Leaving an Abusive Relationship

August 6, 2013 Becky Oberg

People with borderline personality disorder(BPD) are especially vulnerable to abusive relationships due to the intense self-hatred and fear of abandonment common to the disorder. Due to the relatively weak sense of self, it is difficult for a person with BPD to leave a relationship, even an abusive one. People with BPD may believe they deserve the abuse and have a hard time believing the relationship is abusive.

Recognizing abuse

An abusive relationship has a cycle of three phases: the honeymoon phase, where the abuser showers the victim with affection, attention, and promises it will never happen again; the tension-building phase, where the abuser’s anger and potential for violence build; the acute battering incident, in which the abuse occurs.

Several sources, including Fay A. Klingler and Bettyanne Bruin in their book Shattered, give a list of questions to ask yourself if you think you're in an abusive relationship.

Do you:
• Fear your partner a large percentage of the time?
• Change your normal activities to avoid upsetting your partner?
• Feel controlled or intimidated by your partner?
• Avoid certain topics because you’re afraid of angering your partner?
• Feel that you can’t do anything for your partner right?
• Ever think you deserve to be mistreated?
• Wonder if you’re crazy?
• Feel afraid your partner will hurt you? Kill you?
• Feel afraid that your children will be taken away?
• Feel emotionally numb or helpless?
• Think that violence is normal?
• Feel that no one else would like you if your partner didn’t?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it's time to re-examine the relationship.

The difficulty of leaving

Dr. Aphrodite Matsakis, author of I Can’t Get Over It: A Handbook for Trauma Survivors, writes “Most battering victims stay for the kiss, not the fist—for the love and attention of [the honeymoon phase], not the anxiety and physical and emotional pain of [the other two stages]. … Both battered women and incest victims may have protective, loving feelings toward their abuser because of the affection the abuser has showered upon them.”

Leaving is dangerous, according to the Indiana University School of Law Protective Order Project. Separation violence is a common problem. About 75 percent of the abused women seeking emergency medical treatment sustained their injuries after leaving their abuser. Almost 25 percent of the women killed by their abuser was separated or divorced from their abuser. Another 25 percent were attempting to end the relationship. The time of separation is the time the woman is most likely to be murdered by her former partner.

So how does one leave safely? Sue Ellen Kubiak writes “What you need to do is assemble an emergency plan, obtain counseling, and plan your exit. You can’t just leave without a plan, because the man will feel as if he has power over you and be confident that you will return to him when you run out of resources. You have to have a plan.”

Check the Yellow Pages or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for information about shelters in your area. It is safest to go to a shelter, as they will have security that a friend’s house or motel room can’t offer. Some abusers, like mine, threaten to kill the family pet so many shelters are now pet-friendly or will help you find lodging for your pet. The hotline can help you prepare to flee--don't do what I did and leave with just the clothes on your back unless you have no time to prepare.

Survivor's Bill of Rights

• We have the right to be believed when we say we have been abused.
• We have the right to not have the abuse downplayed.
• We have the right to be heard.
• We have the right to be treated equally, regardless of whether or not we are married to our abuser and regardless of our sexual orientation.
• We have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
• We have the right not to be judged for being with an abusive partner.
• We have the right to confidentiality.
• We have the right to treatment for physical injuries.
• We have the right to mental health treatment.
• We have the right to a support system, and the right to an advocate to navigate the support system.
• We have the right to feel afraid, angry and/or confused, and we have the right to not be judged for these feelings.
• We have the right to choose whether or not to go to court in cases where children are not involved.
• We have the right to divorce without shame. We are neither selfish nor homewreckers; our abuser is the one who destroyed the relationship.
• We have the right to not be treated as masochists who like the abuse.
• We have the right to be safe.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2013, August 6). Leaving an Abusive Relationship, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 28 from

Author: Becky Oberg

July, 28 2022 at 7:46 pm

can someone please talk to me, im 17 with bpd in an abusive relationship. i feel trapped and i cant make myself leave. this relationship is draining me.

August, 28 2022 at 4:53 am

You're are so young, its heartbreaking as I've been there myself. It always takes me around 7 years to end a bad relationship and I keep making the same mistakes. If I could go back in time I would of had therapy at a younger age and maybe now i would be more stable and happy instead of the abuse making my mental health worse. I hope you can get help, maybe go on some domestic abuse courses to educate you on what is abuse as sometimes there a lots of little things that we miss in the beginnings when the love bombing starts. I really hope you can get out and get well xx

July, 17 2019 at 4:28 pm

I have ptsd or maybe bpd too. I was in an abusive relationship for 4 years with an ex boyfriend. He assaulted me and also pushed me a couple times and choked me pulled my hair so hard my neck and head hurt for hours. I blamed myself for it because of my mental health issues. But apparently he has antisocial personality disorder and he would tell me that he loved me and that he needed me to change his life around. I acted very desperate to get him back when he would leave and suicidal I also started to get so tired of the way he was treating me that I would blow up. And he would threaten to abandon me so I started doing it him too because that was the only way he would show affection. I was abused as child and most of my teenage eye are sexually verbally and emotionally. I think he was too so I have forgiven him but I'm always afraid he's after me. I left him a few months ago. Yet I miss him because he was all I had because my family is not there for me. I was always the scapegoat of my family and I think I'm taking it into other relationships. I felt so empty after I broke up with the ex and then he kinda left me too so I felt so sad because I was doing so well before we were actually together I had recovered from my ptsd and most of my bpd symptoms as well that now because I have no support from my scapegoating family I found anew boyfriend that I think may also be abusive. He's been asking if he could move in with me and he's locked up but I thought maybe he wasn't that bad because he told me he wants to turn his life around and wants to marry and have kids. But I think its fake. Because he asked if he can move in with me and we just started dating 2 days ago. And he will ask me if I have company over and think I'm cheating yet deny that's what he's doing, just like my ex. I left my ex because I could I had support. But my family has turned everyone against me and so now I have no one to help me except this new boyfriend with support. I'm not really all that interested in him because I think he just saw me as a vulnerable woman that wouldn't stand up to him, just like my ex. I was wondering, is it possible to get recovered? Because I feel so vulnerable and barely go anywhere because my ptsd is bad. Ill see older men staring at my body and it disgusts me how men just treat woman like objects to be used and not as humans. My ex treated me good sometimes and sometimes recall bad. Like the abuse. And my new boyfriend is really insecure it feels like but is hiding it and my gut tells me he's worse than my ex and could really hurt me if I ever see him in person. I just want help, but even the mental health people judge my disorder even though it may actually also be ptsd as well. Complex and just pays from my childhood and now my ex and this new boyfriend makes me feel like he has to have all the control so I just give in, even though he's not here physically it started out the same way with my ex and when we finally moved in together he got very abusive. Is it my fault? I keep wondering if its me or in abusive I can't be though I just wonder why I can't find someone who will treat me as a human and not an object and will live me for me and actually be there and be in a normal relationship.

July, 24 2019 at 5:12 pm

Hi Rose, thank you so much for commenting here and sharing your experiences. I can hear how much you have been through, both in your relationships as an adult and also in your younger years. The assault and violence you are describing is abuse and I want to tell you that this is not your fault. Nobody deserves to be abused and I can tell you that this is not your fault in any way at all. You very much deserve to be treated as a human and not an object. I wanted to share the Healthy Place Resources and Hotlines page… I don't know if you have considered reaching out to any organizations who may be able to listen and support you. Wishing you all the best and take care. - Rosie Cappuccino, author on the More Than Borderline blog.

July, 17 2018 at 1:19 am

It doesn't matter if the ABUSER has Borderline personality disorder, Narcissistic personality disorder, Antisocial personality disorder, Histrionic Personality disorder or any disorder at all.
Then GET YOURSELF SOME SERIOUS HELP !! You need to find out what attracts you to unhealthy people to begin with.
If you are in an ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP, GET OUT !! What are you wanting for ? Are you some kind of masochist? Are you waiting for your "LOVE" to find a new victim and dump you? Are you wanting to get pushed to your limit and SNAP? GET OUT !! Before someone gets seriously hurt besides you. GET OUT !! Before you lash out at your ABUSER or one of the people who they cheated with or yourself. Ultimately YOU LOSE.
GET OUT, RUN AS FAR AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN, GET YOURSELF SOME SERIOUS HELP and believe that you can have a normal, healthy, happy relationship with someone who truly loves and respects you.
Personality Disorders are developed over a lifetime of trial and error.
Maybe once those with Personality Disorder understand this they'll be motivated to change.

July, 17 2018 at 12:45 am

Funny (or maybe not) the signs of abuse you listed here are what my BPD significant other does to me.
And if they said it's what I do, well that would be just another example of turning everything around (projecting) to avoid responsibly.
Just one of the endless gaslighting techniques.

Brain Hively
October, 9 2014 at 11:45 pm

It’s hard to find knowledgeable folks on this matter, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

October, 6 2014 at 8:29 pm

I am rarely physically abused but the emotional and mental abuse is so heavy and has been this way since we met about 7 years ago. I am afraid to talk to others because I am a male and she is a female, I dont want to slander her, and I am also afraid of her retaliation if I say anything negative about her to anyone
My wife is borderline and she is an emotional bully. Everything must be her way or the whole house has to feel her wrath. For the past 7 years she has manipulated me into believing that all her anger was my fault and I believed it. I am just now waking up to the truth. She is a bully and nothing I do makes her happy. I have been called all the names in the book. None of them are true. I know that now. I just want out. I'm afraid of her reaction when I tell her I want a divorce. I have wanted one for a year now but haven't told her. Oh well, I know I need to get out. The abuse never stops and my mental state is deteriorating. I feel crazy all the time and hope to wake up from this nightmare but every time I wake up I have to face this harsh reality.

October, 5 2014 at 7:20 pm

I am in an abusive relationship.I've been hit,bit,scratched and called every name possible.I work and support my partner.I've been labelled with BPD.My partner blames his anger and personality changes on me.I feel lost,empty.angry.sad.I have no self esteem.I've had no social life in the past ten years.I was learning to be happy before I met my boyfriend.Part of me knows I'm in a bad place.The greater part of me convinces me I'm wrong.He vilifies me.I've just started telling people what he does to me.I'm angry that he acts jealous of my job.I was abused as a child verbally and physically.I wish I were dead.I need more help than DBT and counseling.I'm afraid I'll one day take my life.I'm afraid of abandonment.He calls his mom and he threatens to leave.i act in desperation then hate myself.Help me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 18 2018 at 12:46 pm

Hi, I hope you’re doing better, I’m in a similar situations. My boyfriend makes me feel very alone but because I have no other family or friends I’m scared to leave because then I’ll be alone with my thoughts. I cannot afford therapy and I have no place to turn. I really hope you’re doing better. You deserve so much more.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Andrea Me
March, 2 2018 at 5:54 pm

Hi Joy, I feel your anguish. I actually bought a house with my BF after being together for one year. I was a widow for only 2 months when I met him. I was trying to fill the hole in my heart of grief. When we moved in together, immediately he was a bully, wanting everything his own way. After 5 days I knew I had made a huge mistake. He was so verbally cruel, name calling and yelling at me to get his way. I’ve never been treated so bad in my life. I kept making excuses for him. I didn’t want to be alone. I was accepted all his torture, believing my lack of worth, and trying hard to dismiss the treatment because immediately after he would once again be nice. I think he wants to be looked after, he wants me to be his mother. There now is no affection at all, not even hugs. He verbally abused my adult son recently and that was a light bulb moment for me. I asked him to leave, but he refused. He is now having therapy, which is great for him, but I have shut down emotionally. I want to be alone, but have nowhere to go, as I put all my money into the house. We have been in the house for 10 months. I feel trapped too

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 15 2018 at 10:45 am

How are you now? That situation is not ok. You need someone to vent to

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