprieve. I convinced my husband we were not healthy and I needed a break to catch-up on work. He has not put hands on me, but are fights have escalated to me yelling, cussing, name calling in an attempt to get him to stop. He says he sees me breaking and said if we don't get a break we will end. He says all the right things to keep me hoping it will get better. My friends have given-up on me. My family does not call because they never know if it is a good time. they have asked me not to bring him to their houses because they don't like the way I am around him, always on edge. my friends and family have told me for years they see me changing. he tells me he sees me changing, giving-up, not happy, not trying to get better for us...everyone is right. He agreed to leave for three weeks but in the last 24 hours has called 5 times, and one time told me he thought he heard someone here. My biggest fear is to tell him to leave that we are done and then take him back. I have taken him back over and over. Intellectually, I know it is not my job to carry him, regardless we are married, but somehow, I don't accept that inside of myself. Any tips welcome. I have called about therapy. Several DV places have me on waiting list 6-8 weeks, and private insurance starts 09/22. He wants back by 8/20. All I read about leaving, is that the pain gets worse, the aftermath, it takes forever to feel good again. I don't know how to get the psychic energy to take the first step and not get a reward for a long time, when I know if he comes back, despite daily fights and exhaustion, there are moments of sharing and fake hope things will be better if "we go to counseling, I give him a credit card, take a trip just the two of us, have a child, stop trying to be sneaky ect."
I have been good at saying we will not bring a child into this mess. He says that is the problem, "If we have a child you will pipe down and focus on this relationship." I have told him that focusing on the relationship to the point I have lost all my friends because I have to cancel plans at the last minute, my friends don't call because they hear you yell on the phone about something I joke about like getting another job (all innocent jokes), or missing work because you think I am going to see a the problem. I have told him this relationship is to intense. I need a break. I need to have energy to focus on myself and care for myself, write, get my nails done, see my mom. He agrees and then the next day, always less than a 90 minutes after waking-up, I am apologizing and exhausted for something. I do totally own that I start some of our fights, slamming down the toliet seat, saying something passive aggressive. My frustration, he does not see his role at all. He says it is me, I have destroyed him, I am the abuser. I have accepted that. I do control the money I earn in that it is deposited in my bank account. But whatever he asks for he gets for the most part. There is always cash on the dresser for him and he does not pay any bills. I accept that means I control the money. I do not feel that is me being abusive. it is not my fault he does not want to wrk, clear his child custody debt so he can have a bank account, or be trusted to pay the bills rather than lose money or randomly spend it on junk such as weed, bowling, clothiers, over electricity, phone, rent. I agree I have thrown things. I accept that I am in control of my behavior and am extremely angry that I go in my room and throw things. Never at him, only when alone, but a loss of control none-the-less and intimidating. I have told him we are toxic. I need a break, I do not like myself this way. He says he has no options to leave. I tell him I will pay alimony, he says he is not interested in my money. I have to find the courage to make my heart/mind accept none of this is acceptable and that someday, I will be happy.

July, 26 2016 at 4:55 am

Apart from anything, apart from any choice I will make, your advices are precious and I just want to say THANK YOU. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

July, 23 2016 at 11:10 am

Dear Joy,
You need first define the reasons you are really scared, and take the right action for each fear.
Fear #1 Physical abuse? google search shelter for abused women, and you will find an ocean of options. Don't leave and tell him you are leaving if he is abusive. Seek help, they will give you great suggestions
Fear #2 Financial instability (How will I support myself) Many of the same shelters will help you find job placement, and often times provide you shelter until you become financially stable.
Fear #3 Are you taking responsibility for your actions? Many of us that have felt stuck in a relationship is because we don't do the inner work. As a result the outer world sucks, and those closes to us, suck more. Many of us at one point or another, rather blame those for the way we feel, and when in reality the only ones that can make a difference about the way we feel, is ourselves. If you are one of these people (very common), it doesn't matter who you put in the picture, since the picture more or less will look and feel the same. We all need to do inner work, and the result of that is satisfaction. A satisfaction that no outer person can ever fulfill. My best advise for this symptom, or best antidote, is:
1. Take responsibility for your contributions-positive/negative?
2. Be diligent in doing your homework to make your life the way you want it, and stop depending on anyone to do the work for you.
By the way, I am a man that has been in a negative and abusive relationship. The one thing that gave me the most strength to free myself from a life that was way below my standard of basic peace and joy, was to take full responsibility for my actions, words, and the way I personally responded to negative attacks from my ex. I realized that I was in many way like my ex, and that the only way for things to change, was for me to change. If I changed and became a better person, than I would have the confidence and desire to demand more out of life and my significant other. If you fail to take responsibility, you are more likely to be stuck for a while longer if you know what I mean. Imagine, If you cannot get yourself to change, what do you think the chances are, you will get someone you don't have 100% control of to change? Underneath all the smoke of frustration, expecting the other person to change is the same as wishful thinking. Also, let's not forget laziness is a human natural trait- a path of least resistance. Change also comes with discomfort and additional work. Many of us are lazy and prefer to put up with a lesser life, than getting off our butts and change our diet, start working out, become more discipline, not fighting back and instead use that time and energy on something more productive to our own lives, or of our children's lives. Let's also ask ourselves how selfish we are...Do I expect the other person to act and behave in a way that accommodates my feelings ONLY, independently of how miserable this other person may feel in the process? Again, your inner works will help you answer that question. Good luck to you. I recommend watching Dr. Louis Hay on youtube. You will love her. Best of luck.

July, 23 2016 at 9:03 am

I'm 24 and I feel like I'll never be strong enough to get out of this situation advice plz been stuck since 2011 not even supposed to be using phone

July, 22 2016 at 3:29 pm

Thank you for this article. I have been in an incredibly verbally abusive relationship for 2 years and am experiencing an increase in physical aggression from my husband of 14 years - my once best friend and the love of my life.
I feel you describe me in this article - I'm independently financially secure but can't seem to leave. I'm fearful of being alone - and knowing eventually I will likely see my young children with another woman.
I won't bore with details but this was refreshing to see I'm not the only one and maybe one day I will find the courage to walk away. I don't want to be the 70
Year old who one day looks back and realizes it's too late - or worse not make it to 70 as a result of violence.
Thank you again for the post.

July, 21 2016 at 6:57 am

Hello this is new to me I'm really confused right now. I've read the signs and all of them apply to my relationship. I need help but I'm REALLY SCARED and don't know who to trust, I really don't have any friends or support system. I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. Someone please HELP? I don't know what to do. Thank You

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
July, 21 2016 at 11:39 am

Call the NDVH or visit their website to chat at Talk to the volunteers there ANYTIME you need to call/chat.
Your confusion is a part of the process, so don't worry about being confused. No one's world stays upright when they discover the one they love is a manipulating, controlling, abusive jerk. It's entirely upsetting. But you will regain your balance soon. In the meantime, keep educating yourself about abuse.
Use the NDVH to find out where you can meet with other domestic violence victims, then go to the meetings. If you can, go to a therapist versed in abusive relationships. At least tell your doctor what's going on so he or she can set you on the appropriate path. Those three actions are the beginning of a support system.
Don't trust any of his friends or their spouses with what you know. You have the opportunity to keep your partner in the dark for a while as you regain your footing.
And fill out this safety plan: (scroll to the bottom, download it for free)
Those steps are a good start to unraveling your confusion.

Shannon Frazette
July, 20 2016 at 2:21 pm

I hear all of you women, I love and support all of you . I am going insane because of the man I married. It's an awful existence, I am a miserable nervous wreck. It's other that easy to walk away, I don't know what to do. Many times I pray for death, but I have a beautiful son I have to live for. How can we all help each other!?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
July, 21 2016 at 11:43 am

You could create a facebook group or message board independent of facebook. I'll post the link if you tell me what it is.
Besides doing that, you can join the boards at, Patricia Evans' website. The boards are ultra-secure, and you must make a phone call to register for them. Her message board helped me A LOT.

"Generic Male Name"
July, 19 2016 at 1:27 am

Thanks for the advice, but i would much rather die than leave my mum to go through this alone. So far the only reason things haven't escalated further than hitting/spitting is because I intervene, I do not attack him out of spite as that would ruin my case when I do call the police but i put myself between them and warn him to back off, If worst comes to worst i am I am willing to attack him with everything I can to defend my mum but the one thing I can not do right now is leave her alone.
Sorry if I repeated anything I am pretty mentally drained right now.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
July, 21 2016 at 12:10 pm

Okay, we all are in charge of our own action. Do get in touch with though. They can help you through some of this confusion and pain, and perhaps your mother will see the benefit in speaking to the volunteers there too.

"Generic Male Name"
July, 18 2016 at 5:10 am

Hello i came here to look for help to get my mum out of an 8 year long abusive relationship. I am 18 and I still live at home with my mum and her "partner". When i was younger towards the start of the relationship i warned my mum he didn't seem right in the head because of his drinking and abusive tenancies but because she didn't listen his abuse has just continued escalating,he yells at her, swears at her, he hits her regularly, spits at her threatens to kill her and there is nothing i can do to convince my mum to leave, i have called the police but my mum always drops the charges and i can't defend her because my mum sticks up for him if i try to do so, I am at a loss, It has effected me mentally and caused me to become a very anxious person, i suffer from panic attacks and don't really leave my room. I had tried to move out when i was younger to live with my dad but ended up returning to my mum after a week because i feared for her safety whilst she was alone, I would still see my dad but it was only a few days a week so that i could be with my mum most of the time but I no longer get a break from it to see my dad because he died 3 years ago.
I would like some advice but I wont expect much as you say that it's okay for someone being abused to stay, which isn't true it just means they will continue hating themselves more and more until it becomes impossible (which is the point i fear my mum is at)
Also to Janel if you truly care about your son trust me you must leave, go to your parents get back on your feet and claim back your life. As someone who has grown up from the the age of 10 in an abusive household i can tell you it will affect your son and since I assume he is younger i believe it will affect him a lot more than it has me. worst case scenario you and him could end up dead but the most likely scenario is he will grow up thinking that it's a normal relationship.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
July, 18 2016 at 11:05 am

It is dangerous to stay in an abusive relationship. What I mean when I say you can choose to stay is that staying is a choice. Making any decision empowers a person. My hope is that after a person makes a choice, he or she can then open his/her eyes to the abuse and, in time, decide to leave. If someone is physically abused, he or she needs to leave NOW and think later.
I am happy to see your comment. You sound like a bright and articulate young man. I am so sorry that you've lived in this mess for so long, and I'm sorry you can't get away on a regular basis anymore. Three years straight is a horribly long time to live with the kind of pressure you feel.
Unfortunately, the first thing to do on my "how to help an abuse victim" list is to take care of yourself first. You cannot make her leave. Yes, it's been 8 years and she's sustaining damage. But so are you. If there's anyway you can leave and attend college elsewhere or stay with friends or family, that would be the best thing you could do.
You see, right now, your mother feels that she has nowhere to go if she were to consider leaving. If you show her it can be done, and eventually have your own place, she will have a viable option. (She has options now, but she's not using them because she's afraid or can't see them.) But you leaving, and telling her why, COULD open the door for her to consider leaving, too.
And if it doesn't? You'll have a safe place to build your self up. There's nothing you can do if you're broken down, too. At worst, you could end up in a physically violent situation with her partner and be hurt badly or killed.
yes, I know this is what you fear for your mom. But by you taking care of yourself, she has someone to call. Someone to come get her.
If you can't leave or cannot bear the thought of leaving, it's time to involve a trusted adult in your situation. Talk to a teacher, counselor, friend's parent, someone outside your home. Trust is tricky, but keep trying and you'll find the right person. You need diversion and solid advice from someone you trust.
First, contact the NDVH at They can offer help and support any time you want to talk.
Secondly, download this safety plan: Scroll to the bottom of the page to download it for free. Fill it out for YOURSELF.
Then, read "How to Help an Abuse Victim Escape" at
Your lifeline is the NDVH and confiding in a trustworthy adult. You need to build a support system, and that is where to start.

July, 13 2016 at 4:56 am

I just cant do it. I just don't have the gall to just pack my things, take my son & haul ass out of there! I know its mainly because he would be homeless with out us; he doesn't work, he watches our son all day while I work. A job in itself; the best job ever in fact. He has been physically abusing me since the beginning of our relationship and yet I STILL had a child with him ( yes I know I'm an idiot) . I have somewhere to go; my parents are always begging for me & my son to come back to them. I just cant....I just cant leave him homeless? its not all his fault why he's so angry; both of his parents are mental cases themselves and his mother has done unimaginable things to him but how long am I going to keep using that for him as a crutch? How many more jaw fractures, bruises on my back, broken nose, busted lips, pushing to the floor IN FRONT MY SON can I endue? I want to go, I swear I do but leaving my sons father homeless; can I live with that? Please help me. Any guidance would be heaven sent.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
July, 13 2016 at 9:55 am

Would you rather him be homeless or you be dead? What kind of life would you son have with a man who you don't think could find an apartment for himself?
Trust me, this man has it all figured out. He is not helpless. Anger does not prevent him from thinking. If you must, pay the rent when it's due and then leave. He'll have a month to figure it out.
I can't tell you when you will be ready to stop excusing his behavior. I can't tell you when you'll be ready to save yourself and your son from the abuse. I can tell you that as your son gets older, and makes his own opinion on things, his father will beat him, too. I can also predict a day when your son uses his father's tactics on you. I can practically picture your abuser smiling as your son knocks you to the floor.
Reach out to local domestic violence organizations who can help you see the truth of this situation. But don't wait too long to go, and don't give him any clue that you're leaving. Your life is literally in the balance, and that means your son's life is, too.

July, 13 2016 at 4:22 am

I have been with my partner for 3 1/2 years. I have a 10 year old son. We dated for about 4 months before we made things official. After being together for about 6 months I noticed his 1st outrage when he called me a stupid bitch. I was so hurt when I heard him say that. He promised me that he would never call me out my name or hurt me in any way. He accepted my son as his own child and embrased fatherhood with my son. We were really picture perfect in the eyes of the public. He went to work everyday and came home every night. After 8 months into thd relationship, things changed. He came home later and didn't text or call me at work as much. One day when I got out the shower, he yelled at me about something silly and pushed up againgst me with his chest. I stumbled. That was the 2nd sign of abuse. He began smoking marijuana heavily but I knew that marijuana never causes any one to be abusive or violent. Whe moved into our house about a year ago. One day he had his friend over and his friend was rude to me. I told him not to bring his friend back. Well he did. He yelled at me in front of his friend and he hit me. He wasca totally different person. He called me names in front of his friend. He pushed me and kicked. It's so difficult talking about this. I didn't even recognize him. After everything was over he apologized the next day but he acted like it was my fault. He blames me for everything. How can this be? Why do I love him? Every time he get mad he calls me names. I have thrown food on the floor from being angry at him. I have cursed at him before. But I never touch him. He says things like " I just wanna get away from you". Then when he is happy he tells me that it's me and him forever. I feel sick. I feel depressed. I feel a million different feelings in a day. I don't know how to leave. I don't wont to leave sometimes and on some day's I do. I pray for peace between us often. I often wonder what I did to deserve this. This is my second time being in a domestic violence relationship. Please help.

July, 13 2016 at 12:28 am

I need advice. I have no one to turn to. I started dating my Husband 7 years ago, when I was 14. At that time in my life I was dealing with trauma. My brother had stabbed me 7 months before meeting my Husband. I was alone and had nobody to help me get through what happened to me not even my parents. But when I met my husband I felt safe, I felt like I found someone who cared about me and loved me. He was my first boyfriend, I thought I was so in love. He treated me so good the first couple years of our relationship. Around 4,5 years being together he started to change. It's like he was a whole new person. He has never physically abused me, but he kills me verbally. He digs deep into my mind and destroys me. His "love" is my weakness. We got married on my 20th birthday last year. We were so happy that day. But 2 days later he was back to his old self. Calling me fat, I'm stupid. He calls me ugly, no guy would ever want to be with me. He could be with a better women than me he says. He tells me my family stopped talking to me because nobody loves me. He tells me all the time to kill myself so he can be happy. I suffer from depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Being with him is not making me better. All I do is cry, every night I cry myself to sleep. I cut myself, I've tried to overdose on pills. Being dead would be better than being with him.I lost everything because of him. An education, my whole family, my self esteem. Not even my parents talk to me. I want to get away but I don't know how. I don't work, he just moved me over 3,000 miles from my family I have no friends here, I have no where to go. What do I do?

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