Terrified To Leave An Emotionally Abusive Partner

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by Annie Kaszina on November 21, 2017

Terrified to leave an emotionally abusive partner 

Are you terrified to leave an emotionally abusive partner? Or, if you have already left, did terror keep you from leaving sooner?

I have yet to meet a woman who was not terrified to leave an emotionally abusive partner.

Emotionally abused women only have to think about leaving for the terror to kick in. You find yourself in an impossible situation, between the proverbial rock and the hard place. Staying, you know, will lead to the slow, painful death of the self.  However, leaving will expose you to the full savagery of a partner who has proved his credentials as an emotional torturer.

Leaving always feels an incredibly hard thing to do – even if you,

  • Are not bound by the bonds of marriage.
  • Don’t have children together.
  •  Are financially solvent.
  • Have your own successful career.

An abusive partner teaches you to be very, very afraid of his judgement and punishment.

Still, few of us ever face such extreme circumstances as Wendy whose first email to me read, approximately, 

“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…” 

Any woman who has ever been in an emotionally abusive relationship has suffered far more than anyone should ever have to. Still, few of us face the terrible predicament that Wendy (not her real name) did.

Wendy was terrified to leave an emotionally abusive partner – with good reason.

She lives in a country and a society where violence against women is perfectly acceptable. Rape is condoned – albeit not officially.   She was terrified to leave. Her very violent, emotionally abusive partner had told her that, if she tried to leave, he would not hesitate to harm her loved ones.  She knew him well enough to know just how catastrophic the consequences could be.  The odds were truly stacked against her.

While I don’t have the time to reply to every email I receive, something in Wendy’s words moved me to reply. Wendy was not asking for anything. Rather, she was actually reaching out to thank me – and apologizing for not being able to do more.

How do you help someone in an impossible situation?

I thought long and hard about what I could possibly do for Wendy. At that distance and with those odds, nothing like enough, I thought.  Much as I would have loved to wave a magic wand, I could not.  All that I could do was to offer her a slightly less painful way of confronting an impossible situation.  Here’s the essence of my reply to her.

Dear Wendy,

I hear how impossible things are for you.

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

What you must do to keep yourself afloat

  1. If you have faith, pray. You’re not relying on your religion to bring you a miracle – that’s unlikely to happen. But your religion 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. 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 is awful, and it has gone on too long. Absolutely true. But you already know that. Trust in the good that will come after this.
  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. Never, ever, give up on yourself.

Plan for the future

  1. Plan your escape meticulously. Because you can’t do it today, 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.
  2. Get any skills, learnings, or qualifications that may one day come in useful. Anything you can do, however small it seems, will help.
  3. Check out the resources and organisations that can help you. Anything is better than nothing.
  4. Never underestimate the Snowball Effect. So what if 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.
  5. Never, ever, give up on yourself. (Yes, I know I said that before.)  The future You is so much more amazing than the present You can even imagine.  So, please, show that future You some respect, already!

If you are a person of faith, please include all the struggling Wendys of the world and their children in your prayers. And take a moment to stop and marvel at the courage of a woman who, even in such difficult circumstances, is faltering but not giving up. 

Just a cell phone 

Soon after she emailed me, Wendy made good her escape. She did so without money, without a home for herself or her children, without a job, without telling anyone.  All she had was just that cell phone.

Wendy turned her life around.  She now has happy children who have a stable home and are getting a good education.  She has a job.  Plus, she has created a safe haven for herself and her children.  These days, she is truly, radiantly happy.  She is truly an unsung superhero.

Wendy and I haven’t had much direct communication.  After that first email, I gifted her my How to Create More Happiness program because there was so little that I felt I could offer her.  I heard nothing from her for months.  However, she later told me that she had worked through that entire program – on her mobile phone, in the hovel (and it truly was a hovel) that was her first independent home.

Much as I like to think that my programs are effective, I cannot take credit for Wendy’s recovery. Wendy made it through because she faltered, but she never gave up. She did the best she possibly could with the few resources that she had – and she kept going.

Wendy is a truly amazing lady. She had, who thought that she was weak.  In fact, she was simply stuck.  In the end she made one simple choice; never to give up.  And she created her own miracle.

Never give up

So, here’s the deal.  Even if you, like Wendy, are terrified to leave an emotionally abusive partner, you too can create your own miracle.  You may take a little while to get started. But if Wendy could do it in her impossible situation, when she had every reason to be terrified to leave an emotionally abusive partner, you can, too.

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