Should I Stay or Leave?


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.
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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Melanie says:

    Caroline, this is a very good post. I’m 5 years post-divorce from my abuser–and one of the striking things that I know now is that I didn’t recognize it as abuse until AFTER he was gone. Thankfully, my kids were old enough that I didn’t have but minimal contact with him–and in fact I think the last email I sent was a thank you for paying half of our then-20 year old son’s medical bills (for being so generous, I said, even though it was kind of like… yeah, you’re supposed to do that).

    One thing that woke me up was looking at my 12 year old daughter and thinking– if she ends up with someone like this, I will die. A counselor said to me: Why is it not ok for her but it’s ok for you? (I didn’t think I was worth more than that… I still don’t know if I am or not, but I’m healthier alone even when I’m feeling terribly lonely)…

    My intention was never to end the marriage, it was to set boundaries (Cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries book should be the first read of anyone wondering if they are in an abusive marriage.) The boundaries I hoped would help me get control of myself, start speaking up for what was not right, and demonstrate to my children that this was not ok for us.

    I also hoped that he would be finally willing to deal with himself and that our marriage could be saved–not just survived. Instead, he escalated, accused me of destroying our marriage, and eventually left. In God’s great mercy, he spoke to me clearly, answering the prayer of my 20 year old self– please if this marriage ends, I want to know that I did everything you asked me to… I filed for divorce with a clear leading from the Lord and a clean conscience. Since then he’s showed me biblical reasons for what he spoke to me personally, and I am grateful.

    Meanwhile, my daughter, who I had so desperately wanted to protect, ended up in one relationship after another that were so unhealthy that I wondered if she might out-bad my own choices in life. But she is coming out of that now–and I believe it is because she had a contrasting voice to what she saw–because I finally spoke up. That when her boyfriend was abusive, she accepted it, she lived in it, but there was a part of her that knew: This is not right, this is not good… and finally, mercifully… I have to get out of this.

    She is moving toward the Lord in ways I wouldn’t have imagined a year ago. My oldest son fell in love, and after he proposed to his now-wife, his fear of what kind of husband he might become led him back to the Lord.

    My middle son who was 15 at the time we separated, said at his baptism when he was 19, that he watched us both and then he pointed to me and said, that’s where I’m going. He sought out men in our church to spend time with because he knew he needed role models. His name is Samuel–and like Hannah’s Samuel, he is the child I prayed for.

    I know this is long but I remember the fears of the unknown, of my kids coming from a divorced home (something I desperately wanted to avoid for them) for the financial–what will I do?? How will we survive?

    How we survive, how we live, is that we put God to the test. We bear out his promises, we believe what he says about us–not what our abusers say. We stop letting a man be our god, no matter how vehemently he insists he is, and we instead obey the God of the universe.

    We cast our anxieties on Him, because he cares for us. And we believe Him. He loves us and he protects us, and he provides for us.

    I am continually amazed at how much we have healed. While we started when he was in the house… it would have been impossible to come as far as we have come if we hadn’t been delivered from the ongoing sin against us.

    Set boundaries, seek God and see what happens. You may be amazed.

    • Dear Melanie,

      Wow, what an amazing comment. Thank you so much for sharing! I wonder if you would do me the honor of writing a blog for me? I could use what you’ve written here, or you could write something similar as a stand alone blog. I think all my readers would benefit. Please use my contact page and let me know.

      Blessings, Caroline

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