It can difficult to know when to leave an abusive relationship. Whether that relationship be romantic, familial, or platonic, it takes more than just knowing there’s something wrong. Even assuming one is in a safe enough position to leave the relationship (physically and financially), emotions may be holding one back. Abusers are experts at convincing individuals that they need them and only them, and that any fears and concerns are irrational. It’s not enough to have a supportive group of friends and family. Oftentimes the abuser’s words may trump those of others, and attempts at reaching the abused ends up pushing them deeper into emotional abuse as they rely further on their abusers.
It’s best for friends and family to lend a shoulder to cry on and advice when asked, but mostly try not to interfere too terribly with the process. Eventually, with enough love and support, an abuse victim may realize they are being abused and leave their abuser. It’s not easy, and it’s sometimes difficult to understand.
Here is a brief overview of the process, both for abuse victims and those that love them:
Leaving generally begins with disconnecting in some way from their abuser.
Not necessarily in a literal sense. Usually it involves just no longer relying or feeling the need to rely on the individual as much previously. This isn’t something that can always be prompted, and it’s important for the individual to realize it on their own. Afterwards, because one is less enamored with their abuser, signs of abuse become clearer. This is a good opportunity for the abused to start laying down boundaries and confront some of the poor behavior of their abuser (again, assuming they are in a safe position to do so). Sometimes this leads to an end to the relationship.
Oftentimes, that end doesn’t last, and the abused ends up returning to the abuser. This is completely normal, and not something to shame or be ashamed about. After that, the cycle may begin again or it may be enough to see that their abuser hasn’t and won’t change. And then the abused can actually leave, this time for good.
The process isn’t linear, or always easy to understand.
The abuse victim may recognize the signs of abuse, and then purposefully ignore them. The abuse victim may not feel capable of leaving or know who to turn to in the absence of their abuser for support and affection. Even after leaving, the abuse victim must take care of themselves by surrounding themselves by friends, family, and hobbies that they love (for me personally, I dove into topics I loved to study aside from my university coursework that I hadn’t made the time for in a while). There are alternatives to abuse, and the best thing that those who love abuse victims can do is prove that they can provide enough love and support to make up for what the victim is losing. Most importantly, that their support doesn’t come with strings or caveats. Because neither does selfless, healthy love.