It’s hard to imagine, but you’ve been entangled in a toxic relationship. You’re hurt, afraid, and full of anger. All these emotions are natural, considering the kind of torture you’ve endured from your partner. But, despite how scary it sounds, you can heal from an abusive relationship. This article will show you how to get started and, more importantly, help revive your self-esteem.
Why Is It Difficult to Move on From an Abusive Relationship?
When you’re in a relationship with someone who abuses you, it’s difficult to heal from the abuse and move on with your life. Here are eight reasons why:
- You’ve been abused since childhood and have learned to adapt to the abuse.
- You don’t know what healthy love looks like.
- You have been taught that abuse is your fault, so you believe that if you were better — if you were more patient, less angry, or more forgiving — they wouldn’t hurt you anymore.
- You are so confused by what is happening that you don’t know how to protect yourself or leave the relationship safely (or at all).
- You don’t want anyone else getting hurt if your partner finds out you are leaving them, so staying silent is the only option at first glance (and sometimes even after much thought).
- Your partner has threatened you with physical harm if they discover that you disclosed the physical violence or emotional abuse to anyone else, even if it was someone other than your partner who knew about it in passing (e.g., an acquaintance).
- You’re afraid of losing your partner or the relationship, so keep quiet about the abuse and try to make it work.
- You’re embarrassed about what happened or ashamed of yourself for letting it happen or not leaving sooner.
Overview of Types of Abuses
The first step in healing from an abusive relationship is recognizing that you have been abused. Abuse comes in many forms, but the most common forms include physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and verbal abuse.
Physical Abuse – Any physical act that results in injury or harm to another person.
Sexual Abuse – Any sexual activity forced upon one person by another without consent.
Emotional Abuse – Any behavior that causes another person significant emotional pain or distress.
Financial Abuse – Any form of exploitation designed to control another person financially.
Verbal Abuse – An emotional or psychological abuse in which the perpetrator uses words to hurt the victim.
Time to Move on From an Abusive Relationship
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you must seek help:
- You feel scared or intimidated by your partner, even during a calm situation.
- You feel like you have to “walk on eggshells” around your partner so that nothing upsets them.
- Your partner has threatened to harm themself or others if you leave them.
- You have trouble sleeping at night because of worries about being hurt by your partner.
- Your partner has destroyed something belonging to you in an angry outburst (e.g., smashed a plate).
Tips to Heal From an Abusive Relationship
What should you do if you’re in an abusive relationship and want to get out?
The answer isn’t as simple as it might seem. Many people whose partners have abused them find themselves unable to leave. They may fear the repercussions if they try to end the relationship, or they may be financially dependent on their abusers. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your children—and hopefully, make your escape easier in the future.
1. Talk to someone safe
You can discuss your situation with friends or family members. Try to find someone who will take your concerns seriously and give them the weight they deserve. No one should ever dismiss your feelings or tell you it’s not that bad because it is that bad! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone who cares about you — even if it takes several tries to find someone who understands what you’re going through.
2. Talk about what happened
You might be afraid that talking about your experience will worsen, but it will help you heal faster. Talking about what happened is crucial in the healing process because it allows victims to gain control over their story instead of letting others control it for them. It also helps victims realize they weren’t at fault for what happened — which is one of the biggest myths surrounding abuse in relationships.
3. Recognize that abuse is not your fault
It’s easy to feel like you should have known better or could have done something differently to avoid being abused by your partner. But blaming yourself doesn’t help anybody, especially when there were clear warning signs that something was wrong with the relationship before it got physical. If you’ve been blaming yourself for what happened with your ex-partner, try reframing how you think about it — instead of blaming yourself, recognize that they were responsible for their actions and no one else’s (including yours).
4. Take care of yourself
Victims of abuse must take care of themselves first to focus on healing rather than worrying about what other people think of them or how much effort it takes to get through each day. If you don’t get proper rest or eat well, your mental health will suffer, and your physical health will follow suit. Make sure you eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep and spend time doing something enjoyable every day.
5. Get counseling or therapy
It’s important to talk about what happened with someone trained in helping victims of abuse recover from trauma. A counselor or therapist can help you understand why this happened, discuss ways to cope with the aftermath of the abuse, and develop positive coping mechanisms for dealing with stressful situations in the future.
6. Focus on the positive aspects of life
You will inevitably dwell on how badly your ex treated you, but try not to get stuck in this mindset because it will only make things worse for you in the long run. Instead, focus on all the good things that happened during your relationship — even if they were few and far between — and everything that makes life great. Friends, family members, and pets all make life worthwhile, no matter what challenges we face every day as human beings
Related Read: How to Deal With Injustice Trauma?
How Long Does It Take to Heal From an Abusive Relationship?
The time it takes to heal from an abusive relationship is different for everyone and depends on many factors, including:
- how long you were in the relationship
- the severity of the abuse or trauma
- your age when the abuse began
- whether or not you have other mental health issues or co-occurring disorders that make healing more difficult
- how much support you had — both during and after the relationship ended
- the type of abuse you experienced (emotional, physical, sexual)
Related Read: Dealing With the Long Shadow of Trauma
Healing from an abusive relationship takes time.
The most important thing is to understand that it is not a linear process and will take time to heal. You can’t rush the process, but you can speed it up by doing things that make you feel good about yourself and your life, like spending time with friends and family, going to therapy, meditation, exercising, or anything else that makes you feel strong and positive.
You will have setbacks — days when all you want to do is crawl into bed and hide from the world. That’s normal, too; it doesn’t mean your recovery has failed or you’re “backsliding” into abuse. It just means you need some more time before you can get back on track with your recovery work.
If your partner was abusive for a long time before ending the relationship (or even if he wasn’t), recovery might take years rather than months or weeks. And it’s OK if it does! You deserve as much time as you need to heal from an abusive relationship because abuse is an incredibly traumatic experience that profoundly changes who we are, even after leaving our abusers behind us forever.