Ending any relationship can be tough, and it can often take time to heal. And ending a toxic or abusive relationship can be even more difficult. If you have recently ended an abusive relationship, it is extremely important that you focus on healing, so that you can move forward and create a safer, happier life for yourself. Here are five steps to effectively heal from an abusive relationship:
1. Realize that the abuse was never your fault. Your former spouse or partner probably blamed many of his actions on you. He probably tried to make you feel guilty for speaking up or expressing concerns. And he also probably told you that if you would have just done something differently, your relationship would have been better. Eventually, you probably started to believe him.
It is important to understand that your partner told you these things to confuse you and to gain control over you. His insistence that the abuse was your fault is manipulative, and simply untrue. Only one person has control over whether the abuse happens – the abuser. There is absolutely nothing you did to cause your partner to put you down, insult you, threaten you, isolate you, or hurt you. And there is absolutely nothing you could have done differently to stop it.
Tell yourself daily that the abuse you endured was absolutely not your fault. Say it to yourself in the mirror. Write it in a journal. And keep saying and writing it until you believe it – however long that takes.
2. Work on building healthier relationships. An abusive partner will often isolate you from friends and family. His goal is to keep you away from healthier, more supportive people, so that you only lean on him. So, it’s very likely that you lost contact with many people during your relationship. If you have safe, supportive people in your life who you would like to reconnect with, reach out to them. Let them know that you have ended the relationship and would appreciate their support.
It can be difficult to admit that we need people. It makes us feel vulnerable and afraid. But, when ending an abusive relationship, you need support. You need to know that you have other people in your life who love you and who will be there for you. In addition to friends and family, it is also incredibly helpful to have an advocate – an expert who understands abuse – on your side. An advocate can help you safety plan, help you find resources, and also be there for support and encouragement. Call the National Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) to find an advocate near you.
3. Reconnect with yourself. During an abusive relationship, you not only lose contact with other people, you often lose a connection with who you were before you met your partner. An abusive partner will use many tactics to get you to doubt yourself, your choices, and your opinions. They will try to change you into someone else – someone who is dependent on them. Now that you have ended your relationship, it’s time to rebuild your connection to yourself.
Think about who you were before you met your partner. What did you love to do? What hobbies did you enjoy? What food did you like to eat? What clothes did you like to wear? Even these simple choices can be difficult to make on your own, after leaving a partner who made every decision for you. Enjoy the process of getting to know yourself again. And make time every day to do something you love to do. Remember, you deserve it.
4. Take an honest inventory. Being in an abusive relationship can wreak havoc not only on your emotional well-being, but on every aspect of your life. Now is the time to assess the damage that has been caused, and take steps toward remedying it.
Take an honest look at your finances, your career, your friendships, your family relationships, your health, and your hobbies. What areas are working well, and what areas need improvement? The point is not to feel badly about the state of any of these areas, or to be hard on yourself for choices you have made in the past. The goal is just to have an accurate image of what you need to focus on. Write the areas that have suffered and write down three steps you can take now to improve them. Every step you take toward improved well-being, in every area of your life, will get you closer to the life you truly want and deserve.
5. Be proud of yourself. Making the decision to end an abusive relationship is very courageous. Recognize that you took a huge step, and that your life is going to continue to get better because of your bravery. Give yourself credit for the incredible decision you have made.
Healing from abuse is not an easy road, but it is absolutely worth it. Remind yourself every day that you have made a brave choice. And even when you may stumble or make mistakes, remind yourself that you are doing something difficult, and be proud of yourself for all of the progress you have made. It is important to build back up the confidence and self-esteem that your partner likely tore down. Start by being proud of yourself for choosing you.