Leaving any relationship can be difficult or uncomfortable. Leaving an emotionally abusive relationship can seem near impossible. The fact is, extricating yourself from the entanglement of an emotionally abusive relationship is NOT the same as typical breaking up. It is a unique set of dynamics, usually involving trauma bonding to some degree.
But there is a time when you may have decided that you definitely want to leave but feel you can’t. I believe healing can happen for many relationships but this article is written from the point of view that an individual has come to the decision that they want to leave their emotionally abusive relationship and may have even tried “everything” to maintain the relationship. However, it is clear to themselves (if only in moments) that they can’t stay, for their own health and safety. If that sounds like you, discover some supportive steps below.
Friends, family or colleagues that are witnessing may be thinking or even saying to your face ‘why haven’t you left yet or just leave them?’ They might even say this behind your back. In many cases I have seen people who have experienced emotional abuse having to deal with the added impact of being estranged from many family and friends as their social circles become tired of the person’s behaviour and unwillingness to leave. Those behaviours are usually irrational and emotionally based decisions and can take the form of self destructive behaviour. Or they are fed up with the person in the relationship constantly talking about the situation, without any sort of action.
This further isolation and estrangement from their support networks can compound the effects of the emotionally abusive relationship. In most cases the sufferer doesn’t say anything to anyone for fear of friends and family getting sick of them, misunderstanding or others perceiving their partner as bad. So, they keep all this stress and abuse all to themselves, suffering in silence. And all the while the outside world sees the relationship as fine.
‘Of women who had experienced emotional abuse by a previous partner of the opposite sex, three quarters (76%) reported feelings of fear and/or anxiety associated with the abuse…’ and being isolated can further compound that.
The bottom line is that if you are experiencing an emotionally abusive relationship you will also likely be experiencing layers of isolation from those you need the most. With all of this in mind, here is what I recommend to help you leave an emotionally abusive relationship:
First and foremost, take the opportunity to rebuild your self esteem and self worth. This needs to be happening simultaneously alongside any other steps. For ideas and information on how to do this, grab yourself a FREE copy of my ebook The New Self Care. Counselling sessions are also a huge help.
2. Write a list of your positive supports
Make this a list of:
- people you trust
- organisations you can go to for help (such as lifeline or 1800Respect, Women’s Safety Services, White Ribbon. Please note that these websites have “quick exit” functions so you can leave the page quickly to preserve your safety. If you are in a highly dangerous, risky or life threatening situation, it is crucial you seek out these qualified services as soon as you can.)
- places you feel safe and nourished in such as your favourite park or nature walk.
- activities you enjoy
- books/authors/speakers that bring you solace
- spiritual support such as your religious or spiritual beliefs. This may be your God, a particular angel or angelic support or it may even be a deceased loved one that you feel gives you strength even from the other side.
This list becomes like your lifeline of support. You can turn to anything on this list when you are in need. To have it written out in black and white and keep it in your wallet or handbag, or save it to your smart phone so that in times of distress or overwhelm you can simply look at your support list and choose one support in that moment.
3. Physical health
Because I work with a holistic, Transpersonal approach the health of the physical body is part of the whole picture. Plus it’s paramount to helping you heal emotionally. I recommend getting your physical body up to scratch. Some suggestions of what you can improve are gut health (for improved mental health) or start with simple things like eating well and undertaking gentle exercise such as a walk, yoga, swimming or something you love doing. It’s not uncommon for clients who are in an emotionally abusive relationship to admit they are putting healthy eating as a lower priority and feel they are in an emotional eating spiral or behaviour pattern. Which is not surprising, considering the injury that is being inflicted on their emotional and mental states.
4. Address your stress
Every day you will need to do at least one thing to reduce your stress as it affects how we approach decisions. In fact, being under stress can influence to make risky choices.
I recommend this meditation for helping reduce anxiety. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKYI24ed77E
5. Make a plan
Finally, I recommend creating a plan to leave. Make a plan and give yourself an ideal timeframe. For example, by March this year, I want to be out of this relationship/out of the house and in my own place. And reverse engineer the ideal outcome so you can clearly see the steps you need to take. You will likely need some sort of support to carry this through, so look to your support list or formal counselling for help and support to plan and carry this out.
Extra note: You may need to talk to somebody to ascertain if your partner is a narcissist, covert narcissist, sociopath or psychopath. If you are in a relationship with someone with these traits, your exit plan will need to be very strategic and you will likely need the support of a counsellor and/or lawyer (or legal support/information of some kind) whilst planning to leave.
You’ll notice that four out of these five steps are about your own self care. This is primary. If you focus the majority of your time, attention and energy into yourself and rebuilding your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self, you will have overcome the ties that bind you to your emotional abuser. They work on power and having power over you. They have, over time, stripped your self esteem and sense of self worth. This is how they can manipulate and control you. If you focus on reclaiming your power through all the steps mentioned above, you will be able to leave.
My professional expertise and compassionate nature lends itself to helping people leave toxic situations and emotionally abusive relationships. Please book a counselling session to get the help you deserve, today.