Most of the resources here use the term “abuse,” but if that word feels too big, too scary, too clinical, or otherwise not right for what you’re experiencing, that is okay.
Not all bad relationships are abusive. You don’t need to convince anyone that you’re being mistreated to a specific degree. You may just be struggling with a relationship that’s run its course, that doesn’t feel good, that isn’t healthy, or just isn’t right for you. That’s okay! If you don’t want to be in a relationship, you can leave it. That’s it!
Not all relationships have to be forever. You are not obligated to stay with someone indefinitely just because you were with them for a while beforehand. Ending a relationship doesn’t mean everything that came before was “meaningless.” You can have a lot of good times, and then come to a point where it’s best for you two to stop seeing each other.
“The reason we got together” and “the reason we broke up” can co-exist simultaneously. Part of dating is learning what you do and don’t need in a relationship. Some of that learning process means relationships will end. That’s okay.
Not all struggle equals growing. Some relationships hit “rough patches” and the partners work through them and come out stronger. But don’t let the narrative of “love takes work” and “relationships need compromise” convince you that you have to pour endless emotional labor into something. Leaving something that isn’t working takes its own courage and effort. It’s not “giving up,” it’s just learning and growing and making new choices.
If you need help figuring out whether to leave a relationship, consider:
- Reading through the “identifying abuse” section of this post
- Talking to people you trust about whether they think the relationship is good for you
- Thinking about your reasons to stay vs. your reasons to leave, and whether any of those are based on fear, insecurity, or other warped thinking
- Talking to a mental health professional
- Asking yourself whether your partner seems committed to improving or resolving the issues in your relationship
- Noting how often you feel happy, content, loved, afraid, guilty, angry, exhausted, etc. and whether the relationship makes you feel good overall
If you know, or fear, that you are in an abusive relationship, the rest of this page is for you. I am not a professional or an expert in this field, so I will just state a few core truths and link as many resources as I can.
It is not your fault. Nothing you do can ever justify or deserve abuse.
It is not your responsibility. If someone is acting in a way that hurts you, that is their problem. There is nothing you can do or say to fix it. It doesn’t matter whether they have their own pain, life situation, or diagnosis. You don’t owe them anything.
If it feels bad, it’s bad. You don’t need to prove to anyone that a relationship is worth leaving. There isn’t a “threshold of abuse” that needs to be crossed before it’s okay to leave. If you’re unhappy, leave.
It doesn’t have to feel like this. Relationships should, at the core, make you feel happy, able to grow, free to be yourself. Yes, relationships take work and compromise - but if you feel angry, afraid, exhausted, or guilty in your relationship, you deserve better, and you can find better.
It is not selfish to leave. If you are unhappy or afraid in a relationship, you can leave it. Even if your partner believes that you owe them your emotional labor, or insists that they need you, you don’t have to stay.
You deserve help. There may be people who refuse to help you, or who can’t help you. Sometimes friends, family members, police, etc. let us down. Your partner may isolate you from people who can help. That doesn’t mean you don’t deserve help. Reach out to any sources of help. Cut off people who aren’t helpful. Fight for your own safety. Call a hotline, see a therapist, tell your manager - you may have to get creative. But you’re worth it.
Healing is possible. Abuse can impact your mood, self-esteem, future relationships, and other aspects of your life. If you need help identifying abuse and working up to leaving, or if you’ve already left and want help moving through the trauma of abuse, please work with a mental health professional.
Many of the resources linked here focus on adult, heterosexual women - though if you click through, many of the links also include resources for men, children, LGBTQ people, etc.
Identifying relationship abuse:
- HelpGuide abuse section
- 21 signs of an abusive relationship
- Abuse defined
- Signs of emotional abuse
- Am I being abused?
General abuse resources:
- Love Is Respect
- Abuse & Assault links at Scarleteen
- Out of the Fog
- Maine Center to End Domestic Violence
- Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness
- Domestic Shelters org
- Hotline for Domestic Violence
- Abuse and relationships
- Healthy Place
- Room to be Safe
- Domestic Violence Resource Center
Abuse resources on tumblr:
- All About Abuse
- Abuse FAQ
- Abuse advice
- Resources at Mental Illness Mouse (scroll to ‘abuse’)
- Emotional Abuse Awareness
- Abuse masterlist
- Safety planning at loveisrespect
- Staying Safe page at Women’s Law
- Safety planning at Scarleteen
- Staying safe with an abusive partner
- Safety plan worksheet
- Emotional safety plan
Internet safety and stalking:
- Harassment & Stalking resources at NOVA
- Stalking resources at RAINN
- Stalking safety plan
- Technology safety planning at NNEDV
- Stalking resources at VOC
- Cyberstalking resources at DVRCV
Other sources to find help: