Ten years ago a good friend of mine was in an abusive relationship. Even though she never said anything, we all knew it.
Her partner at the time was controlling, manipulative and a smooth talker. He was able to talk his way in and out of most situations. He acted pretty normal around us, but once in a while we'd hear him make a critical comment to my friend like "You're not wearing that are you? You look like a whore." Or he would even make threatening statements like "We are not going to do that or I'm going to be mad the rest of the night".
Once when he was supposed to go away for a while for work, he came back unexpectedly a couple weeks later. My friend was crying as she told me "I don't want to get back together with him!" My response was simply "Then, don't." She shook her head at me and dismissed my advice like I didn't understand. After years of being a marriage counselor and seeing this pattern scores of times, I realize now that I really didn't understand.
Now that I'm a marriage counselor and understand people in abusive relationships much better, my advice would have been much different. So here it is now. The six things you can do to get out of an abusive relationship.
Tips for leaving an abusive relationship
1. Keep a diary
Leaving a relationship is a process. Even healthy relationships don't end overnight. If you're in an abusive relationship, keep a diary of the times that your partner becomes physical. Also, write down the times he uses verbal threats or makes threats towards your children, family, pets, etc. This will come in handy down the road if he or she tries to retaliate against you for leaving by telling lies to police, or taking your children away during the divorce proceedings.
2. Talk to someone
One of the most useful tools of abusers is isolation. In other words, they isolate the person they're abusing from friends, family, and others who can help. Don't let isolation occur to you. Talk to friends, family and other loved ones and let them know what's going on. It may be embarassing but it really is helpful.
3. Set aside money and other personal items
The most common time a woman will get hurt in an abusive relationship is when she is about to leave. Because of that, when you do decide to leave you may need to do it in a hurry. Have some money set aside at a safe place (a family member's house or safety deposit box) as well as clothes, medication, clothes for your children, etc. Set enough aside for about two weeks.
Most couples talk about separating then plan who will live where afterwards, but because you're most at risk for abuse when you're about to leave, you need to do the opposite.This means, you need to plan where you're going to go first then talk about it after you've already left.
Think specifically about where you're going and who you're going to live with. If you're worried about being followed or stalked by your ex, don't tell him where you're going at all. Most women's shelters, for example, don't advertise their addresses because of angry exes.
5. Leave when your partner is not home.
If at all possible, plan to leave when your partner is not home. You can call later and talk about why you left. If he wants to meet to talk about it, don't meet in private. Talking over the phone works just as well as talking in private, and meeting in a public place works just as well as meeting in private, too. There's only one reason he'd demand to meet in private.
6. Talk through a mediator
Abusers are pretty smooth talkers. They didn't start off by walking up to you at a bar and asking if they could begin an abusive relationship with you. Somehow, they subtly worked their way into your life and used words that made you love them and tolerate their abuse. Because of this, every time they talk to you, you run the risk of being manipulated by them again. This is what my friend meant when she tried telling me "I don't want to get back together with him". Don't feel like you have to talk to him directly. Instead, you can have friends, family and even court appointed advocates talk to him.
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. Checkout his blog for expert information on how to improve your relationship.