Healing after an emotionally abusive relationship
Emotional abuse has a significant impact on one's mental health, and even when away from the abusive relationship, the effects can still be felt.
Logically, you may know you are happier without them, yet despite this knowledge, your life has been turned upside down. While you were once confident and carefree, you are now highly anxious and full of self-doubt. And then there's the anger. The abuser may have moved on - it makes you angry to see them with someone else - how can they be so happy when they treated me so badly? It feels so unfair they so easily moved on with no repercussions for their terrible behaviour. You may find yourself thinking, how do I move on? How do I let go of this anger? Should I risk getting hurt again?
While this article will not provide all the answers, it may shed light on some suggestions around possible steps you can take to begin to heal from your experience.
Acknowledge what happened
What you went through was significant. You may have confided in family and friends who disregarded your emotional abuse. Indeed, your abuser will likely have strongly encouraged you to doubt the severity or impact of their behaviour towards you, gaslighting you into believing that you are the problem, or you are overreacting. Remind yourself that what happened to you was real. You have every right to have this validated.
Sit with your feelings
When one begins to experience painful emotions, usually, the natural instinct or reaction is to push them down. You may do this by keeping busy, either with work or social activities. This may help you to avoid feeling the pain in the moment, however what you are actually doing is burying these feelings. This is essentially planting a painful seed, which you continue to water. This prevents you from processing your experience in the long run.
Be kind to yourself
This sounds so simple, however people who have experienced emotionally abusive relationships are often stuck in the cycle of being very hard on themselves. Often they have internalised the criticism they received from their abusive partner (or friend or family member). Being kinder to yourself could start with challenging your inner critic - the voice from within that gives you are hard time. It may be telling you that you are not enough, or that you deserved the treatment you received. This is not true, challenge this voice.
Seeking new relationships
It may be that you feel like seeking solace in another relationship will help you move on from your abuse. This is perfectly normal, however, it may be beneficial for you to take some time to focus on your own healing and give space to reflect on what you went through. Before entering another relationship, it may be useful to consider the red flags that you now recognise you may have overlooked when you first met your abusive partner.
Check in with yourself
When starting to date again, you may be incredibly anxious about history repeating itself. In this case it is important to check in with yourself, for example, how does this person make me feel? Follow and trust that feeling. When someone experiences emotional abuse, they often doubt themselves and their thought process; take time to become reacquainted with trusting your own feelings.
If you think you may be in an abusive relationship and feel unsafe, you may benefit from contacting Women's Aid.