How To Get Out of an Abusive Relationship 

This guide to getting out of an abusive relationship will help you:

  1. identify the early signs of one
  2. learn the different kinds of abuse
  3. take the steps to safely get out

Are You in an Abusive Relationship? 

First off, know when you’re in one. It’s not always plain and clear from the start when a person you’re in a relationship with has abusive tendencies. There are some red flags early on that can indicate this potential behavior later down the line.  

Here are a few signs that the person you’re dating might be or become abusive:  

They have a short temper – How does your partner react to frustrations, stressors, or when things don’t go their way? Do they snap? Do they react physically? For example, punching a wall, breaking an object, yelling unnecessarily? A short temper can signal that at some point, you may be the wall or object of their abuse.  

They can’t take accountability – When something goes wrong, do they take fault for their actions, or do they point fingers at others, at you? People who are or can become abusive are not always self-aware and would rather shift blame than take responsibility.  

They resort to hurtful language or violence – How does your partner react to tense situations or heated conversations? It’s inevitable that you will have disagreements, even arguments, and there is a healthy way to go about resolving conflict. But if your partner resorts to excessive profanity, name-calling, or even physical actions like gripping too hard, this is a major sign of abusive behavior.  

They are narcissistic – People who are self-centered only seek to take from a relationship and not give. They need constant attention, praise, and affection. If you do not fulfill one or more of their needs, narcissists feel entitled to abuse their partner to reestablish or enforce their superiority.  

Understanding the Root of Abuse  

Most abusive relationships stem from trauma or abuse inflicted on the abuser in the past. Abuse doesn’t start from nowhere; it is a cycle. Your partner may have witnessed their parents fighting and one or both becoming violent with each other: verbally and physically. In most cases, they were abused as a child by a parent or older person. They might have had a previous relationship where their partner was abusive, and are now projecting or lashing out at you.  

Abuse is not excusable and should be addressed. If it hasn’t escalated to a point where you feel in danger, step away for a time and allow your partner to seek treatment.  

Abuse Happens Two Ways

Abuse is mostly reactive: when a person feels provoked, demeaned, or threatened, abuse becomes their defense mechanism. They cannot control their emotions and, in the moment, will use you as a release for their anger. Again, this is not excusable behavior. Partners who exhibit this kind of behavior are very apologetic after the incident and will try to make it up to you.  

There are cases, though, where an abusive person is aware, and even finds pleasure in inflicting pain or anxiety on another person. This is calculated abuse where the abuser intends to harm you in some way, either by planning it in advance or manipulating you on the spot. It can be physical abuse, but most of the time, it is emotional, where the goal is to distress you to a point of submission, or feel they’ve gained the upper hand.  

Different Kinds of Abuse 


The most obvious type of abuse is when your partner physically hurts you. They can become upset and hit you, squeeze you, push you, or even bind you. As mentioned above, this type of abuse is not excusable. The very instance this happens should already signal that you need to leave the relationship. The abused partner tends to forgive and rationalize the behavior, but it cannot be tolerated. Physical abuse can escalate to the point of not being able to fight back or defend yourself, where your safety––and even life––are at risk. 


 If your partner insults you, bullies you, makes derogatory statements, brings up mistakes from your past, or uses your triggers to provoke you, this is considered verbal abuse. Many of us are at fault for inflicting verbal abuse on others. It is an issue that with time and treatment, can be resolved. But if your partner demeans or aggravates you to the point that you’ve lost confidence or can longer communicate healthily with them, it may be your sign to go. Just like physical abuse, it should not be tolerated, but it can be addressed, and relationships have survived after healing from verbal abuse.  


Mental or emotional abuse is not highly visible and happens later in a relationship where the abusive partner knows you well enough to inflict anger, sadness, anxiety, or loneliness on you. It often happens by manipulation where the abuser will confuse you by fabricating the truth. They make you question your reality or past events, and understate your role to gain sympathy. They exploit your trust and respect to gain control or displace your power. If you feel that your relationship is imbalanced and disproportionately in favor of your partner, you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship. 

7 Steps to Leave an Abusive Relationship

Talk to someone

A trusted family member or friend who will be honest with you and might be able to help you. Since abuse is a sensitive topic, you want to be sure that this person won’t share your information to others. They may be biased in their views, though, and either encourage you to “work it out” with your partner, rationalize their behavior, or even advise you to inflict abuse on them. Abuse is never the answer to abuse.  

Go to a counselor

Your situation may come to the point where you need to involve a professional. This person can objectively assess your relationship and see what kinds of abuse you’re enduring. Most people are unaware or in denial that they’re in an abusive relationship. You may need an outside informer who can kindly but directly instruct you to have an exit plan.  

Create the exit plan

It’s not easy to leave an abusive relationship. After all, you may find that you still love this person and are willing to forgive them. However, it will be detrimental to stay in one, especially if your partner refuses to address their behavior and take conscious steps towards change. The abusive partner may threaten you if you say you’re leaving. Make sure one or two trusted people in your life know when you’re leaving so they can check in on you. If you are living with this person, have all your valuables ready to go or already transported by this point.  

Cut communication instantly

Once you’ve spoken to your partner or left without their knowledge in the case that this person was highly abusive and prone to criminal-like offenses, delete and block their number. Unfriend and unfollow them on all social platforms, and do not communicate with any mutual friends or members of their family. This will only complicate things. A clear cut is the only way. 

Stay with friends or family for a while

If you know your partner will react irrationally, either by stalking you or trying to get to you through people you both know, it’s safe to stay with family or friends until you feel safe to be on your own again. You can never be sure with abusers what extent they’ll go to reach you. Always be around people, avoid private places, and keep your phone and defense items on you for worst-case scenarios.  

Join a group or go to therapy

No one comes from an abusive relationship unscathed. You might experience PTSD, nightmares of your partner, or even feelings of insecurity and self-doubt. Being in an abusive relationship, whether short or long term, takes a toll on you. It is not easy to move on from, and the trauma will live with you for a while. By joining a group of other abuse survivors or seeing a therapist, you can talk through these feelings and experiences. With time, the pain will subside, and you might even find yourself open to dating or entering a new relationship. You might be more skeptical or wary of the next person who comes along, but you will already know what to look for and be cautious about. The right person will understand.  

Never second guess yourself

The decision to leave an abusive relationship is always the right decision. You may hear from others that your ex-partner is doing well, looks healthy, seems changed, but the truth of the matter is, you can’t erase what was done. All you can hope for is that they don’t repeat what they did to the next person they become involved with.  

On the other hand, your ex-partner may ridicule you or even share your secrets online. They may call you out to get your attention or more people siding with them. You know the truth. Trust that if you keep your silence and don’t answer these accusations, you are the bigger person. Abusive people need to learn from their mistakes. The best way for them to do that is to let them go.  

You Deserve Better 

We know that hurt people hurt people, and we can forgive those in the past who have been abusive towards us. But that does not mean we have to let them back into our lives. 

Above all, know your worth. You deserve a healthy relationship and a trustworthy person. Someone who will love, honor, and cherish you. A person who will let you be an individual just as much as their significant other. 

If you are truly in danger and need help now, visit or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  

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