There’s no question that your emotionally abusive relationship has taken a toll on you, but you don’t have to suffer with the after-effects forever.
You can heal from emotional abuse and move on to become a happy, self-assured person who knows how to choose a better, kinder, more mature partner next time.
Here are some positive, practical actions you can take to accelerate the healing process:
1. Listen to your head, not your heart.
As you know, it is possible to love someone and know they are bad for you at the same time.
Your heart might be telling you how you should give him one more chance. Your heart might trigger memories of all of the good times you had with her. Your heart might compel you to pick up the phone and see how your ex is doing because you miss him so much.
All of those feelings are powerful and compelling. You’ve spent years with this person, and it really hurts to be separated from them. Some nights you can hardly bear it. He or she is like a drug, and you need another hit.
But the rational part of you knows without a doubt that you did the right thing. You need to be away from this abusive person who has done so much damage to you.
If you go back to this person, you’ll never have a chance for real love with someone else.
Your daily mantra should be this: “Listen to my head, not my heart.”
On days when your heart is breaking, phone a friend for an intervention, and have them remind you of all the reasons you left.
2. Allow yourself to go through the stages.
Ending a relationship is almost like experiencing a death. You must go through the stages of grief and emotions in order to heal.
If you are feeling emotionally frozen right now, that’s okay. Just be with that for a while. You can’t force yourself to feel, and eventually your feelings will return.
If you feel hopeless, remind yourself that you have reason for feeling this way because your abuser left you vulnerable. At the same time, you can remind yourself that healing will happen and that you do have things to look forward to even if you don’t believe it right now.
Keep a journal to write down your feelings. But also write down your hopes and dreams, what you want for your life moving forward, and your ideas on how you can begin again.
Even if you can’t act on these things right away, they will stoke the tiny sparks of hope within you.
3. Work out your anger in constructive ways.
It is perfectly normal to feel anger and resentment about the experiences you just survived. It’s normal to want to lash out at your abuser and to feel angry at yourself.
But funnel that anger in a productive way so that you don’t add more angst to your life by making a knee-jerk decision (like keying your ex’s car for example).
Write about your feelings in your journal. Punch your pillow. Start running or take up another aerobic exercise that helps you work off the rage.
If you can’t manage the anger, and you see you’re taking it out on your kids, friends, or family, then go meet with a psychotherapist who can help you vent your feelings without harming yourself or others.
4. Do something to build your self-esteem.
Your self-esteem has taken a huge hit, and it may feel impossible to like yourself again or believe you are a worthy person.
You can work on rebuilding your self-esteem by taking action and accomplishing small goals. Maybe you decide to declutter your house, take an art class, or volunteer somewhere.
Perhaps you go out and get a job (if you’ve been staying at home with your abuser), or you learn how to meditate, which has so many mental and physical benefits.
You don’t have to take on a huge goal, but do something that will give you a small sense of triumph and hope.
Be sure to reconnect with friends and family and start socializing with them again. You need a support system and people who make you feel loved and happy.
5. Reexamine your values, opinions, and beliefs.
If your abuser stole your identity by demanding you acquiesce to his or her views, then you’ll need to revisit all of your values, opinions, and beliefs to make them your own.
Ask yourself . . .
- What are your core values?
- What is your philosophy about money, raising the kids, where you live, etc.?
- What are your spiritual or religious beliefs?
- What are your political opinions?
- What movies or TV shows do you like?
- Who do you want to socialize with?
- Where do you like to eat?
Look at any area of your life where your abuser made all of the decisions, and come up with your own point of view or preferences.
Try to enjoy the freedom of redefining what you want for your life and how you want to live it.
Before you look for love again, make sure you love and like yourself. Make sure you know what a healthy relationship looks like and how you can spot an emotional abuser who might initially be charming and kind.
Examine your own behaviors and reactions in your previous relationship to see where you might need to grow and change.
As much as you want to find the right person, you also want to BE the right person so the relationship is healthy and balanced.