Leaving an emotionally abusive relationship is a very difficult thing to do. There are lots of things to put in place when you leave any relationship, but an abusive relationship is further complicated by the psychological pressure applied to you, as well as the control that has been put in place over months or even years.
The ideal situation is where the person on the receiving end of the abuse learns quickly about manipulation, abuse and the abusers. In this way, they understand the danger they are in, as well as reduce the hold the manipulator has over them. They also diminish the dependency on the manipulator. I know! This sounds odd but we will come back to it.
Armed with this knowledge, the victim can not only make the decision to leave, but they can act on it, too. They have the wherewithal to gather friends and family to help, organize alternative accommodation, or throw the abuser out, sort out the finances, children, if there are any, as well as resist the onslaught of psychological pressure techniques that the abuser typically uses in such situations.
It's never easy. People can come up with all sorts of excuses to procrastinate, justify staying, etc., etc., but at some stage they have to take the leap. So, the sooner the better! Taking the hard steps quickly means that life gets easier sooner.
No one who recovers from being in a mind control situation ever said, "Oh, I should have stayed in the abusive relationship a bit longer!"
And yes, the plan I outlined above is the ideal situation. Unfortunately, most people don't have the luxury of this. You have to start from where you are. So let's have a look at some do's and don'ts that will help wherever you are in the process.
But first, some information about the dynamics of abusive relationships...
There are people who control and abuse for the sake of it. They are not shy, insecure, anxious and they have not been abused as children. They control for the sake of controlling. Their relationships are based on coercion and exploitation.
They deliberately set up a power imbalance in the relationship and they manipulate the perceptions, thoughts, decision making, behaviors and emotions of their victims. When you add up all these changes, what happens is that they basically change the personality of their targets. You can read more about the specifics in this article about narcissistic boyfriends.
In effect, they impose a new, but false, personality on their victims. This is why family members of the victims say that they don’t recognize the person since they started in the relationship. And the victims themselves feel that they have lost themselves in the relationship, they no longer know who they are.
It's very important and helpful to keep the following ideas in mind at all times when leaving an emotionally abusive relationship.
The false personality, or pseudopersonality, is programmed to believe and trust the abuser.
The pseudopersonality is programmed to take care of the abuser and to ignore it's own wants and needs.
The pseudopersonality is programmed to defend the abuser and is often incapable of hearing criticism of the abuser.
The pseudopersonality is programmed to be dependent on the abuser. Take the time to read this article about the dynamics of dependency. It explains many of the reasons why it is difficult to get away from the control of the manipulator.
The pseudopersonality is programmed to ignore, dismiss and/or minimize the red flags, those signals that indicate that the relationship is not healthy.
The pseudopersonality is also programmed to reveal everything to the manipulator. This has been put in place by the abuser, because the more information they have about you, the easier it is to control you.
Ok, so let's get to those do's and don'ts...
Do talk to family and trusted friends about what has been going on in the relationship. You need support right now. I know it may feel like you are somehow betraying your partner, but remember the idea that you are programmed to defend the abuser? This is how the abusers get away with stuff without outsiders knowing about it. It's time to break that pattern and get outside help.
Do stick to your plan. Once you have recognized that you are in an abusive relationship and you realize that you have to get out, make the decision to get out and do not change your mind, no matter what the abuser says or does. They are brilliant liars, they can be very convincing and they will often do all sorts fo things to keep you in the relationship. After all, they have spent all this time building a controlling relationship and they are not about to let you simply walk away from it. Therefore, no second (or third, fourth or even fifth!) chances. You are leaving for good and that's it. Do not change your mind!
You will have doubts. Are you making a mistake in leaving? What if you are the problem? Are you missing out on something fantastic in the future? You have months or years of misery already. It's not going to suddenly become the relationship of your dreams. Make up your mind that you are leaving and stick to this decision whatever happens. (Even if they threaten to commit suicide if you leave, recognize it as a tactic and leave anyway.)
When you have decided you are leaving, do NOT discuss it with your abusive partner. The more information you give them, the more they will use it against you to continue the control. They will want to keep the conversation going because they more they get to talk, the more chance they have of convincing you to stay. It's amazing the tactics that they will throw at you to get a response from you. They often don't care what the response is, just so long as they get a response. That way, they have the opportunity to keep communicating with you. In fact, to minimize abuse for yourself, if it's possible, the best way is to pack your stuff when they are not there and just leave. Then you tell them that you have left.
If you are in a position where you want them out of your place, do have a friend or family member present when you tell your partner that they have to leave. And make sure that they leave in that moment. They can take enough of their stuff to stay in a hotel or something overnight and can come back for the rest in another moment. Again, have friends or family present in those moments, too. If they have keys to your place, get them back. If they refuse, do change the locks immediately. Don't give an abuser free access to your house and your belongings. More than one victim has regretted that!
If you have joint bank accounts, do take money out first. You are going to need it. Do take more than you are comfortable with! That sounds odd, but victims of abusers are programmed not to go against the abuser. The trick here, as I say, is to recognize this and do it anyway. The worst that can happen is that you have to give some of the money back. But from the start, it's better in your pocket than that of the abuser. It is going to be much easier for you to give money back than to try and get it from the abuser later! As you already know, these people can spend inordinate amounts of money.
Do get professional help. It will save you time, money, energy and suffering. It has to be professional help from someone who understands mind control and manipulators.
Do be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster. Even if you have no contact with the abuser (by far and away the best option!) the dependency that the manipulator put in place means that you will miss the abuser, you will think of going back to them in order to feel better, you will miss the nice times and so on. This is all normal after leaving an emotionally abusive relationship. It does take effort and hard work to overcome these things. Of course, if you do continue to have contact with the abuser, it's guaranteed that they will be doing a lot of emotional manipulation.
Do NOT do favors for them, expecting that they will treat you nicely in return. Anything you give is considered by them as a weakness on your part and they will simply take advantage of it. They will not treat you nicely back.
Do not try and negotiate with them. You have been doing that the whole relationship and it simply doesn't work. They lie. They promise things and don't deliver. They say one thing and do another. They have no sense of obligation in keeping their word. Sometimes it's even easier to give up some possesion than to try and get it back. Remember that thing about them wanting to continue the conversation? That's why you take as much as you want up front when you don't have to ask permission.
Do give up thinking that they may change. They haven't changed so far, they are not about to do so now.
Block them in all modes of communication. Obviously, with kids this may be impossible. No communication and no contact is best. That way they can't get in your head and they have little or no information about you. If you do have to communicate, do it in writing so that there is a record of it. And when you write, stick to the facts and give them the bare mnimum of information. Remember, facts only, no emotional stuff, no writing about what you think. Give them the minimum amount of necessary information and ignore all the nonsense they write to you. Remind yourself that it's a tactic to get you involved. It doesn't matter to them that what they write to you is lies, distortions and not real. They simply want to get a response from you. Don't give in!
Do keep in mind that when an abuser realizes that they may be losing control, often the first tactic is to play nice and be friendly. This has many effects, in particular, it leads the victim to hope that their partner has changed and things can be nice again from now on. It is also more difficult to criticize and be annoyed at someone who is being nice to you. This is specifically why they are on their 'best behavior'. It's more manipulation! They don't mean any of it. They are simply manipulating your impressions of them. This tactic is an important phase of the abuse cycle.
When they realize that this is not working they then begin to cycle through a series of emotionally manipulative arguments to convince you to stay. They will blame you for the problems, then they say it was their fault and they will change, they will say that you will never find anyone to love you the way they do, they will remind you of all the nice times and paint a fantastic future that you could have together, they may threaten things, they may apologize (very rarely!), they will tell you that you will grow old alone because nobody will ever want you, then back to being friendly, and round and round. This causes chaos in your head and in your emotions. It makes you doubt yourself. What is real anymore? Which is true? Oftentimes it is easeir for the victim to give in and stay. After all, what if they are making a big mistake in leaving? This is part of the reason that people have an on-off relationship with abusers. (Another major aspect is the dependency mentioned above).
Do not let the abuser run you around. They will try to keep you busy so that you don't have time to think and reflect on your situation. Stop doing things for them. You are under no obligation once you have left the relationship.
Be prepared to have your reality turned upside down after you leave. When you get away, it's easier to realize that this person does not love you or care for you. You were not special to them. These and lots of other things you thought were true you will realize were lies and deceptions.
Do get help. Do get sleep. If you get tired, you are more vulnerable to the manipulator. And separating from an abuser is exhausting. Rest and relaxation are vital.
You can read more about what a controlling relationship is, the stages of an abusive relationship, more ideas on leaving a controlling husband, why people miss their abusive ex-partner, narcissistic abuse recovery, staying away from toxic people, healing from emotional abuse and life after dating a psychopath.
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