How to Leave When You Have Nowhere to Go

by Coach Ellie

If you wanted to vacation in Thailand, would you just pack a bag and grab a Lyft to the airport? Probably not. Likely, you would, first, go through some hassle. You would research online and ask that friend whose been before about where to go and what to eat and do.

That’s also the case with planning your exit out of a sucky relationship. Just like booking a trip to Phuket, reclaiming your peace and sanity takes effort. But I promise, the final destination makes it worth it.

In this article, I will outline how to leave a long-term relationship or marriage when you have nowhere to go. It’s a common problem. If that’s your situation, here are some ideas on how to leave when you are low on resources.

The three main things you will need to prepare is your:

Mental/emotional space

Support system

Plan of action

Your mental/emotional space

You are the president and CEO of what and how you think about this decision to leave. You don’t have to tell anyone about this. Or you can choose to share it with people you trust. It’s totally up to you.

Do what will be most encouraging and uplifting for you. Whether to disclose your newly sprouted plan is a deeply personal decision. The question to ask yourself is, “will this person be supportive or not?”

Since you still have to live with, your now future-ex, come up with a way to make this tolerable. Something Mel Robbins shared comes to mind. She suggests raising an invisible force field around yourself. Like a cartoon character might. This gives you some sense that you are on your own side now.

And if you are with a particularly narcissistic, manipulative person, do what therapist Ross Rosenberg proposes. You can implement grey-rocking via Rosenberg’s “Observe Don’t Absorb” technique. And you can layer on his “of course” internal mental response. You know your future-ex best. The craziness that comes out of their mouth is familiar to you. Instead of getting triggered, just remind yourself, “of course that’s the response. Of course.” The idea is that you decrease how upset you get, day after day, as you plot your escape.

Build your support system

Planning your final farewell from living with this person will be challenging. You need support. So go get it.

For me, I relied heavily on in person CoDA and SLAA support groups. That may or may not be your jam. Fortunately, due to the pandemic, there are many online groups you can join. You can experience recovery from home or your car, or while going on a walk.

So, if there are no in-person groups in your area (that would be my preference) fire-up Zoom. These 12-Step groups are donation based, so give as you can.

Again, friends can be great. But of course you don’t want to over tax folks. So you be the judge of that. Maybe you are already a member of some kind of group; church, theater, Zumba etc. It can be any group where you know people have your back.

And of course, therapy. If you have access to therapy, use it. Try different therapists until you like one. Which I realize, for many, is no easy task.

Also, hello! Coaching. I wish I had, had a coach when I was plotting my escape. Coaching is different from therapy. It’s generally less expensive and less intense. I also recommend trying a variety of coaches over time. Each of us has a different style and insight.

Day to day, though, your support will largely come from a healthy routine you set up for yourself. Do not under-estimate how much a daily schedule can assist you. When you feel emotionally blown apart, having some daily stability really helps.

Eat well, sleep well, move. Create your best version of this. And keep improving it over time. Little by little.

Image by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.

Draft a plan and work it the best you can

Now down to the nitty-gritty. How will you actually get out of this situation? Remember, no matter how despairing or hopeless it looks, you will find a way. It might not be as fast or painless as you would like, but it is possible.

Get a realistic read on what you will need and who you can turn to for help. You might want a house or apartment to yourself, but, would a room in a house, work? Could you afford a studio apartment? Could you handle roommates? If not, then not. But be practical.

Do you have family members who could afford to help you a little or a lot? Most of us don’t have that, so don’t get down if you don’t have a wealthy uncle. Do THINK. Who or what can help you right now? Put that question out there, in your mind and to the universe, you may be surprised who or what pops up.

Start setting deadlines.

The more specific, the better. However, if nailing down dates is spiking your anxiety, know that it’s OK. This is for and by YOU. The cops won’t bust through the door if you fail to hit your metrics.

Just start tossing out realistic dates for things. By X date, I will have X amount of money. Or by X month I will have saved money for the cost of moving, as well as first and last month’s rent.

The goal here is to encourage yourself and build momentum. The more you see progress, bit by bit, the more confidence you will have that your life is improving.

Does this all sound ridiculously impossible?

Believe me, I’ve been there!

I stayed with someone YEARS past when I should have. I had no self-confidence and limited finances. Honestly, the hardest part was deciding to do it, the second-hardest part was following through.

This is largely due to something called the “withdrawal” period. It’s painful but survivable.

My self-respect was so low that, when I was on the brink of moving out of my rent-controlled apartment, I almost stayed because, for the first time ever, he bought groceries! And it was food that he knew I liked. I was so touched that I started feeling that desperately, sad hope that things might work out after all!

But, thanks to my support groups, I knew better. I knew it was only a temporary measure. Listening to other people tell my story, week after week, helped me hold my resolve. I started to trust that there was something better for me than a guy that would, when he was faced with having to pay his own rent, thought two bags from Trader Joe’s was enough.

I was able to continue forward because I had both hit my breaking point AND I finally started to believe that I really could do better than this. Not only that, but also the realization that, if I didn’t take bold action, I’d wither and die. Maybe not physically but, for sure, psychologically and emotionally.

Everyone’s exit is different

A friend I made in CoDA had a very similar experience to me, but, ended up simply moving to a different apartment in the same building as her ex. Her break-up was less contentious than mine, and she shared a business and orange tabby with her ex.

It was hard. But, they made it work. And they remain platonic friends today. Good for them! That simply wasn’t an option for me and my ex.

Perhaps your situation is not as dire as mine was, and you could manage a more of slow speed break-up. Only you can be the judge of that.


  • Believing you have nowhere to go when you want to break up makes it extra hard.

  • Think long-term. You may not have the resources you need right now, but that doesn’t mean you cannot start on your exit strategy.

  • You need to prepare your mental/emotional space, get a support system in place, and start making solid plans for exactly how you will leave.

  • Likewise, you don’t have to tell people your plan, but if you do have a friend or two you trust, share with them about your plan to leave.

  • Take excellent care of yourself, above all else.

  • Find a support that works for you, that could be: therapy, coaching (hi!), any group where you feel seen and cared for.

  • Write out a budget for what your expenses will be.

  • Ask for help. If you don’t know anyone with extra cash, don’t sweat it. You are the norm, not the exception.

  • If your future ex is highly narcissistic, implement grey-rocking and other emotional distancing practices.

  • Keep imaging the life you DO want and keep working on it. Tiny steps every day.

  • Do whatever it takes to sleep well and eat well. Never underestimate the power of rest and nutrition.

You just have to believe that you can do better, then follow through. A sad little studio apartment, after years in a miserable relationship, could feel as relaxing as a laying on a white sand beach next to crystal blue water.

It’s worth it, and so are you.

Curious about coaching? Schedule a no obligation, conversation with me today.

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