“My boyfriend is abusive, but I can’t afford to leave him”

I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for five years, and we have a three-year-old daughter. We have a lot of issues, though. Should I stay? How do I leave?

My boyfriend doesn’t support my dreams. He tells me I can’t do what I love and that I am too much of a dreamer. I want to be a teacher and travel someday. On top of this, he doesn’t have much ambition to do anything great in his lifetime.

He is verbally abusive often and sometimes mildly physically abusive (throwing food/small things at me, breaking my things, etc.). He says things to me on a regular basis that most people don’t hear their whole lives. Horrible things that cut me deep. He blows things way out of proportion whether its me or some other factor that upsets him.

He doesn’t appreciate me and doesn’t share with me. He loves our daughter, but doesn’t hesitate to verbally/physically abuse me in front of her. He is very obscene when it comes to petty problems.

He doesn’t have any friends any more (due to his assholiness and the fact that he literally hates everyone), but I feel bad leaving him because I love him as a person, and we’re all he has.

Sometimes he is very sweet and tells me I’m the love of his life. This doesn’t change the fact that he could abuse me 20 minutes later.

I don’t think he understands how much this pushes me over the edge. I’ve told him countless times that I want to leave him, but he doesn’t take me seriously and calls me a bitch for saying it. I’ve tried leaving several times, but never had the courage to stick it out.

I don’t want my child exposed to his behavior anymore, but can’t find the courage to leave.

Another factor is that I can not afford to pay all of the bills I need to, and he won’t give me a dime if I choose to leave him. I am also afraid of having joint custody, because I don’t think he’s a good influence to our child, and I’m afraid he might take her for good if I leave him alone with her. I don’t want to take anything to court, because I don’t have much money, and I don’t want to legally have joint custody.

Also, he refuses to go to couples counseling.

I went to a wedding yesterday and realized that I do not feel like I will ever be at the point where I have the courage to walk down the isle to him. It doesn’t feel right to me. He was my first boyfriend and I don’t know how relationships normally go.

I do love him. But I can’t do this anymore. Please tell me what you think.

11 thoughts on ““My boyfriend is abusive, but I can’t afford to leave him”

  1. GentlemanSparks says:

    I really do think that you need to go see someone about IF you did leave like sorting joint custody etc and just don’t be irrational about it all, you need to have a plan if leaving him is what you REALLY want. Also if you leave him you will need to let him know WHY you are leaving and what you REQUIRE or REQUIRED from him, because if you are the love of his life he will pull his finger out and do what is needed to be done.

    Have a think over the next week or so and just speak to him about how you’re feeling and what you want from this relationship and if he isn’t walking the same path then its time to move on. Be strong and do whats best for your child, that is the most important thing out of it all.

    I hope you manage to sort and either way i know you’ll be okay just stay strong and don’t do anything silly or without thought and preparation.

    Your Friend,

    GS x

  2. Ken Liu (@kenkliu) says:

    Wow, my heart is breaking just reading this. It’s certainly a tough situation that I’ve never encountered.

    You have to think about what you want and how you’re going to go about getting it. Do you have an income or someone to take care of your daughter? Do you have friends or family that can temporarily take you in?

    It’s hard leaving someone you love, but there are many more people out there who are more deserving of your love, not someone who abuses you all the time.

  3. onefemalearch says:

    Hi, I hope my opinion will help you somehow.

    Dealing with abuse, of any kind, is very hard, specially when it comes from someone we love and I agree that you need to give it good thought before doing anything, although I’m sure that, since you are asking, you’ve been thinking about it for a while.

    If you have already talked to him about the problems you’re having and the way he treats you, then talking to him once more may just trigger another abuse episode, so be careful with that and stay safe if you really want to bring up the issue again.

    In my opinion, you should let a friend or family member help you (if you have that option available), it’s important that someone knows what is going on, someone who won’t just go and report it and lets you handle things, but supports you no matter what. It’s hard to do, it’s hard to share with someone who may not understand, but that’s what I would do first.

    You can ask that person or someone else to help you figure out the part about your child: before leaving you really need to study how to do it in a way that won’t mean that you’ll need to go to court about it, it might depend on where you live and the laws that apply there. Make sure you study your options first. Would a recording of how he treats you when he’s upset help you or make things worse in court if it came to that? Is that even legal where you are? (That should be your backup plan, probably).

    I can’t tell for sure what I would decide after I did all that research if I was in your place, but I’m inclined to think I’d leave with my child before things got worse. You need to get your strenght from your child and do what is best for her well-being, as well as yours. Come up with a main plan and a backup one before anything else though.

    On the financial problem I’d say you can make it, although it may be hard at first. If you have family or friends that don’t live next door (so you can move closer to them for safety if needed) maybe they can help you until you get your footing back. Asking for help is important and the people who love you will certainly help you and your daughter to get a safer environment!

  4. Dennis Hong says:

    Just to piggyback on what others have already said, I’d say your most important step right now is to find and build up a support network of any family or friends you can count on. The stronger your base of support, the better your chances of being able to get through this.

    Good luck, and please keep us posted on how this goes.

  5. Rebecca Sullins says:

    You need to leave. And you already know that. You say that you can’t find the courage… but the courage is already there. Look at your daughter. Even if you love him, you can NOT subject a child to being raised by a man like this. Because there will come a day when she’s not three anymore, and suddenly he will start directing his ire at her as well. You owe it to her to get her out of that situation.

    And please dear god don’t think about your wedding day with this man. I know it’s sad to bury that dream, but it needs to die.

    He refuses counseling, he refuses to stop, he refuses to even confine his outbursts to an area outside the direct presence of a toddler. That’s not a man that’s going to change, no matter how much you love him.

    You owe it to your daughter to leave. Find a friend, find a family member, find a shelter… do whatever you need to keep your daughter safe. I’m sorry for what you’re going through.

  6. laurenmapp says:

    I am so sorry to hear about the terrible situation that you are currently in – I have known several people in the past who are/were the victims of domestic abuse, and the common denominator seems to be that once they have finally realized that they needed to leave, they felt financially trapped to the abuser. As much as you say you love him, if he is being physically and mentally abusive to you, you need to do everything you can to get out of the situation.

    Furthermore, though he may love your child, the child being exposed to his behavior will have long-lasting affects on her. This may result in her having trust issues, or even worse, either being an abusive partner or accepting abusive behavior by a partner later on in life. Either way, it isn’t healthy for her to be exposed to it.

    Here are some links to information regarding fleeing abusive relationships. In addition to these, you can try searching for homes for abused women/children in your area.

    http://www.npr.org/news/specials/housingfirst/whoneeds/abuse.html
    http://www.ncadv.org
    http://nationalsafeplace.org/mobile/ (this site has a spot where you can type in your zip code and find a Safe Place near you).

    P.S. If you do want to try to help him and work things about because you truly love him – and not because you are too afraid to leave him – try getting him to see a counselor or psychiatrist, and also going to a couple or family counselor.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Let me begin by letting you know that I am really sorry to hear that you are going through all of this, but I genuinely believe that you’re doing the right thing by reaching out for the help & advice of others. The fact that your boyfriend seems to have no ambition or goals of his own, lets me know that this is why he feels the need to act negatively toward you with regard to your dreams of teaching and traveling. He more than likely feels threatened by your ambition, and lashes out by speaking negatively about your goals- which is honestly very immature on his part. Wanting the support of your partner shouldn’t be seen as a “pipe-dream,” but rather; something that you should each be able to expect equally out of one another.

    As for the abusive language he uses toward you; abuse is abuse- I do not care whether it is verbal or physical. The fact is, you are currently teaching him that verbal abuse is something he can get away with, without you leaving him, and my fear is that it is only a matter of time before this escalates into something physical. Either way, abusive language is just as bad as any type of physical abuse, and I assume that this is not what you want your daughter to grow up observing. As your daughter watches her father treat her mother in this manner, she will grow up just thinking that this is the “norm,” that this is just how men treat women. You need to get her out of this situation to let her know that this is not the way that men treat women, and that you’re not going to stick around for it.

    The fact that he no longer has any friends due to his crappy attitude should be waving red flags for you, that you too, need to get out of there. I realize you feel like you and your daughter are all he has, but he clearly doesn’t appreciate that fact. The fact that he is sweet to you one minute and abusive the next, is the classic, ongoing mind-game of an abuser. It’s a bait & switch type of behavior that keeps the abused party (YOU), sticking around, with the constant hope of his “good side” coming back around. My guess is that he doesn’t understand how much his behavior pushes you over the edge, and more importantly- he does not care. He’s currently under the impression that you’re always going to stick around for it. You simply cannot tell him you’re going to leave, and then not do it- your threats of leaving are now totally empty in his eyes.

    As far as not being able to “afford to leave him,” my best suggestion is to do two different things- build up as much of a support network as you can (both friends and family), and look into local shelters for you and your daughter (I would seriously be more than happy to help you with this part). A custody battle could certainly make things more tricky, but my guess is that there are counselors at the shelters that have a lot of experience with this kind of thing, and would have some helpful insight. I agree with you that leaving your daughter alone with him would be a very BIG mistake, that has the potential of ending in disaster.

    I hope some of this advice resonates with you, and helps you to make some moves. Apologies for the long-winded response, but I really did want to touch on each thing you brought up.

  8. Anonymous says:

    You need to leave this situation now. You can go to a battered women’s abuse shelter. You are being abused, verbal abuse is abuse. They will help you. I’m sure you could also file a restraining order against him for both you and your daughter; based on the numerous stories you have. You don’t really love him, you have battered women’s syndrom. The next time you guys “talk” /when he is verbally absuing you, record your conversation. That will be proof that can be submitted for the restraining order. Do it. You need to protect yourself. There are worse things than not having money. You need to leave very soon though. Start telling friends and family about the abuse you’ve endured. And get out. Your child could be taken away if you don’t remove her from a bad situation.
    Good luck. Please follow my advice from one victim of abuse to another.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I truly believe that you love the IDEA of him.. but not necessarily him.. sounds like he can be nice.. but in the back of your mind you are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Someone who loves YOU would not treat you this way.

    First thing you need to do is go see someone. Most attorneys will meet with you for a consultation for no money. Go see someone.. see what your options are. If you have to stay for awhile – start squirreling away money.. a little here.. a little there.. save up. Start documenting all the times he is abusive. It may never play into anything down the road EXCEPT to show you just how much you are putting up with.

    Leaving him – for reals – might wake him up and he will discover what he is losing… OR you may discover that you deserve more/better.

    Either way – you can’t stay long term.. your happiness and life and that of your child are worthwhile.

  10. Kate says:

    As many others have said, you need to get yourself and your child out of this situation. I’ve been in abusive relationships, and I understand how you feel — like he needs you, and like you will be nothing without him. But understand, making you feel like they will die without you, making you feel guilty if you leave him all alone, making you feel worthless, making you financially dependent, isolating you, making you feel like you’ll never find anyone else because only he could ever love you…. These are ALL common tactics abusers use to manipulate their victims into staying. This isn’t just about you any more. It’s about your daughter and about what she learns to expect from the men in her life.

    I also understand your reluctance to go through the courts but that may be your best option. Most metropolitan areas have volunteer legal aid programs offering pro-bono family law assistance to low income people. You should be able to get child support and if you have documented his abusiveness you may be able to get sole custody.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Oh honey hearing this breaks my heart, I’ve been there, I’ve been through it, I survived it. I got out of it a year ago. Nothing in your life will get better until you do leave him and once you do things will be so much better. I don’t know where you’re from but you need to contact you local department of human resources, they will help you! You can get section 8 or find affordable housing, there are even some places that will pay your first month’s rent and security deposit. Your local department of health and family services will put you in contact to get everything you need. Go to family court they have agencies that will pay for daycare while you work or go to school, the government gives grants to help people like you pay their utility bills and you can get food stamps and Medicaid. and also because the state doesn’t want the burden of your responsibilities forever, so they will go after him for child support for you! Also, you can go to community college for free if you are low income, but you need to fill out your fasfa, the pell grant alone should be more than enough money to cover a year’s worth of tuition at a community college and pretty much everyone qualifies for the pell grant. Also so you can take out student loans too which will come back to you in money that you can use for whatever you need.
    I did it I got out and i used every one of the resources I just told you about. I lived in a really small apartment that was basically a studio with a den, I gave the “room” to my daughter and I slept in the kitchen, it sucked the apartment was awful but it was what I could afford so we lived there for two years but we made it though now I’m very close to graduation and we have a much nicer place. Don’t go to a shelter you don’t have to if it’s not and emergency and I wouldn’t but you can get the ball rolling without him knowing and you can also go to the court house and get an order of protection for free if you think he might follow or harass you.
    he tells you that you are shit, because he is shit and he wants to keep you weak so that you don’t feel like you can leave, that’s why he crushes your self-esteem and ambition. Once your out I suggest therapy also it helps a lot or hell do it now and find your strength. Abuse doesn’t get better, it only increases in time. and if you do what i told you when the time comes no judge will ever give his custody of your child, and the order of protection will keep him out of your guys life it scary and its hard but it is so so so worth it, get the fuck out now before you end up with broken bones and black eyes, before your child learns from his behavior and before it gets any deeper because even if i swears it will get better and that he will get better, it is only going to get worse.

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