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After Emotional Abuse: Do the Side-Effects Ever Disappear?

September 14, 2012 Kellie Jo Holly

After emotional abuse is out of your life, rapid healing begins. Then it slows down a bit and you wonder if this is as good as it gets. It isn't. Read this.

After the emotional abuse, or rather, after I left my abusive husband, I hoped the effects of abuse would disappear. Magically. Without any work from me.

Those hopeful feelings minimized the difficulty of coping with life and relationships after emotional abuse. The intelligent part of me knew that after the emotional abuse it would take time to recover from the emotional trauma and regain my mental health. Alas, the intelligent part of me was correct.

Mental Changes After Emotional Abuse

During domestic violence and abuse, victims, by and large, become people they no longer like. When someone you think you love spews hatred like buckshot, it is natural to retaliate against the abuse. Unfortunately, self-defense can get nasty.

Defending yourself in unhealthy ways can become a habit. Not only can that habit spill over to innocent people (like your children), but those unhealthy habitual thoughts integrate themselves into your brain - they become your new thoughts. In that way, you become someone you do not like.

At one point during my emotionally abusive marriage I wrote:

The abuse is bad, but the things I've allowed to change in my mind and heart are horrid.

That thought started my recovery from domestic violence. I had not left the marriage yet, but with that statement, I took one giant, healthy mental step forward. The understanding I gained was that I, not my abuser, have the power to change and create how I think, feel and act. I'd given my power to change to him. I needed to take it back.

I allowed my abuser's negative thoughts to infiltrate my brain during the emotional abuse. Now it was up to me to deny their ability to dominate me. I had to change my thoughts so I could be who I wanted to be.

My Recovery at 2 Years, 8 Months After Emotional Abuse

After emotional abuse is out of your life, rapid healing begins. Then it slows down a bit and you wonder if this is as good as it gets. It isn't. Read this.

Patricia Evans, the author of several books about verbal abuse, offers a *list of symptoms abuse victims may suffer. Here's a look at that list along with my experience in recovering from them.

A verbal abuse victim often . . .

  • distrusts their spontaneity and suffers a loss of enthusiasm

My enthusiasm for my future returned around three months after emotional abuse was in the rear-view mirror. My spontaneity took a little longer because I believed he had spies watching me. I kept it low-key so the spies would have nothing to tell him.

  • lives in a perpetually in a ready, on-guard state

If you suffer PTSD, this symptom will take time to conquer. For me, eventually, after realizing the spies were phantoms implanted in my head, I learned how to relax. I began to trust the peace I created in my home after leaving emotional abuse.

  • wonders about how they are coming across

Soon after the emotional abuse ended, I discovered that he was the only person who misunderstood what I said or misinterpreted my behaviors. Every new person I met understood me perfectly. Now I'm writing a blog that hopefully, you understand, too.

  • thinks and feels that something is wrong with her

Within the first year, I realized that I am not as damaged as I thought. Yes, I have issues to work through, but everyone does (except for my ex who still loves himself just as he is). I am at peace with myself and my point in recovery from emotional abuse.

  • soul-searches and reviews incidents in hope of determining "what went wrong"

I don't do this anymore. I am able to go through entire days without thinking about my ex or how things could have been. I could go longer without thinking of him, but we have children together and there is contact.

  • hears only her internalized critical voice

The hardest after emotional abuse, for me, is separating my internal nag from his criticisms of me. I sometimes ask myself, "Kellie, is this what he told you?" If it is, I banish the thought without question. Hell, sometimes I banish my internal nag too. Feels good!

  • suffers from anxiety or fear of being crazy

I am sane. I do not doubt my sanity any longer - not for one second. The anxiety associated with the fear that I might be crazy is gone. After emotional abuse ends, meaning I have a home that doesn't include him, the distance lets me see very clearly who is crazy. Not me.

  • wishes she was not the way she is - "too sensitive", etc.

I am perfectly me. Sometimes a person's statement or word choice will sting because they are similar to my abuser's words. Sometimes I overreact. But the people I choose to have in my life are safe; I can tell them exactly what I'm feeling and they respond to me with love. The more I let myself trust them, the less often I feel those stings.

  • is hesitant to accept her perceptions

Now my perceptions are the most important ones to me. I realize that the way I perceive things may not be complete, so I ask people what they meant when they said or did something. I do not try to read their minds. I listen to their explanations. I can tell whether they're lying or not in time by watching what they do.

  • tends to live in the future - "everything will be great when/after", etc.

I do look forward to future events (like graduation and moving to Austin), but I do my best to make now great, too. Life flows, and it feels good to be in the flow instead of predicting what will happen when or after emotional abuse occurs.

  • has a distrust of future relationships

I once thought I was unlovable and couldn't be a great friend because he didn't love me and he didn't want my friendship. After all of that emotional abuse, it is taking some time to trust my perceptions of other people. I'm relearning how to listen to my gut feeling about someone; not perfect yet, but looking forward to testing it.

Is Complete Recovery Possible After Emotional Abuse?

I believe we can conquer all of these horrible side-effects after emotional abuse is out of our lives. Some effects will take more time than others. Trusting myself seems to be at the core of it all.

I'm not done healing, but I will completely heal. I will completely trust myself. It will be sooner rather than later. It can happen for you, too.

 

See "Do the effects of abuse change you permanently?"


*Evans, P. (1996). The verbally abusive relationship: how to recognize it and how to respond (Expanded 2nd ed.). Holbrook, Mass.: Adams Media Corporation.

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

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2012, September 14). After Emotional Abuse: Do the Side-Effects Ever Disappear?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, February 23 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2012/09/emotional-effects-abuse



Author: Kellie Jo Holly

Becky
May, 3 2016 at 7:53 am

Hi
Just came across this and it's amazing! I've had a very lucky escape as I was in an on/off relationship for 5 years with what I believe to be an emotional abuser. I wanted to kill myself for the majority of that time and could not seem to shake him no matter how nasty he was. But I never married or had children with him, like I said lucky escape! Although at the age of 39 I can't help but feel bitter that I didn't just meet someone nice and normal to settle down with and have kids etc. He had 3 already and told me that I wasn't fit for the purpose, that's why I have no kids (I had been working abroad for 6 years before I met him, too busy for relationships and not even thinking about kids!)
So I have been through cognitive behaviour therapy, moved house, got a little dog and am so much happier in myself, but I wondered how other 'survivors' felt that this experience had impacted some of their other friendships? I feel that my friends have completely lost respect for me now as I let him drag me so far down, and one of my oldest friends has commented several times now that I 'go on about him'.
So am I a boring cow who brought it all on herself and my 'friend' is just being honest? Or should I write her off as not a good pal?
This relationship has already cost me one friendship, my former flatmate who outright told me she has no respect for me anymore. I'm happy to ditch this one to be honest but I'm not confident that my upset is justified........
Any advice or similar problems? I'd love to hear from you.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
May, 7 2016 at 9:31 am

Yes, I would guess that 90% of us who left had to give up some friends. It is hard for people to be a listening ear when they hear the same thing always. You are not a boring cow (and please stop using names like that to describe yourself!). However, it sounds like expanding your support network is in order.
You still need to 'go on about him' sometimes - it's important to get it out. The therapy you went through was great! But if possible, go back to therapy to add the therapist to your support network. "Boring cow" isn't usually a US phrase, so I'm guessing you're from the UK or Australia, perhaps? Regardless, call your country's domestic abuse hotlines and talk their ears off. You can also chat on the US site at http://thehotline.org
Let's make a list of possible additions to your support network:
-Therapist
-Hotlines/Chat
-Domestic violence groups in your area (abuse does not need to be active to go to these groups) - added benefit, you may make some new friends who understand you better.
-Clergy
-A pet :) Seriously.
-Online groups (the message board at verbalabuse.com is a great one, but there are groups on Facebook and other sites, too).
Okay. Those are some people to talk to. But there are other things you can do, too.
-Enrich your inner life. By that, I mean to pick up a hobby, research an interest, get involved in a group that has nothing to do with domestic violence...those kinds of things.
-Journaling. Either journal when you need to go on about him or for other, fun reasons. Get a journal with no lines so you can scribble on the page or draw, or write HUGE or tiny without feeling limited by lines. You can keep track of your CBT progress there, too.
-Pay attention to what you're feeling right before you want to talk about him. This will identify your triggers, and you can figure out what to do with them after you notice them.
You don't have to give up your current friends unless you want to do so. Just expand your support and pay attention to yourself. Lots of self-care. Lots of doing things you love to do. Put yourself first over the memories of abuse. They won't "go away" but they will become less relevant to your thoughts when you put "This Is My New Life!" thoughts into your mind.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

John
May, 28 2018 at 8:49 pm

there are good men out there :-) You may not believe that right now, but they (we) do exist. Be careful not to let your previous criteria for attraction (the ones that attracted the abuser(s) in the first place) blind you to what may actually be right in front of you, and if not, will come along sooner or later. Old patterns are hard to break, for woman and men as well.

Jean
May, 3 2016 at 5:56 am

It took me 25+ years to recognize that I was raised by a Narcissist alone as my father who was an amazing man, passed when I was 9. It wasn't until after her death that I recognized the true impact that had on me and apparently whom I married.
It wasn't until, I became involved with another man, that I realized that I was miserable with my husband, and still 5 months of being separated that I had been involved in an emotionally abusive relationship since the beginning. Growing up in a narcissistic environment, my husband's treatment of me, mirrored my mom and others to be honest. I spent my life amongst people who felt justified in yelling at me for just being who I am. In my 20's I was once yelled at for not wanting to try French toast, just after I had finished eating my own breakfast; Lectured for hanging non-matching clothes on a hanger; leaving a single cup in the sink, after cleaning the entire house; using two knives to make pb&j or not cleaning the one properly and mixing the pb into the jam...So when my husband continually told me that it was "the way I spoke" to him that caused him to be nasty to me, and that I didn't know the difference between a tone of voice verse anger, which was then full-on rage, I accepted it was me. By the time, I realized I was miserable, I had become afraid to even ask him to make ice-cubes, instead of leaving the trays in the sink, as in my rush to get ready for work, which involved making breakfast( pancakes, coffee ( w/o a machine ), eggs, bacon ) for 4 people and get myself ready, as he was the stay-at-home parent, If the tray was empty, I simply did not have time to fill them, as the water pressure was too slow. Oh and when I explained, when his answer to my request was "why didn't you", I hadn't the time, he would scoff. Yes, there was also 17+ years of his going into full rage, which including saying some of the most denigrating things I've ever heard, accompanied by his slamming out of the apt, for hours and blaming me, saying he just wanted me to stop disagreeing. The one time I did acquiesce, and it was because, I did agree with what he was asking, and we at that point were not fighting, he yelled at me for the 'way' I agreed, that I hadn't meant it. That was the beginning of the end or our marriage, because additionally, I had been going through a depressive episode, and when I asked if he'd taken notice, he said yes, but he didn't know if it was being caused by a,b or c, not that he cared to ask me in the previous two weeks.
It was 6 months after we were separated, and I saw how he treated me and the kids from a different view point, that I realized how abusive he'd been..and then a few more weeks before I truly acknowledged it. I sit here and wonder when I'll stop feeling sad. The other relationship is in a strange place, which isn't helping, albeit I do understand why the recommendation is to not get involved with another person for a bit..
It's a constant struggle for me to acknowledge that I was in an abusive marriage, that I'm not making this up in my head..
Hopefully someone else will read this and be able to learn about themselves from my experience.

Jennifer H
April, 29 2016 at 4:21 pm

Thx for this article. I read all the posts from others and send healing thoughts to everyone. I especially liked something you wrote in response to someone's post. Remember healing is two steps forward and one step back. I really needed to read that today thank you. I left my emotionally abuse "Christian" husband 18 years ago. I came from a religious family, my father was a minister even. My husband used his twisted version of the Bible to control me, shame me, and make me feel like a terrible person. He found a way to use the "obey your husband" part of the Bible against me for anything and everything. I was reprimanded for such little things like placing a small fork in the Big Fork section of the utensil area in the drawer on accident, or washing white socks with white dress shirts. Slowly my rights were taken away. He kept all the money even though I work too. I was given gas money. In the end I was no longer allowed to go grocery shopping and he was even laying my clothes out for me. If I didn't wear the clothes he laid out he would scream and yell versus at me and tell me I needed to pray about my behavior and we weren't leaving the house until I changed. It's ridiculous because even now I feel like I have to defend or explain myself to those reading this. Like they might assume I was trying to leave the house dressed slutty or something. I just didn't always want to wear high heels, hose, a skirt or dress. Sometimes I wanted to wear a nice pair of blue jeans and blouse. Because he was a Christian he never cussed at me. He just called me stupid, idiot, head case, and said "why can't you ever do anything right? why do you have to ruin everything? You better learn to be a better wife? You are going to Hell for thinking that and need to ask God for forgiveness! " (in reference to me saying I think there is nothing wrong with mixed race marraiges) There are so many more in reference to my appearace and other supposed flaws I had. I was 18 and wanted so badly to be a good wife. I did everything he wanted but it was never enough and never the "right" way. I left after 5 and a half years shortly after I heard my 4 yr old son tell my mom "Mommy has to do everything Daddy says." My son had previously yelled at me the same way his father did and I realized that I didn't want my son to think it was okay to treat women this way. Looking back, I know that his behavior was not Christian like and I truly believe he is a narcisist. But because of him church frightens me. I still have a relationship with God and I am comfortable with it. Unfortunately his same behavior continued with his next wife who stayed with him longer than me. She reached out to me on facebook after they divorced years ago and she messages me for support. She still has nightmares and wakes up with heart racing. I tell her it will get better with time. And we share stories. I wish I could tell her it will go away, but I don't think it ever will. After she left him, he emptied out her bank account and left her with nothing. Now he is the minister of their church and is remarried. I hope and pray that he has changed and this one won't be another victim. I left 18 years ago and while I may still be messed up emotionally, my son is not. He is a kind strong young man who is respectful of women and thinks of them as equals. I myself have been remarried for 13 years ago to a man who has no religious affiliations but is more Christian like than my husband who claimed to be one.

Kathi
March, 29 2016 at 6:22 am

Thank you for this article. 24 years of marriage. The verbal and emotional abuse started 7 years before he left me. It was so subtle. I kept on making excuses for his behavior towards me... stress at work. I kept on trying to be the better wife - but it was never good enough. I was considering suicide in 2011 because I thought 'If my own husband is treating me this way then what am I worth?'. I considered my boys and decided I would stay for them. I had prayed for years to feel happiness and joy, 3 months after he left I started feeling happiness and joy. I prayed again to God saying that 'my husband leaving me was not my intent but if that is what it took to feel happiness and joy then I will trust' God. I am currently battling another bout of depression - I look strong to those around me but when I'm alone I can hardly move.
Through the abuse I felt like I was crazy. Even now I cannot always believe I allowed it to happen. I have no evidence other than my memories. I cannot forgive him yet because he still subtly messes with me since we have 2 boys together. I have to eventually forgive myself to for letting it happen.
I came across a quote this Easter service that I am trying to apply to get out of this rut and move forward and live the full life I should: "You don't think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking." - Henri Nouwen

Kay
January, 29 2016 at 11:45 am

Reading every post felt so hurtful..Been dealing with emotional abuse, physical abuse...I For 5years.. find myself going crazy to stay.I'm always called names,been punched in my mouth..ect..He agrees to talk..When I express how I feel he will listen then say things like that was a long message,or change subject..I feel like I'm walking on eggshells.. I'm going crazy..I have no one talk to...I build everything inside..I have young daughter who sees the abuse.. Its scares me to know that she will see this as normal...Times I give up defending my self....I just want get away..I want to not follow the same time of men.. Its seems to be that way...I feel belittled every day and crippled..Nothing I do rite for him..he says..I always have to second guess if he will like anything..or agree...I want change any advice..Thanks again..

cristy
January, 1 2016 at 11:34 pm

Trust in jesus he heal's anything and everything no matter what you've been through how severe it was. Follow him give your life to him and him only and every hurt are pain a person put on your heart mind and soul will go away if you let jesus heal you he'll take control of your life. I see alot of hurting people on here your not alone i was the victim of this also almost got myself murdered for it i meet satan himself we should never give a person our heart's are mind are soul instead jesus say's love him with all your heart all your mind and all your soul maybe that our problem where not doing enough of that. May god bless each and everyone of you everything will get better in time.

Lee
December, 27 2015 at 12:32 am

I left and divorced my wife last summer after 46 years of marriage. I now live alone but don't like it much. My former spouse are on friendly terms, but it is over. I worked long, hard hours in my professional life and retired ten years ago. The verbal abuse got worse and worse. I discovered the book Patricia Evans wrote, and as I read it, I felt as though it had been written about the two of us. What a revelation. I had all the symptoms, and the most pronounced was the constant wariness that the verbal accusations would explode again out of nowhere and for non reason, followed, of course, by a period of "nice." I never once got an apology, but I was always told after confronting her about the outburst that I had brought it on myself.
Her father, I learned later in my marriage, was a verbal abuser of the first order. I never saw it myself, but our contact was infrequent because we lived in states about 1500 miles apart. Their family picture should have been in Ms. Evans' book.
I get the blues a lot, but I work on my gratitude list and stay busy with a wonderful volunteer project with old friends. We really enjoy ourselves.
I dread being alone in my golden years, but I have little confidence I will avoid it.
Nevertheless, I am very grateful for all I have, and I particularly appreciate Ms. Evans' great work.

Erwin
December, 24 2015 at 8:00 am

The best part of the post for me, was that at the end of it you noted that abusers can be male or female. As I was reading everyone's comment, I noticed that they were all women unless I missed someone. I am eternally grateful for your mention of the gender not really being specific. Why? Because I am currently married to someone is verbally abusive and physically abusive. We are now separated. And even though the marriage is only two years in the making the effects of verbal, emotional, and physical abuse have devastated me. I am now in reconstructive counseling with two pastors just to rebuild my mental self-image of who I am. I have to force myself to stop listening to her poison filled words just to make it through the day. I have began drinking to help cure the depression for a little while. My normally spontaneous self is gone. My health is only just now beginning to resemble my former self. I grades suffered as a result of the constant barrage of hate filled words worsening my self worth. I don't trust anyone anymore, I doubt my ability to achieve, I second guess decision I make, I obsess over her words just as the author spoke, because all I remember is my wife's criticisms of me. When she would attack me she would tell me that I made her act the way she did. When she would physically attack me, if I so much as touched her hand to get it off my face of head she would tell me that she hit me because I put my hands on her. Words like "you're a dumb dumb," or "stupid," or "mentally slow," "doe-doe," "not man enough," "sorry," or "weak," have resonated not just in my thoughts but my very being. These things I heard the entire time. So, the effects even after so short a period have left me broken, depressed, and distraught. And all that to come to the point where I'm to blame for all her behavior which was her constant cry for her anger issues, has added bitterness as well. So thank you for you final comment on the page b/c males suffer from abuse also.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
December, 24 2015 at 1:17 pm

Yes, Erwin, as you know, words hurt men too. It goes beyond "being able to take it because you're a guy" and all the other excuses people give as to why men "shouldn't" be or "can't" be victims of emotional abuse. I'm concerned because you're using alcohol to fight depression. Substance abuse and addiction is a side-effect of abuse, but it becomes its own problem. Please stop using the alcohol now and get some professional counseling.
I know it is difficult for a man to be accepted into a common domestic violence group because many abused women are uneasy around men (and, as you noticed, most of the people talking about being abused are women). However, I found some solace in attending Al-Anon meetings - the ones for family members of alcoholics. Many alcoholics become (more) abusive when drinking, so you will find some common ground there, and men are attendees and always welcomed. Additionally, the abusive relationship includes a type of codependent behavior on the part of the victim of abuse. The abuse isn't your fault - ever. But if you address the bits of your behaviors that had you running around trying to keep her happy, you'll be healthier in the long run.
Again, please stop drinking now before it becomes a crutch. Don't let the abuse drag you down the addiction tunnel. Instead, speak to a doctor or psychiatrist who can help you with therapy and possibly medication.
Thank you for speaking up. Keep doing that and you'll find you're not as alone as it seems.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

John
May, 28 2018 at 8:09 pm

Thank you Erwin! The narcissist can be any gender. But worse for abused men, is that manipulative women can use the fact that are so many abusive men as a cover. These sick women can convince the cops of almost anything -- just act like an abused woman and start crying, and the cops will take you to jail. On your way down to the station, she stays behind and sips a glass of your expensive wine on the back porch you just built, and snickers at her "intelligence." It is pure evil in human form. I have found, through many articles and books, that these people can never, ever, ever be trusted. You cannot win a battle of mind games with her. You must leave and never let them have a moment of your time. Record every phone call, video tape every interaction, and take copious notes of your exchanges. If you must stay connected in some way, you must absolutely file a lawsuit and take action. Standing up and being man in this context means gathering evidence, hiring a good lawyer, and exposing her lies and abuse in open court. If she commits suicide or ruins other relationships as a result of being exposed, that is the will of her demons. You must protect yourself at all costs.

Marie
October, 24 2015 at 9:25 am

Hello there,
I understand how many of you describe your feelings because, I have been in an abusive relationship for 13 years now. I read Patricia Evans the verbally abusive relationship, after he managed to keep my family away, and manipulate my friends against me during the holidays. Although the book helped me be in touch with reality, it was not without tears of heartache to acknowledge it. My husband would use constant manipulation, control, crazy making techniques like: demining attitudes and words, pasive agresive, blaming, threatening, blackmailing, mind games ( he would enlists his family to do this as well), lying, and denying, etc, as a result I was depressed, suffered panic attacks, anxiety, doubt myself, and had very low self esteem. I started by learning to identify and not accept his abuse, and respond to it. I started regaining even a small part of my self stem, and a sense of reality, however his abuse escaIated to where He kidnapped my children and left me with a note that he was about to serve me with divorce papers and I had to accept his financial and custody demands if I wanted to see the children again. A month, and 35 pounds lost later, and since I had no choice I requested a restraining order and I was granted the kids, the house and the car. What caused this big crazy outburst? I went to get my drivers licence, which he did not wanted me to do. He did not want me to learn how to drive for 10 years, and he said that I would be so incapable to drive, and tried to instill fear on me .
He asked me to let him come back, and I did after constant pleads, and apologetic letters, and crocodile tears. I lifted his restraining order, on the request to attend the 50 week domestic violence class, which he did, but it only served him to tell me that I was the abusive one, and for him to find new abusive pals. ( some of the guys that attended the class). He does not use direct demining words now, although he still blames,threatens, manipulates, and control.
After he took my children I followed the advise of the book, and I fortified my support group. I got rid of the " friends" relationships that he manipulated, and I strengthen those which included healthy people that is kind , and with whom I have things in common like ways to see life, hobbies,etc. Positive and supporting people from church, or my kids schools, that would know better and not get manipulated by him. I also kept this friendships to myself, without involving him as much as possible. I started to take care of myself by exercising, meeting with friends, meditating, getting involved in my kids school and extracurricular activities, volunteering at their school and meeting wonderful friends , constantly educating myself about his issues ( personality disorders like narcisism, and BPD) , my issues, ( which are not what he blames me of, but it is codependency). All of this helped me to not believe his twisted reality by realizing that I am indeed sane , and a common sense persone. I learned to acknowledge my feelings, and know they are there for a reason. He does not even try to tell me that I am crazzy, because I have express him by word and deed that it is not true, and most importantly, I don't believe it, ( the name calling abusive technique does not work anymore).
I learned to not let him get me upset, and not react to him in anger, or fear ( not matter how justified it is), but with firm, concise communication, and boundaries, and " compassion". When I act with firmness and compassion, it benefits me, because I wont have anything to be sorry about afterwards, in my dealings with him. And it will keep the drama to a minimum.
I would also educate myself on ways to provide quality of life to my children, like their interests, and gifts, extracurricular activities, school, their social life, and how to make good relationships with healthy people and keep those relationships.
After 2 years of allowing him to be back we were evicted from our home and, my children and I were left homeless living in my car, I received help from my support group at church
and school, I went to a shelter for a month, and with the help of God, I found a small apartment where i still leave with my children, more than 1 and a half year after the eviction.
We had to leave the shelter because he found us and showed up there. For a whole year he did not know where we live, but he could visit the children at public places mostly during the weekend or the week, pretty much when he wanted too, or he would pick fights, and skip the visits. He gives me some financial support or not or use it as leverage. Whatever he finds that I need or want he would use it as leverage. His communication is highly transactional. For example my personal property that he got to keep. I don't even worry about it anymore.
I have been attending a class on co-dependency, and working and focusing on my own recovery and understanding his patterns of behaviors , and mine.
We are separated, ever since my children and I ended up homeless. He has attempted many times to break this boundary, and he still continues to, but it is still in place. My children and I have our own place. And he visits them whenever he wants too. 8 months ago I started to allow him to see the children where we live.
I have made a lot of research on his condition, and I am trying to be compassionate, and keep my boundaries at the same time. But this proves very challenging, as he still does hurtful things that I sometimes think I am better equipped to deal with, than I really am.
Keeping the distance, and educating myself about the dynamics and patterns involved, help me identify the issues as they happen, and keep a perspective of reality, as well as bouncing back from sadness and not allowing it to become a depression, or a bad panic attack, however I have to use meditation, and exercise, and social connection, to avoid anxiety. I have learned that I have to acknowledge my feelings, find the reason for them, feel them and then let go, and move on to an uplifting activity. This is a healthy way to deal with feelings that arise, and not hiding them, because they just get bottled up, and then come out unexpectedly.
Using my codepency tools help me to give structure to my life, and having compassion toward myself, and others, as I get involved in my daily life routine, and social and personal interests that I have developed, and to what I look to, with enthusiasm, and new hope, as well as my children actitivities and ways to supporting them . I keep a balance in my friendship relationships with kindness, and assertiveness.
In time I hope to keep my recovery path and being courageous enough, to assume a more definite and confident outlook, and action.

Kathy
August, 25 2015 at 9:57 pm

I grew up in a family that looked fine on the outside. The reality was denied. I was the youngest and the only one at home by the time I was 9. My mother would regularly get upset about something, threaten to kill herself, get in the car and drive off. I never knew whether she would be back. I tried, once, to tell my father how frightened this made me. His response was to ask, "What about me? I never know if she's going to be alive when I return." I was the one stuck in the middle, trying to fix things between them, trying to be perfect but failing.
I married at 19, had 4 children by age 29. My husband was emotionally distant, controlling, contemptuous. It was 30 years of sheer loneliness and of feeling unlovable.
I finally got strong enough to get a divorce. Now, 3 years later, I usually feel that I am an ok person--kind, empathetic, generous, a good mother. I've made a new, good life for myself.
There are still times when I feel unlovable. My mother recently killed herself--whether deliberately in a lucid moment or accidentally in the confusion of dementia no one will ever know.
Does the pain and the feeling of being unlovable ever go away?

Marie
August, 21 2015 at 2:42 am

I was in a verbally and emotionally abusive marriage for 27 long years. I have been separated for 7 years. Unfortunately, I stayed in the marriage for the sake of my children. One of my daughters followed in my footsteps and married a younger version of her father--abusive. The other daughter followed in her father's footsteps and is abusive. No one wins in the cycle of abuse. I have had seven years of freedom, but am still affected by the horror of those years. Hoping one day God will use all the pain for good.

teri
August, 9 2015 at 6:50 pm

I am 57 years old and my abusive husband of over 20yrs has been dead now for 20yrs and i still dont know who i am it has debilitated me i am on disability and have a bad care of everything dont believe that u ever get completly past it it has taken the best yrs of my life and thats something u nevr get back

Mia
April, 29 2015 at 1:02 pm

I got married at the age of 18, before meeting him I was confident independent, vibrant, full of joy and life. I knew what I wanted in life and didn't hesitate going after my dreams. It started off just like a fairytale he swooped me off my feet. Roses, dates the feeling of being a queen. We were inseparable. The abuse was very slow a nudge here and there, then the emotional abuse begin. He was controlling manipulative and physical abusive I finally left after 9 years. We have 3 beautiful daughters which is why I worked up the courage to finally leave. Its been 2 years since I left and every time I feel like Im completely healed....a wound re-opens. I got involved with another relationship after that failed and the third relationship that failed again. I took the third relationship the hardest because I was finally able to let my guard down and now we dated for a year in a half and he disappeared on me without any closure or goodbye or explanation I cant help to think of course I was the cause for him leaving because IM too emotionally damaged. Now I'm depressed and have to start the healing process all over again. I'm just at the point in life where I don't see any reason to trust love again. How can someone who loves you treat you like crap for that many years after supporting them and being by their side.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
April, 29 2015 at 1:46 pm

Mia, remember that healing is a two steps forward and one step back process. The wounds may re-open, but they can't hurt you as badly as the first time. You've gotten stronger since leaving, so don't sell yourself short.
As for the relationships, some people find that being by themselves for awhile allows them to recuperate and regroup. Maybe it could help you too.

jane
April, 18 2015 at 1:57 am

I have never cried while reading any other articles on line ,but I cried reading every one of your writings.i don't know why.i am dating a narcissist sadist for a few months now. we don't live togrther so im free to leave but cant.i don't know why. maybe you can tell me.he has abused me every way.i need to understand why Im staying with him before I can leave so I don't go back to him over and over.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
April, 19 2015 at 3:13 am

One of the reasons you may be staying with him is because abusers work very hard to scare you out of leaving. They manipulate you into thinking that without the relationship with them, you will fail. This manipulation is covert and you won't see it in the beginning, but you can learn to see it now.
There are several good books on the topic, but you could start with almost any book by Patricia Evans or Lundy Bancroft. Lundy Bancroft has one called "Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Abusive Men" and your library should be able to provide it to you if you cannot purchase it. Goodreads has many excerpts from the book at https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/217475-why-does-he-do-that-inside-the-minds-of-angr…
I understand the desire to understand why you're staying BEFORE you leave. But I challenge you to do that in reverse. Leave, and then with the clearer mind that results from being away from the abuser, you will more easily see why you stayed.
Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or (1-800-787-3224 if you’re hearing impaired). Their website is at http://thehotline.org and offers a chat service. The hotline is a great place to start when you know you need to do something about the abuse now - and it seems that you know you do need to do something.
Best wishes - Stay strong.

Heather
May, 28 2014 at 2:23 am

I just read this, broke down crying because every word was like reading the story of my life ....knowing these feeling are legitimate, that I can overcome this, that there is hope. I am beginning my journey, back to myself. I have been gone for too long....

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

ash
April, 13 2017 at 1:27 pm

I am recovering after 5 years in the most recent relationship but a combination of 25 years of the same stuff. I no longer trust my judgement and think I will never find someone that is balanced and non-exploititive. I';m far too shy to start to 'date' again and live in a smaller place - it seems I am left with a terrible residue of nastiness and failure...he will recover and move on I'm sure.

joann dixon
August, 22 2013 at 3:28 pm

wonderful article, thank you. My hx. is child abuse, 23 yr. abusive marriage,10 yr.second marriage,totally abusive, 7 yr.relationship,abusive now ended. I cannot seem to change ingrained automatic patterns of behavior/response. What has changed is my (slowly) growing awareness of my male partner's tactics and techniques as they assume their chosen position of dominance and control

Al
December, 29 2012 at 12:34 pm

I think the one that sticks out for me: not trusting future relationships, for fear that I will allow even nastier people in my heart who will also ill-treat my children. I also fear that there will be a honeymoon period after which I will fall for her self-serving "love" again. These people are such good con artists that even if you know they're doing you wrong, you so desperately want to believe that they are not as bad as they behave. And many times you pull out all the stops to make them happier only to be told time and again that you are not romantic enough, i.e. you don't know what romance is since they are the sole authors of truth in the universe. Then sooner or later you stop believing in romance and your belief is strengthened that "lovers" only want to know you because of their own selfish reasons and not because their need to be your soul-mate.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Grace
April, 6 2017 at 1:32 pm

I have been there too and now taking a break from men to think for myself what I want for my life. I am told that when we are emotionally self sufficient with right boundaries and self respect for self, only right people come in our life.
I have yet to see it but I am not seeking a man at all. Just self care along with being there for my children.

Michelle
December, 9 2012 at 5:22 am

I was married for 16 years , on our honeymoon my husband slapped me across the face because I wasn't looking at him while he was talking to me, I was only 18 he was 23 yrs old. After that it was emotional abuse from not only him but his mother too. After 10 yrs of the emotional, mental and physical abuse, more mental and emotional although I did get thrown across the room, shook the life out of me and hit a few more times. It got to the point were I started having panic attacks and deep depression, after 6 more years of this he left me and our 2 young boys for another woman. I'm now Addicted to Xanax and still need so much healing, even after 10 yrs after divorce. When he talks to me he's still abusive. His mother was just as abusive so I had it coming at me everywhere , I knew if I stuck up for myself he'd leave me so I kept quiet, the last time he hit me I got in his face and told him if he does it again I would call the cops. I still have nightmares weekly of his abuse, I can't afford counseling , I feel frozen with anxiety and fear most of the time with low self esteem. I can't go on this way much longer. I'm still depressed and tried meds they all have very bad side effects. I'm tired of pretending my life is fine when I'm so lonely and confused .

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Grace
April, 6 2017 at 1:29 pm

It was as if reading my own story, with both narcissistic ex and his narccisist mother and 20 years with them and I came out broken and anxious with my two girls. I kept thinking if I had son that he wanted, would he have treated me any better? Now I know, no he won't have as he is not able to love no one not even his mother. He said so himself and I didn't believe Bridge but reading about narccissim has helped me rationalise all that I have endured. Depression does get better by being heard. If u can't gin counsellor, see if there is any domestic violence group you can go to talk to be heard.
Try not to let the past control you and hope 5 years since you posted, you are on road of healing. You are worth fighting for.

Zoe
October, 6 2012 at 1:56 pm

I was severely mentally, emotionally physically and sexually abused. I feel like you are writing about me in many areas. I am on the road to recovery through therapy but it's a long hard road. I'm so glad you got out and are on your own journey to recovery!

Resilient Heart
October, 6 2012 at 9:48 am

I am so grateful to have found this post via Twitter. I've already shared it there and with a blog friend too.
My joke is instead of "you had me at hello", "you had me at 'conquer'"! :) I'm looking forward to learning and growing. I wish you all the best!
Blessings, Love & Peace,
RH

Jocelyn
September, 20 2012 at 3:55 pm

This was very helpful. Thank you. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who experienced this.

Louise G
September, 19 2012 at 12:38 am

I was severely emotionally abused to the point I was suicidal. Today, almost ten years after he was arrested, I am in love with me, my life and everyone in it.
Yes, you can heal. In fact, I believe my life is better, brighter, more brilliant than even before I met him.
It is a wonderful journey to heal. Because in healing, we let go of the voices that would have us believe abuse is all we deserve.
I followed you here, btw, from Jodi Aman's blog. Glad I did!

Carol
September, 17 2012 at 11:43 am

I don't know if the emotional effects ever go completely away. I had a little rough child hood. No abuse really, just neglect I think. Maybe a bit of verbal abuse but it has changed me. I am in my 50's and still look at things lots differently than the regular person. I am very sensitive to others and their feelings because of what I've been through. Maybe it made me a more thoughtful kind person than if I hadn't endured what I did. I do know that I can get my feeling hurt easily and it is very hard for me to confront the person that has been offensive. I enjoyed your article! Thanks!

Diane
September, 17 2012 at 3:19 am

I love that you listed the symptoms of abuse to conquer. I am in the process of divorce after a 31 year marriage. Things started out great at 21 & very slowly deteriorated. The issue became that I was raising 4 kids & so focused on their well being that I forgot who I was. When my youngest graduated college I no longer saw my reflection when I looked in the mirror, the woman I once was, had disappeared. I was peering at an empty shell with no self esteem & little hope. When I neared my 50th birthday I made a decision to reclaim my self. It has taken me 3 years & countless nights of sleeping in my car & several admissions to psychiatric hospitals but now I am ready to discover life & spread my wings. I was so close to giving up but somehow I held onto my strength & the hope of what was in my future if I could get away.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Christina
May, 30 2018 at 2:47 pm

A year ago this weekend, my neighbors at the time called the police during an argument with my ex. That day also marks the time I finally escaped and was immediately surrounded by the emotional support I so desperately needed. You don’t know what you don’t know. I could never put a finger on it. Being counseled and educated not only saved my life but has made me aware of dangerous people much easier and quicker. I am a stronger person having this knowledge and I am still healing as I still feel confined mentally to his words and manipulative ways and all those lies.
Psychological abuse stays and lingers. I am proof of that. And it’s one partner’s mental disorder that runs the so called relationship. And that partner does not need to be diagnosed for all of this to make sense. Just because your partner has not been diagnosed does not mean the abuse is not prevalent.
He was controlling and manipulative and humiliated me. He stepped all over my integrity forcing me to live his way. And further degraded me if I was resistant by insults and jabs.
I forgot who I was.
It was that constant feeling of being on edge. There was zero growth as what a healthy relationship offers.
Oh I researched... ADHD? Age difference ? Alcoholic? Drug addict? Intimacy issues?
Never once did I hear of or research psychopath , sociopath, Narcissist.
Therapy brought my life to light. I was in an abusive situation. I just kept on, kept trying. He in turn kept on, and only stayed the same.
I couldn’t wrap my head around how or why a grown man refused to be a better man.
Now I know. Thank god I now know.
I do pity all the people who may presently be in his life. He didn’t have any long-lasting friendships to speak of. He just collects people along the way and then discards them. I feel for the women who may be silly enough to believe his lies. I know. I did at one time too.
He always proclaimed he’d been around the world baby! When really he just lived in a couple different states along the East Coast. I guess I’ve been around the world too then!
And the lies of grandiose levels. How he owned a home. Well living in your parents investment property and not paying rent even does not make you a homeowner. It just makes you a leech and an user. As he was with me.
He used me to look good to his parents. The very two people he has tattooed on his arms. The very two people in the world he so desperately wanted to impress and have them be proud.
Well times up. They know. They’ve always known. Everyone knows now too.
So keep collecting new people that know nothing of your past. Don’t let anyone connect the dots until it’s too late. That’s sad and empty. And I nearly went down with you in your dark hole.
Your behavior is abhorrent and heinous. Not something you would really speak about with your parents. So keep away, live far enough away so you can tell lies at a distance. Again, such a sad lonely false life.
I shared a home, a bed with this sociopath. Long enough to nearly be ruined and long enough to be brainwashed of his pathological lies.
He’s a phony, a fake, attempting to simulate others to look normal. But that’s not sustainable... the proof is in how every situation ends with him... fired from multiple jobs, arrested for domestic violence at least 3 times with different women, estranged from immediate family , legitimate income to him is selling cocaine, and saying I love you for the thrill of hearing your own voice I guess.
I’ve learned bad is bad. All the stories on here make me so angry. At the abusers. And the length of time each one endured, for various reasons. It makes me feel even more worthless knowing I wasn’t married to him, didn’t have children with him and only lived with him for 2.5 years. My only excuse is I moved cross country with him and knew no one. I forged through alone. I felt alone every day with him. The very person who I was supposed to be able to lean on, The very person that was supposed to build me up as I was trying to build him up, the very person whom I moved with to build a bigger and better life.
It’s only been a year since I’ve been out of the relationship, but it’s been in and out of court and constant reminders and triggers. I am not the same person I was before I met him. And I have been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder. And it’s overwhelming, still.
I’m in therapy once a week and have been for the last 10 months. I was on medication for a few months and decided to go off it because I felt like I was just numb and I wanted to forge through life on my own because I thought I was capable. Now a year later in therapy we are revisiting possible medication. I’ve never been on medication in my life prior to meeting this man and I don’t have any crutches.
Theoretically it all makes sense when you read and get knowledge, but realistically it’s so hard to wrap my mind around how I was involved with such a person.

John
June, 2 2018 at 8:10 am

Christina replying to this "Theoretically it all makes sense when you read and get knowledge, but realistically it’s so hard to wrap my mind around how I was involved with such a person."
I heard a quote that helped me, as I have been in similar situations, however in reverse gender (I am a man): "The path from the head to the heart is a long road." For me it was admitting that there are simply bad people out there, who have no real regard for others, who are devoid of self-awareness, or choose to tell themselves lies. They exist. It sucks. Stay away.

Patricia
November, 30 2018 at 7:44 pm

I am finally leaving a 5 year marriage that has been emotionally abusive the entire time. Previously I was married for 31 years.
My 5 year marriage has left me penniless, feeling that I can’t go on, unworthy, a terrible person, etc. I am 55 years old now and am on SS Disabilty. How can I survive on the 1000 per month I receive. I’m unable to work much to earn extra money. My daughter is now helping me financially and so on.
My question is this. Everybody says I will find that special person who will love me just for me. I fail to see how anybody would want me since I am penniless and unable to bring many resources into a relationship. I will need somebody who is just looking for a very decent person who can only give of herself. Are there really men out there like that?

November, 30 2018 at 10:44 pm

Hi Patricia: I'm so sorry for what you have been through and are still going through, but I can say that I admire your courage in that you were able to leave your marriage. The fact that it made you feel as it did and yet you were still able to leave is a testament to your strength. Your perception of yourself is distorted by your ex-husband. There are decent people who treat their partners with respect and expect their partners only to bring themselves and to be themselves in the relationship. I know it's hard to see this now, but I hope that as you recover that you will see yourself again worthy of love. Thank you for sharing your story and taking the time to leave a comment. -Kristen

Nick
December, 3 2018 at 2:25 am

Hi Patricia, there are most definitely men out there like that! As a man currently on his way out of a 3 year relationship with an abusive woman I can tell you that all I want in my future is someone who is kind, a good person and who loves me for me, imperfections and all. I’m trying not to let my awful experience convince me that someone like that doesn’t exist, I believe they do, both men and women! I hope you find yours as soon as possible, in the meantime I send you a friendly hug from one survivor to another, may every day from now on be better than the last :)

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