After Leaving Your Abusive Relationship: Emotions to Expect

After leaving your abusive relationship, no one can predict your emotions exactly. But after some time of mentoring survivors, I’ve found many similarities between other survivor’s emotional experiences and my own. Fear of the unknown may be a factor in whether or not someone leaves their abuser. So I hope this post gives you a heads up about the emotions you might experience after leaving your abusive relationship.

After Leaving My Abusive Relationship, He Was Still There

Leaving an abusive relationship didn’t immediately change my life. I was gone, but I hadn’t left him. I obsessed over him and our marriage. I imagined conversations we might have the next time we met. I woke to his voice only to find he was not in the house. My heart raced around the time he would normally return home from work.

My old routines remained. I continued to fear doing something wrong that he would discover. I cleaned the house, bought his favorite foods, and budgeted the money he sent me for four despite having only three of us in the house (our kids and me). When he called, I was afraid not to answer. When he emailed, I emailed right back hoping I met his time schedule for responding.

I continued to behave as if he would come home any second. I lived in chaos, attempting to attend to an abusive husband who no longer lived in our home.

Retraining Myself After Leaving the Abusive Relationship

About 6 weeks after we split, I noticed how much time I spent waiting on his next move. I decided that I would no longer put off doing what I needed to do just in case he decided to contact me. This was not easy, and it didn’t happen overnight.

I trained myself to wait before answering or returning his calls and emails. I trained myself to recognize and cut his words out of my vocabulary. I trained myself to exude confidence when I saw him. I trained myself to react calmly to his insults and manipulations (see How Did You Brainwash Me?).

The hardest part about retraining myself to not react to his antics was realizing just how many of his opinions and actions I’d adopted as my own. Take for example his look of disgust when he saw the laundry basket sitting at the foot of the bed, clean clothes folded but not put away. When I saw that look, I hustled to get those clothes in their drawers.

So to retrain myself, I left a laundry basket on the bed for a full week. I lived out of that laundry basket. At the end of the week, the sky hadn’t fallen and no one was seriously injured. I started to feel better about ignoring housework to focus on other, more important issues (like how to support myself after the divorce).

Real Change Came After Leaving My Abusive Relationship

Once I forced my ex-abuser out of my head (or at least forced him out of a good bit of it), I could concentrate on the important things. For one, deciding how to support myself was scary! I didn’t have clue one as to where to begin. I didn’t want to work my life away as someone’s employee, but bit by bit, I began to realize that being an employee temporarily was probably the quickest way to an income. I didn’t know how to become an employee! Truly – I didn’t.

I found out about a class at the Small Business Association and took it. I learned that I had skills and how to document them on a resume. I learned how to look for suitable work, and I followed the advice from the class. I got a job doing something I loved to do, and took it despite its drawbacks.

Key Is To Keep Ex-Abuser At A Distance

During this time I kept him out of my plans. I didn’t tell him what I was doing. I didn’t share my thoughts or plans with him. I viewed him as our children’s father, someone who shared their lives with me, but he was no longer invited to peer into the rest of my life.

I desperately missed having someone with whom to share my hopes and fears, but I knew that sharing with my ex would only end in him twisting my words into a knife to thrust into my back. I called my sister more often. I went out with an old friend. I met a man and we had lunch. In short, I broke my isolation and forced myself to find other outlets for my needs.

About 6 or 7 months after I’d left that abusive marriage, my ex showed up at my house at 10 o’clock one night. He looked sad, but wouldn’t say why he was there. He wanted to come inside. I had detached myself enough to know that allowing him inside was the worst thing I could do. I told him that I had company, that it wasn’t a good time to visit.

He left and peeled out of my driveway in a flash.

I felt good. I really did! I took a look around: I had a job, I had a house. I had enough income to feed myself, our boys, and my cats. I had friends and family who checked in on me and whom I called just for fun. I wasn’t all the way healed, but I was a lot closer to it than I could have imagined half a year ago.

You can be happier, too. Be patient with yourself, but don’t look back to your abuser for comfort. When you find yourself second-guessing your decision to leave, think about the crap you used to tolerate and ask yourself if you want your abuser’s manipulative behaviors back in your life.

It’s normal to want to retreat, but it’s also normal to overcome abuse. You can do it.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so please do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized. This post is part of my story and my abuser was male.

You can also find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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63 Responses to After Leaving Your Abusive Relationship: Emotions to Expect

  1. shaz says:

    Samantha, I totally feel your pain.. my partner or ex has told me he will be moving on wont stay on his own at all. he has moved into shared house with 2 young girls 20 years younger. it breaks my heart. Also our son is not impressed. He says they are his new family. He can stay with them. Im dreading if and when he does meet someone else or even has a one off with anyone. As he will inform me off his conquest. I cant bear the thought of another woman being with him. I have been with him for 11 years and never envisaged my current situation. Not being with him. Not having him in my life. I know im being very stupid thinking that if we get back together things will change. There has been a lot of contributing factors. Financial strain, him feeling isolated all he did was work and stay home. He didn’t see him family as they didn’t like me! he didn’t go out. He claimed I stopped him. He didn’t like going out much. The biggest issue was financial situation. He said you’ve changed. I have changed before I used to stay quiet and not argue back. Now I raise my voice and argue. Which are things he hates!! im not blameless. I have not been helping him financially. I have not been looking for a job. Ive actually become very low and depressed and am always snappy and shouty.

  2. ali says:

    Thank you. One year out and struggling. I feel like printing this article out and putting it on my mirror, especially the bit about not giving him the chance to talk! I have been struggling. Thank you x

  3. jaimie says:

    After leaving an abusive marriage after 16 yrs. I find myself terrified of moving on. This relationship is all I’ve ever known. I know with all of my heart that this marriage was making me physically and emotionally not well, and this huge decision is completely for the best. So here is to a happy future.

  4. Mister A says:

    I was in an abusive relationship for 4 months, though I was with that person for 6 in total. The first 2 months I can’t count as it was very early and we only dated. After that it became quite intense very quickly.

    I accepted that because it’s what I thought I needed. Unfortunately it was just me acknowledging her behaviour as OK, because every week after was exactly the same. We did everything on her terms and if I didn’t like that I would get bullied into submission. Not extreme verbal attacks but very subtle jabs. Enough to wear me down and take her opinion as ‘law’.

    She didn’t like that my best friend is a woman, who has a long term partner and someone I’ve known for nearly 10 years. Did her very best to isolate me from not only her but everyone close to me.

    I know it doesn’t seem like a long time compared to those who were with someone longer or have children with. But those 6 months felt like years. I became a shell of myself, saying yes to everything because I didn’t want another argument I knew I’d lose.

    I held on for so long because I loved her and of course still do. But I know that I can’t go back because despite all the promises, she never changed.

    I look back at the things she said and did to me, all the while smiling and claiming she loved me. Well I’m not her puppet anymore.

  5. Gloria says:

    I left him because he belittled be all the time , u did that wrong this wrong it wasn’t good .When I opened my mouth he said I act like the man but I was just defending myself, sometimes I think about him and miss him but I know he doesn’t want to change his attitude he’s not good for me so I’ve learned to move on for my sake ..

  6. Becca says:

    This website has been helpful for me. I have been in a relationship I think is abusive for three years and have just left him.

    I can identify with pretty much all the articles on this website and comments particularly the article about brain washing. It started with controlling behaviour, him monitoring my phone, for example text messages people I have called and people in my contacts lists, emails etc. he made it clear male friends and colleagues were not acceptable.

    Then came the threatening and nasty behaviour; if I went out with friends there were consequences, name calling and shouting in my face. Breaking things in the house and breaking parts of the house itself. The worst of all was the withholding of communication and affection.

    I became deeply unhappy after he got physical with me one time, unprovoked.

    Now I have left him and the pain is unbearable, worst is the panic, anxiety and panic attacks I think caused by fear of the unknown and having to face what has been left behind. I am hoping this doesn’t last because I can’t bear it. The pain in my chest and stomach and the empty feeling.

  7. I am so sorry for all of you. I left an abusive relationship not physically abusive. I left in October my ex. called wanting me back I was worried about him sent the police to make sure he was okay. The police woman called me back to say that he’s doing fine. When I left I remember him smiling and the cop who drove me out smiling. I wasn’t smiling but then later he called to say how miserable he’s been. I left because he was controlling, got jealous easily, had no respect for my feelings. This girl kept coming over she was after him I told him. He said he wasn’t interested in her said she had an ugly butt and that he would never cheat on me with that but then said she was a nice person. If he did not want
    someone in the house it made him uncomfortable they did not get in. This girl was always around everywhere we went, lied to me more than once. Told him one thing me another
    my reputation in the neighborhood went doenhill. One night I slipped said something I
    shouldn’t I made a mistake. I was sorry and no got in trouble. This girl turned my friends
    into my enemies I tried talking to her nothing.

  8. Nicole says:

    My story is a lot different. I met my emotionally and mentally abusive husband at 16 years old, high school sweethearts if you will. We married when I turned 21. I finally worked up the courage to leave. We had been married almost 20 years before I realized the abuse I had suffered since a sixteen year old girl. I finally worked up the courage to leave. I was terrified, stayed sick, when I decided it best to leave the small town we lived in and relocate with my brother to his new duty military station, six states away from the hell that I used to call home. I struggle with it still, not all day everyday, however I am still realizing a lot of his behaviors more once I was gone. I am dealing with that. My biggest problem is returning to the workforce. My husband was so controlling, manipulative, he alienated me from all of my family and friends. I could only be around who he chose. Well with that came my employment. Anytime I made a friend that would either text me at home or call me at home, it would infuriate my husband and I would be told, I would much rather you be a housewife, you will help more here than anywhere else. When I was a housewife, I had to account for every penny spent in the household, by putting all receipts in an envelope and going over everything with him at the end of the month. Then he said that I was spending “his” money wrecklessly,(which was not the case), and he took my checkbook as well as my debit card away. He started me on a weekly allowance, all the while calling me every name in the book, I would never be able to make it on my own without him, I would end up walking the streets for money, things that no one should say to anyone they love or care for, or even their worst enemy for that matter. I finally left as I said before, I do not want to go back to that, however I am at rock bottom as I have been six states away for a month now, applied for forty-nine different positions, that I was qualified for however with my gaps in employment I am overlooked. I guess what I am asking for is there anywhere mentally and emotionally broken women can receive any kind of help. I spend my days on google, however my situation nor should my resume read as I was a stay at home mom. We were not able to have children. If anyone has any advice or could point me in any direction I would so greatly appreciate it. I am afraid if I am not offered employment soon, I will be back in the same situation, miserable and things will probably be a lot worse than before. PLEASE HELP ME!!!!

  9. Sharon says:

    After years of being very unhappy I finally left my partner of 10 1/2 years 3 days ago. It feels very surreal. I have been planning this in my head for so long that the reality feels quite bizarre. I am both exhilarated and petrified. When I first met him he was the man of my dreams. The “one”. Witty, intelligent treated me like I was the only woman in the world for him. When I think back the signs were there at the beginning. Although he doesn’t have full blown narcisstic personality disorder he certainly has enough traits to make an intimate relationship with him impossible. He had the irrational rages, the egocentric “the world revolves around me”, challenging authority and rule breaking, would give me days of the cold shoulder until gave in, would never say sorry or take responsibilities. In the early stages he would ask me what did I want to do…we always ended up doing what he sons hated him, people said they felt sorry for me. I was sad, lonely, lost my self esteem and self confidence. I also gained 30 kg in weight. He was very good at putting up a good front. We went to marriage guidance counselling when I said I was unhappy and wanted to leave. He begged me for a second chance so we went to the counselling. He twisted everything and made it like he was the victim. Said he had tried so hard to please me but I wasn’t grateful or appreciative of anything he did or said. I was to blame, not him. The counsellor bought it, hook, line and sinker. But I’m free now. Free to do what I want, free to do what I need, free to be happy..this time I won’t be turning back.

  10. A friend says:

    Hello Nicole, your story really touched me as I have left my abuser only a few days ago and was in the same situation but not for anywhere nearly as long. I would love to be penpals with you if you want to leave a way to contact you? Please dont go back, after leaving the abuse only escalates, they do it in order to regain control and keep us from leaving again.

    This process for me has been very very difficult, and painful, but I am never going to return to the hell I used to call a home.
    The empty feeling, the anxiety, and all the emotional turmoil is really horrible currently.

  11. Tracy says:

    I find myself feeling lost, dazed, confused, deep sadness, and alone. I keep questing myself why I would even entertain the idea of seeing my abuser. I have been with him for 6 years and today I have 14 days free of of him!! It’s always the same pattern. He abuses me to the point of throwing me away like a paper cup and then he comes back to CLAIM he property by saying how sorry he is, he will change, it will never happen again, he loves me more then anything in the world, he can’t make it without me…..or the crying and begging and pleading is what usually worked but not this time. I hated to see him hurt!! That is twisted. 4 night ago he came knocking and banging on every window and door of my apartment, he rang the bell over a 100 times, I was scared to move an inch and hid under my bed. ( he has pulled this one before but climbed a 6 ft fence to get to my door) I crawled on my tummy to my phone and called 911 after 30 minutes of praying he would go away and 30 minutes of hearing his voice…come’on

    baby just open the door, i come in love and peace, I know your in there Tracy open the door!! The police came and hauled him away. I want to feel personal freedom, I want to feel good about the courage it took not to let him back in, I want to feel anything but all the horrible things he told me I was……I joined a support group for battered women that starts on Sunday. I have no friends. I need a network to survive after I already survived…does that make sense? Thank you for your comments and posts. I haven’t slept but I know without a shadow of any doubt….he will abuse again and again and again. This is Factual and it’s tragic because I loved him. Today I love me more and have a zero contact order one minute at a time…

  12. Chris60 says:

    Unfortunately many people find themselves trapped in relationships with abusive and manipulative people and end up feeling used, drained, helpless and miserable. Those with a hidden agenda often appear charming at first and refuse to be accountable or resonsible for the damage they cause while pushing to gain power, control and assets at another person’s expense. Bad relationships erode your trust and the closer you feel to the abuser or exploiter, the worse you feel about deception and hurtful behaviour. Honest open relationships with fair and healthy people are difficult to find when many people feel entitled to consider their needs and wants more important than those of others and treat relationships as ways to gain more than they give. Arguments are bound to happen but cheating, deceit and constant putdowns, demands or threats chip away at trust and intimacy.

  13. Crissy says:

    I feel a huge emptiness, unexpected sadness and fear after leaving a very abusive and toxic man. I have always been so dependent on him financially. I have to “think” positive and force myself to be independent. I will not return which I did before. I will remember how bad things were and look forward to the future. I am the creator of my life so much stronger than this week helpless imposter.

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