How and When to Leave an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Community Member

Although women of all ages can be the victim within an emotionally abusive relationship, there are an awful lot of young women who go through this.   One statistic I found was that "women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest per capita rates of intimate violence-nearly 20 per 1000 women."   (Bureau of Justice Special Report:   Intimate Partner Violence, May 2000).   And so I wish to focus upon this age group in particular with writing this article.  I was within  this exact age span when I  was involved in an  abusive relationship.  I also want to focus on the early stages of emotional abuse when it may be easier to leave such a situation.   Once you are married and have children with an abuser, things become terribly complex.   I am telling you that it is far easier to leave earlier than later in your relationship.

What are some of the signs that you should leave?

  • You feel fear of your partner.

  • You find yourself doing things you don't wish to do because your boyfriend or spouse has bullied you.

  • You feel like you are a criminal for doing normal things that everyone else does like spending time with family or friends.

  • You feel like you have to walk on eggshells as to not upset your partner.

  • Others have noticed a dramatic change in your demeanor, appearance, and self esteem as a result of being in this relationship.

  • You feel as though you can't do anything right for your partner.

  • You feel guilt, shame, and badly about yourself after spending time with this person.

  • You no longer do things for yourself; you are always doing things for this other person.

  • You feel trapped by him and the situation.

  • You feel disrespected and demeaned by your boyfriend or spouse.

The bottom line is that if he treats you poorly now, this will only continue and could possibly escalate to physical violence.   I hate to tell you but it doesn't get better.   I was in my relationship with an emotionally abusive boyfriend for seven years and near the end he was becoming physically abusive as well. I wasted so much of my valuable young life with this person who did not respect or cherish me. Love is never abusive.   Love is never controlling.   I hope you will trust your gut and get out of such a situation early on.   You cannot change him.   You can only change yourself.   Part of this change may be to leave.

And now for the hard part.   Once you have made up your mind to get out, how do you do so?

Get support. You are going to need all the support you can muster because you can be sure that your abusive partner is not going to make it easy.   You might hear apologies; hear pleading that he will change.     You might even see tears.   On the other end of things he may choose to threaten you.   When I broke up with my boyfriend, I did it with his family present.     Perhaps this was more humiliating for him but I felt safer this way.   I also told my friends and family that I was breaking up with him so they could help me if there was any trouble.

Have a place to go.   I made sure that I had friends to stay with following our break up.   Find a safe place to be and if at all possible, somewhere he doesn't know about.   If you are a teen at home with parents, do tell your parents about your break up.

Have a job and/or money if you are not living at home with your parents.   When I  decided to break  up with my boyfriend, I finally had a good job which I could rely upon to support me.   It is a really good idea that you reclaim any money that is yours or bank accounts before leaving.    It is  to your advantage to strive to  be financially independent.   This will give you a lot more freedom in the long run.

Be committed to the break up.   Don't be wishy washy.   If you show signs of weakness now, he will pounce on these and manipulate you to coming back to him.   Chances are, you have been in this place before and ready to leave and then he promised he would change.   You know from experience that this is highly unlikely to happen.   Be strong   You can do this.

Be safe.   If you have to, change your phone number, your email address, and on-line passwords. Do what you need to do in order to protect your safety and well being.

I would be lying if I told you that leaving your abusive partner is easy.   It is not.   I was stalked for some time at my work and at  new apartment following my break up.   One scary evening  my ex-boyfriend  showed up outside my apartment building.  He  had climbed the fire escape, was  calling my name, and was  trying to look into my windows.   My sister called the police and then he finally left me alone.

I feel that if I had left early on as in years before, it would not have escalated into such drama.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn't it?   Don't make the mistakes I made.   Get out when you can.

I am going to leave you with some resources should you need extra assistance with this.   Please do enlist all the help and guidance you can because I know from experience that this is not easy.

  • Just because he doesn't hit you doesn't mean he isn't abusive. If you need help getting away from an abusive boyfriend, call (800) 799-SAFE.

  • The National Teen Abuse Hotline:  This site is a 24 hour resource that utilizes telephone and web-based interactive technology to reach teens and young adults experiencing dating abuse. The Helpline numbers are: (866) 331-9474 and TTY (866) 331-8453. The peer to peer online individual chat function is available from 4 p.m. to midnight and can be accessed from the website.