Domestic Violence Survivors –
What Is Versus What Could Have Been

Dr. King

by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

Some people will tell you that you should have left him/her long ago. Others will say you should have stayed. And their varying views can keep you spinning.

I see domestic violence survivors embracing other people’s flipped recommendations as if these words were their own personal truths not acted upon. And in many respects that is exactly what it is. But putting one through a little song and dance over what they didn’t do, does quite a disservice to oneself and to their well-being.

Here are some words of wisdom on “what is” versus “what could have been.”

1) “What is” is clear, whereas “what could have been” is fuzzy.

2) “What is” is now, whereas “what could have been” is there and then.

3) “What is” is yours, whereas “what could have been” is not.

4) “What is” holds factual truths for you that “what could have been” cannot.

5) “What is” is here for you, while “what could have been” is not.

Now this is so simple that it may be overlooked by those accustomed to being tied to what could have been. If you find yourself being attached to what could have been, stop for a moment and consider the following.

How do you feel in the moment you are telling yourself: if only you had, what you should have, could have...?

So, for example, when you pull out the recommendation of the person saying you should have left an abuser long ago, how do you feel about yourself as you think that thought? And how do you experience yourself in the presence of this person making that recommendation?

There are no right or wrong answers here. This is only an inquiry, from which other truths for you may reveal themselves.

In every step along the way, there are always other options, other possibilities, other directions, other choices. Being there, rather than with and in whatever reality lies on your plate, will invariability stir your peace.

For more insights on inner psychological healing, see Domestic Abuse Healing from Within. Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.

Copyright 2009 Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

This series of eInsights is presented to you by Partners in Prevention, a nonprofit organization. If you find this eInsight article useful, we invite you to contribute to the maintenance and growth of the Survivor Success Tips & eInsights. To make a tax-deductible donation, please visit

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.