Being in an unhealthy relationships can often make one feel alone. Beginning to research the steps in leaving an unhealthy relationship can multiply those feelings by a million. There can be intense emotions, big life changes, and maybe even some drama or shame involved in the process, and it's never easy. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has a list of dozens of seemingly legitimate reasons why women chose to stay with their abusers. The reasons can be everything from fear to financial concerns to protecting the children and pets in the relationship. Leaving is a big deal. It's important to leave knowing that you’re strong enough to handle, no matter how overwhelmed you feel.
While you can’t really prepare for life in many ways, there are several concrete things you can do to prepare for leaving. And you really should do them. It’s not just about emotional support and having a safety net. It could be about saving your life. The National Network to End Domestic Violence reports that three women in the United States die at the hands of their abusers every single day. According to the same statistics, countless women experience serious physical injury and emotional trauma.
The most important thing you need to know is that you can do this. When things get overwhelming, take it minute by minute. When things get sad, remember you can love someone who isn’t right for you and grieve a relationship that you don’t have to be in and miss someone you shouldn’t be around. Go easy on yourself and take help whenever you can get it. You deserve to be happy and safe. But most of all: You got this.
1. Rally The Troops
If ever there was a time when you needed your friends in your corner, this is it. Leaving an unhealthy relationship is almost always dramatic. Even if there's no drama, it's still incredibly difficult. In my experience as a former domestic abuse victim advocate at Homesafe, it was always the women with the strongest support systems who had the most success.
2. Account For Sabotage
If you're dating a manipulator, he or she will know all the buttons to push and all the things to say to get you to stay. Plan ahead so you know what to say back. Bring people with you and tell them not to let you fall for for your soon-to-be-ex's charms. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has phone advocates ready 24/7 to give you advice in a pinch.
3. Have A Place To Go
You do not want to keep living in the same house as the person you just broke up with, especially if the relationship ever got volatile or violent. If it's your place and you need to give your partner time to get out, see if you can stay with a friend or contact an emergency women's shelter. If it's not your place, get out as soon as you can. Go to a hotel, friend's house, emergency shelter or even the police station. Police officers can help refer you to a crisis center or women's shelter.
4. Gather Up Your Essentials
Even if you're not entirely sure that you're going to end things, many domestic violence experts and healthy relationships counselors advise making a go bag, such as Safe Horizons. It's a go-to suitcase that contains banking information, social security cards, sentimental treasures, a change of clothes — basically anything you can't live without. Having this bag stashed away somewhere or at a friend's house means you can leave at a moment's notice without scrambling to get your important stuff. The National Network to End Domestic Violence also recommends stashing extra keys, money and evidence of abuse you may have documented.
5. Pump Yourself Up
Read all the brochures and websites in existence about healthy relationships and self-esteem. This seems like the least important step, but it's actually critical to helping you gain control over your new life, according to Domestic Shelters. Changing you life is extremely difficult. It's very easy to talk yourself out of leaving or to justify why things aren't that bad. If you know you're unhappy and you know you're in an unhealthy relationship, you need to start the work of building yourself up and learning what you deserve from a loving partnership. Counselors, therapists and domestic violence victim advocates can get you started on the road back to self-esteem.
6. Talk To Someone
If you think regular break-ups take a lot of processing, wait till the aftermath of an unhealthy relationship. You need to have people you can talk to, whether they're friends or trained professionals. There's a lot of self-esteem repair that need to happen. There will also be a lot of questions about why and how you got into this mess. There will be some grieving, and then then feeling like a terrible person for missing someone who treated you so terribly. You might doubt if you're strong enough to start a new life, according to Domestic Shelter. That's all normal. It's also normal to feel fear, anxiety and other stresses that you need professional help to navigate, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Leaving an unhealthy can seem difficult — even impossible, but it's not. You are a strong, confident woman, and you're going to be OK. Promise.
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