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Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

Trouble Getting out an Abusive Relationship?

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Getting Out of Abusive Relationship

* Are you in any relationship right now in which someone:

1. Offers you substances or uses in your presence after you've asked the person not to?

2. Repeatedly criticizes you, invalidates your feelings, or humiliates you?

3. Manipulates you (e.g., threatens to harm your children)?

4. Is physically hurting you or threatening to?

5. Discourages you from getting help (e.g., medication, therapy, AA)?

6. Lies to you repeatedly?

7. Betrays your trust (e.g., tells your secrets to others)?

8. Makes unreasonable requests (e.g., demands that you pay for everything)?

9. Exploits you (e.g., sells pornographic pictures of you)? No

10. Ignores your physical needs (e.g., refuses safe sex)? No

11. Is controlling and overinvolved(e.g., tells you what to do)? No If you said "Yes" to any of the questions above, read the rest of this handout. You deserve better than destructive people!

 A silhouette of a man and woman fighting on a white background.


If you have difficulty with boundaries, you may not in notice dangerous cues in others. This makes sense if you lived in a past in which a veil of silence was imposed, you were not allowed to express your feelings, or you could not tell others about your trauma. You may need to make special efforts now to notice your reactions to people and to learn when to end relationships that are hurtful.

If someone doesn't "get it," give up for now. In early recovery, don't waste your energy on changingother people; just focus on helping yourself. If someone doesn't understand you after you've tried to communicate directly, kindly, and repeatedly, find other people.

Even if you cannot leave a damaging relationship, you can still detach from it. If it is someone you must see (such as a family member), protect yourself by not talking to that person about vulnerable topics, such as your trauma or your recovery.

If enough reasonable people tell you a relationship is bad, listen to them. You may feel so confused or controlled that you have lost touch with your own needs. Listen to others.

* It's better to be alone than in a destructive relationship. It may be that for now, your only safe relationships are with treaters. That's okay.

Destructive relationships can be as addictive as drugs. If you cannot stay away from someone you know is bad for you, you may be addicted to that person. Destructive relationships may feel familiar, and you may be drawn to them over and over if your main relationships in life were exploitative. The best strategy is the same as for all addictions: Actively force yourself to stay away, no matter how hard it feels to do so.

1 Remember that you are no longer a child, forced to endure bad relationships. You have choices.

1 Recognize the critical urgency of detaching from bad relationships. They impair your recovery from

PTSD and substance abuse. They prevent you from taking care of yourself and others (e.g., children).

• Once you make a decision to leave a damaging relationship, the "how" will present itself. If you do not know how to leave, it usually means that you have not yet made the decision to leave.

* If you feel guilty, remember that it is your life to live. You can decide how to live it.

Expect fallout. When you leave a bad relationship, others may become angry or dangerous. Find ways to protect yourself, including the support of people "on your side,' your treatment team, and shelter if necessary.

* You do not have to explain yourself to the other person; you can just leave.

Create an image to protect yourself. For example, you are knight in armor and you don't have to let the person in; you are a TV and a you can change the channel.

Try Co-Dependents Anonymous. This is a twelve-step group for S people who become dependent on damaging relationships (A 602-277-7991).

You should never have to tolerate being physically hurt by anyone. If you are in a situation of domestic violence, this is very serious and requires expert help.

You can call: National Domestic Violence Hotline M National Resource Center on Domestic Violence 800-799-7233; 800-537-2238

If someone is physically hurting you, don't buy into "I'll be different next time." If there is a pattern of abuse after you have given someone repeated chances to treat you decently, get out. Listen to the person's actions, not the words.

From Seeking Safety by Lisa M. Najavits (2002). Copyright by The Guilford Press.

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