Should I stay with or leave my abusive partner? This is the agonizing question many of you are asking yourselves right now. No one can answer this question for you. There are many forces pushing you first to leave, then to stay. How to decide?
There Are Many Reasons to Stay
You have invested a lot of time, energy and hope into this relationship. Perhaps you have children together and don’t want them to lose their other parent. Perhaps you are afraid YOU will lose your KIDS. While this doesn’t happen often, in some cases, the abuser will look like the “better parent” to a judge. Or, even worse, perhaps your abuser has threatened to harm and/or kidnap your kids. Horrendous!
If you are married, perhaps you struggle with breaking your marriage vows. Will God forgive you for breaking this promise? What if your friends and family don’t understand, or worse yet, take the side of your abuser? It has been known to happen, sadly.
You might be concerned about finances. Where will you live? Will you be able to get a good enough job? What if you end up on the street?
You may have been with your abuser for so long, your self-esteem may be incredibly low. You may not be confident you will be able to make the life decisions you will need to make.
Maybe your abuser has threatened you, your kids, your extended family, friends or pets if you leave. It is true that the most dangerous time for a domestic violence victim is when leaving the abuser. This is because abusers consider their victims as their “property” and the abuser will “lose” if the victim leaves. As we know, no abuser wants to “lose” – EVER.
Perhaps, no matter how badly your abuser has treated you, you still love him/her.
Finally, maybe the thought of all the changes you would have to make in your life just makes you feel depressed. Isn’t it easier to stay with the “devil you know” than try to contend with the “devil you don’t know?”
There Are Also Many Reasons to Leave.
Living with an abuser can harm you – emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. Tweet This
The longer you are with someone who treats you abusively, the more you are apt to believe you deserve this kind of treatment.
Your physical health can become compromised. Even if you are not being physically abused, many DV victims will develop physical ailments because of their abuse. You may not realize how physically damaging it is to live with an abuser. Some common conditions DV victims and survivors experience are: fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, eating disorders, addictions to drugs and alcohol, migraine headaches, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma*. Some say that the stress from being abused even causes heart disease and cancer.**
The longer you stay with your abuser, the more likely your kids will grow up to abuse their partners, or choose a mate who will abuse them. Tweet This
What they see modeled from day-to-day is not healthy for them, now, or in their future.
Some people believe you can heal from the abuse you’ve experienced while still living with your abuser. I don’t believe this is true. Yes, you can become stronger, but really heal? It would be like ripping off the scab from a scraped knee daily, and expecting your knee to heal. It isn’t going to happen.
You are a human being, made in God’s image. You are inherently valuable. You deserve much better.
You will never be able to be at peace in a home shared with your abuser. And because you DO have inherent value, you deserve to live in peace. You should not have to tiptoe around on eggshells, fearing the reactions of your abuser.
Finally, people will often tell abuse victims that it is God’s will for them to stay with their abusive spouses. I do NOT believe this is true. Along with Pastor Jeff Crippen, I believe that leaving an abuser is not a sin.
How to Evaluate Your Choices?
In my first book, A Journey through Emotional Abuse: from Bondage to Freedom, I discuss all these issues at length. I walk readers through steps they might take to determine if their abusers are willing to change, what the bible says about abuse, how to leave safely and how to deal with the custody court system. You might find it helpful.
If you take another look at the reasons to stay, you might notice that most of them have to do with being afraid of the unknown. You don’t have a crystal ball, so you cannot know what the future will hold. If you are like me, you might tend to “catastrophize,” which is what my husband calls it when I expect the worst to happen in every future situation. When we leave our abusers, life may get worse for a time. The abuser may become even more controlling, (or possibly violent). You may have to go to custody court and your kids may be with the abuser without you for some of the time. The idea of your kids being with your abuser EVER without you there may send you into a panic. If this is true for you, I recommend thinking about whether you are really able to protect your kids if you are there. And, given that we can’t really protect them, the fact that part of the time they will be living AWAY from the abuser, and seeing you make healthy life choices will make a huge difference for your kids.
Leaving your abuser doesn’t make your life perfect, by any means. However, having worked with many abuse victims, I can say that after a period of time (one, two, or possibly three years) most would say their lives have improved 100%. They are happier, their kids are happier, and all of them have the opportunity for better futures.
Surprisingly, domestic violence advocates don’t always recommend abuse victims leave their abusers if the abuser is very physically dangerous. They say that sometimes the risk of leaving is worse than the risk of staying. If your abuser has threatened you physically, or is currently physically abusive, this is something to consider. Please contact your local domestic violence crisis center, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or at TTY 1-800-787-3224.
No matter whether you decide to stay or leave, I highly recommend you create a safety plan with a domestic violence advocate.
Making the decision whether to leave is a difficult, and very individual process for each of us. There are many things to consider, and options to weigh. Sadly, all of the options will include some pain. I recommend you think through all these options with a domestic violence advocate, and (if possible), a counselor trained in domestic violence.
No matter what you choose to do, please remember that God will be with you no matter what. Romans 8:38-39 says:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Question: Have you been struggling with this decision? If you have decided to leave, what was the deciding factor for you?
If you are currently struggling with this decision, I invite you to contact me via my contact page, or to friend me on Facebook, and FB message me. I have been trained as a DV advocate, and would love to help you.
May the Lord protect you and may you feel His infinite love today,
* Caroline Abbott, A Journey to Healing After Emotional Abuse (Franklin, TN: Clovercroft Publishing, 2015) 50.
** http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/10-fixable-stress-related-health-problems and http://www.medicinenet.com/domestic_violence/related-conditions/index.htm