Why women stay with abusive men: How do you close the door for good?

Abusive relationships are twisted and complicated. From the outside, it seems obvious. This woman is getting hurt, so of course she should leave. But on the inside of the relationship, the issue is far more involved. The woman is dependent on the man, if not financially, then certainly emotionally. Often there are children involved and lots of shame. Closing the door on relationships like this is so much harder than it sounds. If you’re in an abusive relationship, I urge you to seek professional help. Resources like the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) can give you the tools and help build the strength you need to leave a situation.

Not about loving him

When it comes to leaving an abusive man, a lot of women struggle because they love their abuser. Your emotions certainly complicate the situation, but know that you can want to leave him even if you still love him. Realize that your decision making here isn’t about your love for him. It’s about your love for yourself and your love for your family. Do what will make those loved ones (especially yourself) more safe and secure. No one is doubting your love for him. To make the right decision here, though, those feelings can’t be part of the equation.

Go cold turkey

When you leave him, leave him. Be gone for good. Don’t go back to get your things. Don’t accept phone calls from him. And certainly don’t see him. Even if it’s for an apology. You need to completely draw the line. What you did was really strong, but it takes even more strength to make the right decision again and again and again. Once you’ve made the decision to leave, don’t let yourself face the choice of going back to him again.

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your family, friends and even strangers will help you through this. Appoint one of your friends as your ex’s point of contact if there are logistical things that need to be worked out after you leave. Stay with a family member. Or call the hotline I mentioned above to find out what shelters and services are available in your area. This isn’t going to be easy by any means, but inviting others to help you out can make it doable.

Get involved

Even if you’re not through the woods in your situation, if you have the time and means, help out other women in similar relationships. You’ll be a part of women’s stories who have successfully left abusive men and started great lives. It could inspire you to continue down the hard but positive path you’re on. And you’ll hear cautionary tales that are motivating in their own way. Mostly though, you’ll be doling out advice you should be following as well, and hearing it come from your own mouth can be powerful.