Should I leave them?

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Lots of people out there think, “Why don’t you just leave?” What they don’t realise is  – it’s hard to leave any relationship, and it’s extra hard if there’s been abuse.

A girl in the sunlight, with sand falling through her hands.

Do you feel like this?

  • Sometimes they are really nice and it’s fun being together.
  • You still love them and hope they’ll change.
  • You’re worried about how you will cope on your own.
  • You feel trapped and don’t know how to get away from them.
  • You feel responsible for them – they need you.
  • All your friends have partners, and you might feel left out without one.
  • You’re scared that they will hurt you, or other people, to punish you for leaving.

All of these feelings are normal

Most people who have been in an abusive relationship say they struggled with confusing feelings.

You have every right to leave someone if they have treated you badly. But if you’re  in love with them, it can be hard to leave and let go of that emotional attachment, even though you know they’re not treating you right.

Whether you stay or leave is your decision, and no one else should judge you for it. You have to do what’s right for you.

When you have developed very strong feelings for someone, it is not as easy as just saying “I’m going to walk away from this”. You have seen some really good aspects of him and then on the other hand there are these really negative things, but you are hoping that the negative things will stop. There were things that he had gone through in his life that were pretty awful, and I guess I felt sorry for him about that and wanted to help him out. But at the same time I wasn’t happy with the way he was treating me.

Read Alison’s story

Some ideas to help

  • Have a break from seeing the person for a while, if you can. Give yourself some time to think about what you can do.
  • Do Dear Diary: weighing it up to think what you can do.
  • Talk to other people – this can help you to feel less alone and confused. Find people who’ll listen without judging you or telling you what to do, who will help you to work things out. See How do I tell someone? and Why see a counsellor?
  • People who are abusive rarely let their girlfriends/partners just walk away. They often manipulate, threaten or stalk their partners to stop them leaving. So it’s very important to think about your safety.
  • Protect yourself. Whether you stay in the relationship or leave, it’s important to have ways of protecting yourself from getting hurt.

It's ugly, should I leave?

  • Build your confidence. Being abused wears you down, so it’s important to think of ways to increase your confidence again. See Build your self esteem
  • Remember, you are not responsible for someone else’s life. People who are abusive often guilt-trip you to make you feel responsible for their happiness. But you have to put yourself first. Focus on what you want – not what your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner wants. See Dear Diary: who am I?
  • Read other people’s stories to give you ideas

Write down on one side the good things and on the other side the bad things.  Then weigh it up and be objective. I know it’s hard because when you fall in love you fall so hard, and you really just want to look into his eyes and remember the cuddles and the kisses.

But if you really like write it down you see ‘gee, this is what’s happened’ and also how that made you feel –  not just what happened but how that made you feel. Like: you feel devastated, you feel depressed, you feel ashamed.

Look at the good side, and then ask yourself: can I get those feelings from someone else? Can I get those feelings from my friends without having the horrible things as well?

Read Donna’s story

Related links

Photos from Flickr by (top) Morgan Yarborough, used with permission, and  (middle) revamptramp

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5 Responses to “Should I leave them?”

  1. I am a mother who has been in abusive relationships before currently my daughter is in one and they have a child together. After reading this information I feel I made a big mistake in judging her. I love her and my Grandaughter so much. What can I do now?

  2. Hi LaShon

    Given your own experiences of abuse, it must be extremely upsetting for you to be trying to support your daughter through her abusive relationship.

    As a survivor of abuse, your feelings and emotions around any sort of abuse will be heightened. You say you feel you ‘made a big mistake in judging her’.

    Perhaps it is because you love her and your grandaughter very much, and you’re especially aware and sensitive about what is or could be happening for them.

    You know first-hand how confusing and frightening an abusive relationship can be and you naturally want to protect your daughter and grandaughter. This seems like a very normal and natural reaction.

    Supporting a loved one through abuse can be a painful and/or frustrating process and can often bring up feelings of helplessness, for not being able to ‘fix it’.
    It is really important to remember that your daughter is not to blame for the abuse, just as you weren’t and that you are doing the best you can to support her.

    It would have taken a lot of courage to post such an honest comment about what’s happening.

    You’ll hopefully have the chance to explain more of your feelings to your daughter at some stage.

    In the meantime, you’ll find lots of helpful information and personal stories about how to help support her and her child here http://lovegoodbadugly.com/help-friend-family/ and http://lovegoodbadugly.com/category/help/

    All the best

  3. How do you tell your boyfriend all this without being dismissed or him getting angry. I have tried and it does not work

  4. IVE NEVER BEEN N A SITUATION LIKE.WE WERE 2GETHER FOR 4 YEARS B4 THE SHIT HIT THE FAN!HE CHEATED ON ME WITH THE NEXT WOMAN AND MOVED N WITH HER,MINE U WE’VE NEVER LIVED 2GETHER BUT HIS RUTINE NEVER CHANGED WITH ME,SO I NEVER BECAME SUSPICOUS!EVEN MY SO CALLED FRIENDS KNEW BUT NEVER SAID ANYTHING NOT EVEN A HINT!ANYWAY I TRYED SO MANY TIMES 2 LEABE HIM BUT IALWAYS GO BAC.NOW HE’S CHEATING ON THE WOMAN HE LEFT ME 4 WITH ME FOR MORE THAN 2 YEARS!I KNOW ITS WRONG,BUT I LOVE HIM SO MUCH KNOWING THAT HE’S A GRIMMY MAN!EMOTIONALLY HE GOT ME TWISTED OVER HIM,HE ONLY CALLS WHEN HE WANTS TO SEX ME AND LIKE A DUMB ASS IM RIGHT THERE BEING EMOTIONALLY BEAT DONW ONCE AGAIN!(SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME WALK 2WARDS THE LIGHT)

  5. i have been with my husband for 16 years and we have two special needs children together. Our relationship has always been tumultuous but we have had some really good times. My parents and sister keep telling me that he is emotionally abusing me. I understand their concern and I’ve just started researching what this is. I am afraid that they are right. I am seeing a counselor and I am hoping he will help me but how do I tell my husband that I want to leave the relationship without him turning things around and making me feel guilty about suggesting it. How do I go about leaving while making sure that my kids and I are safe?