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You know your situation best, including how you feel about your partner. If you’re in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, figuring out what to do next can be hard. All your feelings right now are valid, including intimate emotions you might have developed for your partner despite abusive behaviors.

It’s important to make a decision that prioritizes your future, not the history you might have together. Whatever choice you make, we’re here to offer non-judgemental support to help you plan for your safety.

Staying together

It’s okay if you decide to stay in your relationship right now. What’s important is that you make sure you’re being honest with yourself about your decision. While unhealthy relationships can become healthier with enough time and dedication, it’s unrealistic to try and “fix” an abusive relationship. You can only change your own behavior, not your partner’s.

If you want to break up but aren’t ready to do so just yet, consider these measures to plan for your safety in the meantime:

  • Plan ahead for a ride home with someone you trust if you go to a party or event with your partner.
  • If possible, avoid being alone with your partner. Try to make sure other people are around when you’re together, whether that’s doing group activities or only spending time together in public.
  • Tell someone you trust where you are and when you’ll return if you’re going to be alone with your partner.
Preparing for a break up

Ending a relationship is never as simple as just breaking up and moving on, no matter what your friends or family may tell you. It’s okay to be uncertain or sad to leave, even if your relationship is abusive or unhealthy. Here are some important things to remember when thinking about breaking up:

  • It’s normal to be afraid of feeling lonely after the break up . Your partner has probably become an important part of your life and you might spend more time with them than you do with your friends or family. We recommend identifying activities that will help you fill your time in rewarding or comforting ways: things like talking to friends or picking up new hobbies.
  • You’ll probably miss your partner after the break up . Maybe a lot. Even if they’ve been abusive or controlling, it’s hard to experience such a drastic change in your life. Try writing down the reasons you want to end your relationship before doing so and keep them as a reminder for yourself later on.
  • It can take time to get used to reclaiming control over your life . If your partner is controlling or jealous, they may make many of your decisions for you. Be patient and gracious with yourself as you readjust, and lean on trusted friends or family members if you start to feel helpless or overwhelmed.
  • It’s okay to be scared to end your relationship . Take your fears seriously. Use our interactive safety plan to think through dangerous situations you may encounter and remember to always prioritize your safety. If possible, identify non-law enforcement resources for emergency and non-emergency situations: learn more about safety and law enforcement .
Breaking up

Ending an unhealthy or abusive relationship isn’t the same as ending a healthy one. It’s usually particularly difficult to have a peaceful or mutual break up with an abusive partner. They may not accept the decision or respect your boundaries, or they might try to control you or guilt you through pleas, threats, or insults.

Remember: as long as you’re okay with the decision to break up, it’s okay if your partner isn’t. If you’re thinking about ending your relationship, consider these tips to do so safely:

  • Don’t break up in person if it’s not safe for you to do so. It may seem cruel to end a relationship over the phone or by text or email, but your safety is more important than protecting their feelings.
  • If you break up in person, do it in a public place. Have a trusted friend or family member wait nearby and bring a cell phone with you if you can.
  • Don’t try to explain your reasons for ending the relationship more than once. There’s nothing you can say that will make your ex happy and they may use it as an opportunity to try and change your mind.
  • Let your friends and family know you’re ending your relationship, especially if you think it’s possible that your ex will come to your house or try to confront you when you’re alone.
  • If your ex does come to your house when you’re alone, don’t go to the door. Keep your phone nearby in case you need to call for help.
  • Trust yourself. If you feel afraid, take your fears seriously.
  • Ask for help. Chat with an advocate now to talk through your situation.
After the break up

The end of an unhealthy or abusive relationship doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the risks you might be facing. Consider taking steps after breaking up to ensure your ongoing safety:

  • If you find yourself getting hung up on old memories, stay strong and remember why you made your decision in the first place.
  • Talk with your trusted friends and family to identify ways they can support you. If possible, tell your family what’s going on, especially if your ex might come to your house unannounced.
  • Talk to a trusted counselor or teacher to try and adjust your class schedule or find other ways to stay safer at school.
  • Avoid isolated areas at school or local hangouts, and avoid walking alone or wearing headphones while out in public.
  • Keep trusted friends or family members nearby when attending parties or events that you think your ex might attend.
  • Save any threatening or harassing messages your ex sends. Update your privacy settings on social media and ask your friends to do the same.
  • Memorize important numbers for emergency and non-emergency services in case you don’t have access to your phone contacts.

Most importantly, take care of yourself. It may not be obvious at first, but everything you put behind you makes room for exciting new opportunities in your life. Remember what made you happy before the relationship and replace your old routines with activities you never had time for. We recommend reconnecting with an old friend, going for a walk, listening to music, or exploring creative outlets like photography or poetry.

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