Recovering from an Abusive Relationship

After I escaped my abusive relationship I overexerted and exhausted myself at my own expense for the sake of resolving public opinion. I felt I needed to explain why I had been behaving so differently. I wanted to make sure people knew what had really been happening behind closed doors and that it was out of my control. I felt I needed to let other people in, to make them understand, sympathize and care.

I believe this was a mistake, and one that isn’t often discussed. Nobody should feel that they need to protect their abuser's image. You are hurting yourself in doing that. Your abuser is not fighting for your reputation. Most likely, they are saying whatever they can to negate you, to prove you wrong, to label you as jealous or obsessive or what have you. Remember that these attempts aren’t about you, personally, but that people who try to sabotage others’ images are at war with themselves. If your abuser succeeds and other people believe them, don't take it to heart and don’t emotionally exhaust yourself trying to change their minds. They will never know what really happened and the sad truth is abuse doesn't make sense to and is hard to accept for many, especially if the abuser is someone they know, love and party or work with.

The main thing I’ve realized after escaping an abusive relationship is that one’s experience is no one else's but their own: you alone have been exposed to this. You are the only one who will ever know exactly what happened between the two of you and why. You may be panicked. You are probably genuinely scared for people he will continue to hurt in his life. You are distraught with worry. Is he really going to get away with this?

I urge you to consider this: use your knowledge of the truth, of what really happened, not to defeat you, but to reignite your indelible passion for life. If you are like me, so much of your time and hunger and excitement for learning has been cruelly taken away. Now is the time to experience the joy of getting it back. Delve into knowledge now. Be a student. Revitalize your mind and heart with everything you'd been missing out on while your abuser had you under their control. You're free and get to stay the fuck away from their manipulative control and run full-speed ahead toward the things you've always wanted to do in your life. Write, paint, explore, kiss someone genuinely sweet, make new friends, get lost in a really delicious book, get involved in the community, reconnect with someone you loved and lost along the way, experience the bliss in solitude and promise yourself you'll accept only the ultimate kindness and respect from others.

View this not as the end of a horrible experience but the begging of a fantastic new one. Be warmed with peace knowing that it's finally over and that you have done everything in your power to make the best of a bad situation.

Let go of any need to justify the way you chose to face your abuse. A vital key to finding happiness after abuse is that we must accept that some people are disturbed, ugly, violent, fake, and manipulative. I hate this. These words are so tough to write because I will always be an eternal optimist and a believer in people. But charm is deceptive. It is a tool that works. It is such an ugly lesson to learn in life. I have had the hardest time learning this for myself. Reality can be dark and we typically subject ourselves only to what we want to see or believe; however, when that precious, esteemed image of life and others is disturbed or shaken, we completely lose our sense of self. We get lost in our inability to understand this new abrupt image.

Let's cut to the heart of abuse: it begins when our psyche is intruded, invaded, threatened, twisted and jerked around in any kind of repetitive cycle. Afraid of this sudden invasive energy, we stop thinking for ourselves and we stop acting like ourselves. We start to send mixed signals and push people away. Over time, our belittlement becomes severe, and we even begin to lie for our abusers to keep their reputation whole. We build them up not just to protect them, but also ourselves, so that we can use it as a tool to justify being with them when it’s just the two of us alone and the abuse is obvious. We subject ourselves to their demands, as cruel and perverted as they are. We do anything.

But in the end, you must save yourself. Joy is only possible if you allow yourself to see the sickness and perversion in your abuser. It is not your fault. You were targeted, taken advantage of, used, manipulated, charmed or threatened after every attack, constantly submitted to a cycle of twisted, unprecedented, perverse behavior. You should be confused. You had every right to be confused while you were with him. In your innocence, you sought explanation. You sought justification. You sought to see anything other than the truth. You tried to look for the best. But you eventually accepted the signs of abuse, found your strength, and did what you had to do to protect yourself, and that’s what matters.

Some abusers will stop at nothing to win control. Some will never be able to see anything wrong with the way they treated you. Some are incapable of self-blame. They are excellent at convincing others they are the victim. These abusers are not healthy - perhaps they struggle with depression, narcissism or addiction. It is necessary for victims to know deep within their hearts that these things are out of their control. You could not have known.

I reiterate: it is not your fault. These things happen. I can only wonder why they do. I have my beliefs. Form yours. Allow yourself that inevitable period of questioning. Embrace your confusion. Embrace your hurt. Embrace your disappointment. Acknowledge your pain. Do not let it swallow you. Do not let it devour your beautiful, vivacious, creative hunger for life. Renew your strength. Kick life right back in the balls. Be fabulous. Recognize this experience not as a setback, but as an opportunity for a comeback -- you can come back in any way, shape, or form that you please. Be adventurous with your new you.

Originally posted on Happiness Enlisted

More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Feminism, Gender-based violence, Violence against women
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Sexuality, Domestic violence



Gina H
Sign up for our Newsletter

Learn more about topics like these by signing up for Women’s Media Center’s newsletter.