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Home Forums Share your story How to live on with shame and guilt

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    I left an abusive partner in Jan and been hiding since then. She hit me before, and I have been acting/pretending to be the way she wanted, so keep the peace. This time, she showed the same pattern – blaming me for everything, claiming that I ruined her life when I wanted some space. But this time, my friends stepped in and protected me before the situation get escalated. I am now in a safe address, hiding from my (ex)partner. But because we are married, so I had to wait for the divorce process.

    With supports from friends, I talked to a solicitor, who introduced me to a domestic violence consultant. I learnt that my ex-partner’s behaviours are typically gaslighting – which could manipulate me, and damage my confidence to leave. I think I now learnt about the theory, and I understand what happened was not my fault. Actually I was not nothing what my ex-partner described. But I still find it difficult to drop the self blame, self-hatred, the guilt behind. Every time when I thought about this relationship, this past five years, I felt sick of myself – for staying there, for making all those wrong decisions, to be so weak and begging for her forgiveness after she hit me.

    I always pictured myself to be independent, and been refused to see myself as a victim. I find it difficult to tell other people what happened – would they understand? why did I still walked into marriage with her after I already saw the violence signs in her? why didn’t I leave after the first time she hit me? why did i tolerated her escalated violent behaviour and still be with her for another three more years?

    I still blame myself for not able to leave earlier, or even to get involved with this person from the first place. Now I am costing so much to trying to cut clean – divorce is expensive, and she can potentially hurt my parents with the marriage and she was harassing the friends who protected me. I blamed myself for getting myself in such a messed up stage.

    At the moment, I have all the safe-guard measures in place. I live at a secret address; I have filed a report with the police; I have cut any communication from her (solicitor will handle any communication for the divorce process); and I have therapist sessions booked in starting next week. I have taken every instructions/advices I got from the experts, because I was so eager to feel better.

    But I do not know how to feel better. I feel shame, guilt, and unworthy. What if she is right after all? Perhaps that was my fault? Perhaps I am unable to love, perhaps I am ‘incomplete’ as a human. Even if I was a good person before, but after all these happened, I felt I am broken. I felt shamed to let anyone know about this part of the history – that I let someone abused me and humiliated me like that, and I didn’t stand my ground. I felt I was naked and vulnerable. I am shamed of myself and find it difficult to talk about it. I find it difficult to talk about it even to therapist – I could cry over this again and again, but how can I go over this?

    Apart from that, I don’t know whether I could trust another person again. I don’t want to expose myself to danger again. I can live without relationship, but i know deep inside I do want to be understood, be connected. I feel shamed of myself even think about relationship – haven’t I not learnt enough lessons?

    I don’t want to bore these thoughts with anyone, and I was scared of making new friends. I can keep crying in therapist sessions. To be honest, I feel sorry for crying in front of therapist too. I am not sure how I can move on from these shame, guilt and these endless crying.


    LL, thank you for this honest and courageous post. This is such an important issue to talk about as so many people manage to leave an abusive partner but find the aftermath very difficult, turning on themselves and feeling shame, guilt and self-hatred.

    You have done so well to leave and get to a safe address, where you are having to hide from your ex-partner. You have come a long way already.

    It sounds like learning the theory of domestic abuse helped you intellectually recognise that the abuse wasn’t your fault but this alone hasn’t stopped your feelings of self blame, self hatred and guilt. That makes a lot of sense, what a person knows intellectually and what a person’s feels emotionally can be very different and this is normal.

    I can see from your post that you blame yourself as you call yourself weak for begging for forgiveness after she hit you. At Galop we believe that every survivor will defy, resist and try to prevent abuse or violence to them. However sometimes the way we might try to do this might seem surprising or confusing – so if we think about the example you name of begging for forgiveness. Perhaps it was the best way to resist further violence and to prevent another attack in the coming days or weeks. You most likely knew your partner well and knew what would be the most effective ways of resisting and preventing violence, so perhaps that’s what influenced you to use this approach and it was in fact a clever and resourceful tactic, rather than a weak one.

    I can hear the self-blame coming through in the questions you ask yourself, like, ‘why didn’t I leave after the first time she hit me?’ And many people have asked these questions of themselves or when talking to the helpline team, you’re not alone with feeling self-blame. There can be many factors that influence a person to remain with a partner who harms them. Common factors we hear from people on the helpline are:

    • I was married and I wanted the marriage to work so I was prepared to keep working at it. I took marriage seriously.
    • They promised to change and I believed and hoped they could as when we started the relationship they didn’t behave like this. It came in after time.
    • I felt responsible for them, they didn’t have anyone else and they suffered with mental health issues.
    • I believed I could help them.
    • I loved them, there were some qualities that I liked a lot.
    • I was dependant on them for housing, money, visa, care.

    I hope this helps you see that you are not alone with staying with a partner who used harmful tactics to control you and you are not to blame for staying with her. Many factors may come together, like a web, to keep you there.

    It sounds like you are doing the right thing by going to therapy and crying. Therapy is a great place to let out the feelings and allow them the space they need. Sometimes bottling them or not allowing the feelings can cause the pain to last longer. So while crying might not feel like the comfortable thing to do, it is great you are expressing your emotions in a safe space! Bravo for making this happen.

    You asked whether you will be able to trust again or have new friends or a partner. Many survivors feel like this. Is it worth it? Can you take that risk again? You might find this free peer to peer support network worth exploring. Co-dependants Anonymous is a network of people who have experienced unhealthy, dysfunctional and/or abusive relationships and want to move forward and have respectful, equal, boundaried relationships. Perhaps take a look at their website and their introductory material and see if it makes sense to you.
    Thank you for being so brave and sharing bravely your experience of coping and recovering after domestic abuse. Your words may help others who have a similar experience.

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