At the initial end of an abusive relationship, it is overwhelmingly difficult to feel comfortable and secure and happy. I mean, how could you? You just spent a prolonged amount of time in a toxic situation, depleting yourself of all that’s healthy. When my relationship finally ran its course, I was faced with a lot of confusion. Primarily, the sole understanding that the person I loved was not who he said he was, and the love that he gave was not a love that I needed.
It’s a lot to unravel, particularly when manipulation and gaslighting have led you to question every move you make and every decision you face. You wonder how you let someone treat you and talk to you with such carelessness and disrespect. You think about the countless times you defended them to your family and friends and justified their behavior. The lines you had drawn were always erased and replaced, and then erased yet again. The boundaries you set were always temporary, despite how strongly you warned of a “last chance,” you knew their actions, and your lack-there-of, would keep you spineless and stagnant.
The healing process, even after weeks, months and maybe even years of abuse, takes time. Learning to love yourself again after letting yourself become half the person you were is essential to this process. Below are five crucial tips you should start today, if you haven’t already, to begin healing and growing so that you can move forward healthy, happy, and ready to do better in the future.
If you haven’t done so already, let the dead weight go. That means no calls, texts, emails, visits, coffee dates, sex—nada. Abusive and toxic love is a hell of an addiction, and like any addiction, it’s best to go cold turkey. Claims that he/she has “changed” are very common. It’s important to understand that this is very unlikely, and falling back into their embrace will ultimately lead to more pain and abuse. I cannot tell you how many times I fell for “I have changed” and “I will never hurt you again,” only to see the same patterns continue and pick up in intensity. They say these phrases to maintain control and reel you back in, so do not fall for it!
I think my biggest piece of advice for someone in an abusive relationship currently, or someone struggling to get out, is to take advice. I’m sure those close to you have mentioned their concerns if some of the biggest indicators of abuse (i.e. changed personality, pulling away from friends/family, physical bruises, distraction, lying, puffy eyes) are present. If you dismiss these concerns (like I did), know you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Listen and take in what those who love you are saying. I know in my experience, I had to hit the absolute peak of abuse to actually pull away because the manipulation makes it extremely challenging to decipher what is actually happening. After that, all the memories of side-comments and worries from family and friends started to make sense. You grow through what you go through, and when you know better you do better. Make sure your recovery is filled with positivity and realization.
Rekindle Relationships You’ve Neglected
It’s very probable that in the midst of your neglect for yourself, you also neglected key relationships in your life. I remember times when I’d be out with my friends, but only physically. I was always stressed about getting home within a couple of hours because he would get pissed if I stayed out with them too long. I remember going to a concert with my best friend and texting him the entire time because he thought I was going to cheat on him. Long before I recognized this as a type of abuse and control, I started trying to avoid arguments by going out less, bailing on my friends and seeing them less and less. As soon as my relationship ended, I started finally feeling like myself again. I was seeing my friends more and doing more and being more. Returning to relationships you neglected is a vital step to returning to yourself.
I know it’s a commonly held belief that dating/sex after a break-up is a critical step in recovery, but I urge you to rethink that. Jumping into something else doesn’t give you much time to heal yourself. Give yourself time to reassess your values and get back in touch with the person you are. Fill the void with things and people that make you happy. Revisit old hobbies. Learn to sleep alone. Don’t count on empty vices to make you feel whole again. Healthy love will find you once you are right within, so not rush the healing process. Hurt people will hurt people, so you need to make sure you have come to terms with your pain before you enter someone else’s life.
To forgive yourself is to free yourself of all your past burdens and to come to a full understanding of how this lesson can be used moving forward. Tupac put it best when he said, “You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could’ve, would’ve happened…or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the fuck on.” Stop filling your mind with poison and start filling it with all that is beautiful and productive and true to you. Stop holding onto a hope of a future reunion and start realizing that someone who truly loves you and respects you would not make you feel so small. Move the fuck on. Cry if you have to, but know that your value is not based on someone’s inability to see your full worth. Nourish your relationship with yourself and let go of what no longer serves you.