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Life After An Abusive Marriage: Dealing With the Judgment

Life After An Abusive Marriage: Dealing With the Judgment

Single mom Brandi E. says it's struggle to understand why people are so hard on moms who've walked away from abusive marriages or relationships. She can’t fathom why some think it's better for moms to acquiesce to an abusive spouse instead of moving on to create a safe home for their children.

She knows firsthand. “I'm a single mom because I divorced my son's verbally and emotionally abusive father. I then became a single mom to three more children, because I adopted them out of the foster care system. Again, I feel being raised by a single mom is better than being raised in a group home or institution. Unfortunately people assume that if you are a single mom, you are on welfare. Maybe I'm not the norm, but I own my own business. I'm able to work at home and raise my children myself."

Brandi’s words point to a troubling challenge faced by single moms even after they've left abusive relationships: the unspoken judgment that they were wrong to walk away and deprive their children of a two-parent home.


This stigma can be particularly pronounced in the workplace says Kristin G, who feels that she's judged in an ongoing way by co-workers "because I didn't make the best choice in men." She finds it especially tough when co-workers make insensitive comments: "I don't know why they...don't understand how we are working harder. We are going it ALONE and taking on the responsibilities of two parents."

Should I Have Stayed?

Experts and many Circle of Moms community members agree that despite the no matter the stigma, it’s better and healthier to leave an abusive relationship than to stay.

“Abusive relationships are terribly unhealthy for the mom and her children,” says marriage and family psychotherapist Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill. “There are always exceptions of course, but moms in these home situations should be encouraged to leave, and need to plan their leaving with some support and if possible, professional help. “

Staying in an abusive relationship is “never OK,” says Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld of Baltimore, MD., adding that “The most important thing children need to grow up emotionally healthy is to have a peaceful home. If the home is not peaceful, she (the mom) must have the courage to make a change.”

Fear is what keeps moms in abusive relationships, says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D.

“This should not be a difficult decision, because staying with an abusive man can mean your children will grow up to be abused or be abusive,” says Tessina. "You can figure out how to survive as a single mom, but you can't undo the harm that staying with an abuser will do to your children."

Joanne F. agrees. “Why raise a child in a family that always fights and is abusive in any way? You should take them out of that environment. Children don't always need two parents. They need love.“

"People always ask me 'So, why don't you get back with his father so you can have a real family?" says Nicole T. "Really? Last time I checked we are a real family. I love my son with all that I have and I don't want him to grow up in a home full of tension. And to think I didn't have to sacrifice my dignity or self-worth to be in an abusive relationship to give my son a 'real family.' I wish society would be more accepting of single moms."

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

beatriz-gtorres1387314284 beatriz-gtorres1387314284 3 years
That is soo true...I left my ex 4 years ago..& we've been great..i enjoy my 3 girls..& have more time witj them..the time he took away from me & mad me cry..or run..or watch my back 24/7..& now.i found my new husband/ friend..when i thought men were all abusers..he is soo calm..we are married & have a beautiful 6 mon old daughter..should of left him before..!!
Samantha94025 Samantha94025 6 years
I was in it and was scared to leave. It took him putting his hands on me to pry our daughter from my arms for me to leave. It was the morning of her 1st birthday. I wasn't allowed to even take her grocery shopping with me. I was to stay inside all day with her which is not my personality. I hated my little girl seeing me cry everyday, not eating, not sleeping, losing weight, and hair falling out. He made me feel like nothing. I went to talk therapy just to have an outlet and he used that against me. I made him mad one day and he told DSS that because of my mental state I abused my daughter. I was investigated for a month. Of course they found nothing. After I left he continued to try and take her by filling for sole custody and have me pay child support even though I wasn't working at the time. Of course that got flipped on him too. This court mess wears me down and hurts my heart in the process but it's worth it to be able to have a happy life and enjoy my child as a mother should. I now have my own place and me and my daughter go places to have fun. For the most part I am happy and so thankful. To anyone out there, it may hurt at first and you even may have to stay with a friend or relative for a while but you will make it, you may have little or no money but you will make it. It may take you a few months or a few years but you will make it. Do what you got to do because you will make it
WendyMorgan45770 WendyMorgan45770 6 years
Leaving an abusive relationship is one of the toughest things a person may ever have to do. Often the abuser has forced her to cut ties with family and friends so she feels isolated and alone and dependent on her abuser. Where will she go? Who will help her move? It can be so overwhelming. I finally got out of an abusive relationship after countless attempts. I am sorry that I felt my boys needed their father in their lives. Looking back, I can see that we all would have been better off without him. My kids were angry at me when I left their abusive father, even though the abuse that I had suffered so many years was starting to happen to them too. When my ex started hurting my my kids that was the final straw and gave me the strength I needed to end it for good. If you know someone in an abusive relationship, don't let her abuser keep you away. Let her know you will be there for her if she needs help. I think more women would be able to leave their abusive situations if they knew they had some kind of support. Doing it on your own can be too overwhelming.
VanessaTrentham VanessaTrentham 6 years
Social Services made getting out of an abusive relationship harder for me. My children were on the At Risk Register because of his behaviour and yet I had to give him any time access to the children (2 of which were just 2) and they insisted he babysit one of the 2 year olds (and they even suggested I leave a 5 year old with Global Developmental Delay, my oldest child, with him and go to my parents' for a holiday!) . Before my ex moved out (arranged by Social Services) they had been giving me the impression if my ex and I split up they would take the children into care just because I had (at the time undiagnosed) Aspergers Syndrome- whereas it turned out later that if we hadn't split up they would have been taken into care. Social Services treatment of us was we did everything their way to the smallest detail or the kids would be taken into care (even if the reason for taking them into care was not any form of abuse) and if the kids tripped up and got a bruise it was child abuse until proven otherwise (guilty until proven innocent). I was left psychologically battling both my ex and social services for the sake of my kids- who I knew would not cope with being taken into care (the twins were later diagnosed with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome/ADHD and that in itself means they wouldn't cope with the unstable upbringing they would be likely to have in care. At the time they were suspected of having an Autistic Spectrum Disorder but it was not yet diagnosed. My oldest son has a developmental delay and he is such a softie and so gentle and easily hurt not the emotionally tough sort you'd probably need to be to cope with life in care. I did get out but only because their were others (such as the special needs workers from the Sure Start we used and the staff at a local charity that specialize in helping people in abusive relationships) who did help in a constructive manner. Social Services just left me terrified to do anything because the kids would be taken into care- they made it harder for me to get out of the relationship. After I moved away and the kids were taken off the At Risk Register I had CAFCASS wanting to give my ex unsupervised access to my oldest (the one who was most hurt by what my ex did and who my ex had failed to return from access before and even been attacked by his mum when I went to get my son back myself one time- attacked when I had my son in my arms!). My dad helped avert that one by offering his place as a place for contact and to supervise it himself but the court order still had to include a possibility of unsupervised access inspite of my ex having a Caution for Child Abuse- but at least it could only happen if I agreed to it which I never would. My mum and I were verbally abused by my ex outside the contact centre when contact was at the contact centre (access at the contact centre was like legally enforced child abuse anyway because my ex often did not turn up and I had to take the kids whether they wanted to see him or not, they did not have a say in the matter and neither did I, and the kids went through hell with it). After a while he stopped bothering with access (access at my parents had been working for the kids so this hurt them all over again). All CAFCASS were interested in though was the rights of the father to see his kids- the kids welfare was ignored inspite of my attempts to try to tell them how the kids were affected and that the chances of my ex maintaining access and not hurting them all over again by failing to turn up and never being seen again were nil- to them the fact he applied for access was proof he'd be committed to maintaining access. Getting out does not mean your children are going to be safe from the abuse if he abuses them nor you even if he only abuses you- so long as you have kids he is the father of in many ways you are stuck even if you get out and kids are killed during court ordered access in some cases- ask Women's Aid.
kaligehrman kaligehrman 6 years
amen sista! amen!
JessieVanderBent JessieVanderBent 6 years
I have been in two abusive relationships. The first was mentally and physically abusive and the second was mostly mentally abusive. After I left the first one I felt like I didn't deserve any better and had my son with the second guy. I realized after those two guys there's a look every man gets in their eye when you say or do something they don't approve of. It's a cold dead look and their face just goes blank. If you ever see that look it's time to I'm so happy I'm out of both relationships and I'm finally with a good man that can teach my son how to treat a woman.
SherylJasso SherylJasso 6 years
I was in an extremely abusive relationship with my childrens' father. He was emotionally, financially, sexually, and physically abusive. I thought that it was better to have my childrens father with them as he was a good father (he was only abusive to me). The day I learned why my thinking was wrong was the worse day of my life... He was physically beating me when my daughter (2 yrs old) jumped on his back begging him to stop hurting her mommy and he knocked her against the wall. He was very upset knowing that he had done this. (He did not mean to, but he was to engrosed in beating me). I left that week. I found out 2 weeks later that I had a cracked rib, a broken cheekbone and that I was 5 months pregnant. I had left him and moved out of state to get away. I spent the last 4 months in the hospital trying to save the child that I was pregnant with. He had also damaged the placenta. Since I moved out of state where I knew nobody, I had to place my 2 children in foster care. That was the hardest time in my life and I thank God every day that I got away with my children. ; )
FernandaSaavedra FernandaSaavedra 6 years
Leaving may be hard but it's harder to stay....abuse of any kind is unacceptable and NO ONE needs to tolerate it. I've been a part of all spectrums: a child of an abused parent, an abuser and a victim of abuse. I'm happy to say that I am in a healthy abuse-free marriage and all those bad times are long gone. :)
krystalgrigsby krystalgrigsby 6 years
I do know too well what these young ladies have went through. I am a survivor of domestic violence. I am working on my divorce with the right lawyer.
TamaraJoslin TamaraJoslin 6 years
It is so hard to deal with people's reactions to leaving. Most of my friends, who were my husband's friends, were really angry and continued his abuse for him. One of my long-time friends summed it up for me. She said I am the most patient person she knows and that if I had to leave, there were very good reasons. If only more people could've told me things like that. It would have made it so much easier. There is a double standard out there: you are a weak woman if you stay with a man like that AND you are wrong to leave your husband. Thankfully, I understood survival was my only option. It has been 7 years now and I am no longer so skittish, afraid to connect. I am happy and fearless. I respect the possibility that he could come back to haunt me, but usually remember that he needs to control people close to him, so I am most likely safe as long as I stay away from him. I have learned how important it is to trust my own intuition. It was a hard lesson, but I got it. Now my relationships with people are so much more clear and relaxed. I have my new daughter and a lovely home--sans drama. Life is good.
DesireSimmons DesireSimmons 6 years
I recently left my abusive husband this past November. I have 2 little boys and it has been very hard. And he is making it harder. The divorce and child custody issues are a constant drain on my peace of mind. And he has been trying to undermine my authority with my oldest boy who is 6. But all of it is less than the daily degradation, humiliation and mental beatdown that I took every day of our 6 year marriage. It is never better for the kids to stay in a bad relationship. The only example they get of what love is comes from us. Did I really want my boys to grow up thinking that what they saw between me and their father was what love is?? Absolutely not. So all the hard work is worth it. And I am finally happy!
MeaganJeffrey MeaganJeffrey 6 years
I was in a relationship that was emotionally, physically and verbally abusive in every way! I had a very hard time leaving, because every time I went to the police they refused to help until one day the jerk I was with decided to take his abuse one step further from me to a police officer! They arrested him on the spot and I left the province with my daughter! I ran over 3000 miles to get away from him; leaving everyone and thing behind. I had to seek counseling and still suffer from the fear he may come for me one day. I am still jumpy at loud sounds, people who look like him and people who sneek up behind me. This is a fear that I dont know will ever go away. :0( I respect all women who can get out before its too late. Its never as easy as one may think!
JessicaAdams37833 JessicaAdams37833 6 years
When you become a Mother, it's not about you anymore. It's about them. If you don't have it in yourself to leave the abuser for yourself, you need to realize what you're doing to your children. Abuse scars a person for life. I know, my father was abusive and 30 years later, I'm still dealing with the trauma from it. At 10, my Mother was forced to leave him by child protective services. However, the damage was already done. I've become a survivor and my life has been a good one, but I've had to overcome A LOT of emotional baggage to get to this point. It's not worth staying when you could be with someone who will love and respect you and your children.
goldenrainbowsoverboard goldenrainbowsoverboard 6 years
yup agreed!
CrystalNoah58562 CrystalNoah58562 6 years
This is 2011! Why would any woman stay with someone who abused them. What message is this teaching our children? Brandi you were right to leave your abusive husband. People are always saying the children should be put first, but I believe you need to put yourself first in this case. How can you take care of your child if you can't take care of yourself? I commend women who make the decision to get out while they still can. How many women are in prison now because they felt the only way out was to kill their abusive spouse? Be proud of the life you have made for yourself and your son and how wonderful you have added to your family.
KaylaHickey KaylaHickey 6 years
I have been there I was with the father of my kids for almost 3 years. He was physicly mentally and emotionally abusive. We have 2 kids togather and I honestly dont know why i stayed with him as long as i did, but if i had of left him sooner i would not have my baby girl. To all those single moms out there LEAVE!!! get out of that situation before your kids get tromatized thank god my kids probally wont rember what went on between me and tier father. I got out before things could get any worse if that was even possable. But to all the people in abosive relationships not only singel moms you need to think of whats best for you and your kids if you have any. Every one in this life desirves to be happy and things wont change. You need to stick up for your self and do what you think is best. Everyone is worth something and no one deservs to go through hell every day for any reason. Everyone deserves to be loved and feel safe in there own home. It might be a little hard at first but it is worth it. I know i did it and am living proff that you dont need a man to be happy.
marylambert25470 marylambert25470 6 years
I am and have been in a verbal and mental abusive marriage for many years ITS HARD TO LEAVE, my kids are now older and i see how staying caused an effect esp on my 18 yr old son, i left 2 xs befor and i never should have come back but day after day 4xs a day i got calls him crying swearing to me he wont drink no more well i went back and he didnt for like 6 months then right back at it, then here recently i told him i was leaving i cant take the verbal abuse anymore when he drinks im done again w the promice he wont drink anymore, well it lasted this time 1 day the next day he said i promice i wont cuss and argue w u HA HA HA HA HA i recently had total knee replacement i packed alot of my things and put them in a spare room for after i get better i will leave for i have no support if i leave i cant drive or move around to much but my mind is made up i soooo wish and regret everyday that i didnt stay away 6 yrs ago.. i wish every woman that has this problem if they have a place to go GO it will never get better no matter how many promices we are worth to be happy and have a happy home... thank you
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