How I Found The Courage To Leave An Emotionally Abusive Husband

24 Jul 2021

Courage to leave an emotionally abusive husband is vital. It’s something that any woman who has ever been in an emotionally abusive relationship feels she lacks and desperately wants to find. Handed to her on a plate, preferably. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.

If you’re struggling because you have yet t find the courage to leave an emotionally abusive husband, the important thing you need to know is this; don’t let it get you down.  The courage you need will come.  Maybe when you least expect it.

I say that as someone who believed that she alone would never find the courage to leave.

I lacked the courage to leave an emotionally abusive husband

Before I found the courage to leave my emotionally abusive husband, I spent years vainly hoping to find it, and failing dismally. I spent long years putting up with endless hurt, humiliation and rejection, all the while despising and berating myself for my lack of courage – as all emotionally abused women do.

The then husband (aka the wasband) was well aware of my lack of courage. That lack of courage was one more thing he used to humiliate me.

In retrospect, I have a strong suspicion that he enjoyed seeing how far he could push me. It doubtless made him feel powerful and superior.

Those were, without a doubt, the unhappiest years of my life.

I tolerated so much misery because, as we all know to our cost, it is a whole lot easier to get into an abusive relationship than it is to get out of it.

The wasband and I met at a time when I was struggling – not least in the courage department. My relationship with my family of origin was breaking down. I was devastated. He came along (in a plum-colored Peugeot) and rescued me.

At the time, a rescuer seemed like just what the doctor ordered.

Why rescue sucks

Plum Peugeot man wasn’t the most gallant rescuer in the history of the world. But at the time, I  rescue  felt like my only hope (so I was prepared to overlook a certain lack of gallantry. He’d never have cut it as a Disney prince but, hey, right place, right time…)

I was young enough to be forgiven for not knowing that rescue comes at a very high price.

I truly did not know any better. I had come from one of those (narcissistic) families where emotional resilience and self-worth were actively discouraged.

Since I believed I was – as my mother often called me “helpless and hopeless” – I did the classic thing of running away from problems.  I did everything I possibly could to escape having to face the difficulties that I did not feel equal to facing.

How was I to know that  a major life problem deferred is a problem that just keeps on growing?

Rescue appeals to the little girl in most women (young or old).  We think that it is both terribly romantic and the ultimate guarantee of the Happily Ever After.

We learn, to our cost, just how naive we were.

In the best of all possible worlds, a rescuer would be an honorable soul who would step in, support you through the immediate difficulty, and then vanish gracefully into the thin air. (Or else fall deeply – and respectfully – in love with you for precisely those qualities that you did not show in the crisis; such as strength, resilience, and independence.)

Unfortunately, most rescuers don’t operate like that.

The Rescue Program

Most emotionally abusive men who ‘rescue’ damsels in distress are on the lookout for a woman who cannot take care of herself. They have an unspoken contract which states that by rescuing you today, they obligate you to be grateful and subservient forever after.

The Rescue Program is all about setting up a win-lose relationship. They win. You lose.

Abusive men are not remotely interested in helping you get back on your feet. They are interested in keeping you dependent – and co-dependent. Their key life skills include undermining your sense of self.

That is why I, like so many other abused women struggled for so long to find the courage to leave an emotionally abusive husband.

What led me to leave

What finally led me to leave was a painting. Maybe it only happened because I could never have predicted where  one painting could possibly lead.

It happened like this. After over 20 years in my miserable marriage, I fell madly in love one day with a painting I saw in (of all places) a kitchen shop in Rome.

At the time, I was studying. My income and my self-worth were both at rock bottom. That painting ‘spoke’ to me.  I had to have it.  The then husband, a highly paid professional, asked me (nastily) how I was going to pay for it.

Instead of giving up on what I wanted, as I usually did, I simply said:

“I’ll find a way.”

In the end, I sold some furniture that I owned.

Then, I started clearing clutter from our home.

The final piece of clutter to go was (I often say) the wasband.

Leaving is a process

What I have learned, and what I now teach, is that the courage to leave an emotionally abusive husband is a process.  You only have to start the process, wherever and however you can, and a domino effect will ensue.  It really doesn’t matter how small your first steps are. The knock-on effect will be powerful and beneficial beyond anything that you can imagine at the start.

The courage to leave an emotionally abusive husband is not necessarily something that you have to screw up when you feel scared out of your head.

For me, it started when a painting fed into a passion I have always had for Italy and all things Italian.

If someone could have told me how things would pan out, just before I set foot in that shop, I would have laughed in disbelief.  I might well have walked past that shop without going in.

Had I done so, I would have missed out on freedom, finding my calling, making dear friends of the painter and his wife and, much further down the  line, finding my lovely partner, the love of my life.

The courage to leave an emotionally abusive husband was given to me when I trusted the stirrings of my heart.

Courage feels a LOT like fear

I believe that courage will be given to you also. Just be warned, the courage to leave an emotionally abusive husband feels like fear – a LOT like fear.

Courage is a label that defines actions rather than feelings.

Don’t ever sell yourself short again by believing that you can’t be courageous because you don’t feel courageous.

It’s a myth that you need courage before you can make big changes in your life. You don’t need courage at all. You just need to listen to those small stirrings of your heart and take the first small steps.

All roads will lead you somewhere other than where you are stuck right now.

Provided that you do NOT try to find another rescuer, or rebound relationship, to smooth the way.

Don’t fixate on where you’re going to find the courage to leave an emotionally abusive husband. That really isn’t that important.

You will amaze yourself

When you look back, you will be amazed at your own courage.  When you are in it, you might well feel, for a while, that you need to be wearing a diaper.  But that feeling will pass as you start to discover that you are far more competent and resourceful than you had imagined.

If you are struggling, chances are that you need to stop focusing on finding the courage.  Instead, you need to start thinking about having a life that makes your heart sing. It’s about time you switched your focus from the misery of life with an abusive partner to a life that filled with joy. It is never too late to make that happen.

If you need the help to make that happen, so that you can heal as swiftly as possible, 1 on 1 coaching could be just what you need. If that sounds like you, drop me an email and let’s talk.


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.

3 thoughts on “How I Found The Courage To Leave An Emotionally Abusive Husband”

  1. What a great story! This is wonderful advise.

    I found the strength to leave my husband after my daughter left for college. This was her step father and she didn’t like him at all. She was so right!! When my daughter wasn’t there, I knew that I had to leave. I still thought I could somehow make it better. (No, it never changes.) This was my second marriage and I was brought up to think you should never get divorced under any circumstance so a second divorce made you a loser with a capital L in my opinion at the time. I found the courage to leave and decided I would never go back and that’s what a did! I found the courage to leave two abusive marriages. I was determined this would never happen again. It hasn’t! I’m single and happy.

    I didn’t realize that time wouldn’t take care of all the trauma I had been through. It’s still a journey to heal. I know what my past traumas are. My self worth is much better but I still need improvement. I work on it everyday. I’m so much happier now! There’s nothing better than realizing your worth!

    • Truth.

      I hear you about two divorces being a mark of shame. A friend of mine managed 30 years with a hopelessly wrong partner because she couldn’t face the judgement on other people’s faces.

      You are healing every day and it is such a fun journey.

      Stay strong.


Leave a comment

The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse

Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse.  Starting with the basics.

Connect with me on Instagram

Want daily reassurance and inspiration? Sign up to my Instagram account. @dr_anniephd