How I Knew When to Leave

Disclaimer: I could change the gender in the following post to include both men and women as being the abused, but I can’t speak for men with certainty since I haven’t interviewed any men about those experiences. I will therefore speak from a woman’s perspective of being abused by a man. I do hope that there will be more articles written from the male perspective in the near future, to bring awareness to abuse being a human issue, not limited to one gender.

The reasons an abused woman stays are myriad. But how does she know when to leave? When does she say “Enough is enough” and realise that it will only get worse if she stays?

For me, there was a definite downhill direction in the relationship, but I was in the marriage for the long haul. I promised to be with him for life and I meant it. Mentions of divorce or separation in the midst of our disagreements came from him, designed (I now believe) to make me desperate enough to agree that the issues at hand were my fault alone.

In my reading of marriage blogs and material that I hoped would make me a better spouse and life-partner (which I thought would create a ripple effect and soften him over the years) I did read many times something along these lines: “We’re not trying to say that you should stay in an abusive marriage when we talk about always being committed to your vows. If you’re being abused, get out.” The problem there was that the definition I had for abuse was pretty much limited to hitting and yelling. Since he didn’t smack me around and rarely yelled, I didn’t see that I was, in fact, being abused. I certainly knew I wasn’t happy, yet I didn’t know what to do about it.

But one night – after a ridiculous fight and an evening of being ignored because a) we had disagreed in the first place, and b) I hadn’t ended it by saying he was right and I was so, so sorry for the whole thing – I found myself looking at lists pertaining to emotionally abusive behaviours. And it all became clear.

I do think I might have been unsure of the next course of action had I not also read about the impact on the abused person. I saw myself in that particular list, of course, but I saw my oldest son too and finally recognised that my children were suffering.

I knew when to leave because I was faced with protecting my children from future years of abuse. I knew they could not, and should not, be subject to any more without long-lasting repercussions. Yes, I saved myself from a toxic relationship, but it was a mother’s love that gave me the courage to do so.


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