Emotions to Expect After Leaving Your Abusive Relationship
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 survivors' emotional experiences and my own. Fear of the unknown is 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.
Emotions After Leaving My Abusive Relationship
Fear and Obsession: As If He Was Still There
Leaving an abusive relationship didn't immediately change me or the way I went about my life. I was gone, but in my feelings and actions, I hadn't left him. I obsessed over my abuser 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 submissive routines remained. I continued to feared 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 two boys 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.
In short, 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 my home.
New Realizations About Life
I Retrained My Brain
Between fear and obsession there was no place for peace. After leaving the abusive relationship, it took time to realize that I had a new life that could be peaceful. A life I chose; one that he couldn't choose for me. Soon after, 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 Set Rules for Myself
I trained myself to wait before answering or returning his calls and emails. I trained myself to recognize his familiar phrases as his -- not mine. I purposefully cut his words out of my vocabulary and, probably more importantly, out of my inner dialogue. I trained myself to exude confidence when I saw him. I trained myself to react calmly to his insults and manipulation.
The hardest part about retraining myself to not react to his antics was realizing how many of his opinions and actions I'd adopted as my own (Abuse: Personality Changes And Authenticity). 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
Fear Turned Into Anxiety, a Less Harmful Emotion
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 I began to realize that being an employee temporarily was the quickest way to an income. But I didn't know how to become an employee! Truly - I didn't.
I found 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.
Feeling Empowered, I Detached Further But Felt a Bit Lonely
I started to keep him out of my plans. I didn't tell him what I was doing even when he asked. I didn't share my thoughts or feelings 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 iovercame the isolation habit I'd developed in the relationship and forced myself to find other outlets for my needs.
Finally! An Emotional Payoff
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.
Holly, K. (2012, April 1). Emotions to Expect After Leaving Your Abusive Relationship, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2012/04/after-leaving-your-abusive-relationship
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
I have been married for 4 years; 2 years very unhealthy. I have now realised that I am in a narcisstic relationship. However I love my husband I really beleuve that. You'll all think I'm mad when you read this but I do too deep down I know I'm not right in my head.
I have a 18 year old daughter, she was 13 when she met my husband. She welcomed him and respected him. He was quite good with her for two years, however sometimes close to the mark with banter.
My daughter is an only child. Her dad isn't great at the parental side but very good at providing her with external factors (car, holidays). I brought my daughter up to be rejectful and with good morals. She has never swore at me or disrespected me. However she can be lazy and selfish with time at times. She spoils me with gifts as I'm studying at the moment and slightly poor! She pays me board as she works full time and always asks if I'm ok.
My husband for the past two years has called her the most toxic things. Only five times to get but more or less everyday to me. It's at the point now where I never mention her name, and when attending events she is never invited and I literally feel in agony inside as most people I meet there are unaware I have a child.
He has always been hard on me; he paid for bills for two years as this was agreed due to me providing a larger deposit. He has persecuted me for this for the last two years; I paid him out of house and not asked for a penny off him.
He hates all my family he tells me he doesn't find me attractive
He despises my daughter
He constantly says my voice irritates him
He is physically violent too now always throwing things st me and poking my head, he has put his hands on my throat few times. The thing that is killing me is I keep thinking I can correct this. He constantly says I need mental medical help (I'm studying my Msc for nursing). He says I cause all arguments and that I'm to blame.
I just hate my head I'm a mess I don't know my thoughts anymore
I can't even decide on things to buy from shops for food to eat
my family are all so tired of me and say they don't know who I am; mist of all my daughter. I should add that she has never left me in all this. I hate myself.
I am sorry for your problems and worries.
Read up on narcissism it's good to clear mind on what is happening to you. However your doubts will creep back but in time you'll see it clear. I need to take my own advice I know. I am currently sat upstairs in my house and my husband is downstairs shouting that he wants to hurt my daughter and that he hopes I fail my degree and that me and my daughter are on our knees.
I was ever such a bright person looked after myself etc. Now I'm
Ashamed to say I don't even brush my hair most of the time. I'm consumed by his words.
Hope you are ok Anastacia xx
I just 2-1/2 months ago left a 28 year marriage to an emotionally abusive alcoholic narcissist. My path is far from over - but at least we no longer live under the same roof - I only wish I had been able to take our two sons out of all of the drama and torture and fighting long ago ... they are 20 and 27 now, but still very happy for me that I will be away from him and hopefully happier - however they are also concerned for their Dad, as he is seemlingly very disgraught as he honestly thought that I would never leave him. Anyway - please take care of yourself - EVERY ONE ... and know that YOU ALONE are WORTHY!!! Lift yourself up - do not beat yourself down - we've let our SO's do that much too long already. Godspeed everyone!
He was very welcoming as if he hasn't done anything to me. (Which hes never really acknowledged his behavior since day 1. Anyway seeing him like that I forgot
All the abusive words and ugly thing that he did. Now Im all confused. I ALMOST didnt want to leave him. The only thing that saved me waa when i remembered the scenario why i finally left after 10 years of relationship. Please help I am so confused hes saying that he wasnt abusive that hes put me on pedestal all those years .
I read that somewhere now pull your girly pants up and remember to change his name in your phone to PAIN,ANXIETY AND PANIC. So you see him for what he represents to your life. I am still with my abuser but have tried leaving before. Do this for YOU and me. Pray for me that I leave. He wants to isolate me further by moving us away.
way they are looking at you. i dont understand why I am more mad at others than him, for looking at me that way, for a punishment that never comes. Without it, there will be no relief for me and i have lived for this relief. i know i have this problem but even worse is the fear that it will be used against me. I dont know how to pull myself from this darkness bc it was always him that took the lead to forgiveness. I know that my way of preventing future attacks is different from others. It always comes back to complete isolation. The only place i feel safe is inside of me, knowing that when i speak or laugh no one knows that im the one struggling. The only place i feel safe is in the lie, that I'm okay.
i live in 2 worlds where i am raw and broken but i laugh and play and touch and hug and my daughter wonders why I am sad and cry when we are alone.
Sometimes I don't know what to say that isn't wrong. Sometimes I feel like there isn't any version of myself that doesn't mess everything up. My habits of abuse are forced on myself by me. I still tell myself that I don't matter and try to move on. I spend my days in the fog of someone elses shadow of importance. I'm starting to see glimpses of my reality in which i know that i don't always feel more than others. "don't look at me that way" I start to say as he rolls his eyes and says, "ok, I won't look at you." But I want him to. I want him to see me, not this broken person who stays silent. I want people to understand that what i have been through hasnt broken me because I'm still here. my mind may not always be clear but I'm still fighting. I'm fighting to wake up every morning, put one foot in front of the other even as I make my way to work. I'm still fighting with my kids as tired as it makes me feel. When someone actually does take the time to look at me, I'm afraid that I will become what they see. I don't want to become the person they see... I want to be me.
These are the emotions I went through after I left my abusive marriage after 12 years while working with a dentist. It's been 2 years since I left my abusive marriage and some days are still really hard.
He's been trying everything he can think of to get me back. He tried to suicide card, the jealous card, the I can take your daughter away card cause my parents make more money then your dad who's living off disability. (we both temporarily moved into our parents. it's been a few days now) Now he's threatening to move away to Santa Barbara where he has a friend living there already. saying I will have to take care of Sky all by myself, which is what I want, but I'' already be sharing rent to an apartment that is on the higher end of my price range, and now I have to afford day care... I work Mon-Fri 7am-4pm My daughter is at home currently with my older sister who is visiting, but I need to make other arrangements and I'm scared, I have no authority figure to tell me what to do. I'm supposed to know because I'm someones mom, but I need a little guidance in the right direction.
ANY help or advice at all would be great!
P.s. I didn't go into detail about the abuse, but lets just say he's not someone I want anyone else to be with. Unless he gets MAJOR help! I've had three concussions cause of him and my two front teeth got knocked halfway out. I triangle chip. He hit me while pregnant and in front of my daughter and while I've been holding her. I've left so many times, but I always end up going back to him. I think it was so hard cause I lived with him this whole time and we would wake up and he would act as if nothing had happened. half the time he blacks out and doesn't remember anything and cries like a baby asking for forgiveness cause he doesn't remember and would never really do that or mean that. For some reason I'd always go back! and it makes me feel like a terrible mother! I don't want this to affect my daughter negatively. She's the happiest baby I've ever met and just a pure angel. I'd like to keep her that way.
anyways, this is longer then I wanted it to be.
Thanks in advance for anyone who responds!it is GREATLY appreciated.
When I saw your post, I wanted to write. I hope it's not too late to be of help. I am 29, and was abused by a parent most of my life, but escaped and am recovering. I'm hoping my experience might help you. First of all, you are brave as hell and I am so proud of you. I left an abuser, and I know how hard it is emotionally and financially - I can't even imagine how difficult this is for you when you have a child. The consequences for your daughter right now are very high - abuse can cause PTSD, and very severe depression. I've been there. The good news is that there are resources. Try calling your local woman's shelter, which can provide emergency resources like furniture, baby clothes, etc. and help with a safety plan (for free, as I understand it). Secondly, know that you have the ability to get out of this situation - you have been so brave.
Here is what helped me escape my abuser:
1) When thinking about that person, train yourself not to make excuses for him/her. It's tempting, because abusers make so many excuses for their behavior.
2) Do not trust apologies, gifts, or "loving" behavior. Abusers can be very charming - that's why it's so hard to leave. When he apologizes or does something nice, remember that it's part of the game abusers play. It's a classic abuser move. Tell yourself "This is a classic abuser move" every single time he is violent, verbally cruel, or steals your money, and then pretends it didn't happen or makes elaborate apologies.
3) Read articles on abusers and narcissistic behavior. This can help you identify abusive tendencies, label them as such, and strengthen your resolve.
4) The definition of an abuser is presence of abusive behaviors. If you have concussions from this man, he is an abuser.
5) It is normal to doubt yourself constantly when you are in such a terrifying position. Know that your instincts - to get away and protect your baby - are spot on. Recovery is about learning to trust your instincts, to "trust what you know to be true," as my trauma specialist says.
6) Make a safety plan (with the help of a women's shelter, domestic abuse hotline, counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.).
7) Alert the police. Consider asking for a restraining order or a no-contact order (the first is for physical violence and the second is for harassment like repeated phonecalls). The policeman and investigator I spoke with were great, and told me sometimes a restraining order or no contact order can make things worse, sometimes better. The detective called my abuser and the contact stopped - that being said, I was in another geographic area by then. Once in awhile you may meet a policeman or woman that isn't the best fit for the police force (ie, one that doesn't take you seriously) - if that happens, talk to another one.
8) Write sentences of phrases you want to learn to believe, in order to strengthen you emotionally. This can be a really important step in learning to trust yourself. For example, "I am brave and resilient. I am capable. I know what's best for my daughter. I do not trust erratic behavior (ie. love/hate patterns) from an abuser." Etc.
9) It is normal to blame yourself if you are abused, and is a common reaction. It is NOT your fault. You will have to train yourself to believe this. I find writing it repeatedly helps.
10) It is normal for an abused person to love, miss, and crave the attention and love of an abuser. Know that this is a common reaction, that you CAN have love and attention, but you need to find it in other people.
11) In times when you have no support, know that there are amazing and kind people in the world. Sometimes, you will find kindness in unexpected places. Once, when I was very depressed and recovering from assault, I knocked over a small carton of fruit at the store. A tiny little boy picked it up for me, and it made my day. Another time, a disabled veteran I didn't know said, "You look like you are carrying the world on your shoulders. Are you alright?" In other words - support is out there! Every time you want to go back to your abuser, identify what you want from them (love, company, etc), and identify another person who can offer that to you. It might take awhile, but escaping and healing is about learning to find love and acceptance elsewhere. Good luck - I am so rooting for you. I believe in you, and I really admire your deep love for your daughter.
I don't have a problem with the kids but where they are wrong I punish them,he becomes angry and wants to make decisions for me like play my role or tell me what to,his not supportive last time they broke at my mums house and they told me who did that when I tried to ask him to drop me at my mums house and look for those guys because I know their corners he refused ,I saw his ex girlfriend call in his phone he denied when I tell him its fine im going home move on with her im not the who fights for a guy he told me the true I even listened to their conversation then he apologised,last year august he was proposing my friend eish...December 2014 0n the 23rd he gave me a hot clap at news café nje ...
the reason im staying with him its because I fall pregnant 2014 and paid dowry(lobola) I wasn't ready for that but scared of my parents and other thing im the only child at home,now competly changed, Im busy looking for a job but no luck ive diploma in boilermaking and Samtrac and I want to leave this relationship but its not easy because my mum said you have to be strong and remember they paid lobola if you just leave they gonna want it backyou don't just do as you please...
now im trying to find something that I will use it against him guess what I don't find anything and now im tired like I cant stand for this im emotionaly hurt at my (25)age experiencing this its not easy
The best place to find help is http://thehotline.org. They have a chat service and a free phone number to call. Please use it.
Now please please please can I summon the strength to stay away....because I WILL hate my future self if I go back to him....but weakness has already started creeping in and it scares the fuck out of me.