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How To Leave An Abusive Relationship – 5 Tips

Written by: Dr. Siya Mjwara, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


When we find ourselves stuck in abusive relationships we often know that we need to leave, but we sometimes do not know where to start. If you find yourself in such a situation, here are a few things to consider.

1. Recognize the red flags

Many people tend to dismiss red flags, especially at the beginning of an abusive relationship. They might say things like, "My partner is quite jealous, and maybe that's not necessarily a bad thing because they love me." They might say this when their partner throws tantrums or exhibits various forms of controlling behavior, such as "Why did you speak with that person for so long?" or "You can't wear this to that function," and so on. It is important to recognize unhealthy behavior patterns and not make excuses or try to justify them logically.

2. Assess the situation and explore your options

Safety comes first, always. If your partner starts being verbally or physically aggressive try to remove yourself from the situation immediately. You may be tempted to say to yourself “They are just angry. I don't think they will really hurt me. They have never caused me any harm in the past" until the person actually does something. Unfortunately, some people do not survive such situations. Please do not wait to see if things can get worse. Think about what options might be available for you to escape. Think of practical ways you can try to convince them to let you go and identify existing emergency exits in your home. Talk to someone you trust about what is going on and let them know what your plan is in case of an emergency. If you want to pack an emergency bag and leave it in a safe place or with someone you trust, do so. It is also a good idea to memorize important contact numbers and also have them on speed dial. Find out from Social Workers closest to you if there are any safety shelters in nearby communities.

3. Develop your exit strategy

Some of us struggle to leave abusive relationships due to financial reasons, or what about the children. Then the list grows longer and longer. No children deserve to be raised in a toxic and abusive environment. Therefore let us dismiss staying for the sake of the children as a reason. Leaving because you do not want your children to grow up in such an environment is a healthier approach. In your exit strategy think about what you will do financially and who can possibly assist. Think about logistics such as how you will travel to work or to the children’s school once you move out. How you will be safe at work and in public. Explore whether you want to apply for a protection order. Evidence proves that the most dangerous time is when a person tries to leave an abusive relationship. This is when the abuser realizes they no longer have power or control. Assess and leave without announcing it if possible. Be with someone you trust or contact the police when you go and fetch your belongings. If your partner has a firearm it is better to involve the police and inform them of this.

4. Accept the hurt before it gets better

Once you successfully leave the relationship you will need to learn to deal with the difficult emotions. You might find yourself feeling guilty, sad, or ashamed. Such emotions are normal. However, please remember that the abuse was not your fault. You might be tempted to go back. Going back to an abusive relationship is not a good idea. The abuser might also pull all stops to try and win you back. They might also try to make your departure as miserable as possible. If you have children together they might use the children to try to frustrate you. If you were married and are in the process of divorce they might try to drag the divorce process as much as they can, and involve attorneys to try to confuse and intimidate you. They might also publicly humiliate you, and try to convince family and friends that you are the reason the relationship has ended and they are the victim in the situation. This is a common pattern. Therefore try to not internalize all this behavior and focus on your healing and self-care. Attend your therapy sessions and try to remain in contact with the people that are supportive of you.

5. Rebuild your life

Re-imagine your life outside of the relationship. Develop and follow a practical plan of how you will rebuild your career, family, and social life in a healthy manner. Think about how you will spend your weekends, and holidays and develop a new routine that prioritizes your healing and personal development. Develop and work on a plan of how you will pay off any debt, and further explore a long-term plan on how you will fully recover financially. If you have children with your ex-partner consider consulting a professional to develop a parenting plan. Hopefully, that will minimize any unnecessary drama and create a healthy routine for your children. It is a good idea to also arrange therapy for your children and explore how you can best support them on their own journey to recovery.

Make healthy decisions

Making healthy decisions and acting upon them takes significant courage and a willingness to step outside of what is familiar. Leaving an abusive relationship is not an easy process. However, it is possible and important for your overall wellbeing.

If you have a story of how you’ve managed to leave an abusive relationship successfully, feel free to write to me and share your story. You may send your letters to the Breakfree with Dr. Siya Facebook group. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Dr. Siya Mjwara, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Siya Mjwara is an experienced therapist & wellness coach, trainer, and EAP consultant who has worked with individuals, couples, families, and management teams across various industries for over 14 years. Her educational and continued professional development has transformed into a dedication to bringing awareness to individuals. She assists businesses to develop, and implement employee wellness solutions to improve productivity, reduce absenteeism, and overall workplace culture.



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