The 5-Step Process That Makes It Way, Way Easier To Leave A Cruel Partner

Banish the chronically difficult person from your life.

Woman chucking her suitcase and leaving Tais Bernabe, StphaneLemire | Canva 

“I want out of this relationship, no matter the cost!” Frustration, despair, overwhelm, and emotional exhaustion that being with a chronically difficult person creates.

“I want it over with! I don’t want to deal with it anymore!” All you want is to get out with your clothes and kids, no matter what else you lose.

At your wits end and holding on by a thread, your last nerve has been danced on by an entire army.


Hold on, and hold up! Get out, absolutely, but with your fair share and by doing the right things for the children.

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Here's the 5-step process that makes it easier to leave a cruel partner

1. Learn and believe the truth about chronically difficult people.

The sad truth is, that chronically difficult people seldom change, especially in the face of potential loss.

Losing is unthinkable to the chronically difficult person). They are people who hijack relationships for their purposes while relentlessly scavenging them for power, status, and control.


Sounds familiar, right?

This type of person is all about winning. In even the smallest way, in the simplest conversation, they will go for your jugular if they think they are being criticized or made to look wrong. It is their nature to protect themselves by lying, manipulating, and seducing you from holding them accountable, responsible, and honest about themselves.

To a chronically difficult person, divorce means losing — losing face, losing the image they've worked so hard to project, losing their money, and losing respect for themselves and others. It also means losing their possessions, and, unfortunately, in their mind, these include their wife/husband/partner, children, friends, home, and lifestyle.

So, they fight. Sadly, It’s not because they want you. It’s because they don’t want to lose anything!




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2. Make the decision.

It sounds so simple, but I know it’s not.

You are entangled, enmeshed, and embroiled. Part of you leans one way while another heads in the opposite direction. You are furious and know you never want to have another circular conversation. Yet you can't help but think, “Maybe there’s hope. If I’m more patient, more loving, more giving, more ...”


Still, nothing happens. Nothing changes. You’re still having those same conversations in your head the next day and possibly kicking yourself for it, too.

It is so difficult to make a final decision and move into action. Doing it takes conviction, courage, and reliable outside support. Infrequent as the good times were, you desperately want to focus on them.

Don’t fall for those tricks of mind and heart. Make up your mind and take the next step. You deserve better!

3. Minimize contact.

You want to be kind, reasonable, and as pleasant as possible. That’s noble and ideal.

And it's also one reason it's taken you a long time to leave the relationship. Once you decide to leave, you must take quiet, strong, consistent action and follow with strongly expressed and maintained boundaries, including minimizing contact.

If you have children and need to talk to your ex, be factual, not emotional. No accusations. Only simple pared-down statements of fact that are in the best interests of the children. If even minimal communication seems impossible, try using software such as OurFamilyWizard.


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4. Debrief with an expert instead of debating with your ex.

Conversations with your ex have never gotten you far.

Reason and logic don’t work because chronically difficult people are irrational. You have to take charge and recognize leaving is not up for discussion. You are doing or have done it and are not returning to the chaos, uncertainty, and constant bids for control.


Find a relationship consultant or counselor who specializes in working with the partners and exes of the chronically difficult. I have heard many sad tales of professionals they worked with who did not see or believe their particular problem until they found me. Choose well so this doesn’t happen to you.

You need professionals in your corner who have your back and have the on-the-ground, real-life experience understanding relationships with and divorces from a chronically difficult spouse. This is one of those things that is difficult for someone to really “get” unless they’ve lived it. Interview attorneys, mediators, and coaches/therapists until you find one with experience with chronically difficult people. Preferably, choose one who has been through a divorce from a chronically difficult person.

Also, be aware that they often hire attorneys who have the same traits. You need to be as well prepared as possible. It will likely take several interviews before you find someone who understands and has the necessary horsepower to represent you well, but it is worth the time.

Caveat: When you leave an impossible partner, you’d like to believe that others will understand what you’ve been going through. They often nod and seem to empathize. Don’t confuse this with understanding and having the courage to be clear, firm, and strategic in your case. My clients are often shocked by how they are treated in court.


There is a unique set of strategies you and your attorney will need to show the court the truth. Ask those you interview about their specific experience dealing with high-conflict cases and be sure they can cite examples that show they know what they are doing.



5. Know what you want and stick to it.

You’re worn down and worn out. Nothing holds a candle to the emotional exhaustion of loving, living with, and leaving a chronically difficult spouse. It’s such a long journey for most people, and by the time you’re ready to say “No more!” you are having difficulty just putting one foot in front of the other.

In that state, you’re vulnerable. You want to be fair, but you must not let them take advantage of you. That’s why it is so imperative to do due diligence in hiring the best professionals. They will help you see what you’re too tired to see and support you when you feel like caving in.


I often hear, “I just want out, no matter what it costs.” I understand the feeling, but it’s not always a good idea. You will need to find that calm, quiet, stable center within yourself to do what it takes to get the best divorce agreement, parenting plans, and child support possible. You deserve that.

Divorcing them will likely take longer than you want. And, yes, it will likely cost more than you want to pay — emotionally, physically, and financially.

If you cave in, though, the truth is you will likely spend a longer time regretting that than the impossibly long time it seemed to take to find the strength to leave! You may wish you'd mustered the strength, courage, and conviction because the consequences of not doing so leave you feeling beached, bereft, and betrayed.

Hang in, get help, and keep walking directly away from the problem.


skipping away happy and free

Photo via Getty

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Rhoberta Shaler, The Relationship Help Doctor has provided urgent and ongoing care for relationships in crisis for more than 30 years. She specializes in helping the partners, exes, and adult children of difficult, toxic people stop the crazy-making and save their sanity.