Feel the fear and leave an abusive relationship anyway

So, you’ve made the decision to leave your abuser. You know that this is the only way to a happy and safe future – but you are anxious, even afraid, of what happens next. Here’s how to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Original photos by CathyK and reuben4eva

Original photos by CathyK and reuben4eva

You didn’t decide in a heartbeat. You waited for him to turn back into the Prince Charming that you fell in love with. You tried to help him to get better, no matter what it cost you. You  turned a blind eye, you made excuses for him, you changed what you do and even who you are. You’ve likely tried to leave before, but succumbed to his manipulative tactics to make you stay.

You have cried a river – again and again. You know that this is not okay. You do not consent to any further abuse. You now realise that only YOU have the ability to improve your situation. You now understand that you can’t change him – but you can take your power back.

Well done. This is one of the biggest and best decisions you can ever make.


Photo by CathyK

Photo by CathyK

You know that leaving will be hard. It was for me. I was terrified not only of what he may do but also how I would cope without the man to whom I was trauma-bonded. But, I knew by then that my best chance of being safe and happy was a leap into the unknown – rather than continuing my zombie-like existence with my abuser.

Every abuse survivor has once stood where you are. They felt the fear, and did it anyway. You can, too.

Now that you have reached the inevitable but huge decision to get out, you will find strength you didn’t know that you had. (After all, a weak person couldn’t live with an abuser, could they?). And, you will find sources of support in all sorts of places – perhaps even where you never expected.

“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” Paulo Coelho


Photo by reuben4eva

Photo by reuben4eva

Now, you have the power and control! So use it, and turn your decision to be free into a life-affirming step forward.

Here’s four things that will help you make it happen.

1. Reach out – but not to him

Don’t tell him you plan to leave. He will promise you the sun, the moon, and everything in between. He will emotionally blackmail you. He won’t change back into the man you fell in love with. Instead, as he grasps the threat to his power, his need to control you will go into overdrive. The abuse will get worse. Trust me on this. The one and only time I successfully left my abuser, I did it with stealth.

Instead, think about others that you could reach out to. If your abuser has isolated you from friends and family – how about supportive colleagues, the friendly neighbour, or a mother at playgroup? Or, check out the Resources and Support page to find a service provider that can give you vital practical and emotional support.

2. Make a safe exit plan

Women are at greatest risk of being murdered at the point of leaving, or after separating from, a violent partner (Lees, 2000). For that reason, a safe exit plan is one of the most important things that you can do. Check out my post on making a safe exit, for more about preparing to get out and reducing your risk.

3. Know where your essential items are

When you leave, it’ll help to take a number of essential items with you. These include birth certificates, passports, and identity documents for you and your children. Also, things like driving license and registration papers, insurance documents, and any evidence that you have of the abuse will be extremely helpful.

Pack an escape bag if you can do so safely. If you’re worried about setting your abuser’s alarm bells ringing, familiarise yourself with where these essentials are – so you can grab them as you go.

4. Sort out your finances

Photo by nacu

Photo by nacu

Getting your finances in order will give you more options once you have escaped your abuser.

Think about opening a secret bank or checking account in just your name. Use it to squirrel away any money you can. Change your PIN and security details on any personal accounts that you have – and change the address too, if you can do so safely. This will stop him from being able to empty your account once you’ve gone. Also – especially if you are not working – go ahead and find out what emergency support, benefits and grants you may be entitled to.


“Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness!” (Susan Jeffers, author of ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’)


Photo by xJasonRogersx

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Determined to leave – What are you most looking forward to in your abuse-free future? Already made the break? – share how you made it happen!

ALSO SEE: To uncover why your partner‘s substance use is an excuse to abuse you, check out Why he only hurts you when he’s drunk (or high)

© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14

11 responses to “Feel the fear and leave an abusive relationship anyway

  1. One day after a particularly hurtful act on the part of my Narcissistic husband, I went out and put a deposit on a new apartment. I knew he had plans to visit his brother in Northern Va, so I took that opportunity to move out. It took two days, but I was in my own, safe environment. Wish I’d done it way sooner!

    He’d already moved in with his brother, but he would often come back into town to keep his hooks in. I originally stayed in our shared residence, but on that particular weekend, it was no longer “shared” because I left. I finally left.


  2. Thank you for sharing, Kim. Kudos for taking such a huge and empowering decision! I bet it felt great that you were in control, and no doubt it shook up your abuser enormously to discover that you would do this for yourself.

    It actually sounds a lot like how I left my first abuser – it took planning and secrecy to find a house to rent on my own (for the first time!), but it meant that when I left he couldn’t turn up on my doorstep 🙂


    • Thank you, Lotuslily. One of the main things I hope that people take from this article, is that although we often feel weak and alone when we are being abused, often, the opposite is true. I believe it takes real, deep strength to live with an abuser – and we only see that strength once we get out.


  3. Thank you for this post. If you are following me and read my last post, I feel you are responding to my cry of help. I am so confused. My circumstances are more complicated. I lived with my husband for 42 years. I do not have the financial means to support myself other then my SS and govt pension. I am working on my situation with a book I am writing and building my art business.


    • Hi there, I’m so sorry for your situation. I’ve popped by your blog now and I see you are living with your abusive husband. I understand exactly how confusing this can be. For one thing, you have invested so much time in a life with this man that it may feel hard to see past that.

      I do believe that abusers can change, though this is extremely rare. To do this, they must truly accept responsibility for their behaviour -and not just to avoid the consequences of that behaviour (ie. that their partner will leave them). To make that happen, they must commit to a long and gruelling process of change. Therapy won’t work. A programme for domestic abuse perpetrators might.

      What I would most like to know, is what do YOU want? Do you want to work things out for you, or for your husband? There are no right or wrong answers here, but your comment seems to suggest that financial worries may be a big factor for you, but these can be sorted out and so need not be a barrier. The question at the heart of this is: what will make you truly happy?

      You are already on the right path. You have made much progress – well done on that! It is great to see that you have wrestled back your power, and that you realise YOU are in the driving seat.


  4. I made the decision that I can no longer live in the mind destroying abusive relationship that I am in with a pathological narcissist almost 1 year ago. I have sought support and received it from almost every possible source there is – both professional and personal. I have been told clearly and directly that I need to get out. I know and understand that the relationship is seriously detrimental and potentially dangerous to me. I hear it all, I understand it all but there is something holding me back. Having come so far, I now feel like I just can’t cross that line – and I can’t even identify what the hell holds me back. Is it fear, guilt, lack of confidence ….. who knows? I feel like my resolve is down and am considering making an executive decision to stay and just abort everything I have done so far and go back into the abusive bubble I have lived in for so long. My mindset at the moment is that I have put up with it and survived for over 20 years so why not put up with it for more. I have nothing to look foward to if I leave – nothing – no money, no home, nothing except a life of hardship. At least while I am here I have a roof over my head, financial support and a modecum of normality. In saying all of that I it makes me feel like such a loser and that I am beyond help. This is way too hard and maybe I just don’t have the strength to get out. For all the success stories out there, I am sure there are just as many unsuccessful ones. Naturally, I am more than likely speaking like this because my NPD husband has been “good” over the past few days. This always happens and just attests to my own weakness. Seriously, this is all doing my head in and I wish I could just erase it all. I seriously don’t think I can do it, despite really wanting to. Wanting and doing are two different things.


  5. I look forward to a calm and relaxing environment, no out of the blue outburts, anger, and fear. Although I am so scared. I tried to leaved two times before and this is my parents I am trying to escape from but they suck me back into their hell hole.


    • Hi Maja

      I’m really sorry that you are in this situation. I understand how frightening it is. If you haven’t already, please think about getting yourself some support, to keep yourself safe and get you to a better place.

      Is there is someone you trust and can reach out to? Or would you consider making contact with a domestic violence service?


  6. I found out the hard way that if you are not married to your abuser then the Domestic Violence Place will not help you. They told me it is because they hold to the idea that if you are not married then you are there with your abuser by choice and can leave. These people have no sense of reality when it comes to this subject.

    I only came to live with my abuser because I was in an abusive marriage before and the police got me out of it and I had no place to go. I had no idea that the man I was about to be staying with was an abuser himself. It is exactly the same dynamics involved with someone you are not even in a relationship with as it is with someone that you are married to, if the person you are staying with WISHES that he was married to you and you do not want to be. I think that this subject needs to be brought to light and views changed about it.


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