1. Recognize that your relationship is not healthy.
The first step toward making any real change in your life is to become aware of and accept your situation as it is right now. Be honest with yourself about how your partner makes you feel. Do you truly feel supported, respected, cherished, and loved? Or, does your partner make you feel guilty, rejected, unappreciated, and not valued?
Does your partner try to control what you do or who you talk to? Control is never a sign of love. It’s a sign of abuse, and a desire to have power over you. The same is true for jealousy. If your partner tries to limit who you have contact with, or makes you feel guilty for talking to anyone else, that does not mean that s/he loves you, it means they are trying to control you.
If you are noticing any red flags and warning signs in your relationship, be honest with yourself. Recognize that your relationship is not healthy, so you can make wise decisions about what to do moving forward.
2. Admit why you’re in the relationship in the first place.
Be honest with yourself about why and how you ended up in this relationship. It’s very possible that your partner was very charming and considerate in the beginning. Abusive partners often are. In fact, they can often be the most charming and romantic people you have ever met. This can make us very confused once their behavior changes and they start exerting power and control. If you fell for your partner’s charming persona in the beginning in the relationship, know that you are not alone, and forgive yourself. Now that you know better, you can do better.
It’s possible that you are also in this relationship because you ignored red flags in the beginning. You may have thought that his jealousy was charming or that his temper would eventually calm down. Again, forgive yourself for ignoring these signs in the past, and remember to pay attention to them moving forward.
Finally, you may be in this relationship because you didn’t realize you deserved better. Abusive partners are often keenly aware of our insecurities, or any pain we’ve experienced in the past. If you had any feelings of not being good enough, your partner may have noticed and taken advantage of them. Again, this is not your fault, but it is something to be aware of.
3. Realize you are worthy and deserve better.
Before we can make healthy decisions and stand up for ourselves, we have to realize that we deserve to be happy. Even if you were insecure or unsure of your own worth in the beginning of the relationship, or if your partner has made you feel unworthy through his tactics, you can absolutely change that now. Start to appreciate all of the wonderful things about yourself. Reach out to people who love and care about you and truly accept and absorb their compliments and compassion.
Imagine your best friend is in the exact situation you’re in. What would you tell her? Realize that you deserve the same happiness and respect that you would want for your friend. If your partner is not treating you with that respect, or if s/he does something to make you feel guilty, afraid, or rejected, you absolutely deserve better. And realizing your own worth is the best way to reclaim your power in the relationship, and in your life.
4. Build your support system.
Once you realize your relationship is not healthy, and that you deserve better, it is important to build your support system. If your partner has been abusive, they have probably also kept you away from close friends and family. Abusive partners isolate you because they know that people who love you will encourage you to leave. And they also know that a healthy support system will make it easier for you to leave.
Reach out to people who you have lost contact with. Tell them you are making some changes in your life and would like their support. Call a friend who you know you can trust and tell him or her about what has been happening. Surround yourself with positive, uplifting, and supportive people. Let yourself be vulnerable and open to receiving help and love from people who care about you. Remember, you deserve it.
5. Develop a plan.
Leaving any relationship can be extremely hard. But, if your partner has also been emotionally or physically abusive, it can be even more difficult – possibly even dangerous. If you feel that you may be in any danger when you try to leave, it is important to develop a plan to help you leave safely. Contact the National Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) to get in touch with an advocate in your area who can help you develop a safety plan. This plan will cover financial issues, safety at home and at work, and how to gather necessary items before you leave.
Ending this relationship may be hard, but you do not have to do it alone. And remember, you deserve better. You deserve to be treated with love, respect, and kindness – every day.