Women in Bad Relationships Need Not Fear Fear

(Update: All the posts of this series have been collected into one piece, Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How to Defeat Each One of Them.)

Last time we identified four fears that often keep women in bad relationships: “Things could always get worse”; “I’ve never been alone”; “Will I ever find another man?”; and finally, “I’ll have no money.” So let’s take those one by one, and see if we can’t strip them of their power.

“Things could always get worse for me if I leave this bad relationship I’m in.” No, they really couldn’t. Being in a bad relationship is the worse. Being every single day in a million little ways discouraged, dismissed, belittled, ignored, angered, disappointed, condescended to and/or emotionally or physically abused is as bad as it gets. If that describes your life, then congratulations! You’ve bottomed out! From where you’re at, you can only go up. Allowing yourself to be consistently maligned by someone who is supposed to love and support you is hell, pure and simple. There is no place worse than hell. Get out.

“I’ve never been alone.” But that’s a bad thing. You will love living alone. There are deep, true, ever-resonating rewards to living alone that simply cannot be had any other way. Your car. Your house. Your fridge, filled with your food, prepared the way you like it. Your bed, your furniture, your TV shows, your pet, your plants, your chair where you sit every morning and enjoy your cup of coffee. Your life. It’s absolutely glorious. You’ll love it.

“Will I ever find another man?” Right now, do you really care? Is that really your #1 concern these days? Don’t let it be. For now, just get out of the bad relationship you’re in, make a new life for yourself, and let “finding” a man take care of itself. You’ll meet someone; there’s a world of good men out there also looking for mates. You can relax about that. Besides, the best way to “find” a man is to quit looking for one. (On this topic you might also want to read my Looking for Mr. Right? You’re Missing the Point, and God Doesn’t Care if You’re Married or Not).

“But I’ll have no money.” The first thing about this fear is to make sure you’re being realistic about it. It’s too easy to see money as an emotional issue instead of what it is, which is something in the world that’s real, tangible, and of absolute, objective value. So get real about it. Will you actually starve out there? If you divorce your husband, won’t that leave you with enough money to at least get started? Will you really be out of money—or will you just have less of it than you’re used to? If it’s the former, then that’s a real thing that needs to be addressed. If it’s the latter, then realize that you’re putting money, of all things, ahead of your own spirit, heart, and self.

Also, ask yourself where you’ll be in ten years. If you stay in the bad relationship you’re in, how will your life be better ten years from now? Because if you leave—even if you leave with just the clothes on your back—in ten years your life will be quantum leaps better. In ten years you’ll have a whole new life. You can always get money. But you can’t get back one day of your life. If you’re worried about the effect money will have on you leaving, think instead of what it’s costing you to stay.

Also, plan. If you know you’re going to leave your man, and you know doing so is going to take money you don’t have, then get money. Tell your husband you want to work part or full-time—and then squirrel away as much of your paycheck as you can. Yes, it’s deceitful. But nothing less than your life is at stake. If the cost of saving your own life is lying to a man who’s been treating you poorly every day and has proved himself someone you have to lie to in order to secure your own well-being, then lie to him till your smile muscles ache. God will forgive you. But get money, and take as much time as you need (or can) to get as much as you can. (And to that end, do well at that job you get. Get raises. Get promotions. Create as full a world as you can for yourself to step into, come the time.) Talk about your plans with your trusted family member; see if they can help. Confide in your true friends; they may have good advice and/or Actual Resources for you. Avail yourself of the fact that people love to help people who are trying to improve their lives—and especially people they care about. Generally, go animal. This is about survival. So look into every area of your life that might prove a resource to you, make it a resource, and start collecting, on the side, what you need in order to make it on your own in the world.

Finally, if you’re in a situation where your husband won’t let you work, then you’re in a special and dire category of concern. You need to call the domestic violence shelter in your area, and get them involved. They know exactly what to do in cases like yours; please trust that you’ll be absolutely amazed at the sheer experience they have helping people just like you safely extricate themselves from situations just like yours. Once you call a domestic violence agency—or any “We Help People” non-profit type of agency in your area—you’ll immediately be plugged into the whole network of organizations in your area that are functionally connected with whatever agency you contacted. It’s awesome, because then you’ll be into state money and resources. Those people will have you in a nice place safely hidden from your husband as soon as you can pack your bags and catch the cab they’ll send out to get you. And they want to help you—to rescue you, to give you a place to live, to teach you whatever life skills you want or need to learn—because that’s how they get paid. Their funding depends upon helping individuals like you. So never worry that you can in any way be an inconvenience to an organization like that. Just the opposite is true. They need you to call them. You’re part of their purpose.

One of the main ways bad men keep their women where and how they want them to remain is by isolating them from the rest of the world. If you’re a woman whose husband/man has done that to you, understand that the idea you may have in your head that you are alone in the world is pure, 100% illusion. No one is alone in this world. There are a ton of good people out here eager for the chance to help you. Pick up the phone; get a job; make your plans; collect your finances—do whatever you have to do. But please: Join us. You make all of us stronger when you decide to be.

One last thing: It’s okay to be afraid. Don’t think that being afraid means you’re weak, or stupid, or anything like that. It just means you’re human. Everyone is afraid of all kinds of things in life; a lot of things in life are scary. So forgive yourself for being afraid, if you are. It’s normal. Don’t let your fears paralyze you; don’t let them define you. But give them their place. Acknowledge them—and then, one by one, start dismantling them.

Pleeeeeease pass this post along to anyone you think it might help.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • danielle

    I am in a horrible relationship and have never been alone or made it alone in my life. I just am so scared and am trying to find support and resources so I can be free and maybe happy for once in my life.

    • Matt

      Hi, danielle. Try this number, a national domestic violence hotline: 1-800-799-7233. They have many resources they can refer you to.

  • lisa

    i have an yrs old i am in a very bad relationship ,he says i will never be able to leave with out daughter but he is not very good at taking care of her -neglect ignores her ,but he is a good provider he says i will never have her if i leave i have no money and no where to go if i just take her he says i will be arrested we are not married ,i need to leave but can not sleep if i leave her behind

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Lisa. Thank you for reaching out. That’s important. I’ve been there, done that. Not with a child, thank God, but a situation that could have turned deadly. Check out John’s Seven Reasons Women Stay In Abusive Relationships. It will annihilate every excuse you have for staying. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a hard read. The stories we tell ourselves to survive are extremely difficult to unlearn. Also try the domestic abuse hotline Matt recommended below: 1-800-799-7233. He knows his stuff. God bless.

  • paula

    I have been with my boyfriend for five yrs and he feels that he needs to know everything that goes on with me and when i ask him a question he gets upset and starts getting defensive and yells at me tells me its none of my bisness and says his not married to me he is an addict and has made me very insocure about my self finds petty stuff to fight about so he could leave and go to bars with his friends comes home when ever he wants to i was married for 23 yrs before him and have kids with my x the other day my x text me about our son and my boyfriend flipped out witch really made me feel like i did something wrong thier is more to this story but not enough time to talk about it pls tell me what to do lost confused and never been in this situation.

    • paula

      I have no one here know nothing about this place and dont know who to talk to or what to do pls if someone could pls help me im lost for words

      • Jill

        Dear Paula, I’m very sorry to hear of this turmoil and especially all the self-doubt. By reading your situation it already sounds like you know what needs to be done, and yet it takes some inner strength to do.

        It sounds like you are not a healthy, content, confident person in this relationship. It stands to reason that there are basically three options in all life’s problems:
        1. accept it as it is, understanding that you cannot make any other person change ever
        2. do what you can to change the situation, knowing that you cannot make any person change ever
        3. exit the situation, knowing that you have power to change only yourself

        The first option is not acceptable here, since there is a great deal of unhealthy behavior happening. If this was a real option, you wouldn’t be asking for guidance about it.

        The second option… is ultimately up to you to decide. I’m not in your shoes to tell you whether this is possible or not.

        The third option is frankly the only option that returns your personal power where it ultimately belongs– well-settled in your hand. When your personal power and inner strength is centered inside, it is near impossible for this kind of behavior to take place.

        When we are empowered from within, we simply do not allow nor attract people who behave this way into our lives. Yes, it can mean then that there is some time alone. As John described, alone has great power to create healing and to reclaim self-belief.

        I hope you find something in this to help. Peace to you.