Why It's So Difficult to Leave an Abuser - How to Stay Away (2022)

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Why It's So Difficult to Leave an Abuser - How to Stay Away (1)

“Why is it so hard to leave an abuser?”

“I want to go back to him, but I know I shouldn’t.”

“Why do I miss him so much?”

“After all the horrible things he’s done to me, I still love him.”

“He says he can change, I really want to believe him.”

I hear these far too often in Facebook groups for women of domestic violence.

Do these sound familiar to you? Have you found yourself saying these exact same things? I know I did.

On average, a victim of domestic violence attempts to leave 7 times before finally leaving for good.

(Video) Why you CAN’T Leave an Abusive Relationship | TRAUMA BONDING (Stephanie Lyn Coaching)

7 TIMES!!!

Some Facts on Why You Can’t Leave an Abuser

Beside the real and/or perceived threat of what an abuser will do if the victim leaves; here’s the deep rooted, psychological deal with why it’s so difficult for a victim to leave her abuser. And why victims end up going back.

More than likely you’ve been in your abusive situation for an extended period of time; months, years, or maybe even decades. Abusers don’t usually reveal the abuse right away in the beginning of a relationship. That would scare you away pretty quickly.

They drip in the abuse. It’s a slow, subtle and almost unnoticeable tactic of manipulation and control. It would be a lot easier to leave if they showed their true colors right away. You know, when you haven’t had a chance to form a strong bond or connection with them. But you’ll find the abuse always escalates.

Unfortunately, due to this slow leak of abuse coupled with the love bombing they do; you end up forming a trauma bond that becomes almost impossible to break. You may not even fathom what they’re doing is abuse.

What is Trauma Bonding?

Trauma Bonding – occurs as the result of ongoingcycles of abuse.In which the intermittent reinforcementofrewardandpunishment creates powerful emotional bonds that are resistant to change.

The bond can be even stronger for those who have grown up in abusive homes. Because abuse can seem to them to be a normal part of relationships.

Because of the strong emotional bond formed with an abuser. Even though a victim may acknowledge the abuse; they would rather receive comfort from the very person who has abused them.

This trauma bond is formed over time and the cycle of abuse looks something like this:

Why It's So Difficult to Leave an Abuser - How to Stay Away (2)

This cycle has the same effect as hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming.

It’s no wonder it’s insanely difficult to leave. Not only has a victim created a super strong emotional bond with their abuser; they’ve also created an attachment that makes them feel the only person they can get love from is the abuser.

If you’ve done any research on abuse / narcissistic abuse; you may have heard victims talk about how they were “brainwashed”. This is exactly what trauma bonding is – a brainwashing (aka neuro-linguistic programming, hypnosis).

Abuse is Safer

That sounds crazy right? Logically, abuse is not safe. But our body (aka subconscious) has been conditioned to see the current abusive situation as “normal”. Our minds and bodies acclimate to the situation so much so that leaving is more of a threat than staying.

(Video) Why It Can Be Hard to Leave an Abusive Relationship

With any change in life we try to make, the subconscious sees change as a threat and tries to shut it down.

This is where you tell yourself it’s actually safer to stay. You come up with excuses for the abuse and excuses to stay – because your subconscious is telling you that.

No matter what you tell yourself logically, neurologically you feel “safer” in the chaos. The toxic relationship feels safe because you know exactly what to expect. There is a false sense of safety in knowing the abuse will happen.

Starting a new life and getting away from the abuse is unknown. The unknown is a perceived threat from the subconscious and will do exactly what it needs to protect you.

It’s important to simply understand that our bodies are very smart. They are just trying to do everything possible to keep us safe. Even if “safe” is really only an illusion.

Taking Action to Leave an Abuser

Taking the first step in getting away from an abuser is huge!

HUGGGGEEEEE!!

I literally can’t stress enough how difficult that initial first step is. So I want to give you some steps to rev yourself up to finally leave an abuser. And what to do after to make sure you stay away.

Step 1 – Mentally Prepare to Leave an Abuser

Preparing yourself mentally for leaving is crucial. You have to really imagine what it will be like when you leave. And when you imagine this, you need to imagine the good.

Prepare a list of all the great things that will come from you leaving and getting safe. Imagine vividly how much happier your life will be. How you will be free to do things that truly make you happy. Think about how much better you and your kids lives will be to be free from abuse. List it all out!

Then also prepare the list of the things that could go wrong. Be as detailed and imaginative as possible. Trust me, coming up with the bad shit will be easier than the good.

After coming up with all the bad things that could go wrong. Come up with how you will counteract those situations. Or what you could do to prevent them from happening. This will help you mentally prepare for any snags that could come up. And you’ll be better able to take the right kind of action.

Leaving an abusive relationship can be dangerous and really scary. You will want a good game plan and get a team of support behind you. Whether that is through friends and family or professional help.

Step 2 – Emotionally Prepare to Leave an Abuser

Oh boy, no one ever taught me this one before I left. But I did do some of it without even realizing how much it helped me to permanently leave.

(Video) Why it is hard to Get Out of an Abusive Relationship | Why Domestic Violence Victims Don't Leave

Emotionally preparing to leave a relationship is one of the biggest ways I was finally able to get my subconscious to go along with my intentions.

I spoke above of that trauma bond. Part of emotionally preparing is breaking that connection and seeing your abuser differently.

You need to see your abuser as a threat – no matter what. They are a threat to your happiness, a threat to your kids, a threat to your sanity. The best way to see your abuser differently is to come to the realization of what you’ve been through. And what he did to you was indeed abuse.

This is what “woke me up” to leave my abuser. When I talked about the incidents with my therapist she explained how in every situation I was being abused.

There was just something about coming to that realization. Becoming aware that what my ex was doing was NOT RIGHT. I started to see what was being done to me, as abuse. And, despite the excuses I tried to come up with to my therapist about why he did certain things; she didn’t let him off the hook. This was a huge an eye opener!

My therapist didn’t excuse any of his actions. It helped me see the actions he was doing was completely in his control.

The abuse was always about being able to control me. And when I’d instinctively fight back, the abuse would escalate.

This realization help sever the trauma bond I had. I still loved my abuser, but knowing all of this helped me finally take action to leave. And once I had that realization – it was like a flipped switch and I knew I would never go back.

Step 3 – Physically Prepare to Safely Leave an Abuser

There are quite a few steps to take to really get ready to leave. Most of the time, women need to make a strategic plan to get away. And to do so in the safest way possible.

I’ve laid out some good tips in the post How to Help Someone in An Abusive Relationship. There are also some really good tips here.

What To Do to Stay Away

The hard part was leaving. Now the more difficult part comes.

Staying away.

I get it, we hype ourselves up to leave an abuser. And then a week later, we’re responding to their texts, begging us to come back.

Next thing you know you’re back in the relationship. It’s only a matter of days until the abuse starts again.

(Video) How to Leave an Abusive Relationship

So the best thing you can do is – heal yourself. The single most important thing you can do is work with a professional to heal from this trauma.

You know the saying “hurt people, hurt people”? If you’re unhealed from this situation you’re going to carry this hurt into your next relationship. You could end up having trauma responses that end up hurting your kids and other relationships.

Trauma can also cause us to jump into another toxic relationship. We won’t be able to see the signs clearly, trust ourselves, and we’ll have attachment issues.

This is why it’s so important to heal from this trauma. The benefits of healing yourself show up in every single aspect of your life.

Through the process of healing yourself work on building self-confidence, self-trust, and intuition. These things will start to come naturally as you begin to heal. However, there are several things you can do to help build these particular things much quicker.

  • Exercise
  • Healthy eating
  • Meditation
  • Energy healing

Conclusion

It takes baby steps, an action plan, mental, emotional and physical preparation to finally leave an abuser for good. And healing to stay away.

I hope this information helps you understand why it can take so many tries to get out of abuse.

Using this information, I pray it gives you the courage to take action and finally leave. Or direct someone you know who may be struggling to leave an abuser to take action.

Life is far better lived when your free from the toxicity.

More Resources and Help:

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FAQs

Why is it hard to let go of an abuser? ›

Betrayal creates a loss on a deep level. It shatters your belief in relationships and your sense of safety with others. Trust in others can take a long time to recover. Beliefs about yourself can also become entangled with making sense of the betrayal, such as taking on the belief that you deserve bad treatment.

How do you separate yourself from an abuser? ›

Here are some detachment techniques:
  1. Make yourself solely responsible for your own well-being and happiness. ...
  2. Accept that you can't fix, change, rescue, save, make someone else happy or love someone enough to make them be nice to you. ...
  3. Eliminate the hooks of your abuser. ...
  4. Learn to control your body language.

Which are the 3 main warning signs that someone may be an abuser? ›

Warning Signs of an Abusive Person
  • Controlling Behavior. Constantly questions who you spend your time with, what you did/wore/said, where you went. ...
  • Quick Involvement. ...
  • Unrealistic Expectations. ...
  • Isolation. ...
  • Blames Others for Problems. ...
  • Blames Others for Feelings. ...
  • Hypersensitivity. ...
  • Disrespectful or Cruel to Others.

Why do people get attached to abusers? ›

People often don't even realise they are in an abusive relationship. It can be hard for others to understand why someone stays with an abusive partner. It's often because of something called "trauma bonding," where you become addicted to the hormonal rollercoaster an abuser sends you on.

Why is it so hard to let go of a toxic relationship? ›

Leaving a toxic relationship can be very hard because of all the emotional labor and time spent trying to make the relationship work. It can feel like an internal failure, or that by leaving you are giving up on something you've invested in.

How do you break a trauma bond? ›

Outside of getting professional support, here are some steps you can take on your own to break free from a trauma bonded relationship:
  1. Educate Yourself. ...
  2. Focus on the Here and Now. ...
  3. Create Some Space. ...
  4. Find Support. ...
  5. Practice Good Self-Care. ...
  6. Make Future Plans. ...
  7. Develop Healthy Relationships. ...
  8. Give Yourself Permission to Heal.
18 Feb 2022

What does a woman need to do to prepare to leave the abuser? ›

  1. Get some clarity and remind yourself that you're doing the right thing. ...
  2. Prioritize your safety as you plan and prepare. ...
  3. Talk to a professional in private. ...
  4. Reach out to friends and family who can help. ...
  5. Consider your phone privacy. ...
  6. Research local domestic violence shelters. ...
  7. Start saving money.
5 Mar 2020

What are the 3 cycles of an abusive relationship? ›

There are three stages to the cycle of violence:

This is where the battered person may feel like they are walking on eggshells. Second is the actual explosion phase where the physical abuse occurs. It can last from a few minutes to several hours. Third is the honeymoon phase.

What are the 5 signs of emotional abuse? ›

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse
  • They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You. ...
  • They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy. ...
  • They are Possessive and/or Controlling. ...
  • They are Manipulative. ...
  • They Often Dismiss You and Your Feelings.
23 May 2017

What type of people do abusers target? ›

Abusers want someone who is already doing well in life, and also someone who has their emotions under control.
...
  • Victims of psychological abuse are often strong, confident, and successful.
  • This is because abusers are attracted to someone they think will be a "challenge" to break.
11 Aug 2017

What are the characteristics of an abuser? ›

Red flags and warning signs of an abuser include but are not limited to:
  • Extreme jealousy.
  • Possessiveness.
  • Unpredictability.
  • A bad temper.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Verbal abuse.
  • Extremely controlling behavior.
  • Antiquated beliefs about roles of women and men in relationships.

What is it called when someone loves their abuser? ›

Stockholm syndrome is a coping mechanism to a captive or abusive situation. People develop positive feelings toward their captors or abusers over time. This condition applies to situations including child abuse, coach-athlete abuse, relationship abuse and sex trafficking.

How long does it take to break trauma bond? ›

A study among 150 survivors of trauma bonded romantic relationships and 150 survivors of trauma bonded relationships among family members revealed that the average duration of the trauma bond for those bonded to a romantic partner was 5.5 years and for those bonded to a family member it was 12.2 years.

Do Narcissists feel the trauma bond? ›

Narcissists do feel the trauma bond, but not in the same way that the people that they abuse feel it. A trauma bond makes narcissists feel remarkably well because the dynamics of a trauma bonded relationship is designed to help them regulate the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they've suppressed.

What does a trauma bond feel like? ›

Trauma bonding occurs when a person experiencing abuse develops an unhealthy attachment to their abuser. They may rationalize or defend the abusive actions, feel a sense of loyalty, isolate from others, and hope that the abuser's behavior will change.

How do you let a toxic person go? ›

Say what you need to say and don't mince your words or the way you feel. Let the other person know exactly what it was that hurt you, and accept no blame from them no matter how hard they try to shift it. You do not owe someone a long and drawn out explanation, so don't give them one (unless you feel like it).

How do I get the courage to leave? ›

5 Ways to Find The Courage (You Already Have) to Leave
  1. Keep a journal. Writing in a journal can be a great way to air out your thoughts and feelings. ...
  2. Find Some Joy. ...
  3. Cut Yourself Some Slack. ...
  4. Don't Rationalize Bad Behavior. ...
  5. Find Support. ...
  6. Ignore Bad Relationships Advice. ...
  7. Reconnect With Family/Friends Who Care.

Why are toxic relationships so addictive? ›

If our caregiver fails to create a secure attachment, we will feel insecure (and anxious) in our attachments later in life. This has some biological underpinnings - our nervous system registers our initial attachments as “the norm” and we become biologically addicted to this type of attachment.

Does a trauma bond ever go away? ›

Trauma bonds can linger, even when the abuse happened long ago. You might struggle to stop thinking about someone who hurt you and feel the urge to reach out or try again. Here's a test that might help, though it's not at all conclusive: Ask yourself whether you'd encourage a loved one to leave a similar relationship.

What is Narcissism Victim Syndrome? ›

Narcissistic victim syndrome is a term that collectively describes the specific and often severe effects of narcissistic manipulation. While this isn't a recognized mental health condition, many experts acknowledge narcissistic abuse can have a serious, long lasting impact on mental health.

How do you leave a toxic relationship with no money? ›

If you're ready to leave a relationship but stay because you have no money, it puts you in a pretty bad situation.
...
Here are six ideas.
  1. Start a side hustle. ...
  2. Sell items you don't need. ...
  3. Set a budget. ...
  4. Use coupons and shop sales. ...
  5. Trade services with friends or family. ...
  6. Ask family for help.
7 Aug 2022

What determines a toxic relationship? ›

A toxic relationship is one that makes you feel unsupported, misunderstood, demeaned, or attacked. On a basic level, any relationship that makes you feel worse rather than better can become toxic over time. Toxic relationships can exist in just about any context, from the playground to the boardroom to the bedroom.

Why is it difficult to break cycles of violence? ›

The cycle of violence has a physical, emotional, and verbal abuse component. It is often difficult for victims to leave their abusers because they have been living in fear or have had threats made against them if they report the abuse. This type of behaviour feeds into what we call learned helplessness.

What emotional abuse does to the brain? ›

Emotional abuse is linked to thinning of certain areas of the brain that help you manage emotions and be self-aware — especially the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe. Epigenetic changes and depression. Research from 2018 has connected childhood abuse to epigenetic brain changes that may cause depression.

Does emotional abuse get worse over time? ›

"Emotionally abusive relationships are more subtle." She notes that these relationships usually begin exceptionally well before problems worsen over time. "Each time, you're getting more adapted to the negative patterns, so it gets more difficult to see—as well as to leave."

What are signs of narcissistic abuse? ›

Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome
  • Always Walking On Egg Shells. As a human, you tend to avoid things that remind you of terrible things in the past. ...
  • Sense of Mistrust. ...
  • Self-Isolation. ...
  • Loss of Self Worth. ...
  • Feeling Lonely. ...
  • Freezing Up. ...
  • Trouble Making Decisions. ...
  • Feeling Like You've Done Something Wrong.
23 Dec 2020

What is gaslighting emotional abuse? ›

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a person or group causes someone to question their own sanity, memories, or perception of reality. People who experience gaslighting may feel confused, anxious, or as though they cannot trust themselves.

What's an example of emotional abuse? ›

Emotional abuse can involve any of the following: Verbal abuse: yelling at you, insulting you or swearing at you. Rejection: constantly rejecting your thoughts, ideas and opinions. Gaslighting: making you doubt your own feelings and thoughts, and even your sanity, by manipulating the truth.

What techniques do abusers use? ›

Manipulators and abusers may control their victims with a range of tactics, including, but not limited to, positive reinforcement (such as praise, superficial charm, flattery, ingratiation, love bombing, smiling, gifts, attention), negative reinforcement (taking away aversive tasks or items), intermittent or partial ...

Can domestic violence cause bipolar? ›

There's an explanatory link between relationship abuse and bipolar disorder. The Psychiatric Times article mentioned above cites that around 80% of people with bipolar disorder experienced one or more traumatic events earlier in their lives.

Why do people stay in toxic relationships? ›

People tend to stay in toxic relationships because they don't know anything better or they fear being judged. Fear of being alone and not finding love again can also make you feel helpless. The worst is if you feel that you did this to yourself and start believing that you deserve it.

Which behavior is often present with victims of violence? ›

F.

Children who witness domestic violence are more likely to be in an abusive relationship when they grow up – whether as the abuser or the abused; and often experience anxiety, depression, eating and sleeping disorders and developmental delays and behavior problems.

What are the four stages of the cycle of violence? ›

The 4 stages of an abusive relationship
  • The tension-building stage. This is when stress and strain begin to build between a couple just before an abusive act occurs. ...
  • Incident of abuse stage. This is when the act of violence takes place. ...
  • Reconciliation stage. This is also known as the honeymoon phase. ...
  • Calm stage.
21 Nov 2017

What is it called when you defend your abuser? ›

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response. It occurs when hostages or abuse victims bond with their captors or abusers. This psychological connection develops over the course of the days, weeks, months, or even years of captivity or abuse.

Why do people fall in love with their abuser? ›

Some reasons you may still love your romantic partner despite their abusive behaviors might include: experiencing denial as a defense mechanism. being caught in the abuse cycle. having a personality disorder or attachment style that leads you to feel dependent on your partner.

Can you get PTSD from emotional abuse? ›

Emotional abuse can lead to C-PTSD, a type of PTSD that involves ongoing trauma. C-PTSD shows many of the same symptoms as PTSD, although its symptoms and causes can differ. Treatment should be tailored to the situation to address the ongoing trauma the person experienced from emotional abuse.

What does a woman need to do to prepare to leave the abuser? ›

  1. Get some clarity and remind yourself that you're doing the right thing. ...
  2. Prioritize your safety as you plan and prepare. ...
  3. Talk to a professional in private. ...
  4. Reach out to friends and family who can help. ...
  5. Consider your phone privacy. ...
  6. Research local domestic violence shelters. ...
  7. Start saving money.
5 Mar 2020

Is trauma bonding real? ›

A trauma bond is a connection between an abusive person and the individual they abuse. It typically occurs when the abused person begins to develop sympathy or affection for the abuser. This bond can develop over days, weeks, or months. Not everyone who experiences abuse develops a trauma bond.

What are the 5 signs of emotional abuse? ›

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse
  • They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You. ...
  • They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy. ...
  • They are Possessive and/or Controlling. ...
  • They are Manipulative. ...
  • They Often Dismiss You and Your Feelings.
23 May 2017

What are the 3 cycles of an abusive relationship? ›

There are three stages to the cycle of violence:

This is where the battered person may feel like they are walking on eggshells. Second is the actual explosion phase where the physical abuse occurs. It can last from a few minutes to several hours. Third is the honeymoon phase.

How do you leave a toxic relationship with no money? ›

If you're ready to leave a relationship but stay because you have no money, it puts you in a pretty bad situation.
...
Here are six ideas.
  1. Start a side hustle. ...
  2. Sell items you don't need. ...
  3. Set a budget. ...
  4. Use coupons and shop sales. ...
  5. Trade services with friends or family. ...
  6. Ask family for help.
7 Aug 2022

When a victim is attached to their abuser? ›

Stockholm syndrome is a coping mechanism to a captive or abusive situation. People develop positive feelings toward their captors or abusers over time. This condition applies to situations including child abuse, coach-athlete abuse, relationship abuse and sex trafficking.

Do Narcissists feel the trauma bond? ›

Narcissists do feel the trauma bond, but not in the same way that the people that they abuse feel it. A trauma bond makes narcissists feel remarkably well because the dynamics of a trauma bonded relationship is designed to help them regulate the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they've suppressed.

How do I know if I'm traumatized? ›

Intrusive memories

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event. Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks) Upsetting dreams or nightmares about the traumatic event. Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the traumatic event.

Videos

1. WATCH: Why it’s so hard to leave a physically abusive relationship
(PBS NewsHour)
2. What you MUST do to LEAVE an Emotionally Abusive Relationship | Stephanie Lyn Coaching
(Stephanie Lyn Coaching)
3. It is biblical to leave a truly abusive spouse. But be careful.
(Mike Winger)
4. Emotional Abuse - How to STOP loving an Abuser
(Will Perry)
5. Why is it so hard to leave an abusive relationship?
(LifeWire)
6. 6 Signs Of An Emotionally Abusive Relationship You Shouldnt Ignore | BetterHelp
(BetterHelp)

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