Ready to leave your abuser? Don’t say goodbye.

Have you made up your mind to leave your abuser? If you have, congratulations on an important step forward in reclaiming your life. Now, the next decision to take is to NOT tell your abuser yet.

“Thank God I found the GOOD in goodbye” Beyoncé Knowles

As the adult in this abusive relationship, you feel like you are always doing the decent and responsible thing. It may have crossed your mind that – despite the pain and misery – you owe it to him to tell him your intention to leave. Stop!

Goodbyes are counter-productive

Photo by MoonSoleil

Photo by MoonSoleil

Don’t say goodbye. Don’t plan on a heartfelt conversation where you get to lay it on the line for him. In the best case scenario, he will use it as an opportunity to emotionally blackmail or otherwise manipulate you into staying. In the worst, this will trigger an extreme reaction as his need to control you and force your submission goes into overdrive.

For me, each and every time my abuser heard that I couldn’t bear any more and  was leaving, I got the same result. I stayed stuck. The abuse got worse.

Warning him you intend to leave increases danger

When making your escape plan, leave the grown-up goodbye out of it. You don’t owe him a farewell. Letting him know what you plan will change nothing, and it will cause your risk to sky-rocket. We are at greatest risk of being murdered at the point of leaving, or after we separate from our violent partner (Lees, 2000).

The only time I ever successfully left my abuser, I did it with stealth. With my essentials already discretely ready-to-go – I waited until I knew he was at work,took the baby and our things, and got out of there. I told him hours later by text message. Yes, I worried that it was callous. But, I also reminded myself that the safety of my child and I had to come first. And anyway, hadn’t he already smashed away any lingering niceties that would ordinarily require a heart-to-heart first?

If you want to make a safe exit, please do so in secrecy. Explanations (if you really feel they are needed) can come later – preferably by text, letter or email, followed immediately by No Contact.

* This post is adapted from my Twelve Days of Christmas Series, posted in December. It was also amended on 5 March 2014 to include reference to research by Lees on the increased risk at the point of separation.

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Have you escaped domestic abuse? Did you stop to say goodbye? What would be your advice to someone now determined to leave?

ALSO SEE: Five common motivations for staying in an abusive relationship, in Why we stay when we know we shouldn’t.

© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14

24 responses to “Ready to leave your abuser? Don’t say goodbye.

  1. Pretend, as you are used to doing already, have your things organized, and leave. Never, ever tell them you are leaving. This is the most dangerous time for the abused and it could cost you your life. You don’t need to tell him you are leaving, he’ll figure it out when you don’t return.


    • You are absolutely right Teela – great advice. Actually, it’s made me think I should go back and edit the post, to put more emphasis on the fact that women are actually MOST at risk when leaving (or having recently separated from) their abuser. I didn’t give it the prominence it requires – so important!


      • Thank you, but I just want to make sure the message on the danger isn’t missed. It’s so essential. Your points on pretending it is business-as-usual is so key, too. Sometimes, to be a survivor we have to be great actors. We do it for so long anyway!


      • We’re great actors when our lives depend on it aren’t we?
        Then we wear a mask that all is well after the fact. At some point I have to learn to be me again and let the mask go.


    • Hi Carol and thank you for your wise words. You make a really important point about the dangers of leaving.

      I should have included it more specifically in the post, so I will go edit to fix that. I really don’t want it to be missed, given the danger.

      Also, what you say about the reason our risk sky rockets is true, too. Taking away their ability to control us is like hitting a big, red, nuclear button!


  2. Having just been left BY an abuser (mental, physical and emotional abuser) who always used methods like running away for days without explaining why, silent treatment, and in the end, leaving me without saying bye, to torture me, I find it sort of cruel to not say bye. It is a form of abuse in itself. I have been glued to my own brain and all my questions for months cause of his departure.

    I agree you should not tell about your plans, before you leave, as it may trigger violence and cause you danger.

    But after you left, I think you should call them and talk with them. I actually think it could be dangerous not to? I would guess a psychopath/narcissist/sociopath could do really mean things to you, or get obsessed with you, if you don’t leave him a closure? Not sure….

    I agree you should keep the no contact plan afterwards, if you think you cannot stay away otherwise.

    But I think you should treat any person, even abusers, with respect, to not be like them. I think an explanation of what you have done, though no emotionality about it, just the plain facts of it, and then let the other person say his opinion, is the least you can do to anyone you have had a long-term relationship with.

    Maybe I’m wrong? I surely TRIED reasoning with my ex-P, and it did not ever work, so I may be wrong..


    • Hi there – thank you for sharing your experience and your thoughts.

      Here’s my opinion. We try to treat everyone with respect, but safety and self-preservation need to come first if we are determined to escape, permanently.

      Any dialogue with the abuser typically results in hoovering, emotional blackmail, or any other tactic they think may possibly win you back. It doesn’t give them closure, because they already know that what they do is unacceptable – but they don’t care, because their need for control is their primary driving force.

      It may be cathartic for us to write a letter or email to our abuser, to ‘get it off our chest’ by explaining exactly why we left. I often go over conversations that I would have had with my ex, if I’d allowed myself to do it. However, in both scenarios we need to know that:

      1) It is like screaming into the wind – it may make us feel better to get it out, but it will not change the abuser in any way
      2) An abuser, on separation, is looking for any form of ‘in’. If we give them any opening, they will exploit it without hesitation.

      Any dialogue at all is fraught with risk, and achieves nothing – in my view.

      I’d be interested to hear more about your conversations with your ex abuser. Any time I tried to have a rational conversation with mine, I may as well have been talking to a wall for all the difference it made 😉


  3. SSS,

    I agree that you shouldn’t tell your abuser you’re leaving. It’s a sure way to destroy your exit plan. One of two things will happen…either he will morph back into Prince Charming long enough for you to get hypnotized again, or…he will go evil Rambo on you.

    For those that want to have closure, I would wait until I was secure in my new place and send a letter from a PO Box explaining why I’d left, and hang onto a copy it, along with a receipt for delivery confirmation in the event they are needed for court purposes.


    • Did you meet my ex Kim?! hehe.

      Great advice, as ever. No Contact is always the best and safest choice, but for those of us that want a different route it is very worthwhile keeping an audit trail. Abusers like to hound ‘escapees’ through the courts if they can.


  4. I feel like I’ve been stalking your website as of late (maybe that phrase isn’t a very welcome here, so I apologize if that phrase if offensive.) I am soaking in anyone’s experiences even remotely to my own. I only know that I wish I knew about this website 18 months ago, and wish I realized I shouldn’t have felt so alone then. Maybe I would have made different choices sooner….but in so many of these posts, while our circumstances are world apart I have to ask myself are they really?

    My ex never laid a hand on me, so I can’t even begin to compare my trauma to someone else’s but I know that in my own life – it was and is traumatic. But I’m beginning to accept that abuse is abuse – no matter the form.

    I don’t think I fully realized it then, but I’m beginning to now, but rooted deep in me was this stealthy person who wanted out, who knew she needed out, and couldn’t tell my ex when or how I planned to do it. And I couldn’t even put words to why I felt that way. And my fears were correct – because he’s far worse now that I left than he was then. He’s delusional, has threatened suicide, and the only reason I stopped believing him is because he hasn’t yet after months of threatening it.

    But since leaving, I’ve seen this yo-yo of a person confess love and deep hatred towards me and my family. It cannot be both ways, and I’ve come to accept that real love has no doubts, and is not hurtful.

    The stealthy person deep within me knew to leave when he was in jail, because that was when I had my best shot. Had he not been in jail, I would not have had the separation I needed to realize that I could leave, and needed to leave. I hope people reading your site realize that the no matter what love they may feel for their (ex) partner, the love for them-self must come first.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Damn right I didn’t tell him I was leaving. You usually just want to head off, as soon as possible, without seeing his face, anymore. I often question why one of my female friends bothered telling him that I was leaving. If I honestly thought he genuinely cared about me, I would have told him, because I couldn’t choose to leave. My contract was up, so that’s why I had to leave, but I might have left anyway, because I was so fed up of him manipulating me. I thought many times, about asking to be moved to a different home, because I felt so angry with him. Of course he’d act like we were inseparable, because he was putting on his act for his audience. I don’t feel that good, knowing that most of my friends at that home, witnessed what was going on between us both. He’s made himself look like a right loser.I bet he’d beat me up if he had the chance.


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