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Emotions to Expect After Leaving Your Abusive Relationship

After leaving your abusive relationship it can be difficult to find your footing, but you will. After leaving your abusive relationship, you will feel better.

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.

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

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

Kellie Jo Holly advocates for domestic violence and abuse awareness through her writing. You can find Kellie Jo on her website, Amazon Authors, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

137 thoughts on “Emotions to Expect After Leaving Your Abusive Relationship”

  1. After 4 months of freedom from a 27yr marriage, I have friends but I am doing all the contacting. I realized the only person who showed any care or concern for me is anither abuser with the same issues as my ex. I shut him out as soon as I realized but I am so lonely.

    1. I understand that loneliness. It’s hard to heal when you don’t have a support system. I don’t have many people in my life that care either. For me, it just reinforces how my husband always makes me feel; that I don’t matter. It’s hard to matter to yourself when you don’t seem to matter to anyone. It’s probably rock bottom for those of us who have been abused and don’t have anyone to turn to. It makes it hard to seek help. I don’t see the point in continuing to try to reach out when no one seems to care enough to reach back. I don’t know how to up from here. I just feel even more stuck. You’re not alone in how you feel. That might not bring much comfort, but I know how you feel.

  2. I just left my abuser two days ago I am afraid yet feel so much freedom just to go for a walk by myself feels so new. Loving just the air . But today finding myself crying an missing him as I pack his belongings . Is this normal and how do I not worry about him and start to worry about me ??

    1. Yes this is normal. One day I will feel free as a bird and am so happy that I left. The next I will miss him and go through a grieving period. There were parts of the relationship which were happy, otherwise it would not of lasted, it’s ok to miss those parts. Just remember that negatives outweigh the good. These feelings are how you start to worry about you, you are human and you have emotions, go through the same grieving process anyone has to at the end of a relationship and you’ll find your way from there.

    2. Dawn, I am so impressed and proud of you! Leaving an abusive relationship is an extremely difficult thing to do for a variety of very valid reasons, and you did it! You should feel so empowered. The first step in worrying about yourself, you’ve just taken — leaving. Well done. Now, missing him and struggling with the emotional side of leaving is completely normal. You are grieving your relationship which means you’ll likely go through different stages of grief while you journey onward. The five stages of grief are — grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. You may not go through all 5 and you may go through them out of order, it’s normal and it’s a healthy and necessary part of moving on with your life. For me, break-ups always bring up the bargaining stage of grief, which is when you start to think to yourself, “if only things could have been different in this way, we could have made it work,” or “if this had never happened, we may have still had a chance,” or “if he would have just seen a therapist, we would have been so much better off.” It’s lots of ifs and buts and while it’s normal, try to recognize if you start to do that, that it’s a normal part of grieving. We do it when we lose a loved one, a relationship ends, we lose a job we loved, etc. Depression is normal as well, but the good news is, it all goes away with time! As your stat to live your life without this person, you’ll make new friends, have new experiences, and find new things you enjoy to do, all of this will begin to fill your life with happiness, you’ll be moving on. You have a new life ahead of you with endless possibilities and a very real potential for happiness and love, you deserve it. Reach out to friends and family you enjoy spending time with, do things you like to do, you’ve got this girl!

  3. my partner left her ex because of a abusive relationship her ex put her down she couldn’t go out for walks with her friends. She has been separated from him for just over four years now. They share join custody of the children, they have the children for a week each but just lately he’s not been returning her son saying that he doesn’t want to see his mum this is wrong to keep a child from seeing their parent

  4. Amazing and inspiring. Was in a very abusive relationship for 5 years, but at the same time could not live without this person. Took lots of counselling and self actualization to understand why I let this continue. When I first broke free, I could care less what happens to him. Now that I am clear headed, I wish him the best.

  5. My emotionally and mentally abusive husband and I divorced 30 years ago. My daughter was 9 years old. He has only seen her about 5 – 6 times in 30 years. He left us. She was abandoned and neglected. I know she has felt sad over all these years. He has rarely texted her and seems to only throw money at her on her birthday and Christmas. Now out of the blue, after 30 years, she wants a relationship with him. He lives in CA and we live in NJ. She forgives him for all he has done. He is remarried and has two grown kids. I don’t get it. Why is she chasing him? It is just me and her. And now all of a sudden he seems to do no wrong. I asked her what she would do if he continues to do the things she has forgiven him for. And she said keep forgiving. I feel so angry not only at her for being okay with being thrown under the bus and being used as a doormat but also towards him for never apologizing or asking for forgiveness. He is sneaky and evil. He has no conscience. In his mind he has done no wrong. And she has never confronted him about his unacceptable behavior. In fact she just told me today after we argued about this that the reason he probably never came here to see her was because he was not welcome at home by me. She keeps making excuses for him. Wow I never saw this coming. What do I do now? Any thoughts on this? I am quite upset to say the least.

    1. Let her see it on her own. Let her take this risk. You can only protect at a certain level. Don’t feel offended. Kids wants to have the answers too and if she is forgiving him it’s a good step for her peace but once she sees him and his attitude she will know best for her. Don’t feel hurt it’s okay. Just try to stay strong! And still be there for her. Sometimes kids wants their answers or ways to heal

  6. Hi my wife of two years left me two months ago, in the two moths she has moved house four times, the last move was back to her abusive ex of six years ago, we had our ups and downs but I never abused her. Why would she behave like this, we knew each other for 21 years.

  7. Hi
    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.

    1. Hi Stacy, I am not married and have no kids, but the rest of your story is just what I meant to write here. I’ve been with my boyfriend for more than 2 years, and at first he was so nice… Of course, bells were ringing from the start and I didn’t want to hear them. Now my life is nothing but stress, I cry and being afraid my s.o. is going to leave me. He scares me, and according to him, I do everything wrong, and every fight was caused be me. He also says that I need professional help, just like your husband. And the things, that he makes me to do in order to keep him with me… They are just unbelievable. Recently I’ve been physically hurt by drunk member of his family, and of course it was my fault… I was just standing in the corner, when that happened. Before, he threatened me, that if I do something wrong, he will leave me. I depend on him financialy as that was a part of our deal (I am starting to build my career, and he promised to support me). And you know, I am just done. Idk, I think my head will burn and blow out, when I actually leave him, but I understood that I have to do it. Your situation is worse, than mine, but you have your amazing daughter, friends and family. I live in foreign country with my boyfriend, so if he leaves, I will be left absolutely alone. I believe, you have enough strength to fix your situation. It’s not easy, but trust me, all of that is not your fault! Relationships consist of 2 people, and one of them can’t be blamed for everything!

      1. Thank you for your reply.
        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

        1. Hi Stacey – Please please PLEASE take care of YOU – if you do not – no one else will !!! Yes you have your daughter, but it makes me very heart sick and sad for you to believe this mans words and let them make you feel like you describe … NO ONE has the right to put their hands on you with out your consent – and I doubt seriously he had your consent to put his hands around your neck!! You sound like a very smart person who could have a lot going for her – ALSO – NEVER let a man (or any other person) dictate to you who you can or cannot see or be with, or spend time with … any person who tries to control you in that way is a sick person and toxic to your health!!

          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!

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