Share this with someone who might benefit.

When you feel guilty for leaving an emotionally abusive person

If you’ve considered leaving an emotionally abusive person but guilt has stopped you from making the exit, make sure that guilt is justified and not implanted or based on a false premise.

When guilt seeps in, it can stop you from taking steps that are right for you. Decisions based on guilt can sometimes backfire, and when that happens, you may find yourself back in the same situation you were before.

I want to discuss the heavy burden of guilt that often arises when someone contemplates leaving an emotionally abusive relationship.

This topic is relevant to all sorts of relationships—be it romantic, platonic, or familial. While romantic partnerships often come to mind as they can be incredibly challenging to end, family ties can be just as tough to sever for some. This article is aimed at anyone grappling with guilt, regardless of where it surfaces in their lives.

Guilt can stop you in your tracks when you’re considering stepping away from an emotionally abusive situation. And there are numerous reasons why guilt manifests in a particular dynamic, such as an emotionally abusive relationship.

If the thought of leaving a relationship fills you with guilt so intensely that it paralyzes you, preventing you from making the best decision for yourself, stay tuned. I am going to dive deep. Whether you’re currently mulling over a departure, contemplating future action, or simply trying to move through guilt so you can move on with life,

Below, I’ve pinpointed six key reasons you may feel guilty for wanting to leave an emotionally abusive person. These reasons are not exhaustive, but they are significant, and I’ll explore each one in more detail after sharing them.

Six reasons you might feel guilty about leaving an emotionally abusive person:

  1. You are inherently kind-hearted and don’t like to see people hurt.

    Many of us who are supportive, generous, and compassionate dread the idea of causing someone else distress. The mere thought that by leaving, we might be the source of someone’s pain can be a heavy weight to carry.

  2. You are a conscientious person who is open to self-reflection and the possibility of being wrong.

    This means questioning your own actions and wondering if, perhaps, there’s truth to the criticisms you’ve faced. The idea that you might have contributed to the problem can make you second-guess your decision to leave and feel guilty for even considering it.

  3. You simply cannot imagine causing pain or suffering to those you care about.

    If you’re someone with a kind heart who avoids seeing people hurt, this trait is part of your character. The idea of being the one to inflict pain—even if “inflictor” isn’t officially in your daily vocabulary—seems contrary to who you are.

  4. You believe you are the source of the other person’s happiness and well-being.

    If you view yourself as their main source of joy, strength, and mental health, the thought of walking away might leave you feeling like you’re stripping all of that away from them. This belief can certainly stir up feelings of guilt.

  5. You are inclined to give people second, third, and fourth chances.

    It’s not in your nature to simply give up on someone. But when you consider leaving, it might feel like you’re abandoning the relationship and the person, which isn’t something you’re accustomed to doing. The guilt creeps in because it feels like you’re going against your own values.

  6. You believe there is inherent goodness in the person you’re thinking of leaving.

    You may feel remorseful for not focusing on the positive aspects of their character. This is a significant point to ponder, and we’re going to examine it, along with the other reasons, in more detail.

In a moment, I’ll discuss each reason in depth to help you better understand and perhaps even alleviate the guilt that might be hindering you from leaving an emotionally abusive situation.

Remember, you shouldn’t feel guilty for making a decision that ultimately cares for both you and the other person. I’ll get into that shortly, but it’s crucial to understand that if you’re in a harmful situation, extracting yourself from it is almost always the best course of action. Your well-being is paramount, and staying in a damaging environment is not conducive to your health or happiness.

What People Who Love You Don’t Do

At the heart of what I teach, I hold a core philosophy that those who truly care for you have no desire to see you harmed. This principle guides me as I engage with others and create content, whether it’s articles, courses, or podcasts.

I firmly believe that people who love you don’t want you to experience harm. That’s why the topic I’m about to dive into is crucial—it’s designed to help you break free from the shackles of guilt.

Guilt is a powerful stopper. And those who emotionally abuse are well aware of its potency. When that kind of person manages to make you feel guilty, they know they’ve got power over you.

People who are inherently kind, supportive, and generous don’t like feeling guilty. When that kind of person suspects they’ve done something wrong, their natural response is to rectify it. They may go out of their way to do the opposite of what they’ve been doing or take other actions to compensate for what they think they did, all in an effort to prove they’re not the antagonist.

However, in the dynamics of emotional abuse, the abuser often keeps their victim locked in a state of guilt, causing the victim to focus inward on themselves rather than on the harmful behavior of the person hurting them.

If you find yourself preoccupied with guilt, you probably feel like you’re in a place of submission, in a sense, hindering your ability to think clearly and make sound decisions.

My aim is to assist you in shifting away from that place of guilt. I’m not here to persuade you to leave or cause you to make that choice, however. That’s a decision you must arrive at independently if it’s even a consideration for you.

I want to zero in on the guilt that surfaces in these situations. Guilt should never be a factor in decisions like these. It’s an internal issue that needs to be addressed and then put behind you. That’s the gist of it, though the process can be complex, which is why we’re tackling this subject.

Let’s get to the first reason I mentioned, which says your guilt could come from the fact that you are a compassionate person who avoids causing pain to others.

It’s essential to recognize that emotionally abusive people often act out of their own pain or fear. Their behaviors are immature or poorly developed coping strategies that might have served them in the past but are ineffective in adult relationships.

If you’ve made it clear that their actions are hurting you and they still refuse to change, then by remaining in such a relationship, you inadvertently become a constant trigger for their dysfunctional coping mechanisms.

To put that in context with our discussion, if you believe leaving will cause them pain, know that staying in the relationship does this as well.

Their pain is not a result of your actions.

It’s vital to understand that anyone in a relationship with an emotionally abusive person can act as the catalyst for their behaviors. Again, you’re not to blame for what they do, but it’s important to recognize that you are part of a system they control that leads to them feeling justified for being hurtful or controlling.

In other words, if you’re grappling with guilt because you think leaving will cause them pain, remember that staying completes the circuit that enables their behavior, much like a battery in a flashlight.

Whether you stay or go, they’ll be in pain regardless. Most emotionally abusive people are already in pain or fear of some sort, which is why they are abusive, but that’s not on you. And there’s nothing you can do to alleviate or exacerbate their pain; it’s a reality you must accept to free yourself from guilt.

It’s heartbreaking to witness someone you care about in pain, but you cannot hold yourself responsible for their hurt. When I consider the victim’s role in the cycle of emotional abuse, it reminds me of the thought experiment about a tree falling in the woods—if no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?

In this analogy, can the sound exist without someone to perceive it? Regardless of the science behind that philosophical thought experiment, let’s continue this line of thinking as a useful metaphor.

Emotional abuse indeed takes on a different dimension when there’s no one to bear the brunt of it. I want to tread carefully here because the last thing I want to do is suggest that it’s your fault, that you’re responsible, or that you somehow attracted it.

That’s not the case at all. The reality is anyone who finds themselves in proximity to someone who’s hurting and has underdeveloped coping mechanisms will become the stimulus, the trigger for their behavior.

I’m sharing this with you to affirm that you shouldn’t feel guilty for being a kind person who doesn’t want to see others in pain. You’re not the one causing the hurt. Their pain predates your presence; it stems from experiences they need to address and heal from. You’re unwittingly completing a circuit you didn’t even realize existed. And that’s the first reason to let go of guilt.

My goal is for you to reach a place of clarity where decisions are made without the fog of guilt clouding your judgment.

The second reason you should release any feelings of guilt is your conscientious nature – your willingness to consider that you might be wrong.

This self-awareness is a remarkable trait. Hold onto it, but also remember to set boundaries for yourself. Don’t accept everything you’re told at face value, even if it comes from someone you love or once trusted. Always consider the source because guilt that arises from being convinced you’re in the wrong can linger far too long if it’s reinforced repeatedly. I want this to be crystal clear in your mind.

Setting boundaries means you choose what to believe, particularly when it comes to statements that demean you or make you feel inferior. Such negativity is corrosive, eating away at your self-worth from the inside out.

Guilt indeed has its place if you set out with the intention to be hurtful, betraying, or selfish. However, if those weren’t your goals, then guilt really shouldn’t have a seat at your table.

Let me put this into the context of the topic at hand. If there’s a nagging thought that maybe they’re right about you engaging in bad behavior, it’s crucial to gain absolute clarity about the specific behavior in question. Pinpoint exactly what you feel guilty about. Be precise.

For example, “I feel guilty because I called them late at night when they asked me not to.” That’s a clear-cut case.

Now, whether that guilt is valid is another question. Maybe there was an emergency, and you had to call. But the key here is clarity. Don’t let yourself be bogged down by a vague sense of guilt. Scratch generalized guilt off your list entirely; it has no place in your life.

Guilt needs to be about something specific. It also needs intention to be valid. If you didn’t mean to cause harm, betrayal, or be selfish, then guilt doesn’t belong.

More often than not, those who are victims of emotional abuse have nothing but good intentions and go to great lengths to make the other person happy.

If you’ve been carrying the weight of responsibility for something they accused you of, and you’ve felt guilty because you believed you were misbehaving, ask yourself if this behavior is consistent with how you’ve been with others, both in the past and now, romantically or otherwise.

If this behavior began with the current relationship, then it’s likely not intentional on your part. It’s not your behavior that’s the problem; it points to the new person in your life who has altered your life, the way you process things, and how you feel.

Remember, if you weren’t being blamed for behaviors in the past, if you never had harmful or malicious intentions toward others you cared about, and suddenly you feel this way, and it started with your current relationship, it’s probably not you.

Keep this in mind as we continue.

Now, onto point number three: the inability to imagine inflicting pain or suffering on those you care about.

This trait is commendable. If you can’t fathom causing pain to others, especially those close to you, you’re likely empathetic and compassionate. The thought of causing them distress is abhorrent to you, something you would never willingly do.

I recall the devastation I felt when my wife left me. It felt like my entire world was collapsing. I believed she was to blame for my pain and the dissolution of our marriage because she was the one taking steps to end it. She wasn’t willing to try harder, or so I thought.

The truth was that I failed to take responsibility for my role in the damage to our relationship. She had to leave to protect herself, to make the tough choice to end her second marriage.

It wasn’t that she didn’t want to try; she had been trying since we first met. But this is where you have to draw the line. She had to find her limit before she reached her breaking point.

Reflecting on the past, it’s clear to me now that she always knew herself and yearned to reclaim her identity before we met. She never intended to cause me any pain; her limits were not about inflicting hurt but about self-preservation. She needed to take the necessary steps for her own well-being.

As caring, responsible adults, we strive to make choices that are right for us and considerate of others. However, when that care isn’t reciprocated, our focus must shift to what’s best for ourselves individually.

When my wife chose to leave, it was a decision made for her own good, and it prompted me to take a hard look at myself. It was time for self-care, self-work, and self-healing. I had to transform, to evolve from the person who, until then, had been a common denominator in the failure of all my relationships. Her departure was a catalyst for my own growth.

She was, in essence, removing the power source from an overused flashlight, severing the connection that had become unhealthy. It forced me to stand on my own, to confront and heal my issues, just as she needed to address her own.

In hindsight, her leaving was an incredible gift, although it certainly didn’t feel like one at the time. It felt like an infliction of pain, and I made sure she knew I believed she was the cause of my suffering.

Sharing this is not easy because it reflects a version of myself I’ve since outgrown. But I share it because it’s a situation you might find familiar. You might be the one accused of causing problems, of not trying hard enough.

For seven years, my wife patiently waited for me to initiate change, to heal, to stop the detrimental behaviors. But I remained stagnant, always pointing the finger at her as the source of our issues.

It took her leaving for me to realize that I was the one who needed to change. I had been using her as my energy source, my fuel, and our lives had become so entangled that it was dysfunctional.

I accept full responsibility for the dynamics of our relationship, but at the time, I unfairly placed the blame on her. She had given me every opportunity to improve, and it was time for her to step away.

This is why establishing limits is crucial. You have to recognize when enough is enough – when the trend line of your relationship isn’t showing improvement but rather stagnation or decline.

More often than not, unhappiness outweighs happiness, and that’s a significant issue that needs to be faced. Sometimes, the consideration of separation or taking time apart is the necessary step to address these problems.

Coming back to the topic of guilt, it’s important to understand that honoring a consideration, such as the thought of separating, isn’t the same as inflicting pain. It’s a step toward healing and growth for both parties involved.

Freedom of choice is a fundamental right that we all possess, and it’s crucial not to let anyone strip that away from us. It’s imperative to give ourselves the liberty to make our own choices; otherwise, we’re just inflicting pain upon ourselves.

It’s not your job to shoulder the blame for someone else’s hurt feelings or to take responsibility for their emotional state. That’s a burden you don’t need to carry.

Now, let’s transition to the fourth point, which naturally follows what we were just talking about. This point revolves around the belief that you are the source of another person’s well-being, which is a classic sign of codependence.

If you find yourself staying in a relationship because you feel responsible for the other person’s happiness, you’re essentially fueling a dysfunctional system that will never improve.

It’s like watching the trend line of a relationship; it should be improving over time, remaining positively stable, or it might be on a downward slope, indicating growing unhappiness. This is the lens through which to view your relationship dynamics. Are you inadvertently nurturing a dysfunctional machine?

In my past, I always looked to my partners as the source of my happiness. It wasn’t until my divorce that I had an epiphany—I had been jumping from one relationship to another in pursuit of happiness. Instead of introspection and self-reflection, I would simply seek out a new partner whenever I felt unhappy.

This pattern is all too common. When you become the battery to someone else’s flashlight, your energy and passion for life will inevitably drain away. You cannot possibly be the perpetual source of another’s well-being. True happiness and well-being stem from self-worth, self-esteem, and self-care—feeling good and comfortable in your own skin without relying on a relationship to be happy.

Desiring a relationship is different from needing one to feel happy. If you’re seeking a relationship out of necessity for your happiness, it might be a sign that there’s something within you that needs attention.

On the other hand, wanting a relationship because you prefer not to be alone, because you wish to share your life and experiences with someone else, is understandable.

However, if this desire comes from a place of desperation or neediness. Without first addressing and healing your internal wounds, you risk becoming an accessory to a cycle of dysfunction. In such cases, someone fills a void within you, but the fill is flawed, so to speak, because you end up feeling incomplete and unhappy without that person.

This is my perspective on dysfunction within relationships. When two people come together, each complementing the other’s dysfunctional aspects, there can be moments of happiness. However, the issue arises when those dysfunctions are not being satisfied.

Consider a people-pleaser who constantly gives to a partner who only takes. The giver becomes drained, like a battery, while the taker, like the flashlight, keeps demanding more energy, never feeling satisfied. When a relationship is built on such an imbalance, it’s a clear sign that dysfunctions are not being addressed.

When you enter a relationship without resolving personal issues, or you choose a partner who hasn’t addressed theirs, it can lead to dependency on each other for emotional soothing of those unresolved issues.

This doesn’t always spell dysfunction, but it can lead to an unhealthy dependence akin to an addiction. Without your presence, they might experience a sense of withdrawal.

It’s crucial for someone who is unhealed to take time for self-reflection, to understand what’s happening in their life, and to work on themselves. This self-work is the pathway to the healthiest, most functional relationship possible. If they lean on you for comfort and use you as a coping mechanism, it’s similar to treating you like a narcotic. In your absence, they might face a tough period of withdrawal.

I’ve seen this play out in my own life. In a past relationship, I found myself wrestling with jealousy and loneliness whenever my girlfriend spent time with friends or family. I had an insatiable need to be with her, to know her whereabouts and when she’d return. This stemmed from unresolved fears of abandonment and rejection. I was constantly worried about not getting enough attention, and I wasn’t happy unless she was by my side.

I was using her as my happiness crutch.

If someone treats you as their emotional lifeline, needing your constant presence, and they become lonely, scared, or jealous when you’re not around, it’s a sign of their dependency.

And if you decide to step away, they might blame you, feel upset, or become sad. But this separation can provide them with an opportunity to heal, as the ‘drug’ they’ve relied on is no longer available.

I’m not implying that it’s your fault or that their struggles wouldn’t exist without you. My intention is not to induce guilt if you’re contemplating leaving a relationship. We all contribute to our relationships; we all have a role to play.

I’m not labeling these roles as good or bad; I’m simply outlining what a healthy relationship might look like. It’s important to consider these aspects, especially if you’re feeling guilty about any decisions you’re facing.

The fifth reason you might grapple with guilt when contemplating leaving a relationship is your nature to offer second chances. It’s not in your character to abandon someone.

Let’s simplify this: a second chance is exactly that—two opportunities. If you extend more than two chances, you’re essentially not setting a boundary.

So, what’s your limit?

That’s the question you need to ask yourself. If you’re feeling guilty because it’s in your nature to be generous with chances, it’s time to define your boundaries. Decide on your limit and adhere to it. If you’re inclined to offer a third chance, that’s entirely your decision. However, it’s vital to establish a clear limit and maintain it.

For instance, you might decide that if you catch them lying once more, that’s the last straw—you’ll leave, or perhaps you’ll stay with relatives for a while, whatever your form of accountability is.

Set that boundary and enforce it. Otherwise, the notion that you give second chances becomes meaningless. Without a set limit and accountability, you’re essentially offering infinite chances.

If you’re wrestling with guilt over the idea of giving another chance, remember, the guilt can persist, but only if you’ve set a number of chances and stick to it, no matter what.

This is challenging for many because it requires action. There are times when people share their pain with the very person inflicting it, expressing their feelings and making it clear how the other’s actions impact them. Yet, if there’s no change in behavior and no demonstration that such treatment is unacceptable, the cycle continues.

The reality is some situations are incredibly difficult to escape from. You might feel isolated, entangled in a relationship with significant commitments, wondering where to go or how to secure funds.

I’m not suggesting that setting limits and enforcing accountability is simple. What I am emphasizing is that to stop being a victim of abusive behavior, you must establish boundaries and hold the other party accountable. There must be a sense of loss for them.

It’s a tough truth to acknowledge, but occasionally, your pain and suffering may not register as a loss to them. I’m reluctant to say it, but sometimes your distress isn’t their priority.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re devoid of love or concern; every situation is unique. However, I’ve observed this pattern frequently, and it’s one I’ve experienced personally.

In the past, I didn’t prioritize my partner’s pain over my own desires and insecurities. Had I done so, it would have meant engaging with my empathy, sympathy, and compassion.

Instead, I was self-absorbed, and that’s how I lost my relationships. My focus was on fulfilling my own needs, driven by fears of rejection and abandonment, rather than on what it takes to truly love, care for, and support someone else.

In all my past relationships, I was given second, third, and even fourth chances. They were handed out so frequently that the whole concept of a ‘second chance’ became meaningless. It just turned into a predictable routine.

I’m sharing this with you because I don’t want you to fall into the same trap. I don’t want you to offer so many chances that it becomes expected, and they just wait for the storm to pass. When that happens, second chances lose their value. They become insignificant.

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t easily give up on others and you find yourself offering second chances, don’t feel guilty about it. I know that might be hard, but now you’re aware that it’s crucial to set a clear limit and adhere to it, no matter what.

This is where accountability comes into play. As soon as you exceed your set limit and they continue their behavior, you can’t cling to the philosophy of giving more chances any more. That might sound harsh, but it’s the truth.

When you are someone who is inclined to give people second chances, if you don’t establish a limit and enforce accountability, then you’re not really offering second chances. You’re offering endless chances.

The idea of a second chance inherently implies a limit. When you don’t set one for yourself, you’re not really giving second chances—you’re giving out free passes.

Some of this might be hard to accept. Some of it you might already recognize. I understand that you might think, “I know this, but I can’t do that.” And that’s okay. I’m just here to share this information in case any of it resonates with you, in case it’s useful for whatever you’re contemplating or dealing with.

The whole point is to help you move beyond any guilt that arises because guilt has no place unless your intention is to cause harm.

Choosing to leave someone isn’t about intentionally hurting them. It’s a decision you need to make for your own well-being and potentially for theirs, too. It’s a decision you have every right to make.

Naturally, ending a relationship or separating is never simple. It’s challenging. But it’s a necessary process we all have to navigate.

Now, let’s talk about the sixth reason you might feel guilty for considering leaving someone: you believe there’s good in them deep down, and you feel terrible for not focusing on that.

Let me clear up a misconception. The person you’re with now is who they are.

If you perceived them as different in the past—kinder, more compassionate, more loving—that wasn’t the whole picture. They can be all those things, but they can also be how they’re acting presently.

What you’re witnessing today is who they are.

That means you can’t hope to extract the person they once were because that person is who they are right now. They didn’t just become hurtful; that potential was always inside them. This doesn’t make them inherently bad.

I was that person once. I believed I was kind, supportive, and generous, and I still am. But there was a time when I was also hurtful, and that side didn’t emerge until later in my relationships. But all those traits—both good and bad—were always a part of me.

Some individuals are adept at concealing their less favorable traits, only revealing them when they’re ready to take control of a relationship or their partner. It’s not always a conscious choice. These traits can surface naturally as they grow closer and more intimate with their partner, inching their way closer to the surface until they’re exposed.

There are two types of emotionally abusive people: the conscious abuser and the unconscious abuser.

The conscious abuser is the one who is fully aware of their actions; they’re vindictive and manipulative, and they simply don’t care about the damage they cause.

On the other hand, the unconscious abuser may not even realize the harm they’re inflicting. Their abusive behavior often stems from underdeveloped coping mechanisms, perhaps remnants of childhood survival strategies.

This isn’t the sole reason for emotionally abusive behavior, but it’s a common one. Dysfunctional patterns kick in, driven by fears of abandonment, rejection, and not being liked or loved, coupled with low self-worth and self-esteem.

An emotionally abusive person might engage in harmful behavior, oblivious to its true nature, thinking they’re simply protecting themselves or behaving in a way that seems normal to them.

If You Knew Then What You Know Now

Thinking about when you first met them, if you knew all of their qualities, good and bad, were in them from the beginning, would you have continued the relationship?

Really think about it. If you knew that not only the good stuff was in there but all the bad stuff, too, would you have stopped the relationship or kept it going?

The only reason I ask that is because now that you know that they’ve always had these qualities and those qualities are still in them, if your answer is no to the above question, then why are you still with them today? What makes you stay instead of go when it’s clear that you wouldn’t pursue a relationship with someone like that?

Of course, back then, you might have chosen differently if you had seen the full picture. But today, I’m telling you those qualities have always been in them.

This question isn’t necessarily one that requires an answer. It’s meant to plant a seed in your mind to grow in whatever way it needs to.

You might be thinking about the history, the commitments, and all that you’ve built together. That complexity certainly makes things challenging. But it doesn’t change who they are at their core. If they’ve always been the person they are now, whether they were hiding it or you missed the signs, it doesn’t alter the fact that they embody all those qualities.

What I’m trying to convey might sound complicated, but the essence is this: the purely good person you’re hoping to find deep down doesn’t exist in isolation. They are a mix of good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, toxic and non-toxic, functional and dysfunctional. So, you can stop searching for only the good. Instead, focus on responding to who they are today.

This is about releasing any unwarranted guilt. If you’re holding onto guilt because you think there’s some inherent goodness that you’re just not seeing, it’s time to stop searching. It’s not hidden; what you see now is what has always been there. I hope that’s clear.

And I know this can be a tough pill to swallow, especially since I’m aware that some emotionally abusive individuals are reading this article, and many of them genuinely want to change. They aspire to be kind and supportive and to cease their harmful behaviors. My intention isn’t to single anyone out.

I’m simply conveying to those impacted by emotional abuse that it’s okay to react to how you’re being treated in the present moment.

To the emotionally abusive person, this means your past doesn’t excuse your actions, nor does your potential future. If your loved ones see you for who you are today—not as a victim of your past, not as someone with undeveloped coping mechanisms, but as someone who is perpetuating hurtful behavior—then it shouldn’t come as a surprise when they react, perhaps with anger, or by setting boundaries.

To those of you who are emotionally abusive, understand that I encourage those affected by your actions to respond to your current behavior. They aren’t reacting to your past, to the person they hope is hidden inside you, or to any trauma you may have experienced. They are responding to how you treat them right now, in this moment.

I am a proponent of self-protection. Sometimes, the only way to convey a message to someone causing harm is for the other person to honor themselves by holding the abuser accountable. This might mean taking time apart, breaking up, or even divorce—whatever it takes to communicate that the behavior is unacceptable. It’s about the present, about how they are being treated at this very moment.

When it’s time to address the issue, it’s crucial to be specific. For example, saying, “The way you’re treating me right now is causing me pain,” directly addresses the issue.

If they retort with, “Well, you hurt me too,” you can tell them, “We can address that too. But first, let’s talk about how you’re treating me.”

It’s fair to address their concerns as well, but not at the expense of your own experience. It’s about having an honest conversation but ensuring that the specific behavior causing pain is acknowledged.

Identifying the precise behavior that is emotionally abusive can be challenging. It’s not always clear what actions are causing the hurt.

That’s the tricky part of emotional abuse—it can be subtle and hard to pinpoint. But it’s essential to bring these behaviors to light, to discuss them openly, and to make sure your voice is heard regarding the specific actions that are causing you distress.

That’s precisely the reason I’ve developed The M.E.A.N Workbook. It’s designed to help you pinpoint the behavior so you can lay it on the table for discussion or simply confirm what you’re experiencing, enabling you to make decisions from a place of clarity.

Let’s get something straight: every person has a core of goodness, but they also have everything else that’s visible to us today.

You can’t cherry-pick only the good qualities; it’s up to them to work on themselves, to heal, and to become the person you hope they will be.

If you’re wrestling with guilt over this, it might be because you believe the good in them is being harmed in some way. But it’s not about harm—it’s about sending a clear message.

If you’re contemplating leaving, consider it not as an act of harm but as a message to the good within that person. You’re essentially saying, “This good part of you is who I want to be with, not the hurtful side.”

By choosing to leave, you’re delivering a message to their better nature, and that message is a gift to their true self, not an injury.

In some relationships, the kindest thing you can do is to give the gift of your absence. Not because I advocate for separation and the associated pain but because a simple formula underpins a lasting, fulfilling relationship. This formula is a guiding principle in my life and underlies everything I teach:

Always support the other person’s journey to happiness.

When someone backs your decisions to honor yourself and to pursue your joy, and you reciprocate that support, emotional abuse has no place to take root.

Sure, it may creep in occasionally—that’s part of growing together. But when there’s mutual support for each other’s paths, decisions, and happiness, that’s where true intimacy flourishes and bonds strengthen. That’s the essence of a loving relationship.

The issue in emotionally abusive relationships often lies in the imbalance—one person offers support while the other does not.

I hope couples are reading this and realizing that adopting this philosophy of supporting each other’s paths to happiness could potentially resolve many relationship issues.

Of course, the extent of the issues, the severity, and the damage already done will determine the effort and healing required.

I recognize that sometimes discussions are necessary. Supporting your partner’s happiness doesn’t mean blindly agreeing to actions that could have significant consequences, like spending all your savings. It’s not about giving away everything on a whim.

You’re supposed to be in an equal partnership. And while it’s important to want your partner to be happy, it’s equally important to have those critical conversations. We all know the phrase: Communication is key.

At the end of the day, if your philosophy is to see them happy, that’s a beautiful perspective that can foster closeness, intimacy, and the most enduring relationship possible.

My wish for you is to recognize that much of the guilt you may feel is likely unnecessary. I know it’s easier said than done, but I hope the insights shared here can offer some assistance.

Share this with others who might benefit.

Share this with someone who might benefit.

Paul Colaianni

Host of Love and Abuse and The Overwhelmed Brain

5 2 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x