Love, Self

What To Do When You Find Yourself In An Abusive Relationship (And How To End It)

Photo: Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash
How To Deal With And End An Abusive Relationship

In October 2012, on an average Saturday, I spent some time with my little sister. We heard our parents start fighting: we rolled our eyes, and turned on the TV, waiting for our mom to come downstairs so we could leave. I watched my little sister nervously glance at the ceiling as the yelling upstairs got louder, so I poured her some soda and promised we would make cookies later that night, joking that I’d sneak her some cookie dough when no one was paying attention, even though I knew my parents wouldn’t care. 

It was right then that we heard a loud crash and screaming.

Between that moment and the time the police arrived I remember everything being a blur, but I will never forget the sound of my sister pounding on the garage door when I locked her in, the realization that I needed to get to a phone to call the police, the fear pounding in my chest.

I was 16. My sister was 9.

One of the hardest things to accept is that the story I just told you isn’t an uncommon one. In 2018, about 20 people per minute were physically abused by a partner in the US, meaning that in just one year 10 million people experienced violence by a partner and that approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical violence by a partner in their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 

What I’m trying to say is that you aren’t alone. If you are reading this because you need this, there are 10 million people out there who know how you feel and are wrestling with the same question you are. 

RELATED: 3 Ways To Spot Domestic Violence In Relationships (Either Yours Or Someone You Love)

When do you draw the line? Hell, how do you draw a line? 

Defining domestic abuse is never easy and when you love someone it's so so easy to make excuses for their actions. Being someone who watched how abuse affected the people I love and knows the way it has impacted me, I have always been very headstrong about leaving someone as soon as there was any sort of violent red flag. However, two years ago when my ex and I got into a fight and he punched a wall several times while yelling at me, leaving me a crying mess alone in my room as he left to go for a drive, I told myself it was a one time thing and that it was my fault for making him so angry. It's so easy to convince yourself it's not abuse.

As soon as you find yourself making those kinds of excuses, it's time to read some articles like this one and make yourself a priority.

Abuse goes by a lot of different names: manipulation, emotional abuse, gaslighting, physical abuse. But like I mentioned, it's hard to be practical and logical about when it comes to your own relationship. I like to think that a good rule of thumb is that you know it when you see it happening to someone you care about. If you put your sister, your best friend, your brother, cousin, your mom or dad into your shoes, and you would tell them to get out of that relationship, then you should be telling yourself that too.

So how do you do it?

RELATED: If Love Hurts, It's Not The Real Thing

1. Talk to people you trust.

It's never easy to walk away, but especially in situations of emotional or physical abuse, you might be scared to try to do so. One of the best things you can do is to talk about it. Reach out to your friends, coworkers, family and ask them to hear you out, or to help you.

This is a really helpful way to get another opinion on your situation. Talk to someone you trust about what is going on and how you should respond. If you need to, see if you can stay with a friend or family member for a couple of days. Doing so can help you figure out what you’re thinking and make a plan to walk away if possible. 

2. Do your research.

Emotional abuse, gaslighting, etc., can be extremely hard to identify. You may wonder if you’re overreacting and a good way to combat that is to do some research. A simple google search will lead you to some solid definitions, blog articles, podcasts, that will let you make an informed decision about how to handle these things. Counseling and open discussions can also be a strong solution to these issues.

3. Make a plan and stick to it.

If you’re in a dangerous situation and know you need to leave, find the best way for you to do so. Don’t stick around longer than you have to, because ultimately you are in danger whenever you’re around your partner and so are your kids, if you have them. Even if the physical abuse hasn’t started, but you’re afraid it will, make a backup plan and be ready to leave.

4. Talk to a professional.

Whether it’s a counselor, therapist, or any other trained resource., talk to a professional. In situations of domestic violence, there are incredible resources that can assist you, one being the National Domestic Violence Hotline, website and phone number listed at the end of this article.

If you’re unsafe, feeling like you have nowhere to turn, and need help getting out of a dangerous situation, this is a powerful resource that is capable of helping you and guiding you through this mess. This service is also confidential and non-judgmental and can offer you more assistance and advice on how to handle your situation.

It’s never easy to navigate abuse. It’s never easy to walk away. It’s never easy to take back control. But that doesn’t mean you don’t do it.

If you are in an abusive relationship and need help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You are not alone.

RELATED: 21 Signs You're In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Beth El Fattal is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture and relationship topics.