First, know that you can’t do it alone. This is not a journey to take on your own. You will need support. Women’s shelters often offer free counselling, as well as support groups that can help you work through the labyrinth of emotions.
When I left my abusive relationship, I ran the gamut of emotions from relief, fear, guilt, peace, sadness, and more. I was glad to be able to relax, to not have to worry about every action or word. I was glad to not have to monitor my children’s natural behaviours, or distract their dad from hurting them. I was afraid that I made a mistake, especially when he would try to charm me into returning. I felt guilt when others didn’t see what I had experienced and tried to convince me to try again to make the marriage work. I was terrified whenever I needed to engage with him – and in the beginning that was often as I insisted on supervised visits and then ended up being the supervisor for too many months. I was deeply saddened because to be pursuing a divorce had been something I never thought I would have to do.
I attended counselling and a weekly support group at our local women’s shelter. We were fortunate to not have to live there, yet they were still an amazing source of support for us, providing child care during appointments and resources to help me get back on my feet.
Once we passed out of care at the shelter, I pursued counselling privately. Many places will offer pro rated fees to help if income is an issue.
In addition to seeking professional help, you need to start reaching out to friends and family. Most abusers will work to isolate their victims from friends and family. They will do this in different ways, constant moves, criticizing, taking all your time, keeping you from a phone and/or transportation, and even outright demands that you not see anyone but them. Start with the closest friend you had before the abuser, reach out to your family. Connect with someone from the support group. Find someone you can talk with about what’s going on, someone who can help keep you sane in the moments when you want to take him back. Not everyone will accept you or believe your story, but you won’t know who will be your greatest supporters until you try to share.
I was blessed. My best friend from when I was a teenager reconnected with me on Facebook shortly before my marriage collapsed. She has been my lifeline many times in talking me through the angst of ending the abusive relationship, helping me see my value amongst his lies.
My parents also stood by me. They were glad to see the children and I were safely away. Other friends provided support as well, some long term and others short term. Some friends still stand by me and others have disappeared from my life.
I could not have done it alone. I would have surely faltered if I did not have the support system I did. That’s why abusers work to isolate you. They know that there is strength in numbers.they know that in our weak moments we will return if we have no one beside us to help us stop and think it through. It doesn’t have to be large, but it does have to exist.
Don’t try to do it by yourself. That’s what your abuser wants, they want you to be alone, because then, you are vulnerable to their next attack. When you’re separated, that attack will likely come in the form of a honeymoon-type action. They will inundate you with false apologies, expensive gifts, loving words and more. They will try to convince you you were imaging things, that things weren’t really that bad. And then, they will try to lure you back, where the abuse will quickly worsen because they will feel the need to punish you for even considering leaving.
Some abusers will try to get you to return (or stay) by threatening to commit suicide. Knowing you would hate to be the cause of their death, this is often very successful in trapping a victim in the relationship. Most of the time, this threat is insincere, it is just a ploy. Even their attempts, if they make one, will be unsuccessful because it is just a ploy. The rare one who does commit suicide, that is on them. That is their choice and we must be glad it was not a murder-suicide. Should the abuser commit suicide, know it was not your fault.
Support is essential. Personal support and professional support.
There are many 24 hour support lines available to you. You can even call a suicide support line for the abuser if they threaten it. You are not alone. No matter how alone you feel, know there are many people who will help, all you have to do is reach out.
It is hard to open up to people, especially after the experience of being emotionally manipulated by an abuser, so start slow. Start with a professional in domestic violence, start with a friend you know you can trust.
Chose carefully, but chose to start.
Finally, here are some national resources you can access:
Domestic violence, available 24/7:
For men, in Canada, USA, U.K., Ireland & Australia: HelpGuide
For suicide support: