It may seem strange to those who have never been in this situation, but when you are in an abusive marriage, leaving is not easy. You love your partner. You promised to stay together forever. You are hoping things will change. It can be tough to disentangle yourself. Sometimes, attempting to leave can put you at risk for more violence. 

If you are a victim of abuse, you can find a way out. At some point, you will likely begin to feel like it is time to end your marriage and begin a better life. 

Deciding to leave an abusive marriage

Changing your life begins with making a decision. Many abused partners spend months or years vacillating between staying married or getting divorced. Certain things may help you decide to leave: 

  • Realization that living in fear is not normal, healthy or loving 
  • Willingness to reach out for support from family members, friends, counselors or community agencies 
  • Desire to protect your children from abuse, now and in the future 
  • Awareness that the abuse is not your fault and that you cannot fix your partner 

Preparing to leave an abusive relationship

Divorce is a big step and it can seem overwhelming. Abusers purposely make their targets feel small and powerless. So be gentle with yourself if you are not ready to file for divorce. You can take smaller steps now, in preparation for bigger steps later. Call an abuse hotline, read about others who escaped abuse and begin recording incidents that feel like abuse. Create a safety plan that includes a packing list, place to stay and private cell phone. 

Taking the next steps

Next, reach out to others. Consult an accountant or financial advisor about how to keep some money separate from your shared marital accounts. See a therapist to help you deal with mental and emotional anguish. Consult an attorney. You do not have to file any legal paperwork right away, but a lawyer will be able to answer your questions, address your concerns and help you get copies of police reports, doctor visits and any other documents that may help you establish a history of abuse. Keep in mind that all of these professionals will keep your visits confidential.