When a destructive, verbally abusive relationship ends, you might feel a host of conflicting and unresolved emotions. Verbally abusive relationships can leave you feeling like your soul and heart have been destroyed and make you feel like a completely changed person. The recovery process takes time, support from others, patience and self-love -- but you can get through it and emerge stronger, happier and healthier than you were before.
Cut All Ties With Your Ex
People who have ended abusive relationships often feel the need to contact their former partners through email, social media, telephone calls, texts or in-person visits. On some level, you know that you shouldn't have any contact, yet you might feel compelled to show your ex that you're better off -- or you may feel the need to offer forgiveness. Yet it's vital to cut off all contact. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, it's very hard to experience closure until you've severed all ties with your ex. (ref. 1) Delete phone numbers so that you won't feel the urge to make a phone call or send a text in the heat of an emotional moment. Delete your ex as a contact on social media sites. Distract yourself whenever you feel the need to contact your ex. Go for a walk, exercise, watch TV, call a friend or get out of the house until the feeling passes.
Process Your Emotions
Healing from an abusive relationship is an emotionally challenging process. When you first leave a verbally abusive relationship, you might feel utterly alone and as though you have no one to turn to. You may feel a decreased sense of self-esteem and self-worth, depression, anger, frustration or isolation -- and you might miss your ex. Although you may experience a host of painful, upsetting emotions, don't suppress them. According to domestic violence expert Patricia Evans in her book, "The Verbally Abusive Relationship," recovery from verbal abuse offers the chance for you to accept and recognize your emotions as valid. (ref. 2 p. 150) Write in a journal, cry, scream, beat the couch with a pillow, join a kick-boxing class or find another activity that will allow you to physically and mentally process your feelings.
Find Social Support
Verbally abusive spouses and partners often socially isolate their significant others. You may have been cut off from your friends, family and other forms of previous social support. Even though you've taken the steps toward a better life on your own, it's a lot easier to move on when you've surrounded yourself with an encouraging and loving support network. And an understanding friend can keep you on track when you feel like contacting your ex, says the National Domestic Violence Hotline. (ref. 3) Reconnect with loved ones and seek opportunities to meet new people by reaching out and developing your personal interests. Take a cooking course, join a group fitness class, knock on your neighbor's door and say hi. Join a domestic violence survivor's group to connect with and obtain support from people who've been in your shoes.
Individual counseling can be a beneficial source of support throughout the recovery process. Trained counselors who specialize in domestic violence can lay out a framework of recovery and help you identify the skills and strengths you already have to begin moving forward in your new life, says licensed social worker Karen Koenig in an article for "Social Work Today." (ref. 4) Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to talk confidentially to an advocate and to obtain more information about counselors in your area. (resources 1)
- Psych Central: Abuse: Support Groups
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
- "The How of Happiness"; Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky; 2007
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