Seven unspoken truth about how to get on with life after getting myselfout from abusive relationship.
You would think when someone finally escapes an abusive relationship, the worst is over.
You think with the source of the hurt removed, healing can begin.
But after the external danger is gone, and the abuser is (at least physically) out of the picture, the survivor’s internal journey is only beginning.
While certain wounds are healing, different ones, wounds hidden by the relationship itself, erupt in agony.
This is one reason it takes the average survivor of intimate partner violence seven times to leave for good.
And it’s one reason most people have NO IDEA why it takes so long to heal.
If I may share the challenges as a survivor, that I was facing AFTER I've gotten out.
Here it is :
1. STOP LIVING IN DENIAL.
After I was out and the past abuse is out in the open, I was forced to acknowledge it instead of pretending that it wasn’t happening.
To integrate the awful things that happened to me into who I am, without letting them define me.
It’s way beyond reinventing myself by changing careers or social interaction.
It requires completely rewriting "my self-concept" to include my victimization without allowing myself to become a victim.
Because letting go of one self-concept before the new one, requires an act of faith.
2. WALK AWAY AND STAY AWAY FROM SOMETHING I BELIEVED WAS LOVE.
No matter how I look at it, this means heartbreak.
Loss of innocence.
Shattered hopes and dreams.
And unbearable loneliness.
And because our feelings don’t change the second we decide we can’t live with a person.
We may flip from love to hate, but the intensity is no different, and in many cases, even though we know he or she is unhealthy and unsafe for ourselves, there's a part of us that still want to believe that concept of love. We wanted it to be better, not over.
I had no choice, and yet, my choice was terrifyingly difficult.
3. I HAVE TO UNLEARN MY UNHEALTHY COPING STRATEGIES.
I learned every trick to try to keep my abuser happy, or at least to avoid triggering his rage.
I learned to be submissive and silent, to second-guess myself, to start every sentence with “I’m sorry.”
I learned to walk around minefields.
To tiptoe around insecurities, and act as if parts of myself : needs, desires, dreams—didn’t exist.
I learned to diminish my own value,and to accept utterly unacceptable treatment.
The mind-bends I went through to achieve a small amount of harmony to keep myself and my daughter safe from harm are staggering.
And they’re all not only useless but counterproductive and unhealthy in a healthy supportive relationship.
So I become a beginner in relationship again.
4. REPAIRING BROKEN BONDS WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
This is one of the hardest tasks that I faces, particularly because I wasn't telling everyone about the abuse while it was happening. I did not denied it also, hoping that my family and friends would see it, because it was so obvious if only they have the nerve to say something about it.
But I guess most people will looked away even when they sense or see it.
These critical relationships are damaged, even though some of my family and friends are tremendously supportive.
Some relationships just never regain the closeness and intimacy they once had.
My old life doesn’t just snap back into place immediately.
I've changed, and others changed along with me.
Restoring broken relationships is hard work, and focusing on finding a new way to enjoy family and old friends will be more productive than trying to go back to the way things were before.
So I did.
I let some relationships un-mended. It is what it is.
5. FORGIVING MYSELF.
This sounds easy, because we forgive ourselves for stuff all the time.
We all do.
We forgive ourselves for screwing up at most of the things in our lives.
We rationalize the time we waste on unproductive activities.
But forgiving ourselves for abandoning ourselves, and for the pain that abandonment caused for ourselves and other people we love is DIFFERENT.
We obsessively try to understand why we got into an abusive relationship.
I blame myself, again and again, until I come to a place of true forgiveness and acceptance.
“I could have made a healthier choice. But I didn’t. And that’s OK. I lost a lot. But I’m going to be OK. I’m going to be OK, and I’m going to move on.” Ina Madjidhan, May 2013
6. I HAVE TO START LOVING MYSELF AGAIN.
When you hate yourself for what you feel you allowed to happen to you, it’s hard to find much self-love.
And self-love wasn’t exactly encouraged by your abuser either.
I was told repeatedly I wasn't lovable, not by anyone except my abuser.
So now, who will love me?
The answer has to be : I will love myself first before anyone else.
Restoring your healthy esteem for yourself must follow self-forgiveness and will allow you to start drawing boundaries that protect you from further harm.
A self-care regimen ; exercising, changing my hair style, dressing up, makes me feel good about All those above with consistency : create the feeling of self-love.
Also, as a person of faith, remembering that God loves me, really help me through the darkest spaces.
7. DEALING WITH NAIVE, INSENSITIVE, SELF RIGHTEOUS BUT MOSTLY WELL-MEANING PEOPLE.
Everyone who hasn’t lived through an abusive relationship has answers and questions.
And anyone who has been through one, or knows someone who has, listens quietly and patiently.
It’s hard enough to share my truth with myself but to share it with people who don’t get it or think they know how to solve my problems is frustrating and painful.
When someone says, “Come on. You’re still you. You have your whole life in front of you,” I don’t want to be rude and say, “I'm 40 years old!! And I’m stinging from the loss of the 13 years I squandered.”
BAD ADVICE FROM GOOD PEOPLE IS STILL BAD ADVICE.
It is hard to find communities of survivors, to talk to people who have experienced the same things I have. Because it was and still is so taboo in my social environment, in my country to come out with abusive relationship.
I can only say to all those who experience the same thing, to choose carefully the people with whom you share your truth and only do so with those you can trust fully and you know will not use it to hurt you.
The unspoken secret about life after abuse is that, in many ways, it’s harder than before.
Because the seven things listed, along with a whole lot of others, make for excruciating work. And when you see that work as the requirement for leaving, you can see why it’s so hard for people to leave abusive relationships.
But I did. Yes I lost a lot. Friends who feels that they need to choose sides, family who couldn't understand why I didn't come to them for help, material things ; I left with nothing, it has been almost 4 years now, and you know what? MY LIFE IS SO MUCH HAPPIER AND HEALTHIER NOW.
This was written by Thomas Fiffer of Good Men Project. https://goodmenproject.com/