You Need Help: When Your Girlfriend is Abusive

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you seek advice and we try our very best to give it.

This has traditionally been done by way of individual Formspring accounts, Autostraddle’s Tumblr and a Formspring Friday column, which has all been very fun and insightful. But, because Formspring has a character limit and we’re wildly optimistic w/r/t our time-management skills, we thought we’d go one further and let you use our ASS private messaging to share advice-related feelings, too.

For more info on sending in questions, see the bottom of this post. Let’s get down to bossing people around on the internet! Today we help you deal with an abusive relationship.


This was a tough question to answer, and I’m sure I didn’t say all the right things or half of the things that needed to be said. I encourage any of you with words of wisdom to share them in the comments. (-riese)


“Women run away because they must. I ran because if I had not, I would’ve died. No one told me that you take your world with you, that running becomes a habit, that the secret to running is to know why you run and where you are going — and to leave behind the reason you run.”

– Dorothy Allison


My girlfriend has been repeatedly abusing me: emotionally, verbally, and physically. We’ve been dating for a year and a half. I’m scared and I’m scarred and more than once I’ve tried killing myself. I don’t know how to recover from this. I suggested that we both go to counseling but she refuses. I really need help, here. Things have gotten really bad. Once incident already landed me in the hospital and police reports were filed (but I didn’t file charges against her). I love her, I really do… but one of these days, I really just might end up dead.


It’s suffocating, isn’t it? The fighting and self-destruction? Sometimes I’d be sitting on the subway, listening to Ave Maria in my ghosty mosque of pain, and I’d look at the other passengers and think, they’re probably thinking about real life. Like about dinner, overdraft fees, what they’ll watch on Netflix, phone calls they need to return. They’re having lives, actual lives!  Not me, though. I’d already been evacuated from the captain’s seat of my life by a pirate disguised as my girlfriend. She could steer and I’d just hang out on the back deck, scared and crying in the unbearable sunshine. I felt like a dead person stuck inside the shell of a living person; slack and bruised. And to think it all began with me falling in love.

I tried to remember what it was like when my phone ringing or a text message didn’t make my stomach lurch and my body tense with fear, when that noise just meant I owed Visa some money or a friend wanted to have lunch. What it was like to be alive. To want to be alive. I don’t know if you still remember this — but life, even when it sucks, doesn’t kill you like this girl is killing you.

I am so sorry that this is happening to you. I am so sorry that you’re going through this.  You deserve to be with someone who tells you every day how beautiful and special and smart and unique and worth it you are every day. Not someone who berates you and hits you.

You’re right that you both need counseling, but not together, and not because this relationship needs fixing, but because ending it is going to be hard and you have to end it. Until then life will be a thing that’s happening TO you, not something you’re actively a part of. I’d recommend starting the hunt for a therapist/counselor for you immediately. Leaving might feel like resisting a magnetic force. But a girlfriend is supposed to help you through tough times, not cause them.

There’s a misconception that women don’t hit other women and that is bullshit. Sometimes it’s extra-hard because you might worry that anyone already judging your sexuality will be like SEE?!!! Well, that’s also bullshit. This situation isn’t about politics, this is about getting your life back.

I don’t know the specifics of your situation, where you live, how old you are or the 100 things you surely love about her, or how she apologizes or about how it gets harder and harder to leave because well, you’ve toughed it out this long and it didn’t make sense to quit when you’re behind. But none of that matters. Physical abuse is inexcusable. Sending you to the hospital is inexcusable. Emotional abuse is also inexcusable, and those scars can last a long time. They can impact the rest of your life and all your future relationships. So you want to minimize the scarring, you know?

I was afraid of what would happen when I tried to leave my situation, and honestly my absolute worst fears of what might happen were met, and then some. I recently saw this happen to another close friend trying to leave an unhealthy situation — where the fallout was uglier than the nightmares she’d prepared for. Not that your experience is just like hers or mine, yours is yours and yours alone, but still I need you to trust me when I tell you that you should not handle this alone. I don’t know what would have happened to me if my screaming hadn’t finally woken up my roommate.

What’s your support system like right now? Do your parents/friends/siblings know how she treats you? You need to tap into that now. You need to be honest with as many of them as you can, because you’ll need them!

Although in most circumstances this is considered tacky, in this situation I’d suggest having another human literally with you in the room when you break up with her. It’ll both temper her comfort level with acting crazy and it will protect you physically.  Ideally someone strong.

Call your cell phone company and block her from calling you, or change your number.

* I’d really recommend you completely shut out any of her attempts at communication post-breakup. If for some reason that doesn’t happen and she reaches out to threaten to hurt herself or you, get in touch with whichever friend/family member of hers you’re closest to and put them on her case. If you can’t do that, call the police or the hospital.

* If pressing charges is a possibility, then be sure to keep records/save voicemails/emails. You’ll need them.

Surround yourself with other people as much as possible until you feel safe, to protect and distract you. If at all possible, this’d be a good time to get out of town with friends/family. Maybe a place where your phone doesn’t work.

* Check out this website for resources on dealing with domestic abuse: The Hotline and please please please read these checklists on how to leave.

You’ll come out of this independent, self-aware, and free. You will one day feel light, like your lungs are filled with birds and you’re steering your own ship. You deserve to always feel that way, even when you’re in a relationship.

You have love and you have support and I think that probably there will be a lot of people reading who have been through what you’re going through and can give you more advice.

“Two or three things I know, two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is that if we are not beautiful to each other, we cannot know beauty in any form.” 

– Dorothy Allison




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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3152 articles for us.


  1. This was really, really, really amazing Riese.

    To the person who originally wrote the question, I have no qualification to offer advice, but I hope you find some peace soon. No one deserves that.

  2. You can find the strength to rise from this and become stronger than you ever imagined. I did, and I’m here if you need to talk.

  3. I spent 10 years in an abusive relationship with what I can best describe as a “master manipulator”. It started with small things..Comments, put downs even backhanded compliments. Over time, it grew worse. By the end I was so far from who I’d been that I didn’t even recognize the woman in the mirror. Eventually I got out and spent the next 2.5 years in therapy trying to understand why and how it had happened. Here is what I now know: Abusers abuse. It’s what they do and the why doesn’t matter to anyone other than the abuser and hopefully their therapist. It isn’t about you. And if it werent you, it would be someone else. Most likely when you go, it WILL be someone else. But go, you must. You can’t change her if you stay. But if you stay, she will change you. She already has. She will continue to stamp out of you everything that makes you who you are. She will destroy all that is beautiful about you until you see yourself how she wants you to see yourself. It’s already happened. There is nothing redeemable about this relationship. There is nothing to save but yourself. You love her. You want to help her. You can’t. Only after leaving will you truly understand how staying will have prevented any change. No one deserves to feel as you do. No one deserves the abuse. You can’t save her. You can’t change her. You can’t stay with her. You have to go and don’t look back. And once you go you need to get your ass to a good therapist and avoid getting involved again until after you’ve had a chance to rediscover that little piece of you that’s been buried so deep inside. That piece that held on. That piece of you that knew..that has known all along that you desrve better. She’s in there. She’s the piece that reached out for help. You aren’t alone. Turn to people who love you. Turn to friends for support. Hell, message me if you need to. You are not alone. You are stronger than you know. You are worthy. You have value. You are beautiful. Now get out. Go. Save yourself. And know you are not alone.

    • Thank you for sharing your story.
      If you (or anyone reading this) have the time, I would be really interested in hearing what you imagine your friends could have done to help you, if you feel they could have.

      I have a friend who I suspect is in an abusive relationship. She is never happy anymore, and whenever we see a glimmer of who she was this time two years ago, he will call or show up and put his arms around her like he is claiming her back and she just dissapeares again. However, she has an excuse for everytime she leaves us early to go round his place, and she has a story behind every bruise and scratch, and she is so, so defensive of the relationship and of her partner that if we say anything even a little negative or even to hint that we are worried she is immediately angry and I feel like we are pushing her away. I desperately don’t want to leave her in a position where she is isolated from her friends which I feel is what he wants, but am I supporting it if I keep quiet and just let her know I’m here if she ever wants to talk about it?

      I’m feeling a little lost for action, and I could use some advice if you can.

      • In truth, I’m not sure there was much anyone could do to help me. When others would try I would immediately get defensive on her behalf. I think if anything, being reminded who I was before her may have helped. Being reminded how I would have reacted to that behavior had it been in someone elses relationship. Maybe even if I was forced to look at why I thought it was ok to be treated this way. To attempt to rationally explain it and fail may have been significant. I don’t know. I’ve had the benefit of a lot of therapy and some solid introspection. Today, I can spot people like my ex upon meeting them. It’s like an asshole meter goes off in my head. But then..Something in me thought I deserved it. Love her. Remind her how beautiful she is. How special. Remind her of her worth and value. Remind her love isn’t supposed to hurt. It’s supposed to lift you up not tear you down. This kind of love…It isn’t really love at all. Hopefully she will hear you.

      • I have found when a friend keeps getting defensive about a certain subject it works better to write a letter (or I guess an email would work) but it makes it so the person can’t immediately respond to every little thing and you are able to say all of what you need to say while maintaining a little bit of distance that can be good for both parties involved. I would also make sure to say something to the effect of “I love you and I’m here for you in any way I can be” if she doesn’t take your support I would make sure she knows it’s still there but that you have to take a step back and some battles she will have to fight for herself- as excruciatingly painful as it is. Good luck I know being the friend can be difficult too.

      • I was with someone abusive for 4 years. My friends and family berated me-everyone could see what it was doing to me but me. I felt shitty about myself, my abuser knew it, and exploited it to the point that I thought I deserved everything I got. I lost my friends and it caused massive rifts between my family and I. When it finally ended, I chose to be alone for 2 1/2 years so I could figure out who I was without reference to someone who wasn’t even a real person. Now, I’m with the most fucking amazing girl because I took that time, figured out who I was, and gained my own footing back. It was a learning experience, and it made the (relatively) strong chick that I am now. For me, the worst part was being told I should leave, over and over and over-I knew I needed to leave, but I also felt like I needed to stay to prove to everyone that it wasn’t as bad as they thought, that I had my life under control. Ultimately, the most you can do is offer her your shoulder, remind her she’s a whole, capable person even if she’s alone, and stay around. No matter how frustrating it is to see her put herself through hell, just be there in some capacity-send her a text and ask her how her day is going, try to get her to go out without her partner, remind her that there’s life outside of the hole she’s living in.

  4. Reise – great answer and really good info/advice.

    To the original poster, violence is violence, whether between men or women or anybody else. And it is NOT okay. Abusers trap their victims by making them feel helpless and self-doubting and using psychological torture. Nomatter how hard it feels to leave,staying will only get worse. Deep down, you already know this – it’s time to be strong and act on your instincts.


  5. I don’t know if you’re holding out hoping that she will change, that she’ll realise how much she’s hurting you or go back to the way she was when you first met her, but my experience and that of other domestic abuse survivors I’ve spoken to has been that women who are abusive don’t change. The abusive side of their personality is the ‘real’ them and the woman you first met and fell in love with was her acting nice to lure you in. I found it hard to come to terms with the fact that someone I loved could be that manipulative and I believed in her for a long time, but I realise now that if she really loved me and wanted to change she would never have treated me the way she did.
    This list is aimed at straight women: but might be helpful as it gives ways of telling whether your partner is changing. Some of the books listed here: and written specifically for women in same-sex relationships might also help you.
    Whatever she’s telling you, you aren’t to blame in any way for her behaviour and aren’t responsible for helping her to stop. She chooses to abuse you and there are no possible reasons or excuses for her behaviour.
    You’ve already recognised that what you’re experiencing is abusive which is a really important step. You’ve also had the courage to write in to this website so you’re clearly a strong and brave woman who could survive and thrive either single, or with a partner who treats you with the same love and respect that you show to her.
    I wish you luck. You deserve to be happy and I hope your life gets better.

  6. Pack an emergency escape bag with everything you would need in it in case you had to leave your place immediately–clothes, toiletries, important documents (or copies thereof), extra cash, etc. Put it in the trunk of your car, at a friend’s house, or wherever you can get it quickly. but somewhere she won’t know about. You are good and you deserve goodness.

  7. A friend and I actually helped this same girl a few nights ago in Chat. She came to us with the exact same wording of the problem, and I think we helped boost her confidence in being able to do this.

    Good luck, girl <3 You know who to talk to anytime you need. We're all here for you.

  8. I’ll just add on the “don’t do it alone” part : there’s a lot of local support groups and associations out there made for and by women who’ve been in abusing relationships, try to find one near you and reach out to them. Some of them have shelters where women can live temporarily so their partners don’t find them and get revenge. Maybe contact the police and ask them if they know about one – in any case just get in touch with the police anyway, if your girlfriend was violent your life may still be in danger after leaving her. (And if nothing is done to not only get you out of there but stop her, she’ll soon find another one to start all over again.)

    I can’t give much advice because I’ve “only” been in an emotionally abusive relationship, and while I’m all too familiar with the suicial thoughts and feeling of worthlessness I would never let anyone physically hurt me and can’t really understand staying in such a situation.
    I don’t understand loving someone who puts your health and life literally in danger, but I do know that your girlfriend doesn’t love you. Abusers don’t love their victims, they love hurting them and breaking them into pieces. You’re not her girlfriend, you’re her hostage. And it doesn’t matter how much you love her and how little you love yourself right now, no one is worth letting them take a human life for the sake of their pleasure. It doesn’t matter how great you think she is (and she’s clearly not), she isn’t worth making your parents go through the funeral of their child and crying on your grave.

    I think deep down you know it otherwise you wouldn’t have written to AS, you probably knew no one would tell you to stay with her – you asked if you should stay but really you wanted support to get out, right? You deserve your life back and you know it. Don’t ever forget it. Don’t let her make you forget it ever again.
    You can’t help her, you can’t change her, you can’t save her from herself – you can only save yourself. It’s gonna be hard, but it’s worth it. You’re worth it.

  9. First of all, Riese, that advice was perfect as always.

    Secondly, I would additionally suggest getting a Protection From Abuse Order. Getting a PFA differs depending on where you live, but you can contact the police and they can assist you in getting an Emergency PFA and explain everything based on your location. Like Riese said, keep voicemails, texts and emails. Everyone always says “you only have to break a PFA once,” and that’s true, but having one will allow you call 911 and have her immediately removed if you see her, her vehicle, or whatever near your home, family, job, etc. She would have to surrender any weapons she may possess. They can help with getting assistance finding somewhere to live / kicking her out if you live together. They can also help with getting money to cover medical costs and therapy associated with the abuse.

    Get out. Get out now. You shouldn’t have to deal with it for another second.

  10. I wish, I wish, I WISH I could call this girl and tell her “If you need anything– A place to stay, a person to drive you somewhere, anything, I want to help.”

    I was so terrified of my ex that I secretly found an apartment and arranged for my parents to help me move and only told her I was leaving the night before I left. And she didn’t even physically abuse me, but I was so messed up emotionally. It’s hard to explain to people without feeling a lot of shame because there’s a part of me that still thinks that I just needed to be a better, stronger person and she wouldn’t have had so much control over me. It’s the part of me that made me stay because it told me that normal, better people wouldn’t consider her abusive and it wasn’t like she HIT me or anything.

    It’s so hard to leave and that’s something that a lot of people will never understand. But we have to because we will never be the person who they wouldn’t abuse–that person doesn’t exist. These stories you tell yourself– “I just have to change and things will be better.”– your GF is actively keeping you from ever becoming this mythical person who is good enough not to be hurt. The hardest thing to realize is that the only change you have to make is the one that gets you away from her. And then you’ll finally, FINALLY be able to do you.

  11. I love this article, as well as all the well written comments above.

    As someone who was in an emotionally abusive relationship with another woman which started turning physical, I can sympathize. Unfortunately for the victim, we’ve been programmed to look at this other person and see the person we first met — the person we came to know as kind and loving. I can tell you right now, you can’t think like that. The girl you began to date wasn’t real, and no matter how much you try to negotiate with her, she’s never going to be that person because she never was to begin with. It hurts to lose something you never even had, yes. You’re going to lock yourself in a dark bedroom and cry for a week straight. But when that weeks over you’ll come out and eat a big ass burrito and think, “This is the best burrito I’ve ever had. Why? Because I can eat in peace. And think in peace. And I can decide if I want a burrito every single day of my life forever because no one can control me anymore. I can do WHATEVER I want.” I really like burritos, but I think you can see what I’m saying. Eventually, you’ll look back at this relationship and wonder why you’ve wasted so much time with it. If you were to meet your girlfriend right now for the first time as this abusive controlling prick, all those things you love wouldn’t be there.

    Getting out of my relationship was the best decision I’ve ever made. Contrary to how it feels right now, you will meet someone new. It’ll probably take time, and there is nothing wrong with being alone. Your girlfriend will try everything in her power to keep you in this relationship, so it’s important you move out and break all forms of contact. Don’t make excuses and don’t let her sweet talk you into staying. You already know all this or you wouldn’t be here asking for help. I’m sure if all of AS could come to your place and help pack your things while your girlfriend is locked in a broom closet, we would. Since that’s not possible, you need to be the driving force.

    Good luck, gaybie!

  12. I have never been physically abused, but emotionally. I know you still love her even though you simultaneously feel awful about yourself and the relationship. But you have to leave. Physical abuse only gets worse. After you leave your head will clear and you’ll realize you don’t/didn’t love her, or maybe you really did, but you’ll realize it wasn’t worth it. No love is worth physical abuse.

    Be safe. Leave.

    You’re wonderful and will find someone eventually just as wonderful. I promise.

    • Hi, i red the painful message u have written. Im a guy and facing the same thing the only difference is we both are not married nd shs 10yrs younger than me, im 35. She abuses me alot, treats me very bad as if i dont mean anything to her while we stayed together as living relation for 4yrs and she was nice to me respecting me but one day.she met a guy who does photoshot for his work advertisement and he started liking her while he knew shs my gf and he did friendship with me so he can come to my home and one day he wrote to her that he likes her and he wants to be with her and his ready to leave his fiancé just she say yes and the girl came to me and showed me the message and i got mad but she stoped me to react on him and which i did and kept quite. After 6 months he married to the girl who he engaged but then After some months my gf started behaving strangely everytime she fights and looks for a fight when i come from work tired and i was not understanding why she was doing that but then she was already seeing the guy and the wife, they were trying to get hold of her and put things against me and she left my house and she started working with that guy and i got very angry but she abused me infront of the guy and said soo many bad words and she stood by him and left me alone and they called security and told them to shot me coz i went to that guys work place but i left but my gf was with them and she was agreeing to whatever that guy wanted to do to me and now shs pregnant and told me its my child which i excepted but still now shs doing worst than before, now she started hiting me and abuses me in public and wants my death and just last week was my birthday and she abused me and sent me a wish of death and all this shs doing coz i stop her to see that guy and whenever i mentioned that guys name she gets hyper violent and start beating me break my car and abuse my family badly call me with different names like grandfather, im ugly she wish i die and i ask her if im the father then which mother would like the child’s father to die and now she doesnt want to see me but she wants to see that guy who is married and the wife also supports and them 3 always together and they make her against me and now she have abused me enough and i don’t know wat ro do i just cry but she doesnt care and writes to me badly treats me badly infront of ppl in public and hits me. Pls advice me wat i do im fade up too tired i lost my job coz of stress but she did very bad on my birthday by cursing me to death and my downfal she wants and i did everything for her on her birthday for all those 4yrs but she broke me badly by abusing me cursing me and my parents are no more she also abuse them and my entire family she just don’t want to see me and she says she carrying my child. Help me wat i shud do here. I really love her its been 9 months shs out of my house and im suffering without her, her memories kills me inside the house.

  13. Go, sweetheart. Just go. Be smart about it, be as safe as possible, but go. Even if you’ve forgotten what life is like outside the prison of your relationship. Even if you’ve stopped believing that words like hope and happiness and mutual respect could mean something for you. And yes, even though you love her. You’ve said it yourself: your life is at risk. Maybe you believe she can change and maybe someday she will. But you don’t live in that someday. You live in right now. And right now, your love can’t save anyone if you’re dead.

    You have to run. Maybe you feel like you would be running from her, and that’s a cold and miserable feeling, like you’re a shivering sad girl fleeing aimlessly into the night. Like you’re running from darkness into darkness. But you’re not. Believe us countless women who have left abusers and survived. You’ll realise only later, as you begin to heal and rebuild, that you aren’t running from, you are running to. You are running to daylight. You are running to warmth and laughter. To love and freedom. Go, dear one. You will be running to the life that you so richly deserve.

  14. I’ve never been in this situation myself, but I’m in my clinical years of medical school and I’ve unfortunately seen and cared for many patients in this situation. These are just some random thoughts:
    1. Tell someone. I don’t know your specific situation, but often times those close to you don’t know, or you’ve hidden it, etc. Get people on your side who will stay with you and not leave you alone with her.
    2. Don’t bother with a restraining order, protection order, etc. They don’t work (this is a sad reality, I know, but they really don’t).
    3. Do you live with her? If so, pick a time when she is out of your dwelling, pack your shit up with a friend, and leave. Don’t plan to come back. Don’t plan to break up with her face to face- there’s no point in putting yourself in a very dangerous situation, and she doesn’t “deserve” anything with respect to this breakup. Text her once you are gone or email her or something. Leaving is the most dangerous time- this isn’t meant to scare you, but it’s the flat out truth, so be prepared. Be ready to leave, and be ready to do it fast.
    4. Don’t tell her where you are going, and like I said before, stay with someone. Physical distance (as far as possible) would be ideal at this point.
    5. Find a support group. There is no one in the world that can understand what you are going through except those who have lived the hell you have. These groups are everywhere, and they can really help in the healing process. They often can provide housing and help with finding a job, if that applies to you.
    6. Don’t you ever, if even for a moment think that you deserve this or caused this, or can justify this, or that she will change. You did nothing wrong. Nothing. You couldn’t have prevented this by doing anything differently. She will not change, the cycle will continue, and you have to break to it. You can. You are brave and courageous and can do this.
    Be a survivor and be safe.

    • I agree 100% with Ashley, and would only add this: have a friend (or safe house for abused women) that your girlfriend *does not know about* and when you leave, go there. Do not go to a friend she knows about, because she will probably try contacting them all.

      Just please, get away. Leave a message so that she can’t pretend she is worried for you, since you have told her you are safe. Tell your friends that you are safe but need to get away for a while, so they won’t worry. But definitely try to go somewhere new.

      A friend of mine who left an abusive situation did this, and she told me that it was the saving of her and her daughter. That if he had found her, she would have gone back ‘home’ with him, and the abuse would have continued. She needed that clean break.

  15. This article brings up a lot of memories for me. Like several of the other commenters here I was ‘only’ in an emotionally abusive relationship, but I struggled to leave it too. I knew what I had to do, but for a long time I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I thought I was giving up on the only person who could ever love me (because I thought he loved me, but he didn’t, couldn’t love anyone). I have a hard time telling people about it now, because I find they don’t believe me, or they think I am exaggerating the stalking and phone calls. I can’t convey what it feels like really, but Riese’s analogy of being a passenger in your own life is very apt. Because I hid it so well at the time that even some of my friends wouldn’t believe me afterwards. It means a lot to me to hear that I am not alone in this.

    The thing is, you are so much stronger than you realize. You are strong enough to leave, to find help, and to get out. If you’re writing about this here and you’ve made it this far, you can do anything now except stay. You can hear the apology for what it really is, self loathing and empty promises. You can see through the moments when she appears to be a good person and see that there is nothing there. For a long time after I left I was afraid, certain he would be around every corner. Checking my email was terrifying and even after I changed my phone number, I jumped whenever it rang. Whenever he did contact me I would feel sick for days, but I never responded. Instead I told friends and kept a record of it, just in case.

    People here have given really good practical advice about leaving, but for me it was important to have something to go to. The thing to remember is to keep your eye on a future – something small but concrete. For me it was moving out, having a home I felt safe in. Somehow I knew, even in the worst moments, that there would come a time when I would look back on that relationship and not see it as a defining moment in my life, but simply a thing that happened, a part of my past but not the most important part. It took me four years to reach that point (probably I should have sought some kind of professional help, but I couldn’t get it at the time). But I made it. And I find now that I have very little left to fear. Others may break my heart, but no one can break my spirit. I have been able to see the early warning signs in other people and avoid them and even help a friend in a similar situation. Life on the other side of an abusive relationship is worth it. So be safe and make a plan, get friends and family to help. You can do this.

  16. I have never posted on AS before but reading this question, the reply and all the responses I just had to. I had to reach out because I was there too, 11 months ago. Leaving was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Every situation is different obviously, but I’ll echo what has been said above about not doing this alone, and absolutely cutting off all communication once you go. That is really important–tell close friends and family so they can help you stick to that, especially if she starts begging/threatening to harm herself (my ex did both).

    One other thing that really helped me to mentally prepare to leave was making a list of all the ways my life was going to be better, and all the things I wasn’t going to have to worry about anymore. Things like “I won’t have to walk on eggshells”; “I won’t have to apologize for something I didn’t do”; “I won’t be called stupid, unfaithful, or any other negative things.” I read that list every day for months, and still take it out occasionally to remind myself why I left, and to remind myself that I am now free to do whatever I want and be who I am meant to be, not who she wanted me to be.

    When you leave, because you must, you too will be free to be the amazing wonderful person she is preventing you from being. I know it’s hard, and it’s scary–probably the scariest thing you’ve ever faced, but you absolutely CAN do it. Surround yourself with those people who truly love YOU and go. You deserve to be happy, and more importantly, you deserve to be safe. My heart and thoughts go out to you and I will be cheering for you when you come out the other side. Trust me, it’s brighter here.

    • that was really beautiful and moving, especially what you said about the list. thanks for posting.

    • I am not in an abusive relationship (there’s no berating or insulting or abuse) but I do feel manipulated, suffocated, stifled and like I’m not living my life anymore. There is still a lot of love and caring and she depends on me so much that I am scared about what would happen to her if I leave. It is this same dependence that stifles me. I have finally realized that I can’t stay with someone because of what they need, I have to be selfish and think about what I need.

      I recently made a list like the one you described and it’s helped me tremendously to make the decision that I have to end it for good. The list actually started out as my New Year’s resolutions and then I realised while looking at it that none of them were things that I could do while being in my current relationship because I’m so controlled and all my time is hers (these things were as simple as joining the gym and starting a journal).

      So even though I have never been in a relationship like the one you described in the post, I would advice you to try as hard as possible to keep looking forward. Whenever you start to get sad about the things you might miss (things you probably haven’t even seen in a while), think about all the things you love in life, the other people that may surround you, the hopes and dreams you once had, all of which have been put on hold for someone who is controlling you. Even though it may not seem like it now, you have a lot to look forward to once you get out of this so try to think of that, make your list and keep looking at it.

    • I would put the list somewhere you will see it a lot at the beginning so you don’t have to go find it. I would also put a list of supportive people you can call when you want to contact her. It’s nice when you’re having a really hard time to not have to think of people that are good to call. I know my mind would often go blank at the beginning and I would start to panic and think “there’s no one I can call. what am I going to do?”.

      Good luck! It’s not easy but you can do it!!

      • and I also forgot- someone mentioned not dating again until you’ve been getting help for awhile. I think that’s also really important. I’ve seen a few friends just repeat the same cycle with a different person because they felt lonely and got right into another relationship. My therapist was a strong proponent of waiting at least a year but you’ll figure out what is right for you. Oh, and it’s okay to go really slow when you start again. Good luck.

  17. Sorry, this is a little long and scattered. I hope you find something helpful in it.

    I recently left an emotionally abusive relationship with a woman, and I was in a physically abusive relationship with a guy as a teen. Here my thoughts…

    I know counseling seems like a good option (I tried it), but it’s not going to work. No matter what problems you are having in your relationship, her abuse is not an issue about your relationship. It’s an issue about her. Your relationship is just the stage in which her issue is playing out. I know the abuse may seem to stem from problems in your relationship, but if you didn’t have those problems, she would find other problems to excuse her abuse and act out her issues. You could fix every problem that you have any control over and she would still abuse you and come up with another reason why it is your fault. All couples have problems; not all partners abuse. Couples counseling won’t help.

    Also, no reputable therapist will counsel a couple when one is abusing the other. It’s unethical because it presumes that the abuse is about the relationship, rather than the abuser’s choice to abuse. But it’s totally worth it to get your own therapist– the more support you can get, the better. I love my therapist.

    Your gut is telling you that your life is in danger. I agree with others that you should leave immediately. BUT that is your decision to make. You are in charge of it. You are in charge of your life. The whole thing with abuse is someone else taking over your life, so the first step out is to decide that you are in charge of your life and your decisions. If you decide not to leave immediately, I think you should start safety planning now. But I think you should listen to your gut and go.

    Be safe. Leaving is necessary but very dangerous. Listen to your gut about what will keep you safest and read through/talk through some safety plans. There is good stuff online and it will tell you things you might not think of. **Remember that she can track your internet usage, so use a friend’s computer or the library.** But still follow your gut–if you know getting a restraining order is going to make her more violent, then don’t do it. They don’t work for everyone. Your fear is valuable information; use it to get safe.

    Don’t listen to assholes who say stupid shit. People will blame you and shame you. People will minimize it because you are both women. That’s not personal and it’s not about you. It happens to all survivors and all queer survivors. People don’t get it if they haven’t lived it, and they want to think it could never happen to someone like them. It will hurt. Try to remember that they are stupid assholes and that you are a survivor, and surround yourself with people who build you up.

    The hardest part for me in leaving my abusive girlfriend was that I loved her and I felt like everything was my fault and I just felt so guilty. The day I told her I wanted to separate, I felt like I had just drowned all the puppies in the world. I felt like the meanest, nastiest, most horrible human being ever born. It was the worst I have ever felt in my entire life. I felt so guilty that it was physically painful and I could barely breathe. That was so real at that time. And now, more than a year later, I can see things clearly and I get what happened; I understand how I could have loved her so much and still have been so badly hurt by her. I feel so, so grateful that I pushed through that pain and left her. My life has never been better than it is right now. I feel hopeful and happy and alive. I never thought I would feel that way again, but I do. It was worth it!

    You can do this. It will feel like shit and it will be terrifying and dangerous, but if you get out, there’s hope. And there’s no hope in the situation you are in. She won’t change. I know she’s probably an amazing person in many ways and I know you love her so much. But even the most wonderful person is not worth sacrificing your life and self. This is not your fault.
    You deserve better.

    • Telling my ex was definitely really hard– I did feel like a terrible, loathsome person because she’d convinced me already that I was, so it wasn’t a stretch. And honestly? Society programs us to think it’s the ultimate sin if you don’t break up with someone to their face, but abusers don’t deserve that courtesy. Absolutely don’t feel like you have to “do the right thing”. Your safety comes first and facing your abuser leaves you open to them talking you out of it. So, seriously, no one is going to think you’re awful for breaking up via text or letter or just being gone. No one who is truly an ally to you, at least. And those are the people who count.

  18. Been there.

    1) Change your number.

    2) Make yourself unfindable online.

    3) Slip out the back, Jack. You do not owe her an explanation. Of course you care about her, but you can not help her.

    4) Tell your friends what she is really like. I bet they don’t know.

    5) After you get gone you face the hard work of learning all your lessons or you will repeat. Take responsibility for your inner landscape. It takes 2 to play the abuser/victim scenario. Maybe you don’t think of yourself as a victim type. (i didn’t) She probably does not think of herself as a perpetrator. The hard truth is people like her only exist because people like you (and me) let them get away with it. Some old pain in you manifest itself as the victim. On the flipside, some old pain in her manifest as the aggressor.

    6) Other people will not understand unless they have been through it. Do not let anyone hold your past against you.

    7) Listen to 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover by Paul Simon.

    Good luck girl, it aint gonna be easy.

  19. The answer written by riese was beautifully and brilliantly written. I made an account just so I could compliment this article.

    What an eye-opener.

    • Yes. Riese is amazing. But once again, so is the way in which the community here on AS reacts to stuff like this. I really feel proud to be a part of it.

  20. I am sorry you’re going through this, it really hurt my heart to read your question. I have never experienced what you are, but I do know that life is a gift, and it is short, and you don’t deserve to be in this situation. Run away and never look back. It will be hard to break it off, but remember that you’re worth more than this. Pack your stuff, alert your loved ones about it, and flee… and never ever look back. I really hope everything works in your favor.

  21. As someone who works as an advocate for victims of domestic and sexual abuse this post and all the responses after remind me why I do what I do. Somethings I’d like to add in regards to the original poster:

    Therapy for you may be a good idea to help heal the scars of being in an abusive relationship and to deal with the depression you’re now suffering because of it. I do want to tell you that there is nothing wrong with you! You had the bad luck to fall in love with someone who turned out to be abusive and that can happen to anyone!

    Whatever you do, do not get couples/join counseling! Also, counseling is never appropriate for an abusive person and will not change their behavior in anyway. An abusive person believes they are entitled to treat their partner the way they do. It’s a part of the way they think, see themselves, and their world view. It is never an issue of emotional instability or mental health. They act the way they do because it gets them what they want.

    Know that you should leave when it is safe for you to leave. I totally understand why many of the folks above have urged you “to leave now” but someone fleeing abuse is at the greatest risk of harm when they leave or have just left an abusive relationship.

    Please get in contact with your local domestic violence crisis agency. They can provide safe shelter, safety planning (how to leave safely or try to stay safe until you can)help with an restraining or stalking order, and inform you of other programs your state may have for domestic violence survivors. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get connected to the program in you area. 1-800-799-SAFE.

    Lastly, be prepared that she will probably pull out all the stops and make a thousand empty promises to change to try and get you back when you do leave. Most, if not all abusive people will never change. It’s a common manipulation to promise to do so or change their behavior temporarily to get their partner back in the relationship, but they will go back to being abusive.

    Take care! People are thinking of you!

    For everyone, there is no such thing as “just” emotional abuse. Any type of abuse in a relationship be it emotional, verbal, sexual or financial is inexcusable.Know that what I’ve said above is not just in the case of physical abuse but is what I’d recommend to anyone experiencing any type of abuse in their relationship.

  22. I just want to put it out there that I sincerely appreciate this post and the comments that followed. I’ve read every one.

    As a person who got out of an abusive relationship five months ago, I can attest that all the advice I’ve read here is solid. It’s really hard to get out, but once you do the fog will clear. It has taken a while–and parts were rough–but I’m rebuilding and becoming truly happy again. One thing that helped me in the first days following the true split was removing the momentos that I held onto. I had notes that she’d written to me saying that she loved and respected me. I burned those. I had to let go of the belief that she was the person I’d fallen in love with. I wanted to split her into two parts–the person I loved and the person that got drunk and hurt me. Don’t let yourself do that. She’s just one person. She IS that abuser. Also, talk to your friends and be honest with the details. I habitually covered for my ex-girlfriend. It took me a while to learn how to tell my friends what really happened, but having them know the truth and hearing their assessment has helped me immeasurably.

    I had a lot of questions when it came to love and how my principles applied when the person I loved was also my abuser. That’s too long to get into here, but in short I’ve come to accept that I still have love for her–I wish her well in life–and that love can be held from a distance. I’d associated love with staying and trying to fix the problem, and worried that the act of leaving was unloving. I don’t believe that anymore.

    It has also been healing for me to read what you’ve all written here. I’ve got to thank you all for that. Autostraddle, you’re an awesome community!

    • “Autostraddle, you’re an awesome community!”

      Very much agreed. I wish none of us had to go through this, but I’m glad we’ve got each other’s backs now.

    • This is really hard. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship my senior year of college, and I wasn’t able to put that label on it until after it had ended. In my gut I knew something wasn’t right, but it took the hindsight that came after our breakup to identify what had really been going on.

      The most dangerous thing about abuse is that it eventually comes to seem normal. Like, that’s just the way your relationship is. All the things your abuser says about you to keep you down start to seem true, even though they ARE NOT and that is just his/her way of keeping control. My ex-boyfriend made me feel so, so small, like I was a child again and I needed him to take care of me. He told me that I was lucky to be with him because he could date any girl at the school and he had chosen me. He said that he was the best boyfriend I would ever have and I would never be with somebody better than himself. He constantly broke up with me just to show that he could, and then told me how much he loved me and begged me to get back together with him, only to start the whole cycle over again. Looking back, all of those things he said are clearly emotionally abusive, and were designed to make me stay with him.

      At the time, I truly cared about him and didn’t want to hurt him. I also started to believe everything he said. Maybe I did need him to take care of me. Maybe he really was the best boyfriend I would ever have. Maybe I really did need to go to therapy to fix my (non-existent) issues that he believed I was struggling with.

      My ex used manipulation to make me feel bad about myself and dependent on him. He made me afraid to leave, because what if I ended up single for the rest of my life? He guilted me into staying with him by threatening suicide if I left.

      Abusers use manipulation, control and guilt to keep you coming back. My ex was exceptionally needy and a master manipulator. His biggest fear was that I would leave, because he couldn’t stand the thought of being alone. Everything he did was designed to make me stay, and when I finally did leave he kept at it until I cut him out of my life completely.

      You need to know that somebody making you feel dependent on them, bad about yourself, or guilty for thinking of leaving is NOT OKAY and NOT NORMAL. If you feel like something’s wrong, trust that instinct. Your relationship should make you feel uplifted and good about yourself, and if it doesn’t then you might want to start exploring why that is. You deserve to be with somebody who makes you feel good about yourself, and don’t ever let anybody make you feel like you’re not worthy of that.

      I eventually realized that there was something terribly wrong, and I broke up with my ex and never looked back. All of his worst fears, that I would leave him, assert control, use my voice and power, and actually make decisions for myself, were finally coming true, and he did not react well. Ultimately you have to realize that that is not your problem, and that taking care of yourself and getting out of the relationship is your first and only priority.

      I can’t tell you whether your relationship is emotionally abusive or not, but if anything I’ve described rings true, I would take a harder look and get out if you need to. You deserve to be happy, and anybody who makes you feel otherwise isn’t worthy of all the wonderful love and affection you have to give.

    • Sorry for the length, but hopefully something strikes a chord with you and helps you figure out what’s going on in your relationship.

      If you (or anybody else) wants to get in touch to talk through this, feel free to message me.

    • it’s different for everyone, but here are some ways I knew:

      – overt or covert denigration of my life (I was a law student, so all lawyers were evil. I had a great job, so I was a workaholic), trying to get me to feel guilty about my passions so that I stopped pursuing them. He was unemployed, aimless and massively insecure, and it was his way of pulling me down.

      – insisting that there was ‘something wrong with me’, that there was something fundamentally wrong with my personality and that ‘i made him feel this way’

      – blaming his mental health problems on my behaviour and insisting it was me who made him want to change.

      – insisting he loved me and that he understood me in ways that other people didn’t and that he would love me always if only we could make things work (i.e. if I appeased him)

      – saying I made him want to commit suicide

      – being jealous of my friendships, picking fights or being passive-aggressive after I saw my friends to punish me for having other relationships

      – attempting to control my spending habits (although our finances were 100% separate)

      lawd, what a douche he was.

      If you ever want someone to talk to or ask more questions, please message me. I would be so happy if I could use my experiences to help someone else.

      • Yes, all of this.

        My ex blamed his health problems, including a messed-up jaw, on me. Apparently the “stress of our relationship” (read: me screwing up all the time) contributed to him damaging his jaw.

        He said that our relationship was “special” and “different” from other peoples’, and that we were somehow better than them because we had a truer and more unique connection.

        He was also very critical of my friends, especially my close male friends. He hardly ever wanted to hang out with us, and made me feel like I “owed” him after he “sacrificed” his time by spending it with my friends.

        Despite all of this, I still don’t believe that he’s inherently a bad person. I think he had many, many lingering mental health issues that he refused to deal with which lead directly to the abuse, and that he did bad things, but not that he’s naturally manipulative or mean. I like to believe that if he truly committed himself to therapy he could one day overcome these problems, though that might just be me being extremely naive.

        That said, I haven’t had any contact with him at all for two years, and I don’t plan on reaching out to him anytime soon, because I don’t trust that he’s any different today than he was back then.

    • A relationship is supposed to make you feel good a majority of the time. Simplest answer though: If you feel like you might be being abused, you probably are. Our guts know when things aren’t right. And even IF your relationship doesn’t fit some definition of abuse, the fact you feel that way is enough that you should be really evaluating why you’re there. People who are in healthy relationships tend to, in my experience, answer “Because they make me happy.” when asked why they’re with their partner. If you, honestly, answer “Because he/she needs me.” or “because no on else would love me.”– Get out as soon, but as safely, as possible.

  23. One thing that strikes me about reading this, and reading the comments, is that this is quite a common thing, much more than a lot of people realise id say. Out of 4 relationships ive had, two of my exes were abused by their exes…2, it’s fucking insane. I have no experience of abuse personally, but what I will say is that these two ladies both said to me that at the time the abuse was happening they felt that if they left nothing good would come of it, that their lives would never be better, that they didnt deserve better….but they did leave and now they both live happy lives, that are free from fear and full of love. It’s what everyone deserves, including the lady who asked the question.

    I must also say that what Riese has written is really great, it’s straightforward, no bullshit about it practical advice, fair play to her. I just really hope the writer of the question listens…good luck to you girl, whoever you are, you can do this!

  24. Get out, get out, GET OUT! There is no excuse for staying in that situation. Go to a woman’s shelter if you must, but get the fuck out

  25. I just want you to know that it’s not your fault. It’s never your fault if someone treats you poorly. I think we get that message a lot, from other people. Even asking “why didn’t you leave” implies that you are responsible for being mistreated and the truth is that the other person chose to mistreat you and that’s on them.

    No one can make this decision for you because you are the expert in your situation and you know what is best for you, what is safe, what to expect. You know the patterns of your partner’s behavior, and you also know where your sources of support are. Are there any ways you can build your support? This will help you regardless of what you decide to do about your relationship. You’ve already tapped into Autostraddle so that’s a great start! Anything else, like family, friends, coworkers, faith communities, mental health professionals, domestic abuse centers, will only help you out.

    I started writing again. I bought a notebook and poured everything out into it. It was a place she couldn’t touch, couldn’t twist my words or thoughts into something she could control. I wrote about what I wanted in a partner and in my future. This helped me see that leaving was the right decision for me. I hope you can find a place like that for yourself. It was such a relief for me to finally stop hiding.

  26. (Sorry, wall of words coming…)

    “I love her, I really do… but one of these days, I really just might end up dead.”

    I read this post today after visiting with a friend last night who has a friend in the hospital with broken or fractured bones from her face to her knees, both lungs punctured, and nicked and bruised organs – the kind of injuries usually sustained in a car accident.

    But this person “fell” at home while her partner was there.

    Both partners’ inner circles have watched this relationship become mutually and unhealthily codependent and abusive. The couple has rejected all interventions and offers of help.

    Typically, the abuse started small and occasional. It has also escalated incrementally and consistently over time.

    Neither partner will admit that their relationship is unsafe. They’ve completely isolated themselves trying to hide the abuse. Since there are no outside eyewitnesses and both partners are considered competent adults, as long as they both stick to their stories no one can intervene: not their inner circles or the police or the social workers or the doctors.

    The only way to break this abusive system is for one of them to admit what’s happening or ask for help, which they refuse to do. Their friends are genuinely concerned that the only option this couple has left for itself is martyrdom – a murder-suicide or a suicide-suicide situation in which one accidentally kills the other, then kills herself when she realizes what she has done. Or one will commit suicide as the ultimate jab at / deference to the other, expecting her partner to follow suit in grief/guilt.

    I know this isn’t your situation now but abuse, by it’s nature, escalates over time. When you fell in love and imagined your relationship evolving, is this kind of scenario you dreamt your love growing into?

    I can’t know if anyone who has martyred herself to love in an unsafe relationship has been glad to have done so. I can say with certainty that every. single. person. I know who has gotten out of an unsafe or unhealthy relationship has felt like the challenge of finding their way free was nothing compared to the joy of living and loving freely again.

    If it seems like you don’t have any options, rub your eyes and look again: they’re there. As many of the previous commenters shared, you’re not the first person who needs to find a path back to safety: you can stand on the shoulders of the people who have walked that path before you.

    Start anywhere you can, no matter how small the step. Scarleteen has a framework for identifying abuse and taking steps to get yourself safe that you might find useful This part in particular jumped out at me:

    *”It’s absolutely true that someone who abuses is a troubled person. So, an abuse victim who knows and is involved with his or her abuser may feel that by remaining with or going back to an abuser, they’re helping that person or saving them from themselves by taking the abuse: they may feel if they just love them enough, or stick around long enough, their abuser will miraculously get better and stop the abuse. But that’s just not true. No abuser is helped by being enabled or allowed to continue abusing: sticking around for abuse only validates the abuser’s idea that what they’re doing is right. An abuser isn’t the victim (and if they have previously been a victim of abuse, they’re still not the victim of the person they are abusing): the person being abused is, and that’s whose needs should always come first, because that is the person in the most acute danger and in the most need of help. It is NOT an abuse victim’s responsibility to get help for their abuser: it’s their responsibility to get help for themselves.”*

    Riese’s response, previous commenters, and Scarleteen all have recommendations about specific steps to take, resources to reference, and groups to contact. If all this seems overwhelming, make a list of all the suggestions you’ve been offered from easiest to hardest and start tackling them one by one, easiest ones first. If possible, get trusted people to help you / cheer you on. And while you’re doing it, practice trusting your gut and acting despite your (possibly near-paralyzing) fear.

    If you’re secretly afraid you’re so unlovable that if you lose her you’ll end up alone and unloved forever, keep reminding yourself that it’s all an illusion. You are *not* unlovable. She is not the only person in the world who could ever love/tolerate you. She is not the only person you can ever love.

    Finally, I have to reiterate what others have already said: when you are ready to leave do it all at once as quickly and safely as possible, sever the relationship completely, and don’t look back. Your welfare is worth far more than the cost of a new phone number or any possession.

    I want to wish you so many things: personal safety, courage, the will to thrive, experiencing the joy of unconditional love and support. Good luck!

  27. P.S.

    8) Afterwhile, go out in the desert or woods and bury something symbolic of that mindfuck of a relationship. A little grave. Then dance on it, bitch. That relationship is dead and you are more alive than ever! Dance. Yipee! Dance, dance, dance!

  28. The community of comments on articles like this make me so glad I know Autostraddle. This website has gathered around it the most wonderful support network. Knowing that this support existed was one of the things that gave me the confidence to leave an emotionally manipulative spiritual organisation I was a member of for 26 years [i.e. my whole life] last year.

    I thought I’d post a link to a book I was recommended by a therapist: “Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships”.

    When I saw the book title, I was surprised to see cults and abusive relationships grouped together, but I think there’s a similar emotional situation going on; I had invested so much of my energy, love and goodwill into the organisation that deciding to leave and to cut all ties felt like a terrifying one-way decision, as if I was somehow purposefully rejecting my own sense of identity.

    I was scared that I didn’t trust my own intuition that said something was wrong and that I needed to get out. I was scared that I believed in the organisation more than I believed in myself. I found it hard to accept the organisation was flawed, not me. I still find it hard to accept that for years I’d been pouring my love/energy into something that was innately flawed, that I willingly delegated my agency.

    It was strange moment for me to accept that I had been emotionally blackmailed. I didn’t feel safe left alone with my own feelings. It felt almost safer to stay in the organisation and ignore my questions about my sexuality than to try and accept myself, and imagine a future beyond it. And even though the baby-queer/radical/stubborn/free-spirit little voice inside me won at the time, during this last year I’ve had to return again and again to the reasons I listed for leaving – as if I’m trying daily to believe myself again and again: OK, yes, I did feel this way then. Yes, I was being spoken to in a manipulative way. Yes, this was the right decision, for ME.

    I keep imagining I’ll have this ‘aha’ moment, and feel ridiculously free and empowered, but I don’t think that’s how it works. But I know that I’m on a real journey now to learn how to trust myself, and to love. I’m sure that Autostraddle is helping so many people do this, in many unseen ways.

  29. Getting out will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. It will take more time and pain than you can imagine, but it will be SO worth it!! And you won’t believe the angels you’ll meet (and leave behind) along the way. I had pretty much no one – lost all friends I thought I’d had from the 15+ yr relationship, became estranged from family members, etc. . .- and have found myself so much more the person I always wanted to be. I don’t think there’s anything people could have done to help – the healing is going to take the time it takes. But, what would have made things easier is patient listening as opposed to advising. I wish you strength, fortitude, and well-timed episodes of what Ive come to call “sparkly rainbow karma from the sky”.

  30. This is a fabulous piece but I wanted to add a few things:

    — People — those in the queer community who think consensus process is the way to go and that everyone is reasonable enough for it, straight people who don’t get that same sex relationships can involve battering, therapists who don’t get the dynamics of abuse, law enforcement, etc. — will invalidate your experience. If they do, look elsewhere for support. You need validation more than anything. You need to know that nobody deserves to be abused and that one push/shove/threat is enough, and verbal abuse alone is plenty.

    — Many people don’t understand that same-sex abuse isn’t “mutual abuse.” Your partner will, if she’s a skilled abuser, try and make you believe this too. Don’t believe it. All abuse involves one person trying to have power and control over another. If she is looking through your mail, constantly accusing you of things you don’t do, policing your daily activities, and finding hourly ways to terrorize and control you, there is nothing mutual going on.

    — Therapy is actually counterindicated for abusers, though it’s a great idea for someone healing from abuse (however, be careful: many therapists really don’t get it about abuse, so ask a domestic violence agency for recommendations). Abusers often get worse and more abusive when they pursue therapy, as they will simply use supposedly self-aware lingo to further their abuse (and find new ways to imply their abused partner is crazy). What is recommended for abusers is an abuser education program. Often abusers won’t go to these unless they are court-ordered. All the more reason to call the cops the first time your partner does something worthy of arrest. It’s the best way to get her to real help. Queer folks are often afraid to do this but remember, there are queer cops out there too, and often cops are well trained to recognize an abuse situation.

    — Don’t be ashamed if there are things in the relationship hooking you in. If abusers weren’t charming and lovable in *some* ways, they would never get you to show up. Those parts of the relationship — the trauma bonding, the honeymoon period between abuse episodes — may be hard to leave, especially with your newly-obliterated self esteem. Remind yourself every minute of the big picture. Talk to a domestic violence counselor and get a reality check. Realize that people in abusive relationships can and do end up dead. You don’t want that. Fight for your life and get out.

  31. Abuse is abuse is abuse is abuse. Be it verbal, emotional or physical. My abuse situation is a little different. My father got shot in the head as a police officer and when I was young had a mental breakdown and got crazy violent. Problem was he was military trained and a badge wearing cop and unknown to us he had enough guns and bullets to kill the city several times over.

    Then my mother sent me to live with him and his new wife. But lo! This time he was the one being abused by his new wife. And then me along with him. But not before I fell as prey as a sexual conquest to a cousin taking advantage of the vunerable state I was in since my parents were making such a mess of their lives and no one was looking to what was happening to us kids. How could I complain when it wasn’t violent, it felt good and I loved him…problem is he’s my cousin and I know how wrong this is but I’ve never had my own sexual experiences. This was my first kiss.

    That’s my abuse story. This is what I learned.

    Love is a wonderful special thing. It’s natural to love someone. It’s never wrong. Closeness is not required. I loved my father just fine from a distance until his mental state normalized again. Now he is able to be a constant, productive, helpful and loving part of my life. But my father is a special circumstance. He was shot in the face into the frontal lobes. That’s your self restraint center. TBI effects everyone differently. I’m lucky to have my father back. I love him very much but I also know when I have to love him from over there where he can’t hurt me if necessary.
    I love my cousin. I love that he got me away from my abusive parents. I do not love that he abused me himself in my opinion in way worst ways than anything my parents were doing.
    I love my mother. For all she did she did the best she thought she could. Why she sent me to live with a man who tried to kill her and put a gun to my head is beyond me. But I love my mother and she loves me. Like my father I talk to her almost everyday. But I have resources that make me feel safe.

    Love doesn’t mean you stay. Love doesn’t mean you make excuses. Love doesn’t mean you are at fault. Love doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough and you need to try harder. Love is what holds molecules together. Love yourself enough to protect yourself. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them enough or you’ve given up on them. Your love is valid. You should feel free to give it freely. Sometimes you have to Fed-Ex it though because hand delivered just isn’t safe.

    Once I validated my feelings of love for the people who hurt me the most and in my most vunerable moments, I was able to be in relationships with meaning. I stopped attracting abusers. It’s like they smell on you that you’ve been abused before. They watch you. They know the signs. They picked you out. Don’t be fooled. You glow to them “I’ve been abused. I’ll take your abuse. Come abuse me.” Once you heal your wounds they won’t smell abuse on you anymore. You won’t glow to them. You’ll be too strong.

    Please please please read THE GAMES THAT PEOPLE PLAY. Abusers play a terrible, deadly game. One responder was right. They exist because we exist. They will find someone else. They will sniff around till they find them. Then they will abuse them. I quietly stalk my cousin’s job because he works at a highschool. I’m always afraid that one day the paper will show him and say something crazy like, “HS counselor acussed of molesting 100’s of girls over the years at inner city high school”. And think all their heartache is on my hands because I’ve been silent all this time. But I don’t know how to turn him in. I can’t prove anything. His word against mine and it was almost 2 decades ago.

    Humans abuse. It’s a thing they do. No need for shame. Just know that you can get away if you want. You really can. But YOU have to WANT to. No one can make you. All we can do is help you. But like another commenter, eventually this will not be something you survived. And like me you may not like the label of survivor. I didn’t survive. I had an experience. One of many. Those were terrible ones I wouldn’t want to repeat. But like like everything else, this too shall pass. Change is the only thing that is consistent. It won’t always be this way but I’d prefer the change isn’t you in a grave. I prefer you alive and not abused over killed by your abuser. You’ll feel horrible for awhile. But like all things, that too shall pass. And eventually you’ll be happy and sad and irritated and joyous like “everyone else”.

    For me it was important to acknowledge that I love because there was something there for me to love. If there wasn’t you wouldn’t love them. But there’s something there hurting you as well. They co exist. That’s the reality. Don’t romantize love. Love is not romantic. Love just is. And it doesn’t mean you should stay. Leaving doesn’t make you love her/him/anyone less. Staying won’t make you love them more either.

    This is why I don’t use love as an indicator for a relationship. I may love you but that doesn’t mean I won’t leave you. I let myself love freely and often. But I will keep it moving if I think I should. I’ll enjoy loving while I can but if I can’t…I’ll keep moving.

    If you’re a spiritual person then pray. Pray for her while you are many many many miles away. That’s love.

  32. Oh yeah. I don’t care if you’re queer or whatever words you use to describe yourself. Someone will always not understand the complicated nuances of why this is what it is. WHO CARES. Just as there is someone who will brush you off and be a twerp there are those who know abuse is abuse is abuse and that it shouldn’t be tolerated. No matter what the other person’s station or resources are. We are all human and have a right to live abuse free lives. Free from all abuse. SOMEONE WILL HELP YOU. You will help you. PEOPLE WHO DON’T EVEN KNOW YOU LOVE YOU remember that. People who don’t even know you love you. We have twisted thoughts about love. I don’t need to know you to know you are worth loving. Please leave or you won’t be here for me to love.

    Think of it this way-You are providing an opportunity for someone to be compassionate. They will take it or leave it. If someone leaves it someone else will take it. Just don’t give up on yourself.

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    I wish I could get it together to accept it is over and leave it alone for good.

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