How To Find Some Peace In An Abusive Relationship

December 4, 2013 Kellie Jo Holly

white sand with two separate circles, boundary lines top and bottom

I tried to write this post earlier today, but evidently there were some comments and stories I needed to read first. Stories from addicts, ministers and other abuse survivors reminded me of how much I used to fight my abuser. I fought with my ex-husband so often that I accepted some isolation to spare myself the embarrassment of fighting in front of his friends. At the end, I think every one of the people my ex hung out with knew that I couldn't stand to look at him.

No wonder they believed his stories that I was miserable and unstable. I couldn't open my mouth without something negative about my ex sliding out. My feelings for him surrounded me like a prickly heat and they made me seem like someone I was not. Ugly. Hateful. Mean. My feelings for my ex made it easy for his friends to feel sorry for him, give him a place to stay, and believe his side of whatever story he told.

Was There Peace In My Abusive Relationship - Peace Inside of Me?

I was not at peace. I was in turmoil, seeking peace. I thought that forcing my ex to change would bring me peace, so I fought hard. The more I fought, the less like myself I became. I yelled and screamed. I called him names. I did these things in front of our children. I thought I was standing up for myself. I thought that acting like him would make him listen to me, but over time, I knew he wasn't listening to me. Still, my fight continued and I came to like myself less and less.

Fighting Cannot Produce Peace In Abusive Relationships

I lived a lot of years searching for peace. I was frustrated, confused, aggravated, upset and in turmoil. Now I enjoy peace. But I might never have found it if I'd stopped looking for it, because God wanted to teach me to pursue it. Sometimes we wish for things to change but are unwilling to do what it takes to make things better. ~Joyce Meyer

In despair, I broke down. I felt ashamed and mad at myself for moving far away from my true heart. I prayed and begged for God to change things for me. I baited Him, praying, "I know you could do it, so please change this misery!" If you've heard the bible story of Jesus in the desert, you know that the devil tempted Him to use his powers to relieve His suffering, too. I acted like a little devil to God, and like all devils, God easily and repeatedly said, "No".

It isn't up to God or your abuser's friends or their family or you whether or not your abuser ever changes so you can have peace. If change comes, it won't be to give you peace anyway! It will come because your abuser wants to change.

I felt God abandoned me. I felt alone in all the world and had a big ol' pity party for myself. When I couldn't cry anymore, I decided that what I was doing was not working. "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results" began to make sense to me. Praying in the manner I prayed and fighting my ex in the way I'd fought would never work to bring me peace. But what would?

Peace In Abusive Relationships Requires You To Build A Life Worth Fighting For

Throughout those years of misery, I never focused on my life. Sure, I was mad at my ex for making it difficult to attend college and begin a business. I was mad at my ex for telling me who I was and what I wanted. I was mad at him for many things with good reason! But if you had asked me what I wanted to go to school to become, I couldn't answer you. Likewise, if you asked me how I defined myself or what I wanted for my life, I could not have answered you.

I fought him so hard that I forgot what I was fighting for.

I have to build a life for myself that I want to fight for. And being miserable in some place where they take away all the things I actually do love about life seems totally counterproductive. Stripping me of joy and hope isn't going to do help me make healthier decisions. ~Nic Sheff

Nic Sheff speaks about sober houses in the quote above, but it fits living in abuse, too. Victims of abuse need to (re)build their lives and feel valuable. But they cannot do that in a relationship that takes away all they love about themselves and erases joy and hope. You cannot build a great life fighting someone else for the right to build it.

How to Stop Fighting And Find Peace In Abusive Relationships

STOP fighting. Just like that. Stop it. Quit yelling and sniping. Stop trying to one-up the abuser. Stop co-creating the abuser's path of escalation. When you stop acting like someone you are not, you are forced to decide who you are.

How do you decide who you are? That's easy enough. Set personal boundaries and enforce them peacefully. A boundary is only you deciding what you like and what you don't like, then expressing your feelings non-confrontationally and taking actions that make it very hard for your abuser to "make" you feel miserable and angry (5 Ways of Dealing With Verbally Abusive Relationships).

Personal boundaries remind you to be you. I requested a commenter to the blog to do this:

When you hear yourself saying things that you don’t like, shut your mouth. When you feel like doing something that does not align with who you want to be, do not do that thing.

The abuser is likely to attack viciously when you put your boundaries in place. It is difficult to keep your mouth shut or walk away when someone says hateful things to you, but with practice it will get easier.

Boundaries let you be you - and your abuser to be themselves. Over time, you will come to see that you deserve much more out of life. You will want to create a life worth fighting for instead of fighting someone for the life you want.


I wish you all a very peaceful holiday season. Remember that abuse can increase throughout the holidays, so give yourself the gift of peace as often as possible.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2013, December 4). How To Find Some Peace In An Abusive Relationship, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

joyce haley
September, 13 2017 at 2:27 am

I am a survivor of domestic abuse, after many years I finally left and did not return. many times after leaving I would allow my ex-husband to sweet talk me into coming back, finally, I just couldn't do it anymore.

August, 3 2017 at 9:46 pm

I realize that this article was written a few years ago, but I still want to say "Thank you" for posting it. I've read several articles that talk about how to cope in an abusive relationship, but this is the first that I have read that explained with great accuracy what has been and is still happening to me - I am losing myself in this fight and not able to (re)build myself. I have been trying to repair and restore the loving, happy and positive person I used to be before this relationship. And you are right, all the yelling, screaming, crying, and fighting didn't get me what I wanted, but only made him more powerful because he's not going crazy like me. In the last year, I have realized on my own that I've become someone I never wanted to be, but I also became someone who doesn't know what she wants in her life and where she's going. I did go back to school this year, but I feel lost in my direction and feel insecure about the career path I am on. This constant doubt has been plaguing me all year and I almost dropped out because of it. Yeah, I'm in a confusing place right now, but this article put major perspective on my situation, and makes me feel a little better about taking back control over me - even if it is in little bitty steps.

Lisa in USA
July, 28 2017 at 4:50 am

I have been with my verbal abuser for 16 years...married for 11. My youngest is 7 and I've made my exit plan, but it's not for an other 7 years because I want to be financially secure first. I want our mortgage to be paid off first also. I want to ensure that financially, my kids and me will be ok. I have talks with my son all the time telling him that what his father does is called "verbal abuse" and that it's wrong. In the mean time, I have realized that saying "Stop it. Do not call me names. Please do not treat me this way." All it does is escalate the situation where my husband begins to tell me that I'm "trailer park trash" and was "nothing before I met him", "unemployed", "stupid, lacking intelligence", "my family hates me" etc. Yes, I once lived in a trailer park, but when I met my husband I was university educated (B. Comm) and had a good career going. 6 months into our relationship, I was laid off by a tech company and my husband helped me find a secure union position where I am today. Because the verbal abuse escalates when I respond with "stop it" etc., I am realizing that this strategy does not work. And so I am going to try going back to not responding when yelled at or called names and if he asks why, I will respond with, "I'm not going to answer you when you speak to me this way." He's an angry man...very angry man. He's never hit the kids (daughter is our dream child), but he sometimes calls my son names like , "dumb ass" (very rarely) and I remind my son that it's verbal abuse. I assured him that he's not a "dumb ass' and the real "dumb ass" is the one saying it in the first place. I know my son will distance himself from his father when he's older. I see it coming. My husband has pushed me on 2 occasions (last time was 3 years ago); he's also punched holes in our walls, broken light switches, etc. When I stay calm, his anger dies, so 95% of the time I can control it (or he punches a wall the 5%). I can manage this for a few years while I save and get the mortgage paid off. Then I will implement my plan to leave. I am also getting all my important documents together, like the property deed (with my name on it), financials, etc. My daughter is very smart and knows that what her father is doing is wrong. Both my kids think I should "break up with him". I am not sharing my plan with them for obvious reasons. They will both be teens when I leave, so I will no longer have expenses like daycare and afterschool programs. The problem is that renting a 3 bedroom is very expensive, so I have to save and if I left now, I know my husband would screw me financially. I have worked so hard in my life, that it's really important to me to have my finances in order before I leave.

August, 16 2016 at 8:34 pm

I have tried this method many times. I have sat for hours thinking "next time he starts his crap I'm not even replying back, I'm not going to add fuel to the fire". But every situation is different, the reasons for his outburst vary and it becomes very difficult to remain silent when you're being berated on and on intentionally until your breaking point. He says anything and everything he can think of to hurt me and get a response. And when I do succeed at remaining calm this always ends up just angering him even more. He then starts saying I'm ignoring him, that the crazy accusations he's throwing at me must be true, he then fuels himself and puts words in my mouth and assumes the worst. He goes on and on until I finally speak.. And even if it's just me pleading for him to calm down he still continues to flip out and then whatever I say is used against me or he's yelling I never shut up (after an hour him cussing and breaking things while I'm silent and the only thing I've said is "please calm down" or simply begging not to fight. No matter what I do it's never turns out good. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. And sadly I have no where else to go. No family, no friends, he made sure I have no one. I've tried leaving and every time I hVe to come back because I run out of $, food,shelter etc and I have three kids dragging along with me. I go until I have nothing left praying for some miracle, praying to find some envelope full of $ or something. The kids are hungry, cars out of gas, baby has no diapers and it's storming.. So I drive back home in tears not wanting to go there. And just sit and stare at the walls everyday miserable.. While tension rebuilds, I feel sick to my stomach, can't sleep, walk on eggshells, and just hope one day he will just die or leave. Everyone judges around me yet none of those ppl offer advice not resources when I get away from it.. And no one understands the real struggles you face when you've been locked away for years by a Man who won't even let you work, controls the $.. It's his not yours.. An won't even give u more then $5 at a time.. And he won't even keep your cell turned on so u hve no contact with the outside world except wifi connection and the internet from your phone you USED to use back before the days of darkness.. Before you met this antichrist who stole your soul.. And the rest of your life :(

Leslie Sierra
August, 31 2015 at 9:27 am

It's harder and harder to pull up my head and see what ridiculous and senseless abuse that I put up with every single day, is doing to me. I have anxiety almost ALL the time. I am constantly waiting for the YELLING and SCREAMING and hours of accusations, and hours of being put down and hours of listening to him put everyone else, parents, his kids, siblings, etc..then in mere minutes to be talking to them, laughing, making plans, not telling THEM any of their shortcomings, OR in the opposite vein, telling THEM all he wants to and they readily "forgive" him ( or it takes a day, week, month or year) and then they just forget about it and interact with him again...
This goes on and on. This for over 7 years to someone I SUPPORT totally 100%, and am not legally married to. I feel like I need to be taken out and horsewhipped to "wake up" and get rid of this horror, this negative, screaming, scary, abusive person. NOW, add a child relative ( minor) into my home that is related to my deceased husband..and it's 100x worse. I can NOT have this child exposed to his craziness or hear any of his crazy, negative, horrible fodder out of his mouth.
I am nothing but a mere shadow of the person I used to be. His friends and relatives KNOW how horrific he is, substance abuser, negative, doesn't work, drinks, smokes, spends, horrible father, horrible everything. Yet , HERE I AM. I wish every single day that I would wake up to find he had died in the night. Then, I won't have to "do" anything. Hear the backlash from his friends/family . The real reason they would be concerned is that he might land ON THEIR DOORSTEP again, and they would "put up with him" support him and take his abuse. That's why they'd be angry with me. NOT like we are FRIENDS or get along or anything anyway.
I need to have a house fall on me or someone to shake me til I am AWAKE and aware of this horror ruining my life, and every single life he touches.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
August, 31 2015 at 10:07 am

Instead of waiting for that house to fall, you could fill out a safety plan. Doing that will help you prepare for the worst of it. I've found that most people who complete the safety plan grow less tolerant. And less tolerance is what makes houses fall. Here's a link to the plan:
Scroll down the article to the bottom and download it for free.

August, 22 2014 at 10:53 pm

"No wonder they believed his stories that I was miserable and unstable. I couldn’t open my mouth without something negative about my ex sliding out. My feelings for him surrounded me like a prickly heat and they made me seem like someone I was not. Ugly. Hateful. Mean. My feelings for my ex made it easy for his friends to feel sorry for him, give him a place to stay, and believe his side of whatever story he told.
I was not at peace. I was in turmoil, seeking peace. I thought that forcing my ex to change would bring me peace, so I fought hard. The more I fought, the less like myself I became. I yelled and screamed. I called him names. I did these things in front of our children. I thought I was standing up for myself. I thought that acting like him would make him listen to me, but over time, I knew he wasn’t listening to me. Still, my fight continued and I came to like myself less and less."
Wow! How amazing and powerful your words are! This is literally the exact reaction from others I experienced when leaving a horrible abusive spouse and the same words I said about myself when I realized I became like my Ex in order to survive being with him. I was mean, angry, hurtful & defensive towards my Ex until he said he hated me so much I no longer had a reason to act that way. I realized I had become just like him and he hated me, hence hating himself, a concept he may never comprehend.
Regardless, I was no longer myself, and the last spark of "me" was fighting to hang on inside me. That same day, I suddenly let go of all that anger and hate, I apologized to everyone, even my abuser. The weight and burden I carried for years was lifted and I felt clarity like never before in my life. That night in bed, my body shook with fever and sweats and chills. I was physically ill.
Today, nearly 18 mos later, I am free of my abuser. Healthy, happy, loving life and my children more than ever. My Ex told me today that I was a scumbag, a piece of shit, a liar, and to f!$@ off when we exchanged our son. Mostly because he got the wrong school supplies and was/is too dumb to find the school's list or print one himself.
I let it get to me and it bothered me all day. Yet, a wonderful kind friend explained what a man is thinking and to look inwards for peace. It's not easy, it's not done in a day or week. Time heals you, their anger is theirs. My life is mine. We maybe slip, stumble and even fall for a long time, but I got out. I made it and I am free! To anyone else who knows abuse and wants out, you CAN do it! You will be okay. Don't let your spark burn out!

July, 31 2014 at 8:08 am

i read this and i have done this myself lashing out cause i cant take him yelling at me any more. but what to do when theres children involved. stand up for them right. i cant sit back and let him call them names make them feel bad about how they look, what they are wear or if they did something worng and are afaried to answer him. shouldnt i be their voice as well as my own?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 10 2018 at 6:28 am

Leslee I'm so sorry you're going through this. I understand completely as I'm in the same situation. I am currently listening to his ranting after I stood up to him ridiculing our eldest so once again. I decided I needed to rise above it so went to google for answers, come across this blog.
What made me feel better was knowing others are going through the same thing then I realised something else. I've learnt how to recognise trauma and the fight or flight response, I've taught my children how to use their breath when dealing with their twat of a father once he's been drinking but I failed to do it myself.
Breath in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 7, breath out for 8 repeat as necessary. It really helps and I see things differently, calmly. Hopefully it can help you too xx

April, 15 2014 at 3:35 pm

Hi I recently came across your blogs and thank you for sharing. Ive recently found it very difficult not to fight back. I almost feel like im the one that throws low blows or im the cold mean one. Ive been finding myself making up more excuses on why things are the way they are or why I dont just leave. Your blogs are amazing theyre extremely inspiring.

December, 10 2013 at 9:37 am

"STOP fighting. Just like that. Stop it. Quit yelling and sniping. Stop trying to one-up the abuser. Stop co-creating the abuser’s path of escalation."
So, I've been thinking about this a lot since I read it last night. It's something I want to do - why is it so hard? Disclaimer- I rarely yell (although he thinks if I speak with any emotion it's yelling)but I do fling out sarcastically defensive comments and respond in the negative, hence the path of escalation as above. Sarcasm is his preferred language and I find myself using it, though I don't like it. My heart races and I feel sick in my stomach. I don't hate myself for it any more but I want it to stop because it does no good.
Thinking it through, the reason the words just come out, despite me deciding a million times I won't do that any more is because they are so often on replay inside my head. I still haven't won the battle of getting him out of my head. Difficult when we still live together. Perhaps more so, now that I understand the abuse dynamic. I am always anticipating, preparing myself, wondering what the real version of the story he just told me is, on guard and on edge. Because I am determined not to be put down, minimized, trivialized, misquoted, etc. etc., when he baits, I bite.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
December, 11 2013 at 3:16 am

Dear Joy, please don't be so hard on yourself. Writing that statement, I knew it was easier said than done, but I wanted to put the idea in my readers' heads because it is, truthfully, the best thing to do. The key, and I believe I'll write this in my next post, is to fill your head with ALTERNATIVE reactions. This is where setting boundaries, visualization, and taking time out to focus on what you want come into play. Setting boundaries gives you something to say (or to THINK) when your abuser is doing/saying something that causes your head to spin, wonder what the true story is, etc. The goal of visualization enables you to play future movies in your head where you see yourself acting and reacting in strong healthy ways. Focusing on what you need and want will help you to set your boundaries and create the visualizations that empower you to act THAT way in real life.
When you start changing the story in your head, it plays out your way in reality. You can never truly anticipate what your abuser will do, yet we spend countless hours reliving our abuse in our minds because it hurts and because we want to figure out how we could have done things differently. Repeatedly hurting ourselves with these horrible memories helps create depression, ptsd, anxiety, etc., yet at times, it seems like all we can do. But it isn't. Replacing those thoughts with the things I mentioned above creates a healthier mind-environment from which we become able to "STOP".
Joy, use the statement as a GOAL, not an immediate mandate. Sometimes you will fall into the trap, but in time you will fall MUCH less often until it is not a war to stay mind-healthy.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Fionnaidh Halloran
October, 5 2018 at 3:32 pm

Thank you for this post Kellie Jo. I know you wrote it a few years back, but it's reaffirmed what ive been trying to do. Can't argue if there's no-one to argue with can you?

December, 6 2013 at 5:21 am

Thank you for this. I need some way to cope while in this relationship. Good reminder that fighting back doesn't solve anything. This is something I know from experience, yet - still so difficult to remember when in the moment of being accused and yelled at. Life is a bit confusing right now. I am feeling much stronger, and I am not believing his lies. So, I think he does not know what to do about this =) But still, i have to be open to remembering that while I am not the stupid idiot he would have me believe I am, I am still fallible, of course. what a difficult balancing act!!! pretty tiring. And he wonders why I am easily fatigued!

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