How to Change Your Relationship When You Don't Have Support
Making major life decisions rarely exists in a vacuum. If you are thinking about going back to school, changing careers, or moving to a different place, it is always helpful to talk to people that you trust. That is no different when you are considering next steps in your abusive relationship. Reflecting on how to change your relationship can be very overwhelming to deal with on your own, which is why we ask our contacts if they have people who can support them through the abuse.
These support systems can help with processing the abuse and trying to overcome obstacles when changing your relationship. Unfortunately, we know that many people who experience abuse do not have a support system in place. Just because you do not have a support system does not mean that you cannot change your relationship.
There are many reasons why people may not have support
A key tactic in abusive relationships is isolating their romantic partner. This can lead to losing contact with their support system or being forced to speak with friends and family only when their partner is around. Financial abuse can cause a victim to not have an income, which can lead to relying on the partner who is choosing to abuse them. This dependence may lead family or friends to encourage someone to stay with their partner, even if abuse is occurring.
Religion or spirituality can play a role, as some members of your support system may have particular spiritual or religious beliefs that prohibit ending a marriage or leaving their partner. This could lead to family or friends encouraging the survivor to try and “make it work.” Abuse is a complex issue, so oftentimes people in the support system do not understand what is going on. They may not fully comprehend how harmful the abuse is, or the ways it affects their loved one. Whatever the reason, not everyone has people in their corner helping with their next steps.
Trust your gut
One of the most important things our advocates talk about when someone wants to change their relationship is to trust their gut. When you are going through abuse, only you know what is truly going on. Whether you have with a support system or not, no one knows better than you what your needs are. Abuse is often kept hidden from our family, friends, and community due to shame or fear of retaliation.
People who choose to abuse don’t want others to know or may minimize the abuse by saying “Those are normal things that happen in a marriage” or “you are overreacting”. This gaslighting causes people to question what is really happening and can lead someone to stay in their relationship.
Trusting your gut is important, as it keeps you grounded in knowing that something is wrong.
Sometimes the opposite can happen. There are times when our support system believes that leaving is the best option for the person experiencing abuse, though they may not understand all the inherent challenges or dangers that leaving can involve. They may become angry at what they believe is “inactivity”, or they do not fully understand how many barriers can exist to getting help.
It doesn’t matter if you want to leave your relationship now or if you feel that the timing is not right, you are the expert in your situation. You have the best idea of what your needs are and what next steps look like, regardless of if your support system is there for you or not. Trust in that feeling and take steps that will help you feel safer.
Find support in other ways
While not having support from family or friends can be daunting, it does not mean there is no help available. Depending on where you live, there can be various ways to find support. As always, you can contact The Hotline by texting “Start” to 1.800.799.7233, calling our hotline, or chatting us online. Contacting The Hotline can help you connect with programs in your area. These can include shelters, legal help, or a domestic violence advocate to help you through the process.
The United Way is another national resource that you can reach by dialing 211 or visiting 211.org. United Way can help find many services and agencies in your area that can support you on your journey to freedom and safety.
If you are comfortable with it, you may also want to reach out to neighbors or coworkers that you know and trust. While these people may not be as close as family or friends, they could potentially offer emotional support, help document the abuse, or tell you about other resources that may be unique to your area.
Though it can be daunting to share about the abuse you are experiencing, it is important to remember that you only need to share what is necessary. That may mean sharing specifics of what you are going through, or it may mean stating your needs and how the person can help you. You are the expert in your situation, so only share what feels right for you.
You are not alone
Being in an abusive relationship can be an incredibly challenging situation, regardless of where you are at in taking steps to improve the situation. This can be doubly challenging when you do not have a support system to help you as you experience abuse.
Though it can seem overwhelming at times, know that you are not alone during this time. Our advocates are available 24/7/365. Call, chat, or text with our advocates, and we will be there to support you and help you find the resources and people in your area that can help you.