17 Abusive Relationship Quotes to Help You Move On
All relationships should be free of physical, mental, and emotional abuse. Here are abusive relationship quotes to help you leave and heal.
Understanding the reality of domestic violence
Scary, but true: Every two and a half seconds someone in the United States is abused. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. This is roughly more than 12 million women and men who are victims of domestic violence over the course of a year.
And with the Covid-19 pandemic, some abusers are using social distancing, isolation, and quarantine as leverage to take more control of their partners. (Learn more about coronavirus and domestic violence and how to stay safe.)
If you’re in an abusive relationship, you may know that abuse takes on more forms than just the physical, it can be mental and emotional, too.
Domestic violence is so much more than a black eye
The stereotype of a woman with a black eye or split lip is only a small part of the overall picture of abusive relationships. Domestic violence includes rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault committed by intimate partners, immediate family members, or other relatives. While females account for 76 percent of victims; men and boys can also be victims of abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In addition to physical violence, over 43 million women and 38 million men will experience mental or emotional abuse—name calling, belittling, gaslighting, public shaming—by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to data from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It’s not your fault
Victims have many physical, emotional, and social reasons for staying with their abusers. And it’s not uncommon for them to attempt to leave a number of times before actually breaking free.
“Unfair blame is frequently put upon the victim of abuse because of assumptions that victims choose to stay in abusive relationships,” says the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). “The truth is, bringing an end to abuse is not a matter of the victim choosing to leave; it is a matter of the victim being able to safely escape their abuser, the abuser choosing to stop the abuse, or others (e.g., law enforcement, courts) holding the abuser accountable for the abuse they inflict.”
(Not sure where you stand? Here are the signs you’re in a toxic relationship.)
Finding your voice
This means that many victims feel a lot of shame, guilt, and other painful emotions even after they’ve escaped the abusive relationship. Healing can be a long process of therapy, work, and time. But one thing that can help you along the way is hearing from others who have been in your situation or are professionals versed in abuse. This can help you find the words to understand your own experiences. (Here’s what domestic abuse survivors want you to know.)
“Sometimes we don’t have the right language to describe who we are,” says Jordan Pickell, registered clinical counselor, trauma, and relationship therapist in Vancouver, British Columbia. “Explore the question ‘Who am I now?’ There is so much power in declaring who we are.”
To help you do this, we rounded up some of the best quotes from survivors and experts. These quotes can help you feel less alone, recognize how far you’ve come, and appreciate the amazing human being you’ve always been.
You did not deserve the abuse
“We do learn so much about ourselves in our experiences. But also, know that it shouldn’t have happened. This was not a lesson you needed to learn.” — Jordan Pickell, trauma therapist
“Sometimes telling ourselves ‘Everything happens for a reason’ or ‘It made me stronger’ is a way to avoid our grief, our vulnerability, and our helplessness,” Pickell says. If your partner hurts you and tells you that they’re doing it for your own good, that is one of the domestic violence signs.
True strength isn’t born, it’s made
“Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength.” — Henry Rollins, American musician
“What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” This adage isn’t just a bumper sticker, it speaks to a deep truth, of our ability to survive in the face of horror and come out stronger for it. Recognizing your strength is a powerful way of reclaiming your power from your abuser. People of all ages, genders, races, careers, and life situations can experience abuse. (Here’s what some men don’t realize about domestic violence.)
You did what you had to do to survive
“Be gentle with your past selves for doing what they had to do to get through it.” — Jordan Pickell
It’s not uncommon for abuse survivors to beat themselves up for what they did, or didn’t do, during the relationship. However, the coping strategies you learned, even the most “unhealthy” ones, were there to help you survive, Pickell says. “We turned to them at times we needed them to get through and now you see there are more options available,” she says.
(Ready to change? Learn how to break a habit.)
The truth will win
“When a toxic person can no longer control you, they will try to control how others see you. The misinformation will seem unfair but rise above it, trusting that others will eventually see the truth, just as you did.” — Jill Blakeway, healer and author
A trademark of abusers is playing mind games to manipulate you and make you feel crazy, including doubting the reality of yourself. You’re not bad and you’re not crazy. It’s called gaslighting. Beware of these gaslighting phrases.
The best revenge is living well
“Revenge is surviving, getting out, and being a better person than you were, and breaking the cycle.” — Kristy Green, survivor via the M3ND Project
Revenge is a natural impulse when someone hurts you. But when it comes to dealing with an abusive ex, the best revenge is living your best life and showing that they couldn’t break you. Here’s how to take the high road in difficult situations.
Hurt people hurt people
“Just because it’s explainable, doesn’t mean it’s excusable.” — Anonymous
Many abusers claim trauma of their own as a reason for their abusive behavior. But even if it’s true, having past trauma isn’t an excuse for hurting others. Here’s how to heal from a traumatic experience.
The guilt is not yours
“We must send a message across the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence—the shame is on the aggressor.” — Angelina Jolie, American actress and human rights activist
So many survivors feel intense guilt, often because their abusers made them feel ashamed, as if they deserved it. The truth is that no one deserves to be hurt and shaming is one of the many signs of narcissistic abuse.
Your story is powerful
“Part of the healing process is sharing with other people who care.” Jerry Cantrell, American musician
Other people don’t get to decide the meaning of your trauma. It’s up to you to tell your own story and what it means, Pickell says. You don’t have to share anything you don’t want to, but finding a safe way to share your experiences can be very healing. Hearing other survivors’ stories of domestic violence can help.
Believe in something bigger
“Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.” — Thomas Moore, Irish writer and philosopher
Many survivors find hope and healing in believing in a higher power of some kind. Whether you follow an organized religion, believe in God, or create your own way of connecting with the universe, having a sense of spirituality is one of the characteristics linked with happiness.
“If you carry joy in your heart, you can heal any moment.” — Carlos Santana, Mexican-American musician
Joy can be hard to find, especially on those days you feel overwhelmed by painful memories and feelings. But it’s important to remember that even the most gut-wrenching emotions are temporary.
“When we are in the depths of emotion, we are so consumed by it that we have an underlying belief the feeling will never end and it is this belief that makes the experience of emotion unbearable,” Pickell says. “Emotions ebb and flow.” Here’s how to deal with negative emotions in a healthy way.
You don’t have to hide
“I’m still coping with my trauma, but coping by trying to find different ways to heal it rather than hide it.” — Clemantine Wamariya, Rwandan-American author
Hiding your experiences or your feelings is denying part of your basic humanity. But as you heal you will feel more comfortable expressing yourself. “You know you are getting better when speaking up for your needs becomes routine,” Pickell says. “This is a marker of growth and healing.” (Start with these tips for setting healthy boundaries.)
Forgive, but don’t forget
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” — Maya Angelou, American author and poet
It can be tempting to paint your abuser in a rosy light, remembering the good times and forgetting the bad ones. But you can forgive them without forgetting how terribly they treated you. Wanting to believe the best about your abuser, often someone you love deeply, is one of the reasons that people stay in abusive relationships.
Healing takes many forms
“The remedy for life’s broken pieces is not classes, workshops, or books. Don’t try to heal the broken pieces. Just forgive.” — Iyanla Vanzant, American inspirational speaker
Self-help classes, groups, and books can give you a lot of good tools for moving forward with your life but there’s no need to “fix” yourself. You were never “broken”—that’s a lie your abuser told you to make you stay. (Here are some self-care quotes to show yourself compassion.)
“Music is like my secret garden. It’s where I heal myself from every pain that I feel. It’s like a therapy.” — Jain, French singer-songwriter
The health benefits of music and other creative arts have incredible healing powers, both mentally and physically. Expressing yourself creatively gives you an outlet for thoughts and feelings you wouldn’t otherwise know how to deal with.
It wouldn’t hurt so much if you didn’t love so much
“Domestic abuse happens only in intimate, interdependent, long-term relationships—in other words, in families—the last place we would want or expect to find violence.” — Leslie Morgan Steiner, American author and women’s rights activist
Loving relationships are supposed to be the places where we are the safest. And yet for too many people, they are the places where they are the most in danger. This has become even more true during the coronavirus pandemic. (Dealing with a narcissist? Here are narcissist quotes to help you cope.)
The silent epidemic
“Domestic violence is an epidemic, and yet we don’t address it. Until it happens to celebrities.” — Nelsan Ellis, American actor
When someone else is being hurt, it’s easy to see it as abuse. Yet somehow it’s much harder to see when you’re the one in the situation. This is why the perspective of outside friends and family is so important. If you know someone who is being hurt by a partner, here’s how to help an abused loved one.
“There is a fine balance between honoring the past and losing yourself in it. For example, you can acknowledge and learn from mistakes you made, and then move on and refocus on the now. It is called forgiving yourself.” — Eckhart Tolle, philosopher and author
Does forgiving yourself sound easier said than done? Here are the ways to start being nicer to yourself right now because you deserve it.
- Jordan Pickell, MCP, RCC, registered clinical counselor, trauma, and relationship therapist in Vancouver, British Columbia
- National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: "Why Do Victims Stay?"
- U.S. Department of Justice: "Nonfatal Domestic Violence 2003-2012"
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: "Domestic Violence Statistics"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Preventing Intimate Partner Violence"