Once you’ve decided to leave an abusive relationship there are a few things you need to be prepared for. Because abuse is about control, having the victim leave is threatening for the abuser. A victim leaving is the ultimate loss of control. It’s not something an abuser can cope with and he/she will usually try to regain control of the situation, which can mean a dangerous escalation. It doesn’t mean you should stay and be abused but you should be prepared. Here are the common responses I’ve seen.
The abuser may or may not admit to having a problem but he suddenly becomes attentive and there is a drop in the daily instances of abuse. The changes will remind you of why you entered a relationship with this person to begin with. This can be confusing, as it seems like the abuser is trying to change and save the relationship. Unlike someone who truly wants to change, however, the Penitent will go right back to the abusive patterns as soon as he or she feels secure again. In other words, once you decide to stay and give the relationship another try. The Penitent will often try to woo a victim back after they leave as well.
The hard part of dealing with the Penitent is that you end up leaving while he’s being attentive and wondering if you’re doing the right thing. Don’t wonder. Look at the history of the relationship and keep going.
Guilt is the key to the Sulker. He or she is trying to regain control by making you the bad guy. By expecting child or spousal support you are going to put him on the street. You’re taking the furniture and making him sleep on the floor, even when you’ve split everything evenly. You’re lying and accusing him of things he never did. He or she has done everything to make you happy and there’s just no more he or she can do. You end up feeling like a horrible person. Either that or you want to put him in time out and tell him that whiners don’t get treats.
Each little complaint or accusation the Sulker makes is supposed to trigger your guilt response and make you feel like you are doing something wrong so you will stay and the abuser regains control. Just think of what it will be like to live without someone always trying to make you feel bad and keep going.
This is the scary one. The Enforcer considers you property. You will leave over his dead body. Any hint of leaving and the abuse gets more intense. The Enforcer may very well escalate into physical violence in order to regain control. If your abuser has ever threatened you with physical harm, it’s likely he’s an Enforcer. Don’t think that because he’s never actually hit you he won’t. Don’t think that because he hasn’t hit you before he won’t land you in ICU the first time he goes that far.
Take every step a woman running from physical abuse has to. Unfortunately many shelters only accept victims of physical violence, so call and ask before you make your plan. You may need project submission until you actually make your move and get out. If that’s what it takes, do it. But get out safely.
Here are some precautions to take: