How to Recover from an Abusive Relationship
Do you know how to recover from an abusive relationship? No one wakes up one day and says, "I think I'll fall in love with someone who abuses me." Most relationships don't become abusive, and most abusive relationships don't become abusive until the relationship is well-established. And lack of violence does not mean lack of abuse (Effects of Emotional Abuse on Adults). Breaking it off is the most dangerous part, but what comes after that? Do victims know how to recover from an abusive relationship?
Rebuild Your Self-Esteem When Recovering from an Abusive Relationship
Dr. Aphrodite Matsakis, author of I Can’t Get Over It: A Handbook for Trauma Survivors, writes:
Most battering victims stay for the kiss, not the fist—for the love and attention of [the honeymoon phase], not the anxiety and physical and emotional pain of [the other two stages]. … Both battered women and incest victims may have protective, loving feelings toward their abuser because of the affection the abuser has showered upon them.
The answer, then, is to build self-esteem. But how to do that? Talk to others and ask them what they like about you and why. Meditate on affirmations others have given you. Then, when you are strong enough, examine yourself and find what you like.
For example, I take a good deal of pride in my writing. Celebrate the small victories, such as waking up alive in the morning. Eventually you'll see the big victory of surviving an abusive relationship.
Don't get down on yourself for falling for a con artist. Celebrate yourself for having the strength to ditch your abuser (How To Recover From Emotional Trauma of Domestic Abuse).
Understand Posttraumatic Stress Disorder When Recovering from an Abusive Relationship
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is estimated to affect eight-to-nine percent of the population. According to Matsakis, it develops:
- In two percent of accident victims and witnesses
- In 25 -33 percent of disaster survivors
- In 25 percent of those who experience traumatic bereavement (e.g., murder, suicide)
- In 30 percent of Vietnam veterans
- In 65 percent of nonsexual assault survivors
- In 35-92 percent of sexual assault survivors
- In 84 percent of domestic violence survivors
Understanding PTSD, then, is a good move for any domestic violence survivor. You may be one of the lucky 16 percent who does not develop PTSD. But it is important to understand PTSD because it does not always develop immediately after the trigger or triggers.
According to Matsakis, survivors of man-made trauma suffer longer, more intense symptoms of PTSD than survivors of natural disasters. Matsakis writes:
For example, in many cases victims of rape, incest, and other types of abuse are blamed for either provoking the abuse or for accepting it, as if it had been their choice. Furthermore, survivors of man-made catastrophes are much more likely to be seen by others as lacking in strength, caution, intelligence, or moral integrity. The message they are given is, What happened to you is your own fault. If you had been more careful, less stupid, more righteous, it wouldn’t have happened to you.
This attitude often causes what is called “secondary wounding," which is often as bad as, if not worse than, the original trauma.
Other mental illnesses disproportionately affect domestic violence survivors, ranging from borderline personality disorder (BPD) to eating disorders. In order to effectively treat these illnesses, it is important to understand and address the root cause--more often than not, a lack of control. Acknowledging lack of control is the first step to gaining control, and, therefore, the first step to abusive relationship recovery.
Be Determined to Recover Yourself from the Abusive Relationship
Some people stay mired in the chaos because that's all they know. In order to recover, one has to be determined to recover from an abusive relationship. One has to want to recover before all else. This does not mean there won't be bad days, days where the chaos wins, but it does mean there is hope.
It's like sobriety--you have to want it to have it, and you have to have it to realize what it's worth. Recovery is real, but you have to work for it. There will be good days and bad days. Over time, there will be more good days than bad days, and you can see them when they're there. You can choose to recover (Recovery from Domestic Abuse).
You didn't choose what happened to you. But you can choose what's next. You can choose to grow. You can choose to change. You can choose to heal.
Build your self-esteem. Take control. Be determined to recover. Your future is in your hands.
Oberg, B. (2016, August 22). How to Recover from an Abusive Relationship, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2016/08/how-to-recover-from-an-abusive-relationship