If you are like most people in abusive relationships, you have kept your abuse hidden from your close relatives and friends. You may feel ashamed about the abuse, or that it is somehow your fault. You may feel like you’re not good not enough, and you deserved — in some twisted way — to be abused. Of course none of this is true, but your mind may be telling you otherwise. So you may resist sharing this information with others who care about you.

But there comes a time when most people reach their breaking point and decide to break the silence of abuse. There comes a time when you want to tell your friends and family about the abuse, and to get their support, advice, and help.

When you do tell your family and friends, they may react in several different ways. You should prepare yourself for any of these possible reactions, as not all of them may be as supportive as you would’ve hoped (but most will be!).

First, your family and friends may already have suspected it. If this is the case, you may be relieved to talk to them about your situation. And they may be just as relieved to finally be able to talk to you about it in the open, without fear of treading on a topic that you may deny. The feeling is often one expressed simply as, “Finally! We can talk!”

Second, it’s possible that those close to you will find it hard to believe because they have only seen the kind and considerate side of your partner. However, once you’ve told them, they will probably be very supportive. They may also strongly encourage you to leave the relationship immediately. This may be hard for you; just because you’ve told them about the abuse does not necessarily mean that you are ready to leave your relationship. There’s often a period of time from when you disclose your abuse to others, and having all of your ducks in a row (financially, emotionally, realistically) and you’re ready to leave the relationship.

Your friends and family will have a difficult time understanding and accepting the fact that you want to stay. You may find yourself fighting with them to “save” your relationship, and decide that it was a mistake to tell them. It was not a mistake, but to avoid this sort of argument, tell them you need their support and focus the discussion on what it is that they can do to help you.

Be clear in your communication with them, and where you are in the process. If you’re in disagreement, focus on your emotional needs — something most people would rarely deny a person. You need to be given time to make the decisions that are right for you, in your life and your personal situation. Others don’t need to understand, they simply need to be there to offer their support for your choice.