Life After Abuse: 7 Hidden Truths To Help You Rebuild Yourself

7 Hidden Truths About Life After Abuse

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.

7 Hidden Truths About Life After Abuse

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.”

After the Abuse: The Price of Speaking Out

After the Abuse: The Price of Speaking Out

A few months after escaping an emotionally abusive relationship, feeling strangled and suffocated by the enormity of that secret, I made a controversial choice: I wrote about what had happened on my Facebook page.

My confession was met with an outpouring of support, although I noticed the prominent silence of the friends my abuser and I had met as a couple. After I started writing articles about emotional abuse and the struggle of living with its consequences, more and more strangers started reaching out to me as fellow survivors. Conversely, I got fewer and fewer responses from my friends and acquaintances; in fact, some ceased all interactions with me. I was experiencing first-hand what I had observed for a long time whenever someone finds the strength to reveal the abuse they’ve suffered:

Speaking out about abuse has its price.

An Uncomfortable Topic

It has got to be hard to read for those who have not lived it: I get the awkwardness of not knowing what to say. I get that friends and relatives feel powerless reading my story. There is nothing to say or do that can solve the problem. What comfort can possibly be offered? There are no magic words that can fix the long-lasting damage left by abuse, or make it easier to understand.

On a strictly practical level, talking about it is useless: I do not do it in order to find a fix, because there is none. I get that someone might therefore think there is no use in discussing it or analyzing it if it is not going to lead to any concrete results. For those who have been through it, that is not the case: there are one hundred facets to process, a hundred different consequences to face. It is a long, tortuous process that strains your mind every day.

At times you would like to keep repeating the same thing over and over again because then maybe, sooner or later you will find some meaning, an explanation, you will be able to accept the senseless cruelty that has been dealt to you for no discernible reason. You would like to scream it out until the whole indifferent world hears you, or even just to get it out of your bursting head. And, maybe, to make other survivors feel a bit less lonely.


Dirty Laundry

There are some who disapprove of openly discussing experiences of abuse: the belief that dirty laundry should not be aired in public is hard to kill. Because it is unpleasant: because it makes people uncomfortable. Maybe some think it is just attention seeking. Maybe some, especially if they only know the charming side of the abuser, think it is “unfair” for the victim to speak out and ruin his scintillating reputation. It is the same reason why I suffered his abuse in silence for months: to not make him look bad, to protect him, to be “fair”, and what was the result? That he kept behaving worse and worse, sure that nobody would find out, and I was alone in that horror, unable to ask anyone for help. Covering for my abuser out of love and politeness only enabled him to keep abusing me.


The Abuser’s Fan Club

There are those who knew us as a couple, and I get that it is going to be awkward and unpleasant for them. Maybe some do not believe me: after all, with them he was always kind, generous, fun, the perfect drinking buddy. I remember how everyone adored him, especially the girls he worked so hard to impress. Everyone trusted him – unbelievable how he could morph like a chameleon in a hundred different people to become everyone’s best friend; absolutely unbelievable how skilfully he could hide the monster he became in private – to the point that they could not believe the awful things he had done, not even confronted with hard evidence.

I get it: they were so absurd, so senseless that I could not believe them either, even after seeing the monster with my own eyes. For months I tore my brain apart trying to reconcile his two identities, the kind and lovely guy with the horrible things he did, trying to find a rational explanation. I did not manage. How can I expect someone who never experienced it to?

The Honest Truth About Life After A Toxic Relationship

The Honest Truth About Life After A Toxic Relationship

People often associate those in toxic relationships with someone who is weak. Someone who doesn’t have enough self-respect to walk away. Someone who is tolerating a lot less than they deserved.

But as someone who lived through the turmoil of the ups and downs and endings just to begin again, I look at myself as really strong. Strong for coming out on the other side. Yes, a bit tainted but no one walks through fire not getting burnt a little.

I thought I was strong for hanging on so long. Strong for believing in someone and respecting my own feelings enough to not walk away. Strong for loving someone that much.

When people ask about him and our relationship, I don’t look back at it negatively. I look back at it and I see love.

Love underneath the ashes and the chaos we created in each other’s lives. Because maybe it wasn’t just him that was toxic. I think more than that, I was toxic to myself for continuing to run in circles I knew would lead me to the same place.

The truth was, it was him that ended it. I would never give up on him. I would have kept trying. I would have tried until I completely self-destructed. And in time I did.

He was like some drug and every hit took me to this high and I always came back wanting more. I don’t know much about drugs but I know people can be as addicting as any hard substance.

That’s all an addiction is, trying to find comfort in the same thing that’s destroying you.

He said goodbye one night and it didn’t even hurt anymore. I was completely numb to it. And that’s what was so scary about it. I had been hurt so many times it didn’t even faze me anymore

But the hard part wasn’t the ending. It came with a thank you on his part because I think he finally knew what he put me through.

There was no doubt I loved him and I would have done anything to make it work. In fact, I had. I invested time and energy into something that would end in complete destruction but I still fought for it. I fought like hell for him.

But it was a toxic relationship.
It was a relationship full of mind games and doubts and questioning every move I made and every word I said. It was every fight always ended in me apologizing and it somehow always being my fault. It was saying things just to piss each other off and knowing exactly how to.

But then it was the good stuff too. It was the nights together where I wanted time to freeze in that moment. It was every bad day he was the one I knew I could turn to.

It was with a simple look and a short phrase he knew something was up and he knew just to hold me. The honest truth was he knew better than any person in my life and I loved him for that.

It was every day waking up to his texts and every conversation ending with I love you. I don’t know if he knew how in love with him I was. But even with the bad stuff, he set this template for everything I wanted in a person.

And I know that sounds crazy. How can a toxic standard be the one I had? But the truth about toxic relationships is they aren’t all bad all the time. There’s a reason people tolerate the bad stuff.

But it ended and I moved on.

But in everyone, I dated I looked for a piece of him there. Every date I’d sit across the table and think about him. He ruined dating for me a bit after that because even after it ended, he still consumed so much of my heart.

Then there were the negative effects a toxic relationship had on me. I questioned everyone’s motives after that. Every new person I expected there to be some catch. Some chick on the side. Some fight that would lead us to make up again and run in circles. I expected to be treated bad.