scorecardMy boyfriend is manipulative and verbally abusive, but I can't get him to move out. What can I do?
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My boyfriend is manipulative and verbally abusive, but I can't get him to move out. What can I do?

Julia Naftulin   

My boyfriend is manipulative and verbally abusive, but I can't get him to move out. What can I do?
LifeScience4 min read
  • As a victim of abuse, it's normal to feel guilt and shame. But abuse is never deserved, a therapist said.
  • Abusers often use words, fights, and isolation to keep a victim in the unhealthy dynamic.
  • Understanding how the cycle happens and the resources available can help a victim move forward.

Dear Julia,

I've tried ending my relationship with my boyfriend many times, but he always finds a way back into my life.

We've known each other for six years. For awhile, I thought he was loving and caring but misunderstood. But now I see that he's an alcoholic and verbally and emotionally abusive. I can get really scared of him because he's a big guy, although he hasn't physically abused me yet.

We've lived in my apartment together since February. He's retired and stays in bed until 2 pm most days, then spends the rest of the day watching television. He's emotionally unstable, so I have to tiptoe around him, act patient, and keep listening to his promises that he will quit drinking and get healthy.

But he's getting worse. He's so smooth and manipulative. He blames me for not taking care of his needs and requests and shames me for how I take care of my handicapped grandchild. I'm also in debt for over $30,000 after I opened a credit card under my name for our shared expenses, which he suggested. We maxed it out, and he refuses to help pay off the debt.

Over email, I finally told him to leave my house and said I don't want to see him. He claims that he's been paying rent and I can't kick him out, and also tells me he has nowhere to go. One moment he says he loves me, then the next he says he's my tenant and I'm the one who is crazy. What am I supposed to do?

- California

Dear California,

I'm sorry you're experiencing verbal and emotional abuse from someone you love. You shouldn't have to worry about your safety in your own home.

There are certainly legal steps you can take to get your abusive boyfriend out of your home. But before we get into logistics, it's important to check in on your mental health and find ways for you to feel supported outside of your romantic relationship.

Victims of abuse often harbor feelings of guilt and shame over their situations, which can prevent them from leaving their abusive relationships for good, Naiylah Warren, a licensed therapist and clinical content manager for mental health support app Real, told me.

These feelings, or the idea that a victim of abuse deserves and should endure that unacceptable treatment, can pop up for multiple reasons, according to Warren.

First, a partner experiencing abuse may feel stuck because they're isolated from their circle of loved ones. If a victim of abuse spends less time with their family and friends, and more time with the person who they love but who abuses them, the victim may begin to believe they deserve the situation.

This can happen slowly, as many abusive relationships start on good terms but devolve when one partner takes control of a living situation, finances, or other aspect of your day-to-day life, Warren said. And if a victim feels like their abuser has become their closest emotional support, it can feel impossible to find a new confidante.

She added that substance abuse is another common reason a relationship can start as loving then become abusive.

You mentioned how your boyfriend has manipulated you with his words and made you feel poorly for not taking care of him and your family. According to Warren, when an abuser uses this type of shaming rhetoric, it's a way to make a victim feel like they deserve unacceptable treatment so that they stay around.

If the abuse has been going on for awhile, a victim might also brace for big arguments, leading an abuser to incite a fight. Often, they'll end the fight by begging that they'll change or by making excuses for their behavior, Warren said. This cycle can make a victim feel like if they can just endure the bad parts of the relationship, they can get back to the "honeymoon phase," but that isn't a healthy dynamic, said Warren.

Finally, if a victim is concerned the abuse could turn from verbal to physical, they may decide it's easier to stay an appease their abusive partner than leave with the fear of their safety, according to Warren.

All of this to say, you don't deserve any of what you're experiencing. I'm sure you know that, but knowing is easier than getting out and moving forward.

When Warren works with victims of abuse, she first makes sure their physical safety isn't in imminent danger. If it is, they create an action plan, which includes a trusted person the victim can call when they feel unsafe and a place they can go for safety their abuser doesn't know about.

According to Warren, local domestic violence centers, which you can find through the National Domestic Violence Hotline, often provide legal assistance for abuse situations, plus housing options if a victim's home is no longer safe for them. If your boyfriend won't leave, your local center can provide you with options for next steps.

No matter the course of action you decide to take, please remember you're not alone and none of this is your fault. You need and deserve help and love. I hope you take care of yourself and find it.

As Insider's resident sex and relationships reporter, Julia Naftulin is here to answer all of your questions about dating, love, and doing it — no question is too weird or taboo. Julia regularly consults a panel of health experts including relationship therapists, gynecologists, and urologists to get science-backed answers to your burning questions, with a personal twist.

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