Q: How do you help a man get out of an abusive relationship? It mostly mentally and verbal, but does take on physical aspects as well. He keeps leaving and returning to her (11 years now). Friends and family are very concerned as they have two young children who have witnessed a lot of drama.

A:I don’t think I have the answer you are hoping for, but here it is: “You don’t.”

All you can do to encourage anyone to take better care of themselves is to love them (which really means just accepting them as they are, staying with them if that’s comfortable for you and if you want to, etc.).

You can give your opinion, of course, but it isn’t likely to change things. People learn in their own good time. We (including therapists) can encourage change, and we can stand with someone while they decide, but the decision is always theirs – and it always happens only when they are ready for it. Eleven years is a long time, so that shows something strong is keeping him there – and a few words aren’t likely to change much.

Of course if the children are being physically abused or if they are witnessing violence, you could call child protective services in your area. But, if things aren’t really awful, they aren’t likely to be of much help since they do have so many situations that truly are awful.

Wish I had some magic answer for you, something that would make him care enough about himself and his children to leave if that’s necessary – or at least something that would get him, or the couple, to go to see a good family therapist. But if there was magic, there wouldn’t be any need for therapists.





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