The journey from physical or emotional abuse to healing is not made through an easy path. It will surely be a challenge to get your self-esteem and confidence back so that you can start loving yourself again. Once you know the secrets to heal yourself, you will feel motivated and empowered to find the light and make your future brighter in your life after abuse.
While certain wounds are healing, different ones—wounds hidden by the relationship itself—erupt in agony.
Seven truths about life after an abusive relationship that stay mostly in the shadows.
Looking from the outside, you would think when someone finally escapes an abusive relationship, the worst is over. No more torture. No more hell. No more emotional blackmail or physical violence. And with the source of the hurt removed, healing can begin.
But after the external danger is gone, and the abuser is (at least physically) out of the picture, the survivor’s internal journey is only beginning. And parts of it can, surprisingly, be tougher and more painful, in a way, than the suffering they endured at the hands of their tormentor.
While certain wounds are healing, different ones—wounds hidden by the relationship itself—erupt in agony, not only endangering recovery but also making the survivor wonder if getting out was really worth it.
This is one reason it takes the average survivor of intimate partner violence seven times to leave for good. And it’s one reason most people have no idea why it takes so long to heal.
Here are seven unspoken (or rarely spoken) truths about the unique challenges survivors face after they’ve gotten out.
It requires completely rewriting your self-concept to include your victimization without allowing yourself to become a victim.
1. You have to stop living in denial.
After you’re out and the past abuse is out in the open, you are forced to acknowledge it instead of pretending, at least on some level, that it wasn’t happening. This requires you to integrate the awful things that happened to you into who you are, without letting them define you. It’s way beyond reinventing yourself by changing careers or going through a massive paradigm shift.
It requires completely rewriting your self-concept to include your victimization without allowing yourself to become a victim. There is a kind of sleight of hand involved in this similar to when the magician runs the knives through the lady in the box but doesn’t actually cut her, because letting go of one self-concept (in which you’ve invested months or years of your life) before the new one is fully formed requires an act of faith.
How can you pine for someone who hurt you?
2. You have to walk away—and stay away—from something you believed was love.
No matter how you look at it, this means heartbreak. Loss of innocence. Shattered hopes and dreams. And unbearable loneliness. How can you pine for someone who hurt you? How can you long to return even though you know it’s the worst possible thing you can do? Because you didn’t want to let go of love, or what you convinced yourself was love, or what some part of you still sees as a chance for love.
And because your feelings don’t change the second you decide you can’t live with a person. You may flip from love to hate, but the intensity is no different, and in many cases, you (or a part of you that you hate) may still love that person, even though you know he or she is unhealthy and unsafe. You wanted it to be better, not over. You had no choice, and yet, your choice was terrifyingly difficult.
You learned to be submissive and silent, to second- or even third-guess yourself, to start every sentence with “I’m sorry.”
3. You have to unlearn your unhealthy coping strategies.
You learned every trick to try to keep your abuser happy, or at least to avoid triggering his or her rage. You learned to be submissive and silent, to second- or even third-guess yourself, to start every sentence with “I’m sorry.” You learned to walk around minefields and stay out of the line of fire.