I asked myself that question many, many times as my heart was twisting and turning with indecision and fear. A friend told me, “Keep praying for God to show you His will and then give you the strength to do it. He will make it clear when it’s time to leave.” Hummmm…. I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant. Honestly, I prefer more clear-cut answers. That seemed way too vague.
But, as she urged, I kept asking God for clarity and wisdom. Finally, I have to say, God make it perfectly, crystal clear. What I mean by that, is that I felt a strong inner prompting that it was time. And I had a total peace about it. (Before, I felt only fear and confusion when I considered leaving my marriage.) I thanked Him for giving me clarity. I sanity-checked it with a couple of trusted friends and family. There was total agreement that it was indeed time to leave the toxic, abusive situation I was in. Not one person argued that I needed to stay, try harder, or do anything else to try to reconcile.
That was my path to knowing it was time. Frankly, it was a long journey for me to get to that point. But the peace and courage I had when I decided to leave was comforting and motivating. I was still anxious about how my husband would react, but I had courage and strength because I really believed it was the right thing to do. I didn’t feel indecision and fear that I might be doing the wrong thing, like I had felt previously.
For a non-faith perspective on when it’s time to leave a destructive marriage, I really like Lundy Bancroft’s thoughts from his book Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?:
“The Turning Point: Sometimes we hit a point in life where we just can’t take it anymore. Regardless of what the unhealthy situation is – a toxic work environment, a living situation with aggravating housemates, a marriage to a destructive partner – we may have gone along tolerating our distress for years, but one morning we wake up and we simply cannot live with it anymore.
The source of this internal shift is a mystery. Why after three years, or ten years, or twenty years of tolerating pain and stress does there come a time when we simply have to take steps, even if they feel scary, toward a better life? And what happens that makes all of our previous fears of change no longer holds back?
Changing any of the fundamental pillars of our lives – our job, our home, our primary relationship- comes with risks. The next situation might be even worse. We might end up feeling alone and lonely. Some people we care about might turn against us because of the upheaval we’re causing. We might not have the money we need to live at the standard we’re accustomed to.
But a day comes when none of that matters.
The dangers are still there, but they seem more tolerable than staying in the life we’re currently enduring. We suddenly have courage that we lacked before. From somewhere has surged faith in ourselves that had vanished before, and energy that had been zapped out of us. We rise.
If your day hasn’t come yet, it will come soon. One morning you will awake and burst forth, like a caterpillar out of a chrysalis becoming a butterfly. And if your relationship continues to stand in your way, you will end it, because you won’t be able to stand being held back another minute.
I will know when the day comes when it’s time to go.”
So, dear one, if you are reading this and in a destructive marriage, and you have done EVERYTHING you can do to work on yourself and your marriage, maybe you are struggling with what to do next. Whether you believe that God will show you the path, or whether you believe the conviction that it is time to leave is “a mystery”, I believe you WILL know when it’s time to leave an abusive relationship. Just keep educating yourself. Seek truth. Come out of any denial. Confide in a few close friends that you trust. And pray.
Love and blessings,