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 20 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

Fionnaidh Halloran
October, 9 2018 at 8:05 am

Hi Rose, your story struck a chord with me as our circumstances are so similar. I also have DDD, 3 dogs and a parrot, he's threatened to Popeye (his and his brothers term for shoot) all of them at one stage. I still find it hard to accept i am being abused, more verbally than physically but he has hurt me in the past, plus threatens how easy he could in the future. I'm going to see my doctor this afternoon, i pray that i can actually get the words out this time and not use my health issues as the reason I'm there. We're in a 'quiet' time jyst now, but i'm so anxious cos all the little signs are there that he's ready to rare up! Constant sniping then trying to make it out that I'm the one angling for a fight. He's starting to intimate that I'm the abusive one and i hit him!! He's 15 1/2 stone and 5ft 10inches.
I wish you all the strength in the world in whatever you choose to do. I feel more empowered by reading other peoples stories, that I'm not alone. I've also started picturing myself in my own place, the powers of attraction, ?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 23 2018 at 9:26 pm

Im soo glad i found this page! I have no one or no friends to talk to anymore its good to not feel alone and not think im crazy. I have a question though i have money saved up to leave me bf and im currently looking. But i cant help but feel guilty for wanting to leave him but i know i cant stay. I feel stupid for feeling bad but i cant help it but i know i cant stay is this normal?

Fionnaidh Halloran
October, 9 2018 at 8:16 am

Hi Candace, i too have nowhere to go to. My parents are elderly, my dad is my mum's carer, so i cant put this on them. My daughter would be easily found too. I am saving money too, i have said out loud to myself, that i want out, i am no longer willing to be treated so badly anymore but the guilt IS horrendous(we're actually in a 'quiet' spell just now). I'm finding that by remembering what he's said or done strengthens my resolve that bit more, but im not saying its making the decision easy. I've found out through self reflection that i am a people pleaser. I like helping people, i don't like to rock the boat and will do any thing to avoid confronation.
Stay strong and try and find someone from your local womens aid/shelter who can give you concrete advice. The more information we have the stronger we become. Is è ar n-am anois (Scots Gaidhlig fir 'our time is now '

October, 16 2018 at 12:45 pm

I am also glad i found this website. Again last week was about the 40th time with the verbal abuse, being in a relationship for 13 years with my bf and i keep putting up w/his sh**. I too seem to feel "guilty" to leave him, probably because he keeps telling me we have been together *that long* and its crazy to just end a relationship for being together so long. I too know i can't stay, and i feel the same way. I am hoping soon, that i have the strength to just say * I am done* and not listen to his his words about how he is sorry for the umpteenth time, and how he will never call me names again. I know that will never change, and yes i am waiting for the next attack of verbal abuse, because he won't change. I just want to be the strong one and say * I am done * and really just tell him to leave and move out and move on. I pray to God every day about this, yet i am the one who needs to be the strong one and stick to my words.

November, 7 2018 at 8:31 am

Hi, I have been married to my husband for 14 years. Endless amounts of verbal abuse with a little bit of physical theown into the mix when I REALLY piss him off. I have 4 kids between ages 6-13, and 2 dogs. I went out with a friend last month and stayed out "too late", he had me by my throat up against the wall in our room. I took the kids and left that night. We came back the next morning to grab some of our belongings and had another major fight. He said if you leave I will kill myself. I said whatever (he's said that before), and continued going about my business. I went out to the garage to smoke a cigarette, and found him dangling from the rafters. He had hung himself with one of his belts! I started screaming, the kids witnessed it all. I got him cut down and he did survive. He had what looked like bad hickey marks around his neck. Scariest moment of my life. His family and I had an intervention with him. But he refuses to go to therapy or talk to a doctor about anything! The verbal abuse isn't as bad, but it's still there. I feel like a bystander in my own life just waiting for the moment it gets bad again. But where do I go? What do I do? I have ONE friend. I literally have no family aside from his. Mom, dad, grandparents, all deceased. I feel guilty for even thinking about leaving now, and I do love him, but what about me and my feelings.

December, 12 2018 at 3:31 pm

Perhaps you will read my posts I plac ed here today. You are only fooling yourself and have become codependent and you have a trans bond. This is reality I lost 27 years and she is a 5th grade teacher if you can believe that. Take care of YOU no one else will.

November, 29 2018 at 4:03 pm

Hi Candice,
Yes that is very normal. All abuse survivors know exactly what you describe. One way a abuser makes you stay is by making you feel guilty for wanting end the relationship. I've been been there. This my experience. The guilt you feel comes from grieving process, a process you may be suppressing. You're staying in a relationship that is already over for you. But because you don't leave, and there are other thing that make leaving hard you to leave. You feel like you're lying all the time.
In my case trauma bond. Fear of what she might do if I try to leave. Fear I might lose my kids. So much fear. Then on top of social constructs of marriage. Vows until death do us part. The abuse also keeps me there. The guilt leveled on me. "Why are you doing this to the kids". So much guilt leveled on me. The attacks at my confidence and the financial abuse. Make it really hard to leave. I did though. I left, my daughter just gave me the biggest hug. She never said a word. She didn't even tell her mom I had left. She knows. They've seen it so often. I'm out 4 day now. It's hard you will feel that guilt. But it's not about you bf, it's about you.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 16 2019 at 2:44 am

Im in mexico because i followed my babies dad down here with our five year old son. I fell into his trap and feel like hes going to kill me so he can stay with our son.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 24 2019 at 1:41 pm

Very good to read

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