“How do you know when it’s time to leave?”

20 Aug 2007

This inquiry came from a reader this week. She then wrote: “Bad question. I know, everyone is different.”   

She is right, of course. Everyone is different. But abusive relationships are all pretty much the same. 

If I had a dollar for every woman who has ever written to
me saying: “I didn’t know you’d been living with my husband/partner”, it would
be a nice little earner – sadly.


Sure, everyone is different. But abusive relationships are all much of a muchness. There comes a time, usually fairly early on
in the relationship, when you get that sinking feeling in your stomach and you
think: “This is really wrong. I should
walk.” But then you don’t.

Instead, you make excuses: it was a blip, it’s early days,
he didn’t mean it, I provoked it, he’s tired/stressed/drunk.” The excuses don’t even have to be terribly
good. You want to believe them, so you
do; because early on your partner charmed you and you want to believe that the
charming, loving persona is the real him.

So a question for you: is the real you the person you see
in the mirror when you get out of bed in the morning, or the person with a full
face of make up, fresh from a visit to the hairdresser and beautician, wearing
designer clothes? 

By the same token, is your real partner the person
sporting his best behaviours in order to impress, or the person he is when he
stops trying and starts stating his demands and criticisms in no uncertain

So how do you know when it’s time to leave?

If you want a multiple choice it could be any of the
following: when you feel;

a) your safety is at risk

b) your children’s safety is at risk

c) your life has ceased to be worth living

d) you are coming to the very end of your strength

e) you’re so unlovable you’re lucky to have him

f) you feel worthless

g) your friends and family are heartily sick of you making
excuses for him

Of course this is rock bottom stuff. Many women wait to leave until they know
they are at rock bottom. But rock
bottom is a moving target. Just when
you think you must have reached it in an abusive relationship things get
even worse.

Things have an almost infinite capacity for getting worse
in an abusive relationship.

The truth is there are many times to leave. Most women miss a lot of them before they
finally go. They wait until they have
exhausted the very last atom of hope before they eventually give up on their
relationship. They still try to nurse
it back to health when it is in its coffin and decomposing.

So when would be a good time to leave?

Again a multiple choice: when you realize

a) everything degenerates into the same old fight that never
gets resolved

b) you feel miserable, frightened and anxious a lot of the

c) whatever happens it’s your fault

d) he repeatedly violates the trust you had in him

e) you’re constantly wondering whether you should stay or

f) all the joy has gone out of the relationship

g) he is physically or emotionally intimidating

You stay because you think that your self-worth it tied up
with the relationship; if it fails you’ve failed. By staying, you actually allow the relationship to keep on
getting worse. Your partner could
easily argue that you must be getting some kind of pay-off out of it, or else
you wouldn’t be in it.

You stay because you think, wrongly, that it will be worse
on the outside than it is on the inside. 

You stay because you think that it will be better for the
children, when it’s never good for the children to be brought up in a toxic
environment. You might like to think
you can shield them, but the truth is that they will always suffer ‘collateral

In fact, any time is a good time to leave an abusive
relationship. The sooner the
better. The steps to getting out and
moving on are simple. 

  • You
         admit to yourself that the relationship is a destructive one for you.
  • You
         organize the safest exit you possibly can for yourself and your children,
         if you have children.
  • You
         refuse to get sucked into the abject apologies and ‘can’t we try again’,
         the sudden declarations of love and need.
  • You
         make it your business to find out how abusive relationships operate and
         the mechanisms that have kept you hooked in
  • You
         embark on an appropriate recovery programme that will rebuild your
         self-worth fast, like my ebook “The Woman You
         Want To Be”
  • You
         stop criticizing yourself at every turn and start encouraging yourself,
         even for the smallest things.
  • you
         give yourself space and time.

That’s it. That’s
all you need. Your recovery will be

In the end, it’s not just about the time to leave. It’s about having a good game plan in place
when you do.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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