7 keys to overcoming an abusive relationship

Abusive relationships hurt us deeply and overcoming them requires hard personal work. However, following some guidelines it is possible to achieve well-being.

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: April 14, 2022

When a relationship ends, we face a painful process and relatively long, which is difficult to traverse. We lose our identity and our routines, future projects fall apart and we are forced to rebuild ourselves. However, this path becomes more difficult when it comes to overcoming an abusive relationship. That is why we want to share some keys that may be useful to you.

It is worth mentioning that these types of relationships are more common than we think. Based on recorded data, at least 1 in 4 people have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV).

This can take on many faces: physical, emotional, sexual, economic violence… In any case, it causes profound damage to those who experience it and places the person in a position where moving forward is difficult.

Despite this, whether you have decided to leave the relationship or if it has been your ex-partner who has taken the step, You now have the opportunity to heal and start designing a better life for yourself. And for this we invite you to consider the following guidelines.

1. Manage the emotions that come with trying to get over an abusive relationship

From the outside it may seem like deciding to leave an abusive relationship is easy. After all, it is hard to understand why someone stays in a bond that causes them so much damage and is expected to experience only relief and well-being when they leave it. However, the reality is much more complex.

During the grieving process mixed feelings may appear of relief and freedom, but also of anger and sadness. You can feel fear, loneliness and remorse, and even doubts about whether the best decision has been made.

Whatever you feel, remember that it is valid. Despite the damage that the relationship has caused you, it is legal to be sad and disappointed that it has ended. You have the right to waver in your conviction and mourn your loss.

To move forward in recovery you must allow yourself to feel, without judging yourself and without letting others do so. Remember that emotional ventilation is essential to be able to move forward. Start a therapeutic diary, find someone you trust to talk to or resort to professional accompaniment. Be that as it may, it is important that you find a way to manage and channel those feelings.

Being able to speak and express yourself is part of the healing process for managing emotions.

2. Understand yourself and let go of guilt

Once you have managed to get out of a harmful bond, it is common for a strong feeling of guilt to appear. “How did I let them do this to me?”, “How could I let myself be abused for so long?”, “why did i abandon myself?”.

These and other questions can crowd your mind, reproaching you for your past decisions and actions. However, it is vital that you remember that you did the best you could.

For this, it can be very positive to seek information regarding the cycle of violence and abuse in the couple. What will allow you to understand the dynamics in which you were immersed, the mechanisms that the abuser uses and the reality that you are a survivor.

Don’t judge yourself for what you did and thank yourself for being in a different position now; one in which you can extract valuable lessons from what you have experienced. Take care of your internal dialogue and do not allow that inner critic to continue crushing you.

3. Set limits for the other and for yourself

Abusive relationships are often characterized by toxic cycles of breakups and reconciliations. For this reason, although it may seem that leaving the relationship is the most complicated, the real challenge is to keep the decision. If you want to achieve this, you need to establish clear limits for your ex-partner, but also for yourself.

It is not just about preventing the other from looking for you or contacting you, trying to make you feel guilty or trying to win you back with false promises. More importantly, know that you may feel like getting back into the relationship and be able to prevent these moments.

Zero contact is the best strategy to follow whenever possible. Do not communicate with the other person or meet them as much as possible. Don’t hesitate to restrict their access to your social networks and make sure you don’t access theirs too.

Remind yourself, whenever necessary, of the reasons why that bond is not healthy for you. Seek support from people close to you when the urge to contact the other assails you and, ultimately, decide to go through the abstinence process.

Love addiction is very similar to drug addiction and is often very present in abusive relationships.

4. Work to heal the roots that led you to an abusive relationship

An essential step when overcoming an abusive relationship is to carry out a process of reflection and analyze the reasons that led us to get involved and remain in that bond. Detecting them is important because, if we don’t work on them, we are likely to find ourselves in similar relationships again in the future.

The causes can be multiple and can range from childhood injuries to emotional deficiencies or misconceptions about love and relationships. For this reason, having psychological support can be very useful to speed up the process, get to the root and start working on it.

5. Rebuild yourself step by step

Unhealthy relationships wreak havoc on our emotional world. It is likely that your self-esteem is damaged, that you feel small and unworthy, that you see yourself unable to face life on your own. Abusers know how to cause this effect to keep their victims dependent.

Your best ally on this path will be self-care. So start prioritizing yourself and establishing healthy lifestyle habits. Eat in a nutritious way and learn to listen to your body, practice physical exercise and get enough rest.

Also take care of your emotions and spend time on your hobbies and interests. Take up those projects you had before your relationship or look for new activities that motivate you and make you feel fulfilled. In short, invest your time and energy in yourself.

6. Create your support networks

At this time it is essential that you can reconnect with your closest people, the ones who love and support you and the ones you probably distanced yourself from as a result of your relationship. Social support will be crucial when it comes to recovering.

For the same reason, it can also be positive to widen your circle and meet other people in your same situation. Support groups offer a safe environment in which to express yourself without fear and share experiences.

Support groups and group therapies allow us to meet others in the same situation.

7. Give yourself time to get over an abusive relationship

By last, try not to force yourself to rush the process. A duel after a breakup takes between 6 months and 2 years, but depending on the specific situation, it can take considerably longer. After an abusive relationship there is much to heal, to process and to integrate. It is important to do this work conscientiously.

Healing can be painful and confusing. There will be advances and setbacks and a lot of support from the environment and the will to carry out internal work will be required. However, it is possible to rebuild self-esteem and learn to bond in healthier ways in the future.

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