It's not easy to decide to leave an abusive relationship in which you've invested your time, your sanity and your emotional energy. By the time you're aware of how much you've given up, it can be almost impossible to walk away. Leaving can trigger emotions such as guilt, regret and fear, and your abuser may be very convincing. Despite these factors, leaving is sometimes the only safe and reasonable option. Here, you will learn how to start the healing process after ending an abusive relationship.
Getting to Safety
Immediately after ending the relationship, your emotional and physical safety are the most vulnerable they'll ever be. Abuse often escalates when a victim tries to leave, and stalking sometimes occurs. Head to a shelter or a friend or family member's home, as far away from your abuser as possible. Change up your routine by finding a different route to work or by making new friends. It's difficult to move on until you're in a safe place, both emotionally and physically.
Dealing With your Emotions
No matter how bad life was, you loved your abuser at some point—and you may still love them even though you are unable to live with them. Allow yourself to grieve the loss of the person and the relationship, and permit yourself to feel the sadness, guilt, anger and fear. Physical symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, nightmares, agitation and pain can manifest themselves as part of the grieving process; they often last until you're fully healed, but tend to lessen over time.
When leaving an abusive relationship, total self-reliance can be an unrealistic goal. You'll need to foster a trusting, safe bond with someone who can help you deal with your feelings and help you through the situation. Some people have strong support from family and friends, but many require the help of a professional therapist and some intense counseling. There are a variety of therapeutic approaches, and you'll need to find one who fits your lifestyle. Support groups can help you connect with those in the same situation, and it can help you feel like you're not alone.
Taking Care of Yourself
The NDVH (National Domestic Violence Hotline) says that emotional scarring from abusive relationships can remain long after the relationship has ended. Be gentle to yourself during the time immediately after you leave, and find something that helps you get rid of stress. Evaluate the role that your ex-partner had in your life, and find other ways to fulfill those roles.
Whether they are friendships or dating situations, building new relationships can be very difficult for a survivor of emotional or physical abuse. You may have no trust, and you may have trouble forming attachments to others. Give yourself plenty of time to heal before dating again, and focus on supportive family and friends whenever you can. Check your perception with a trusted therapist, and take his or her words to heart.
I knew that I loved my husband, but I was having a very difficult time liking him most days. My husband acted much like an overgrown teenager expecting me to do everything for him. He couldn't be bothered to put his trash in the trash can, or put his dirty laundry in the hamper or even carry his dirty dishes to the sink so that I could wash them. After about 18 years of this behavior, I finally had to find someone to go to for help. We started seeing a counselor to try to find a way for me to like him again. It has helped some. My blog will show you a few ways that counseling can help you like your spouse as much as you love him or her.