Are You Too Frightened To Leave An Emotionally Abusive Relationship and Start Over?

by Annie Kaszina on March 4, 2014

It’s never easy to escape from emotional – and physical – abuse. This week saw one of the most heart-breaking exchanges of emails I’ve received from an emotionally abused woman. Wendy (not her real name) wrote in her first email:

“Thank you for your posts, Annie. Am still with my emotionally and physically abusive husband planning on a way out. He doesn’t allow me to work and controls all the finances.I use my phone which he doesn’t know about.  I am isolated and barely have any friends. Am in [country name] and so glad to find you. Thanx”

While I don’t have the time to reply to every email I receive, something in Wendy’s words moved me to reply:

So, there is a lot that you can’t do at the moment.  That’s understandable, and it’s okay.  You’ll get there. 

There’s one thing that I want you to do: I want you to think about reaching out to people and allowing more friendship into your life.  

I understand that your emotionally abusive husband is giving you every discouragement – that’s in his interest, as an emotionally abusive man.  But if you’re telling yourself some story about not being good enough to have friends, then STOP IT right now!  You’re in a tough place, but there are people out there who will care about you.  Don’t let his negativity cut you off from them.  Don’t let negative thinking about yourself cut you off from them, if you can possibly avoid it.  

The more human connection you have, the better you’ll feel.” 

Sadly, for Wendy, even doing that is difficult.

Most emotionally abused women feel – rightly – that we’re between a rock and hard place when we think about leaving. Few of us face the terrible predicament that Wendy does.  She lives in a place, and a society, where violence against women is perfectly acceptable, and rape is –  unofficially – condoned.  Any move she makes could have catastrophic consequences for loved ones.  The odds are truly stacked against her in a way that they may well not be where you live.

So, how do keep yourself afloat and prepare to leave an emotionally abusive partner even under such difficult circumstances?

  1. If you have faith, pray. You’re not relying on your religion to bring you a miracle – that’s unlikely to happen, but it can offer you hope, and comfort. That’s important. Whether or not you are a believer, you need to dig deep and find hope and faith somewhere within yourself.
  2. Hold on to your humanity. The people who survived the Nazi Concentration Camps of World War 2 were, largely, those who continued to believe in and connect with others. The more isolated you are, the more important it is for you to find, and connect with the beings who will truly care about you. Sadly, they probably do not hang out in droves outside your front door, but there will always be one or two. You just have to keep your faith until you find them.
  3. Continue to hope and dream. Picture your life after this awful situation is over.
  4. Don’t keep reminding yourself how awful this situation is, and how it will never end. That won’t help you, at all. It’s awful, and it’s gone on too long. Absolutely true. But you already know that. Picture the good that comes after.
  5. Don’t blame yourself for doing what you have to do in an impossible situation. Maybe you hate how you have to live right now, but there is no earthly point in standing up only to be cut down by machine gun fire. That doesn’t help anyone.  It’s okay to lie low until it’s safe to make your move.
  6. Plan your escape meticulously. Because you can’t do it do, or tomorrow, or – as far as you know – any time soon, don’t let that stop you planning. Think about finding answers to each of the practical problems you face: where you’ll go, who you’ll be able to turn to, what you’ll need. You don’t have to have the answers right now. But just starting to ask yourself the questions will help bring those answers to you.
  7. Make it your business to get any skills, learnings, or qualifications that may one day come in useful. Anything you can do, however small it seems, will help.
  8. Check out the resources and organisations that can help you. Something is better than nothing. 
  9. Never underestimate the Snowball Effect. So, all you can see and do is something really small. It could be some time before you see the momentum gathering, but gather it will. Do whatever you can, and trust.
  10. Never, ever, give up on yourself.  “

Finally, if you are a person of faith, please include Wendy, and her children, in your prayers –  and all the other Wendys, wherever they are in the world. And take a moment to stop and wonder at the courage of a woman who, even in such difficult circumstances, is faltering but not giving up.

That’s why she will make it through – and you will, too.

What’s more that day is always that little bit closer – and a lot better – than you could possibly believe.

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