How you leave an abusive relationship

22 Dec 2010

“It’s like I’m standing on the diving board”, she said.  “I’ve been standing there for so long now, and I still can’t find the courage to dive.  Much as I want to.” 

Everything Susie said was self-critical.  She should have jumped by now.  She should have left her abusive husband.  

She wasn’t prepared to cut herself any slack at all.  

Intellectually, she knew everything I – or anyone else – could tell her. 

But, still, there she was, paralyzed, by the knowledge that she had to dive.  (Because it’s not what you know with your head that matters; what matters is getting your heart to the point of letting go of this relationship that does NOT work.) 

Susie’s knowledge hadn’t percolated through to heart level, yet.  

She remained poised on that diving board, agonizing over her next move: should it be a forward dive, or a backward dive, an inward dive, or an armstand dive…” 

She asked me: “How did you find the courage to leave?” 

I found myself laughing as a vision popped, unbidden, into my mind. 

You see, the truth is, I didn’t find the courage to leave.  Not really.  

I stood on that diving board, and stood on that diving board, every muscle tensed for action and… 

Eventually, the time came when I fell off. 


Think about it for a moment.  You stand on that diving board.  Either you face the water or you face the steps back down to the ground). You concentrate so hard on what you have to do, and the difficulties of what you have to do, that every muscle is quivering.   

You stand there, and stand there, thinking about how you have to get the dive absolutely right.  So you focus on getting yourself into the perfect position. 

And because nobody’s there to fire a starting pistol for you, you can carry on standing there, focusing as hard as you can on the dive you’re going to perform, desperately straining every muscle… 

After a while, your muscles go into spasm. 

That’s more or less what happened to me. 

One fateful day, while I was still up there focusing on how and when I was going to dive (and, BTW, I hate heights, they make my head spin) I ended up with severe cramps and, … 

I just plain fell off that diving board.  

It didn’t happen as the result of a conscious decision.   

I have to admit that it wasn’t graceful or elegant. 

But, here’s the thing, it didn’t have to be.  

It wasn’t the Olympic games.  There were no medals to be had for the quality of my descent.  There was absolutely nobody to watch or judge me; except me. 

Once I started falling, I was too busy organizing my body to worry about other people’s judgements.  

And, you know what? 

The landing wasn’t too bad, at all. 

By the time I entered the water, all the mental preparation I’d done, made it rather easier than I’d feared it might be. 

Sure I made a bit of a splash, but that was no big deal.  It’s not a spectator sport. 

The water was more welcoming than I’d thought.  

Coming back up to the surface was easier than I’d imagined.  

Staying afloat was less trouble than I’d anticipated. 

And I realized, the important thing had never been making the perfect dive off that diving board. 

The only important thing had been whether there was water in the pool, or not, to cushion my landing.  And, of course, there was. 

Whether you jump off that diving board, fall off it, or hang on up there with your muscles in spasm for that little bit longer, the fact is, you’re safe.  

You will be okay. 

I hope you’ll take your leave of that diving board in 2011.  You’ve no need to stay up there any longer.  

You’ve done your time. 

Your life is waiting for you down in the pool. 

When you are ready to take your leave of that diving board, I’d love to help and support you.  It will make the process easier for you, and the landing softer.



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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