The word abuse can mean a lot of things other than just physically harming someone. An abusive person is anyone who will call you names, put you down, make you feel worthless, touch you sexually without your permission, control you, prevent you from having friends, accuse you of lying, cheating, etc. and finally, as most people are aware, hurt you physically.
Nobody wants to admit that they've begun dating a controlling or abusive man, or even woman, but, speaking from experience, it's best to admit it to yourself early, because this person will not change. You may love them; you may even believe they love you too, but a person who mistreats you is a person who does not deserve to be involved with you, and you need to terminate the relationship as soon as possible. Don't wait around hoping you can change them or that things will get better. You cannot change them, and things will not get better.
Step one: Listen to your family and friends!
If your family and friends are anything like mine, they will be able to spot this kind of guy, or girl, from a mile off. Unlike you, your family and friends will be looking at this person with a completely (okay, maybe not completely) objective point of view. Even more importantly, they will always have your best interest at heart when giving you important opinions of your significant other. Pay attention to what your family and friends say! And even more importantly, pay attention to what they don't say. Not everyone is going to be as upfront about their dislike for this person as your family may be, but if it seems like none of your friends like him or her and don't like you hanging out with him/her, chances are you ought to be looking elsewhere for a relationship.
So pay attention to your family. If they tell you he is controlling or to get out of the relationship, do it! They're not being mean. It's not because they “just don't know him well” or “don't understand.” They're looking out for you and they can see this person's flaws a lot more clearly than you can.
Step two: Don't wait and hope things get better
As I stated before, the kind of person who will abuse you, either mentally, emotionally, sexually or physically, is not a person you ought to be in a relationship with. Many people try to rationalize the abuse.
“S/he only hits me when s/he's angry.”
“It's not all the time.”
“We're in a relationship, I don't need to give consent every time.”
“It's my job/obligation to have sex with him/her.”
“It's just because I make mistakes/make him/her angry.”
These things only sound rational to you. Speaking from my own experience again, I spent months trying to convince myself I was not in an abusive relationship, and this may be easier for a person who is not being physically abused or forcefully raped by their significant other. But no matter how subtle the abuse is, and no matter how many people don't believe because there is no physical evidence, you can not just wait around for things to get better. This person is abusing you and the kind of person who abuses another is not a person you can change. It's best to get out as soon as possible, before you are trapped by a marriage, or a child.
Step three: Don't back down or compromise. Just break things off.
This kind of person is extremely hard to break up with. They will do everything in their power to keep you there with them. They'll blame, blackmail, promise, bribe, anything to keep you with them and under their thumb. But you can't fall for that. You can't back down and let them have their own way. You must firmly break off the relationship, making it as clear to them as you possibly can that you are not “taking a break.” You are not “going to take some time to think about it.” You are not “just going through something/having a hard time/being irrational/emotional.” Do not let them talk you out of breaking up with them; If you're truly set on it and realize how badly they've been treating you, you should be happy to get away from them.
One important note: If this person has been physically harming you and you are afraid to break up with them, bring someone along with you. Do not worry about keeping the matter private. If you're scared for your own safety, bring someone with you as a witness and form of protection.
Step Four: Break off all contact
This isn't going to be a normal break up. You are not going to be able to part ways as friends, or even as friendly acquaintances. In fact, when you break up with a person like this, they are not going to give up without a fight, even though your mind is made up.
You may get phone calls, texts, e-mails, visits, gifts, anything this person thinks will win you back. It's best just to cut contact with them completely. This will make it easier for you to begin the healing process without the distraction of dealing with this person's fits and tantrums, their begging and promises. Try not to deal with the person at all, if it's possible. If it's a question of picking up your things from their house, have a family member or trusted friend do it. If you work together, or see each other regularly in a setting you can't avoid, just don't talk to them. Don't let the person make you feel rude or mean for avoiding/ignoring them. It's your right to protect yourself from their abuse, and you have every right to never speak to them again. Don't let them make you feel bad for telling people about the abuse. It's not a “private matter” between the two of you, and you can and should tell anyone you feel comfortable telling.
If legal action should be taken, do not let them make you feel bad about that either. You may still care about them, but if they abused you, they may go on to abuse others and you have to do your part to prevent that.
Step five: Keep your friends and family close
This is a time you're going to need your friends and family. They can take phone calls for you if he/she won't leave you alone. They can pick up your stuff, help you take legal action if needed, and help you through the long, hard process of healing. You may need a place to crash, someone to vent to, or just people to take your mind off things, so keep them close and don't hesitate to ask them for any help. That's what they're there for.
This guide is just a rough and very general sketch of how to terminate a relationship like this. I only have experience with emotional and mental abuse, not physical abuse, but there are many hotlines and websites that offer anonymous, completely confidential chat rooms and phone lines. If you need help, please visit the links below.
If you know anyone who is in an abusive relationship, help them in any way you can. And remember, abuse isn't always physical; there won't always be bruises that you can see to clue you in.
http://www.rainn.org/ -- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network
http://www.thehotline.org/ -- National Domestic Violence Hotline
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Sadie on July 21, 2018:
Where is the advice on the financial aspect? Like WTF do we do when our husbands have frozen our assets? I have yet to see an article where we are supported financial. Not a mention of a resource.
I guess I have to help myself. Cool. Still. At least mention $$$
Marie B Burns from Vian, OK on September 08, 2014:
Very well presented; I would just add in support groups, as those can be very healing for someone in this kind of relationship. Learning from those who have been in the same/similar situations can be helpful when feeling the rush of emotions this kind of relationship and subsequent ending brings. Thank you for sharing very important information on such a sensitive topic for so many.
Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on March 26, 2013:
Excellent advice and tips. One thing you can absolutely count on is that they will never change.
Lady Eemia (author) on March 23, 2012:
I hope your friend can eventually find the courage and the willingness to get out of her situation! I'm sure it will mean a lot to have you there for her when she finally does.
TheInspiredLife from North Carolina on March 23, 2012:
I am connected to someone who is in an abusive relationship right now, and I suffered through the hell of an emotionally abusive relationship for 10 years. I have given this friend all of this advice and more, but she is not willing to take steps to get out. I eventually did get out, but not for 10 years.
My friend knows I am here for her when that time comes, and I am pushing hard for her to seek safety, but it is like he has a hold on her that reason, love, and kindness cannot break. I understand it, because I was there once. I heard all the advice too, but felt I couldn't take that step to get out. I did not feel I had the power to do so. That is what abuse does to you!
Voting this hub up...and I am going to follow you. I like so many of your topics so far!
Ana Teixeira from Oporto, Porto, Portugal on March 21, 2012:
this is a very good hub and it should be shared all over the world Women and Men take a lot of time to realize that the person they are with isn't going to change. Society still descriminates against men who are victims of abusing relationships.. and this is also a mistake. We created the idea that men are stronger than women, but what about psychological abuse?
Very goos hub. voting up , awesome and useful!