I Am Wanting to Leave My Emotionally Abusive Husband
I Want to Leave My Emotionally Abusive Husband

When you're ready to leave (or considering leaving) your emotionally abusive husband. You need support and practical advice. Karen DeArmond Gardner is back on the podcast.

Have you ever asked, “Is it wrong to want to leave my emotionally abusive husband?” Many women in the BTR community yearn for emotional and psychological safety. If you’re asking yourself this same question here are some things to consider: 

This episode is Part Two of Anne’s interview with Karen DeArmond Gardner.

Part One: The Fear of Starting Over and How to Push Through It

Part Two: I Want to Leave My Emotionally Abusive Husband (This Episode)

1. What would you tell someone else if they asked?

Pretend like you’re having a conversation with someone else. Listen to your own story as if you’re someone else. What would you say to this “other” person? Would she be wrong for wanting to leave an emotionally abusive husband?

2. What would a domestic abuse expert say?

Since most therapists, clergy, and almost everybody else doesn’t understand the ins and outs of domestic abuse, especially when it comes to emotional and psychological abuse, they’re not the right people to ask about whether or not your desire to leave your emotionally abusive husband is appropriate.

Anne Blythe, M.Ed, Producer & Host of the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Podcast helps women assess their level of emotional safety everyday. At BTR.ORG emotional safety is the top priority. So rather than asking yourself if it’s wrong to leave or even if you should leave, Anne would support you in your journey to discover what it means to be emotionally safe and to take steps to become emotionally safe, in whatever way works for you.

3. Who told you it’s wrong to leave an emotionally abusive husband?

If you’re wondering if it’s wrong to leave an emotionally abusive husband, consider why you’re even asking this question in the first place. Does the question even make sense? Who has told you or where have you picked up the idea that it could be wrong to leave an emotionally abusive relationship?

Anne wrote The BTR.ORG Meditations so that women can look inside themselves to sort out their own thoughts from the society scripting in their heads to determine what the is the best course of action to take. Start listening to your intuition, rather than people who don’t understand what it’s like to live in your situation. 

4. Consider asking, “How do I establish emotional safety,” instead of, “Can I get to emotional safety?”

One thing’s for sure, all women can get to emotionally safety. So it’s important to focus on HOW. Anne developed The BTR.ORG Living Free and Message Workshops for specifically this reason – to help victims get to emotional safety. To learn more about HOW, visit

This episode is Part Two of Anne’s interview with Karen DeArmond Gardner.

Part One: The Fear of Starting Over and How to Push Through It

Part Two: I Want to Leave My Emotionally Abusive Husband (This Episode)

Whether you’re fully committed to separating from your husband, or have gone back and forth on this painful decision, consider these tips and strategies Anne and Karen discuss in the transcript below. 

Dreaming Big

Anne (00:00): Karen DeArmond Gardner is back, we’re talking about dreaming big and how even just daydreaming can help victims start making their way to safety. Also about The BTR.ORG Living Free Workshop where we help women begin to change their thoughts in order to start making their way to safety. So we’re going to join the conversation right there.

Have You Enrolled in The BTR.ORG Living Free Workshop Yet?

Anne: That’s one of the things that we talk about in The BTR.ORG Living Free Workshop. So we have a workshop that helps women know how to think about the situation and how to communicate with an abuser in a strategic way in order to get to safety and then set boundaries in order to get too emotional and psychological safety. One of those things is to dream.

So many women just have stopped because they think, I have to be content with this. It will never get any better than this because that’s what they’ve been told. I find it to be very satisfying to say, no, there’s so many options for you, but it’s really hard to see that when you’re still being traumatized over and over.

Let’s talk about women who are trying to heal, but they’re still being traumatized by the abuser repeatedly. Is it possible to heal while you’re actively being traumatized? We talk about this all the time in BTR.ORG Group Sessions.

Don’t Announce to the World That You Want to Leave

Karen (04:04): Leaving is not something you announce to the world. I don’t care what the TVs or movies say. You don’t announce to him, I’m going to leave you. You don’t do that. Become an actress and if you’re thinking about it, you put on the face, you react as you normally would.

You don’t let ’em know that your thinking is changing, though they’re very perceptive at noticing little nuances. It’s a matter of protecting yourself and your kids, and then when you do leave, then there’s a whole new level of trauma.

Now, I have not experienced this at all, but I have watched, I have talked to the women, I interact with them, and what they deal with after is horrible. Whether you stay in an abusive marriage for 30 or 40 years or you leave the trauma, it stays because you’ve got to deal with this man until your kids are adults.

Some of these women do it, the strength that it takes for them to stand and to raise their kids and to fight for themselves and to fight for the kids is absolutely extraordinary.

My Husband is Emotionally Abusive - I Need To Leave

Discussion on Post-Separation Abuse

Anne (05:13): Yeah, it’s rough. I had it for eight years post-divorce of post-divorce abuse, and it is just awful. I’m delivered now, which is amazing and freeing. I do think though the post-divorce abuse that a lot of people for good reason are really worried about, and they choose to stay.

For me, I found it to be better because at least it wasn’t in my house. At least it was coming from the outside and I had a safe space where I could breathe.

It’s really, really rough and sometimes safety is the healing. When you’re safe, you can kind of not always, and healing does need to be intentional, but it’s almost instantaneous healing at times when you really are safe and they cannot harm you anymore.

Because that’s such a rare situation if someone gets abandoned for example, or there are times where someone miraculously does not have to interact with the abuser anymore for any reason.

There’s still all those questions that come up and then his voice in your head and all the societal scripting and also the anger of how did other people not help me with the secondary trauma?

That’s really hard when you’re thinking about getting to safety when you are like, this is obviously emotionally unsafe for me, it’s psychologically unsafe. I need to start making my way. I need to start being the operative word there. What do you do when the start stops you, when the starting is the thing that you can’t quite do?

Should You Leave: What Do You Do When The “Start” Stops You 

Karen (06:55): Yeah, it is, and it’s so funny that you say it that way because the start can stop you. It is hard to know what to do. There’s a scripture that is, and even if you don’t believe in the Bible, but this part is so true, it says that God did not give us a spirit of fear timidity, but of power, love, and a sound mind when we’re afraid.

Number one, there is no love, fear and love cannot occupy the same space. It’s one or the other. It’s like taking two magnets and they’ll automatically go together. If you turn one around and you try to put the magnet together, they will shoot apart, and that’s what fear and love does.

If you’re living in fear, you’re not living in love. Love has gone out of the equation because the abusers keep you in a cycle of chaos.

How Does Gaslighting Factor In?

(07:52): I don’t mean in a cycle of like he’s abusive, then he’s not. I mean a cycle, constant cycle of confusion, which is why they use gaslighting so that you will question everything that you know is true and he’ll have you questioning that and you will doubt yourself at every single turn.

How in the world do you start over when you can’t even think a straight thought that if you make a decision, what if you’re wrong? Because he would set you up for failure in making decisions and you would make a decision and then it would be wrong because no matter what you did, it was going to be wrong. Now how do you make a decision?

I mean, it sounds almost impossible, and that’s why we say hard doesn’t even begin to explain the struggle of regaining your sound mind, your correct thinking, to taking your power back, to take your love back, to even care about yourself enough that is this really what I’m worth?

I Want to Leave After Years with Emotionally Abusive Husband

Where Did the Eggshells Go?

(09:04): I have no more value than to be whatever he wants me to be. And now you’ve got to work through the battle. That’s the obstacle we face is our own brain because it is brain science that our brain gets jumbled up, and how do we undo that to be able to think clearly?

That’s part of what we’re dealing with is undoing all of that. And you mentioned it earlier about when you become safe, there’s something about that that all of a sudden you recognize that the chaos is gone and you may not notice it first because it’s a strange feeling. It’s odd. You don’t feel like you’re walking around on the eggshells all the time. Where did the eggshells go?

And I don’t have to watch out for the landmines. There’s going to be a hidden landmine there that I might step on. I don’t have to worry about that. As you navigate that, it is through that your brain will start getting some clarity, but those clarity moments are sometimes hard because you have to face the hard truths that he never loved you.

Should I Leave if He Doesn’t Know How to Love

Anne (10:22): Not because you’re not lovable, because you’re absolutely lovable, but because that’s not how he operates. He doesn’t even know how to love.

Karen (10:30): He doesn’t. He can put on a good show to get you to marry him and say all the right words. He’s a counterfeit. He’s a conman. Think of a conman.

If you’ve ever watched the show about conman, and I think there was a TV show that came out this last season and I got to where it was too hard to watch the constant con going on to trick people, but it is literally what they do, and they keep you guessing and wondering what’s true and what’s not.

And that’s part of the healing process is determining what’s true and what isn’t. Am I valuable? Am I crazy? You feel crazy? That’s a word. You can feel that. That doesn’t mean you can feel unlovable. That doesn’t mean you are, because that’s how the abuser makes us feel, to feel unlovable, to feel all of these things.

And that doesn’t mean we discount them because we need to pay attention to those feelings because they’re telling us that something is off, that something is wrong because those emotions are valid. So anybody that says, oh, don’t listen to your feelings and your emotions, they’ll lie to you. No, they’re not. They’re telling you something’s wrong and to pay attention to them.

The Difficulty of Divorce, The Hope of Safety

Anne (11:46): For so many victims, I try to have this dichotomous conversation and you just mentioned it about how hard it is going to be and these are all the obstacles you’re going to face. Recently I talked to one and I was like, make sure you don’t tell your clergy because then he’s going to pull him in and he’s going to get you guys in couple therapy and you don’t want to do that.

(12:40): She had decided she wanted to leave, so I wasn’t trying to get her to divorce. She had already decided she wanted to do that, and I said, well, just go for it then. Otherwise it’s going to push you back like a year.

It Is Going to be the Most Worthwhile Endeavor to Deliver Yourself from Abuse

I was trying to warn her about how hard it was going to be and all the obstacles she was going to face, which is important to warn victims about when they’re trying to get to safety. And then also talking about that and then talking about the hope, sharing that even though it’s going to be very hard, it is going to be the most worthwhile endeavor to deliver yourself from abuse. You will be very grateful that you took action in order to do that.

And for women of faith, you will see miracles along the way. They might seem really small. You might wonder, why is this happening? God cannot know because he’s not helping me. And then maybe a year later or two years later, you’ll realize, oh, he was helping me.

I just didn’t realize it. Can you talk about as we advocate for victims and as we educate women about abuse, helping them understand how hard it’s going to be, and then also giving them hope at the same time, and why those two things are so important?

My Husband Has Been Emotionally Abusing Me For Years - Can I Leave?

Should You Leave? Your Mind Will Clear

Karen (13:53): I agree. We have to tell people how hard it’s going to be when they leave, that it’s not necessarily going to get easier, but it’s not forever that what we go through. It is not forever. It is for now what you’re feeling. What you’re dealing with is normal, feeling crazy is normal, but it’s not forever.

Your mind will clear. You will as you heal, as you discover what you were in and discover more of who you are, the hope grows. And it’s hard to see in the beginning because we live by the end of our nose. We can’t see beyond our end of our nose, but it’s as if that hand gets filler, like your hand is in front of your face.

The longer you’re out, the more aware you become, the more healing you get. It gets further and further away until suddenly you see, wow, there are trees out here.

What Happened to Us Does Not Have to Define Us

(14:49): Wow, when did the sky get so blue? What happened here? And everything is about hope. It’s not based on our religious beliefs or it’s the fact that hope is built within us, and it’s that where we keep our eye on the hope for our future because it will get better.

Because there was never a promise that life was going to be easy. We have evil in this world. There are evil people, and God gave us free will to choose and to not to choose, and people made really bad decisions on our behalf and to harm us. Now when we leave, we get to start making decisions, and if it’s a wrong one, okay, we learn from our mistakes.

That’s part of the process of learning from right decisions and even wrong ones. But I believe that out of the healing is the ashes. What happened to us does not have to define us. That is not who we are. It was what was done to us. It is not who we are. Hope is so important because the hard part is choosing to live again, but it’s beautiful, it’s hard and glorious and amazing all at the same time.

Do I Need to Leave to Get to Emotional Safety?

Anne (16:14): I always want victims to know that it’s possible. I don’t want them to ask the question, can I leave. The question I want them to ask is how. I know that a peaceful life is possible. I know that it’s been promised to me in the scriptures, for example, if you’re a woman of faith, but just logically, it is possible to be able to choose the life that you want to live.

Instead of saying, can I do it, don’t even think that you can put that question in the trash and never ever get it out and only ask how I would like a life of peace. How do I get to emotional safety? Should I leave? How do I get to psychological safety and then just start taking one step at a time?

Karen (17:05): Yes, the question becomes, why not me? Why not me? Not why me did he choose me? Why did this happen to me, but why not me for hope, for my dreams?

Anne (17:18): Absolutely. Well, Karen, thank you so much for spending time with us. I appreciate your thoughts and I’m so grateful that you shared your story.

Karen (17:29): Oh, well, I am so appreciative to interact with you and to talk with you and just be able to shine more light on this really ugly world of domestic abuse and bring hope.


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