It is a common misconception that once a person leaves an abusive relationship, they will live happily ever after now that the abusive partner is no longer in their life. In reality, healing and moving forward from an abusive relationship is a long road. Abusive relationships can involve physical and/or emotional abuse, and both will leave psychological and emotional scars.
You might be surprised by the conflicting emotions you experience after leaving an abusive relationship. It is normal to feel a wide spectrum of things, including:
Some days, you might feel very positive; you might feel free, light, and confident in your decision. Other days, you might be overwhelmed by sadness and anxiety. Sometimes, you might question everything and wonder if you should have even left the relationship. The important thing to remember is that all of this is completely valid and normal.
Healing from an abusive relationship is a multifaceted journey that involves both emotional and psychological recovery. Therapy is one of the most effective means of support as it can help you process your trauma, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and discover factors that may have led you to enter an abusive relationship so that you can prevent them in the future.
Self-care also plays a vital role in healing. It is likely that while you were in the relationship, you were not able to voice, meet, or even prioritize your needs. To heal from this, work on getting back in touch with your needs and prioritizing them. Focus on nurturing your physical and emotional well-being by engaging in activities you enjoy that promote relaxation. Go on long walks, watch your favorite shows, read, get massages and salon treatments, eat your favorite comfort foods - the sky's the limit!
Above all, be gentle with yourself; self-compassion is an essential part of healing from an abusive relationship. If your ex was overly critical and placed blame on you frequently, you may have internalized this abuse into negative self-talk. If this is the case, be aware that your inner voice has been affected by the abuse, and that you will need to work to reprogram it. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you are deserving of love and respect, both from others and yourself.
After leaving an abusive relationship, you may find yourself without close friends or family. You’re not alone; abusers often seek to isolate their partners, as a victim who is distanced from family and friends can only rely on the abuser. This is why one of your first priorities should be establishing a support network. If possible, try to reconnect with people you may have grown apart from during the relationship. Surround yourself with friends and family who uplift and support you. Connecting with people who value and appreciate you can improve your self-esteem.
In an abusive relationship, you were likely discouraged from setting boundaries with your partner. Boundaries are guidelines that define the limits and expectations we have for ourselves and in our relationships. They are essentially your rules for how others will treat you and how you will interact with them. Learning (or re-learning) how to set and maintain boundaries is crucial to prevent future abusive relationships. You can learn more about boundaries in this blog post. A therapist can guide you through the often challenging process of boundary-setting.
Rebuilding trust is a complex process. It is likely that your ex undermined your trust in your intelligence and decision-making skills on a regular basis. You may also feel like you can never trust another person again, and that is understandable.
To start trusting yourself and others again, begin by relying on self-trust. Trust your own judgments and decisions, and gradually, your self-trust will extend to others. Seek healthy relationships and surround yourself with people who respect your boundaries, providing a safe environment for trust to develop. When you feel ready, cautiously re-enter the dating scene, taking your time to get to know potential partners and being on the lookout for red flags.
Moving forward after an abusive relationship is a challenging journey, but well worth the trouble. Remember: you deserve respect, healing, growth, self-worth, love, and happiness. Exercise self-care and self-compassion, lean on your support network, and take small steps daily towards your recovery.
Medens Health is also here to provide compassionate support on your journey. Our team of caring professionals can help you heal, learn to set boundaries, and form healthy relationships. Reach out to us by phone or text at (833) 624-5400, send us a message using our online contact form, or to register as a new patient get started here.
The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.
If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.