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When meeting a new romantic partner, you would never anticipate ever being a victim of an emotionally abusive relationship. Unfortunately, in some relationships, things don’t work out according to plan and you may find yourself a victim of emotional abuse.
When you experience physical or emotional pain, it can be difficult to know how to begin the healing process. While the healing process can be different for everyone, there are some general steps you can take to help yourself heal.
The first step in the healing process is to acknowledge your pain and give yourself permission to feel it. It’s okay to cry, to be angry, or to feel lost.
These emotions are a natural part of the healing process, and it’s important to allow yourself to feel them.
Once you’ve acknowledged your pain, it’s time to start taking care of yourself. This means getting enough rest, eating healthy foods, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
Does this sound familiar?
If you are in an abusive relationship or have recently left one, now is the time to find out about healing from abusive relationships.
We have no power to control how another person acts. The abuse gradually gets worse. Initially, the toxic behaviors will be minor, and over time these minor incidents become more frightening and painful.
The signs of abuse may be visible to others close to you but you will lose your sense of self and become accustomed to the abuse as your reality changes.
At some point, the mistreatment might become so extreme that you are able to recognize the danger, or your health deteriorates and you start searching for a way out.
Due to the manipulation and desensitization that accompanies extended abuse, as well as the feelings of fear and self-doubt that come with being a victim for a long period of time leaving these abusive relationships and healing is a lot more complicated than most people realize.
It is only when you eventually decide to leave the abusive relationship, that the healing can start. This process will be neither simple nor quick, and you might not even know where to begin or how to acquire the help you need.
The first step of the journey to recovery starts with acknowledging the situation and the emotional trauma that you have been through.
Heal from Abusive Relationships
The healing process after an abusive relationship is often a difficult and complex process.
It is important to recognize that healing is a long-term process, and there is no single path to recovery. It is up to you to find the resources, support, and strategies that work best for you in your own healing journey.
Based on my own personal experience and the healing process, I can offer various options that I found helpful. These different ways can be used as a foundation to start your own journey.
One thing is for sure, you probably feel that you cannot make it on your own, you may be feeling lonely and confused, but you will succeed and you will be in a much better place, you just need to make a start.
To start the healing process acknowledge that the abuse was not your fault. You are not responsible for someone else’s behavior. Have patience with yourself, focus on the future, and don’t look back.
Healing from an abusive relationship is a long-term process that requires self-care, self-love, and self-compassion.
You are strong and capable of moving forward and you deserve to be in a healthy and loving relationship.
Even if you are not interested in another relationship right now, create a life for yourself and be authentic.
Abuse is a serious issue that affects many people. It can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, age, or background.
Understanding abuse is an important step in starting the healing process.
1. Types of Abuse
Abuse can take many forms, including
- Physical abuse involves physical harm, such as hitting, kicking, or choking
- Sexual abuse involves unwanted sexual contact or behavior
- Psychological abuse involves using threats, intimidation, or manipulation to control someone
- Emotional abuse involves damaging someone’s self-esteem, such as belittling, insulting, or gaslighting.
2. Signs of Abuse
It can often be difficult to recognize the signs of abuse, especially if you are in a toxic relationship.
Some common signs of abuse include controlling behavior, jealousy, possessiveness, and isolation from friends and family.
Other signs include physical injuries, such as bruises or broken bones, and changes in behavior, such as depression, anxiety, or fear.
3. Examples of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is a common form of abuse that is often difficult to recognize as there are no visible scars. Examples of emotional abuse include:
- Constant criticism or belittling
- Ignoring or dismissing your feelings
- Gaslighting or making you doubt your own sanity
- Threatening to harm you or your loved ones
- Blaming you for their abusive behavior
- Controlling your every move
If you are experiencing any form of abuse, it is important to seek help. You are not alone, and there are resources available to support you.
Impact of Abuse
Abuse can have a profound impact on your healing process. Whether it is emotional or physical abuse, abuse can cause long-lasting effects that can be difficult to overcome.
1. Effects of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse, and the effects can last a long time.
Emotional abusers may use tactics such as manipulation, gaslighting, and isolation to control you. This can lead to emotional trauma, low self-esteem, and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
2. Physical Health and Abuse
Physical violence can have a profound impact on your physical health. Long-term physical abuse can lead to chronic pain, injuries, and other health problems.
It can also increase your risk of developing mental health conditions such as PTSD.
If you have experienced physical abuse, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. This can help you get the treatment you need to recover from any injuries and prevent long-term health problems.
You may also want to consider seeking therapy or counseling to help you work through the emotional impact of the abuse.
Recognizing and Leaving an Abusive Relationship
Identifying a Toxic Relationship
Recognizing that you are in an abusive relationship can be difficult, especially when you are emotionally invested in the relationship. However, it is important to identify toxic behaviors and signs of abuse to protect yourself and your well-being. Here are some signs that you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship:
- Your partner frequently criticizes you, belittles you, or insults you.
- Your partner tries to control your behavior, such as who you see, what you wear, or how you spend your time.
- Your partner threatens you, either physically or emotionally.
- You feel like you are walking on eggshells around your partner, trying to avoid conflict or upsetting them.
- Your partner blames you for their behavior or emotions.
- Your partner tries to isolate you from your friends and family.
If you recognize any of these signs in your current or past relationship, it is important to seek help and support.
Steps to Exit an Abusive Relationship
Leaving an abusive relationship can be a difficult and scary process, but it is the right thing to do for your own safety and well-being. Here are some steps you can take to exit an abusive relationship:
- Reach out for help: Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or a local domestic violence shelter for support and resources.
- Create a safety plan: Plan a safe exit strategy and identify a safe place to go.
- Build a support system: Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist for emotional support.
- Trust your own judgment: Remember that you know your situation best and trust yourself to make the right decisions for your safety and well-being.
- Take legal action: Consider obtaining a restraining order or filing a police report if necessary.
Remember that leaving an abusive relationship is a process, and it may take time to fully heal and recover. Seek help and support, and know that you deserve to be in a healthy and safe relationship.
Steps To Healing from Abusive Relationships
There are a number of different things you can do that can facilitate your healing process.
In my experience, I found the following 8 steps to be very helpful in the journey of recovery from a toxic relationship.
Don’t feel ashamed of where you are, find a support system that can assist you honestly and compassionately for a successful healing process.
Avoid those people who are overly judgmental as this will make the healing process from your toxic relationship a whole lot more difficult. Family members or your best friend would be a good place to start.
However, you may need to seek out assistance by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Find the awareness to make the changes for a healthier outcome for yourself.
1. Accepting that the relationship was toxic
Gathering information or researching the effects of a toxic relationship and what it is, leads you to understand that you are not alone.
This life experience was not your fault; you were just ill-equipped and prepared to identify and deal with the red flags that were warning you of the trouble that may lie ahead.
The research is important as it will help you grow in understanding and knowledge that will better prepare you for the future and during the healing process.
Your research may also highlight that there were other toxic relationships in your childhood that were not perceived as toxic because you were a child, but they resulted in you learning habitual behavioral response patterns that followed you into adulthood.
You are now at a stage in life where you are able and ready to address these habitual behavioral responses.
2. Breaking ties
Toxic relationships have cycles. It is very easy to be triggered back into the cycle if you don’t allow yourself the opportunity to take a step back and observe your past experience, the reasons you landed up there, and why you tolerated being so badly treated.
Breaking ties with toxic people is important, as it helps keep you out of the cycle of abuse. This, of course, is the aim of the healing process.
However, this is a tough one, as you truly need to believe that the other person will never change, no matter how many promises they make.
Initially, the desire to be pulled back into the relationship may be intense, and you will need to understand that things will not change or improve, and that’s what makes the situation toxic.
If you do decide to ever go back things may be great for a few weeks, but ultimately they will revert back to the previous toxic relationship behavior patterns.
We live in the hope that the relationship can be fixed, so the empty promises sound appealing, and we often fall back into the toxic relationship cycle and return.
If you have done this, don’t beat yourself up about it, we have all been there.
So breaking ties with a toxic person completely, or at least until you have healed and can see them for who they are, is the best option.
If you suffered from domestic abuse, you may want to apply for a restraining order or move into a domestic violence shelter temporarily for protection.
However, when co-parenting, this is often difficult, and you may need friends and family as a support network, especially in the beginning.
Forgiveness is an important aspect of the healing process. By forgiveness, I would say forgiveness of yourself and forgiveness of your partner are essential.
Forgiveness is often a tricky and misunderstood word.
It does not mean that you must forgive your abuser and pretend that you were not badly treated and disrespected.
I refer to forgiveness in the sense that you accept that the way you were treated was abusive, but you are able to accept it, understand it, feel it, and then let it go.
Without this kind of forgiveness, it may be difficult to let go of the anger, regret, and pain that you will carry around as a result of the way in which this other person, someone that you trusted, treated you.
When I refer to forgiveness of yourself, I mean forgiving yourself for tolerating a toxic relationship and allowing another person to use and abuse you.
For better clarity, you may have been involved in a toxic relationship for years and regret the time wasted, but you realize that you needed to journey along this path to learn many valuable life lessons of self-respect, boundaries, and self-love.
These are some of the important aspects of the recovery process, and forgiveness makes them possible.
If you have been in a toxic relationship, self-care is not something that you are familiar with, as you have been more focused on self-sacrifice than on self-care.
It is now time to change your mindset and look at ways that you are able to participate in practices that help to sustain and nurture your inner self.
It is important to put yourself first and not allow anyone else into your life who is not good for you and your well-being or who does not appreciate you.
Take care of yourself and your own needs and take time for yourself to heal, recover and transform.
Healing can also be greatly influenced by your thoughts and beliefs.
Challenge any negative thoughts or beliefs that you may have about yourself or the abuse as part of your self-care program.
Positive affirmations that may be helpful to practice include “I am strong,” “I am capable,” and “I am worthy of love and respect.”
4.1 Healthy Eating
Focus on eating healthy food even though you may not feel like it, as you may be reaching for comfort food or not wanting to eat at all.
Toxic relationships result in high levels of adrenaline constantly surging through your body as you are on high alert and not in a safe space.
This constantly high level of adrenaline wears your body down and ultimately your health. Your body needs to build strength by replenishing and healing itself with good, healthy food.
And of course, let’s not forget to drink plenty of water.
During the healing process, you may feel exhausted as your body has been depleted as a result of the toxic relationship, but your mind just won’t switch off as you replay scenarios over and over again trying to find better outcomes, and you may just toss and turn unable to sleep.
Sleep is the body’s best medicine.
You may want to speak to your doctor regarding medication, or alternatively, you can try CBD products that allow your body to relax and ultimately sleep. Practicing deep breathing and trauma-releasing exercises (TRE) is another option.
If you are unfamiliar with TRE there are many YouTube videos on this natural technique for releasing trauma and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Gentle exercise is good for your mood, energy, and blood circulation and will support a more positive outlook on life and, ultimately, your current situation.
For those who dislike exercise, a good walk in the park or in nature is an option that can clear your mind and get the blood circulating without feeling like exercise.
Recovering from a toxic relationship requires a shift in mindset and the release of emotional pain so that you can achieve the best results.
If exercise is not your usual habit or favorite pastime, just keep focusing on the positive aspects of the exercise while you develop these new habits.
5. Setting Boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries does not mean building big walls and fencing yourself in.
Boundaries mean being able to say, “No thank you” without feeling guilty. Understand how you feel about something, someone, or a situation, and speak your mind gently.
You don’t have to do anything that you don’t feel comfortable with and you don’t have to agree with someone else out of fear, those days are gone.
You need to define clear boundaries for yourself on what you will accept in your life and what you would rather avoid.
New people will come into your life and it will be much easier for you if you have made these decisions for yourself.
With regard to your current family and friends, don’t always try to please everyone, you don’t have to say yes when you actually mean no.
People will understand and if they don’t, well that is okay too.
You also have to learn how to say, “No thank you” or “Yes please” without guilt or shame.
To avoid slipping back into a similar situation with another toxic relationship in the future with other manipulative or selfish people this lesson needs to be practiced with your head held high.
It may be helpful to create a plan to protect yourself if the abusive partner attempts to contact you.
This can include changing your phone number, blocking their social media accounts, and/or creating a safety plan. This can be your initial step towards setting boundaries.
A toxic relationship and abusive people will result in you having low self-esteem and little confidence.
When healing from abusive relationships use the time to build up your self-esteem and self-worth. You are deserving of a healthy relationship in the future and a peaceful life.
Using journals and affirmations are good ideas for building your self-esteem, and confidence and creating a positive mindset.
7. Finding a new purpose
When emerging from a toxic relationship with broken wings the thought of flying seems so daunting.
Finding your purpose in your new life of freedom may feel very overwhelming. Start slowly, there are no expectations to change the world, be the solution for world peace, or feed all those who are hungry.
Your place in the world and the difference that you are destined to make will evolve when the time is right.
In the meantime, try to make a difference in one person’s life every day, with a plate of food, a listening ear, or just a smile.
The gratitude from those in need will help to fill that empty feeling of pain you carry inside.
You may find it easier to see the right therapist who can support you through some of the aspects of healing from abusive relationships and the aftermath of emotional abuse.
In the beginning, you may find that you will have good days and bad days. The bad days are normal, just breathe, it’s okay.
The important thing is not to give up on yourself and know that tomorrow will be better.
If you suffer from panic attacks, it’s also normal, and with support from family, friends, and support groups, time, and a positive mindset you will get through it.
Resources and Support
When going through a healing process, it is important to have access to resources and support that can help guide you through the journey. Here are some options to consider:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: If you are experiencing domestic violence, this hotline can provide you with confidential help and support. They can also connect you with local resources and services.
- Support Groups: Joining a support group can provide you with a safe and understanding community of people who have gone through similar experiences. You can share your story, ask for advice, and receive emotional support.
- Anne Blythe: Anne Blythe is the founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, an organization that provides support and resources for women who have experienced betrayal trauma. She is a clinical psychologist who specializes in this area and offers confidential help to those who need it.
- Free BTR Podcast: Betrayal Trauma Recovery also offers a free podcast that covers a range of topics related to betrayal trauma. You can listen to episodes on their website or through your preferred podcast app.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the signs of an abusive relationship?
Signs of an abusive relationship may include physical violence, emotional manipulation, isolation from friends and family, controlling behavior, intimidation, and constant criticism. It’s essential to recognize these signs to take the first step toward healing.
2. How can I safely leave an abusive relationship?
Leaving an abusive relationship can be challenging. Ensure your safety by creating a safety plan, confiding in a trusted friend or family member, contacting a domestic violence hotline or shelter, and seeking legal advice if necessary. Never hesitate to reach out to professionals who can help you navigate this process safely.
3. Is therapy helpful in healing from a toxic relationship?
Yes, therapy is beneficial for healing from an abusive relationship. A qualified therapist can provide emotional support, help you process trauma, and develop coping strategies. Therapy can empower you to rebuild your self-esteem and establish healthier relationships in the future.
4. How long does it take to recover from a toxic relationship?
The healing process varies for everyone. There is no set timeline, as it depends on factors like the severity of the abuse and your personal resilience. The healing process may take months or even years, but with the right support and self-care, you can progress toward recovery at your own pace.
5. What are some self-care practices for survivors of abuse?
Self-care is crucial as part of the healing process. Practices include setting boundaries, practicing self-compassion, engaging in physical activity, meditation, journaling, and seeking support from friends and support groups. Prioritizing self-care helps rebuild your emotional and physical well-being.
6. How can I rebuild my self-esteem after an abusive relationship?
Rebuilding self-esteem is essential. Surround yourself with supportive people, challenge negative self-talk, and set achievable goals. Consider working with a therapist to address the emotional scars left by the abuse. It’s a gradual process, but over time, you can regain your self-worth and confidence.
Recovering from a toxic relationship is a process, there is no right or wrong way. I have just outlined what I have learned through my own journey
The most important point though is to focus on doing something every day to improve your situation, your outlook on life, and your self-image.
The fire and passion of life within you will slowly start to ignite, glow, and then burn bright as you transform yourself through the healing process.