What Do I Do Now?

By the time many abuse victims find my website, they are beaten questiondown, emotionally exhausted and thoroughly confused.  They wonder whether their situations are hopeless, what they should do, and where to begin.

To those of you to whom the above applies, I say:

Don’t give up You have taken the first step by discovering the truth about abuse.  There is a wealth of information and help available to begin the work necessary to do what you must to reclaim your value and your life.  I, and many others like me, have escaped, survived and recovered.  Every abuse victim has unique circumstances but, if you are willing, the journey toward recovery begins here.  It begins now.

Stop doubting yourself.  Call abuse what it is.  You have probably denied what you have been living with for far too long.

Gather information Get your hands on resources that will educate you on the truth about abusive relationships and the roles of abusers and enablers that will help you to acknowledge and identify abuse when it happens, and what to do when it occurs.

Tell your secrets Spend some time with people you trust and tell them the truth about your relationship.  You will be validated, and opening up will empower you as you assess the decisions and changes you may need to make in your life.

Develop a support network Seek support from a counselor (preferably one knowledgeable in issues relating to abusive relationships), a pastor, an attorney, other abuse survivors, friends, family members and/or a women’s shelter.  Let people know your needs and begin to develop a plan for separation (if it becomes necessary).  If the abuser has threatened to harm you physically or financially, consider getting a legal separation or other legal protection, and develop options for safe alternative housing, financial, employment, child care, etc.

Stop talking and start doing.  Pleading with your spouse or partner to stop hurting you hasn’t worked yet, has it?  Demand change by changing.  (Make the changes you must to take care of yourself recognizing that, although it would be nice to see your spouse change as a result, he may not.)

Don’t confuse compliance with change.  If you separate, let time bear witness of legitimate, heartfelt change.  Beware of magic words, buy-offs and hooks the abuser will almost certainly use to get you back into his domain.

Begin to rebuild your life and your sense of value Stop basing your value on his assessment.  He has convinced you that you are not worth loving, and you have been trying to convince him that you are.  Know that if your relationship does not survive, you can still become who you want to be apart from him.

Above all, be safe.  A verbal or emotional abuser may resort to physical control or violence if he feels his control is threatened.  Take all necessary precautions, including keeping a record of threats, harassment, stalking or other actions that may indicate a risk to yourself or any children.  Notify co-workers, friends and family members of such actions and promptly seek a restraining order if it is merited.  In extreme cases, you may need to find living arrangements that are unknown to the abuser, change your phone number, notify your children’s school and provide a copy of a restraining order (should you obtain one), and inform co-workers or supervisors at your place of employment – for your safety and theirs.

And, finally, realize…

There is life beyond abuse.  We enablers become obsessively caught up in his world, trying to earn love and quell his discontent.  We put on an optimistic, cautious smile and pray that maybe today he’ll decide to love us only to discover that we are missing out on the lives we are meant to live.

Abuse is not normal.  Healthy relationships are characterized by acceptance, respect, affection, joy, laughter, contentment, beauty, and peace.  If your abuser won’t allow you to have those things, you need to go find them for yourself.

Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved

For a more in-depth look at the abusive relationship, you may want to consider ordering, “Why Is He So Mean to Me?” from the Books page.

32 thoughts on “What Do I Do Now?”

  1. Disabled and totally isolated. No internet or any way of getting help. 66Yrs old with 2small dogs. Want to DIE but even that doesn’t work. In so much pain physical and emotional from his TOTAL CONTROL OVER EVERY ASPECT of my life. Doubt anyone will get this (yet another plea for help), I’m worn down and out completely. Anyone care out there?

    1. When there’s a will, there is a way. Don’t give up on yourself. Who out there can love and look after you better than yourself? Find a way to leave. You can do it, I believe in you. (Feelings of being trapped is just feelings of fear. They are lies the abuser wants us to believe.) You know better, listen to your inner voice, it will guide you.

  2. I know I am in an abusive relationship. I didn’t have to take the test to know it. I’m in the country as his dependent and if I get a divorce I will be kicked out. My visa (H4) doesn’t allow me to work, so I depend fully on him. He threatens to take the baby from me if I “disrespect” him. He hates me and isn’t afraid to say it or show it. I don’t know where to turn. If I get divorce and have to leave the country, I have no place to go back to. No job, no money, nothing. If I go back to my country there is no law enforcement when it comes to child support and alimony; plus the child usually goes to the father in Arab countries. I’m sure he’ll just do his best to take the baby from me and not give me a cent.

    1. Hello, “Empty.”

      I’m very sorry to read of your situation and have been assessing how to direct you.

      Because of your visa situation subject to federal law, I would encourage you to contact an office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and ask to speak to a representative who can advise you or offer alternatives to ensure your safety under your visa. You may also want to contact the Congressional representative for the area where you live and request their help if Immigration does not seem able to assist you. Another option would be to contact a family law expert familiar with immigration-related laws that may protect you and perhaps require your husband to provide you with alimony or child support should you separate. Those legal considerations should definitely be explored.

      If your situation becomes desperate, I would also encourage you to contact a local shelter and seek their advice and/or a safe place to live, and do not hesitate to call 911 for immediate intervention if necessary.

      I hope this is helpful and sets you on a path toward freedom and healing. I also hope you will return here when you can and let me know how things develop.

      I wish you well.

      Sincerely,

      Cindy

  3. I work traveling 9 months of the year. Ex has made it clear that I winter with him and our grown daughter every year. Its clear I don’t belong, that I abandoned them all when I left. My mother always told me the kids need their Father, not once did she say they needed a mother. He told me I was the one causing trouble. Speaking to a counselor was okeyed as long as I didn’t bring up the past, as in what ever time frame to keep me from telling what I felt was happening. For years I allow him to keep me emotionally and physically tied to him. I have my own trailer that he bought for me parked in the same town he lives in. He will help me move it to another state on his time which he is very busy. He encourages me to go to seminars to help him in his business, he will go along to help me understand it. There is so much more.

    1. Hello, Mandy.

      I’m sorry for the delay in responding. I would like to understand your situation better. Should you return, I hope you will e-mail me through the Contact Cindy page on the website so that we can “converse” in private.

      I hope to hear from you.

      Cindy

  4. my fiance of ten years slapped me across the face two days ago. I was shouting at him at the time and telling him to leave the house because I had found an earring in our bed. He denied cheating on me and said it must have been alone of my friends. That infuriated me even more and I told him were done get out leave the house. He was getting angrier and angrier that I didn’t believe him which led to the slap.

    I later spoke to his friends wife:turns out it was her earring and innocently was in his be,ongoing so from staying at their house. He emptied his bag on the bed…

    Like others, I am living in his country and so more dependant on him.

    Was this my fault? Is there a come back from it??????? Deep,t confused and hurt

    1. Hello, Lucy.

      I can certainly understand why you were upset. Even though the circumstances that led to the slap were resolved, my concern is that, if he feels comfortable slapping you once, he may certainly feel comfortable doing it again, and things often get worse from there. You can surely hope for the best, but consider – what are your options if he begins to abuse you?

      It may be early in your relationship, but it is important that you carefully weigh whether he is worthy of your complete trust, and whether he will treat you with respect. If you believe you cannot trust him, then you may want to begin looking for other living arrangements. There is no way to know what you might expect based on so little information. Only time will tell.

      Be wise and be safe. Do not ignore your fears and feelings. Take one day at a time, but have a plan in mind should you find that you cannot remain with him.

      Feel free to contact me again if other similar situations develop.

      Thank you for taking the time to write. I wish you well.

      Cindy

  5. I am just coming to the realization that I am living with an emotional abuser. I know I haven’t felt right about the relationship..that somehow I couldn’t do anything right. It has been a few years now and I have felt like this for awhile. It’s a very scary realization that I am working toward doing something about. I know that I need to change the situation for myself and my daughter, but it is making me anxious thinking about all the steps involved. There is living arrangements, custody, and emotional healing to think about. I am having such a hard time straightening out my timeline and just doing what needs to be done. What doesn’t help is all of a sudden he is sweet as pie and I keep thinking its all in my head. I need to be strong and stay the course…even though its hard. Just needed to get this out of my own head.

    1. Hello, Teaj:

      I’m glad you found the website and took the time to write me here. I am very sorry that you find yourself in an abusive relationship, but I want to assure you that I can help you to walk this path.

      “Sweet as pie…” Well, just so you know, he is probably sensing that you are distancing yourself from him, and he needs to shore up his defenses. Don’t confuse his actions with legitimate change. I would like to suggest a couple of articles on the site that I think will help you to get grounded. First, I recommend that you read, “Leaving An Abuser: What to Expect and How to Stay Grounded.” The second that comes to mind is “Understanding the Difference Between Compliance and Change.” After that, I would simply encourage you to peruse the site and see what other topics are of interest. I can recommend more as we go.

      I would also recommend that you consider getting my book, “Why Is He So Mean to Me?” (second edition. As an e-book it is only $8.95, and it will essentially walk you through the abuse dynamic, help you to understand the abuser mindset and identify the mental games and manipulations he uses to keep you fearful and confused. There are several reviews on the website, and you can find more on Amazon.com.

      You are also welcome to e-mail me through the “Contact Cindy” page and fee-based phone consultations are also available if you think that might be helpful at some point.

      I’m here to help. Let me encourage you to stay strong and stay the course. If you are here, you have a pretty good idea what you are dealing with.

      Let me know how I can help.

      Thank you for taking the time to write.

      Cindy

  6. Last August, I was finally able to leave my boyfriend (whom I lived with for more than a year) that was abusing me physically, mentally and emotionally. Every single thing written in the assessment was applicable for our relationship. He has been trying to get back with me and has been promising that everything is going to be different. About 2 weeks after I left, I found out that I’m pregnant, about 4 months now.. Last week, I was finally about to tell him that I don’t want to be with him anymore, that I would be raising the baby. Of course I am thinking about the baby’s safety, I don’t think I can trust him again. But why is it I feel so guilty for making my decision to not have him in my life. I blocked every communication with him. But I still have a feeling that I want him to try harder to change and make everything right. It’s like I am questioning my decision. And it makes me feel depressed that we will not be raising out baby together. Am I making up a fantasy in my head that hopefully one day he will change? I just don’t know anymore..

    1. Hello, Tess.

      I’m glad that you took the time to write. I can completely understand the way you feel. I’m sure there are many reasons why you feel an obligation to give him another chance. I know you want to believe that he wants to change, and that perhaps you can help him and may one day see your relationship restored. You want to believe that he really does love you, that he willing to change to prove it, and one day all will be well.

      There are so many things I would like to share with you, but I will try to encapsulate them. First, you need to understand that words are just words to an abuser. An abuser will say anything he thinks you need to hear to get you back. He doesn’t like being exposed and needs to provide cover for himself, for the things he has done. He needs to improve how others perceive him. But that is not love, that is self-preservation. He is thinking of himself.

      What you need is time and distance to see where you have been and who he really is. Abusers don’t like to give their victim much time to figure things out. Don’t be surprised if he pulls out all the stops to prove himself, if he apologizes and makes you promises. There comes a point when the abuser becomes frustrated and angry when he doesn’t receive the response he expects. “What more do you want from me?,” you might hear. That’s not repentance.

      If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to read, “Leaving an Abuser: What to Expect and How to Stay Grounded,” “Understanding the Difference Between Compliance and Change,” and “False Repentance.”

      Perhaps most importantly, at this stage of the game, you cannot allow your emotions, your hopes or sense of obligation to influence your decision-making. You must learn to trust your instincts. Often, the words sound good and might feel good, but there is an undercurrent of doubt and fear that keeps you holding back. Trust those instincts. Don’t allow him or anyone else to pressure you, telling you that you are being unreasonable, or base your decisions on “how hard he is trying.”

      A truly repentant person will give you all the time and space you need to heal without pressure or deadlines. No guilt messages, none of this “you must admit that some of this is your fault too, you know” stuff.

      Can he change? Of course he can. And let him go do that without any help or influence from you. Words are not enough.

      Let’s just leave it there, for now. You are welcome to write to me privately from the Contact Cindy page if you would like to.

      Be wise and be strong, Tess. And please let me know how you are doing.

      Cindy

  7. Hi cindy I have been struggling the past 5 years with anxiety and depressions with no emotions sometimes I would cry all day I occasionally drug myself to sleep so I can’t think. I’ve been having a feeling of no self worth like I’ll never be good enough he compares me to everyone else which hurts. He says I don’t do anything when in all reality I tend to our 4 children everyday. He sits all day and says I don’t do anything that I don’t clean or cook and so much more. I think and feel I’ve had enough but it’s so hard for me to leave him. He’s all I know

    1. Hello, Noelia.

      I’m glad you found the website and took the time to write to me. I’m also glad you could confess that the man you are with “is all you know.” So let me tell you that the way he treats you is not the way you should be treated. Once you embrace that truth and understand that the way he treats you is wrong, that you deserve better, then you are acknowledging that you have value. From there, my hope for you is that you begin to see what he does and why he does it – to cause you to doubt your feelings and your experience and maintain control over you.

      That’s not what love does. I hope you will take some time and peruse the site, read articles of interest and as you do, you will begin to see what is going on in your life. As you do, I trust you will grow stronger.

      I truly believe that and want the best for you.

      Don’t give up. Keep learning and growing and see what begins to happen in your heart and your life.

      For starters, I would urge you to read, “Why An Abuse Victim Doesn’t Leave (In Six Words).” You might also want to read, “Exploiting the Feminine Heart,” and The Abusive Relationship: A Primer (Part 1-6).

      Let me know if I can direct you further.

      I wish you well.

      Cindy

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