What’s your boiling point?

Like a frog in a pressure kettle, when we live with domestic abuse we often don’t realise the limits of our endurance. This was what it took for me to hit boiling point, and jump out.

Yesterday, everything seemed to remind me of the good times with my ex – before he dropped his Prince Charming mask. Swamped with grief and needing to remove the rose-tinted spectacles, I got out my trusty old Memory List. Scanning the pages, I was shocked (as I often am) to recall what I endured before making the decision to leave.

Some of my Memory List entries:

  1. Having to wait on him hand and foot, care for a colicky baby, and have sex with him on demand as he smoked pot for days straight.
  2. Being strip searched for ‘evidence’ of infidelity while heavily pregnant.
  3. Getting hit in the face for failing to remember which lie he told that friend.
  4. Having thousands of pounds taken from me – money which I inherited from my wonderful grandparents, and which they certainly didn’t intend would fund his drug and gambling habit.
  5. Trying to explain my partner’s paranoia to the police, whilst in hospital recovering after having our baby.
  6. Hearing that he would knock out 32 of my teeth if I didn’t stop challenging him.
  7. Carrying him emotionally and financially for years.
  8. Listening to him scream as he self-harmed as part of a hoovering campaign.
  9. Experiencing the worst night of my life. I still can’t talk about this.

However, none of these things directly triggered my decision to leave.

Why didn’t I just leave?

Frog in pan of water

Photo by jronaldlee

When we tell our stories, all of us who have experienced domestic abuse will have heard the question, “Why didn’t you just leave?” It’s tough to answer. How can we articulate to someone who hasn’t stood in our shoes, why we appear to tolerate the intolerable?

Like the proverbial frog in boiling water, the abuse slowly ratchets up – we feel the hurt, but we adapt to handle more and more. We often don’t realise our upper limit for pain until we’ve already hopped out of the pan.

My boiling point

Near the end, I realised that things weren’t going to change. I told myself the next mega-meltdown would be the last that I’d bear. But when I did finally leave (for the final time), there had been no abuse for two days.

Our child cried for his attention and he lay in bed with the covers over his head. Something inside me hit boiling point. The realisation that I’d been trying to stamp down on – that I didn’t want my child to grow up witnessing abuse – shot to the surface. I waited until he went off to work, and baby and I made our exit.

If not for my child, I’d still be wondering how much hotter the water would get before I wound up broiled alive.

What’s your boiling point? Did you escape after a cataclysmic incident, or something much more mundane?

ALSO SEE: Making a Memory List and other tips for making a permanent escape from domestic abuse, in Staying out of an abusive relationship: an essential To Do list.

Β© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14

29 responses to “What’s your boiling point?

  1. Cataclysmic I’m afraid. We are happy to be free. It is an impossible question to answer to those who just have no idea and thank goodness they don’t.
    Thanks Triple S.


  2. This was a tough read for me. Now I shake my head. Sometimes we do things for others that we would not do for ourselves, and the children bring the light into the darkness and show that they are worth saving even when we think so little of ourselves. How many people pride themselves on not having a boiling point when in fact we are about 60% water? I did, not anymore. I liked Staying Out of an Abusive Relationship as well, I cannot recommend a journal enough to anyone in a relationship! It helps to read it in black and white, or blue and white or whatever the color of your ink and paper.


    • Thank you for commenting betternotbroken, this was a hard post for me to write for similar reasons.

      You make a valid point about how we are sometimes capable of fighting for our children or other people, when we won’t fight for ourselves. That was me, exactly. I thought I’d stay in the pan forever, until I hit that boiling point (thank heavens I did)


    • That’s fantastic Kimberly! I’m so impressed that you were able to analyse the relationship while still in it, and make the decision to go.

      I’d pretty much given up on my own judgement near the end.


      • well, it was actually my friend’s observation that if I were to stay with this man, every waking moment of my life would be spent “taking care” of his “needs”. It was so obvious to her what was happening, while I was stuck in excuses and explanations.


      • Your friend sounds very wise indeed. I think that’s why the pen and paper exercise of writing it all down can help – it encourages us to review our situation in a more detached way. Given that we are so ‘attached’ living with an abuser, it is well worth doing!


    • You’re so right Carol, thank you for commenting.

      I believe that in a relationship where there is domestic abuse, mothers do want the best for their children. Sometimes we think they need us to stay, sometimes to go. We all have different boiling points, too.

      I tried to leave my abuser for a long time before I actually managed to make the break for real. I told myself it was for my child, who needed their daddy. It took a while to realise that staying wasn’t the right decision for either of us.


  3. I like the part about ‘why didn’t I just leave’…….I think we all have a laundry list of reasons {even excuses} why we didn’t or couldn’t leave. Ultimately we did! Wow-I need to make a similar list, how physically painful that would be! Thinking about all his shit (sorry), he did to me, against me, and away from me makes me physically sick-still! It it might be good to try! Thanks for such an awesome post, and letting us be a part of your life πŸ™‚


    • Hi Tela and thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so sorry you’ve been through what you have. You’ve come up fighting though, and that’s important!

      I made my list back when the trauma bond was desperately trying to pull me back, and it was a hugely helpful (though painful) process that helped me keep focussed on the goal of staying free. I recommend it to anyone working on recovering from abuse!

      And yes, sometimes our ‘reasons’ for staying can seem like ‘excuses’ to others (maybe even to ourselves at times). I think it’s important to remember in the dynamic of abuse that we can believe passionately in these reasons. πŸ™‚


  4. I wish I’d thought about a list . . .the back and forth, the compromising my well-being. So easily forgotten each time. Now I ask myself, How in god’s name could you forget? The lack of other options made it easy I guess…But oh, the list might have helped. Thanks–great post, as always.


    • Thank you Mandy. I’m sorry you also went through the ‘rubber ball’ experience of getting out and going back. It’s grueling in all senses of the word, not least because – for me at least – I felt my self-confidence diminish each time.

      The Memory List and No Contact where two of the things I only did the last time that I left. They were enormously helpful in making this a permanent exit. Extremely painful to do, but so worth it!


  5. Yes, it definitely destroys any self confidence. Coming from long-term childhood sex abuse, you can get fooled into thinking you’ve been rescued from that, only to find you’ve fallen right into the fire. I never had confidence to work with. What a long struggle to get out. I wish right now was 40 years ago! It’s amazing how long the after effects are–even though escaping the abuse . . .


  6. Awesome post. I always took his abuse for many years, never realizing that we could never keep any friends because of his abuse, but I drew my line in the sand with infidelity… the one that I found out about. Once we spit up, everyone but his own family told me about his abuse. The emotional and psychological and other abuses were ignored because I did not feel that I deserved any better. He had broken me emotionally. I always say that God rescued me when I did not realize that I needed rescuing. God does not want us abused!


  7. Pingback: The “Boiling Frog” Analogy in Reverse or How a Narcissist Perceives Stress | Soul Healing Art·

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  9. Pingback: Eamonn, Nadia, Isabella- upbringings were like frogs in boiling water experiment? | exposingthewretchedfakes·

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