How to get over an abusive ex

How to Heal After an Abusive Relationship: 7 Tips

Recovering from an abusive relationship is possible. Here are helpful steps on how to heal and prioritize your well-being in the process.

If you’ve recently left an abusive relationship, you’ve already taken one of the most important steps of the process — leaving.

Learning how to heal and take care of yourself after the breakup can help you navigate what comes next.

There are many types of abusive situations and relationships:

  • emotional
  • physical
  • verbal
  • sexual
  • spiritual
  • financial (e.g. limiting access to funds, controlling shared finances)
  • reproductive coercion (e.g. breaking condoms, interfering with birth control access)
  • digital (e.g. stalking, demanding passwords or access to your phone)

A range of intense emotions may pop up when recovering from an abusive relationship — all of which are valid.

Depending on the situation, you may experience some of the following thoughts or feelings:

  • missing your ex
  • feeling lonely or isolated
  • debating going back to the relationship
  • feeling uncertain or unable to make decisions by yourself
  • feelings of anxiety or depression
  • finding it difficult to feel independent
  • a lingering fear or sense of being in danger
  • symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

You may have positive feelings, too. “Sometimes a survivor can feel a sense of freedom, as if a weight has been lifted off of their shoulders,” says Melody Gross, domestic violence keynote speaker and founder of Courageous SHIFT.

“Some days, you might feel strong, happy, and confident in your decision. Other days you may be overwhelmed by sadness and anxiety and question everything,” adds Ebele Onyema, director of programs at One Love. “All of these feelings, from feeling free and empowered to feeling lonely and missing your ex, are completely normal.”

“When someone leaves an abusive relationship, healing isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind. Survival does,” says Gross.

There’s no set time frame to healing, as each survivor’s experience is different.

“But what is there is possibility — the possibility to get to a place where you know, understand, and can respond appropriately to your triggers,” she adds.

The healing process isn’t linear, but there are ways to find relief and support along the way.

Create a safety plan (if you haven’t already)

Safety planning can give you a sense of control and protection, Gross explains: “You can add responses for different circumstances, such as seeing [your ex] in public or if they contact you on social media.”

“Make your safety and security the top priority post-breakup, so you can focus on yourself and your healing journey,” says Onyema.

Set boundaries

According to Onyema, setting boundaries after the relationship is just as important as during it.

“Make sure you and your ex are on the same page in terms of communication and behavior,” she says. “And, if you [aren’t] — and you very well may not be — remember that your needs and boundaries matter. Be clear in expressing them and confident that you have every right to need the time and space that you need.”

Also consider setting digital boundaries, like blocking your ex or taking a social media break.

“Knowing that your partner doesn’t have access to you on social media can provide the distance you might need to move through healing at your own pace,” she adds.

Prioritize self-care and self-love

“Self-care and self-love is vital because without them, survivors can find themselves in another abusive relationship,” says Gross.

Honor your thoughts and feelings as they come up. She suggests journaling as a great way to process your emotions. It can serve as a personal safe space and way to reflect on your growth as time passes.

Onyema also recommends picking up old hobbies and doing things you used to love.

“Use your newfound time to focus on things that build your confidence and help you regain emotional balance. You deserve it,” she says.

Repeat healing affirmations

Gross says to keep reminding yourself that the abuse was never your fault: “If you have to set an alarm on your phone or write it on a Post-It note, do it.”

“It can be hard not to look back on your past relationship with rose-colored glasses, or you may feel like you miss your ex-partner, but keep in mind that you’re strong, and you’ll get through it,” adds Onyema. “Remember that everyone — including you — deserves a healthy relationship where they feel loved, respected, and valued.”

Educate yourself about abuse

No matter where you are in your journey, learning about abuse can prevent you from entering similar situations in the future.

Gross recommends learning about:

  • signs of abuse
  • why people fall in love with abusive partners
  • reasons people stay in ‘unhealthy’ relationships
  • potential barriers to leaving
  • how abuse shows up in different areas of life

“When everyone has a better understanding and knowledge of how intimate partner violence works, then we can remove the stigma and get the support and services needed for survivors and perpetrators,” she says.

Build a strong support system

You don’t have to do this alone. Receiving support can help you feel stronger and more connected during the healing process.

“A great support system can include family, friends, a therapist, coach, personal trainer, [and] support group,” says Gross.

Oftentimes, Onyema says someone in an abusive relationship can be isolated from friends and family. “It’s good to reconnect with them. [They] can emotionally support you, build up your sense of self, and offer a counter to some of the doubts or negative thoughts we can have about ourselves after a breakup.”

Ask for help

Consider seeing a therapist or mental health professional. Therapy can teach you helpful skills for coping after an abusive relationship and offer further support during the recovery process.

Other support resources are available, including:

  • domestic violence hotlines
  • organizations like One Love
  • events and programs for survivors
  • connecting with other survivors through support groups

“Don’t let shame or embarrassment stop you from getting your needs met,” reminds Gross, who suggests tapping into every resource you can.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), intimate partner violence affects millions of people in the United States each year. If you’ve recently been in an abusive relationship, you’re not alone and it’s not your fault.

There’s no solid answer as to how long it takes to heal after any type of abusive relationship. But creating a safety plan, practicing self-love, seeing a therapist, setting boundaries, joining support groups, and seeking additional resources can bring you relief.

“Breakups aren’t easy. Be patient and kind to yourself, as there’s no ‘right way’ to heal,” Onyema says. Healing is possible, though, and you will feel stronger in time.

You’re a survivor, and help is readily available whenever you want or need it.

“You made the first brave step — you decided to leave,” she reminds. “And as you continue to center yourself, you’re healing in big and small ways every step of the way.”

Getting Over an Abusive Ex

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Nina just got dumped by someone who emotionally abused her for nine years. She told us: "You're probably thinking, ‘Great! You just dodged a bullet. ’ " That's what all her friends are telling her. The problem is: she wants him back.

This is a very common scenario: You are completely hooked on a person who no longer wants you and who was mean and abusive to you while you were still in a relationship. You are literally addicted. The only cure is to overcome the addiction. But how do you do that?

The first step to overcoming an addiction is admitting you have one. You need to realize that you are on the hook, and that you don’t want to be on the hook anymore.

If you got dumbed by an abusive person, that person did you a favor, even though your emotions may tell you otherwise. If your emotions deceive you, this is completely understandable for many reasons. For one thing, being socially rejected—even by someone whose opinion of you does not matter—hurts. Your brain registers it the same as if you had been physically hurt.

In addition to this physiological response, you’re probably feeling withdrawal from oxytocin, norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. These brain chemicals generate feelings of pleasure and reward associated with being bonded to another person. When a bond is broken unexpectedly, you experience a stress response, in which your sympathetic nervous system puts you in "fight or flight" mode.

The dumping may have been the end to a long roller coaster ride of ups and downs with your ex. Erratic relationships, swinging between bad and good times, can have similar effects as a new love addiction. When things are going well, norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine generate feelings of pleasure and reward, and they can do that too if you are in a bad relationship and the victim of abuse.

When your relationship ends, the pleasure and reward chemicals plummet, leaving you miserable and hopeless; you are an addict without her drug. Your brain is waiting for another "up" that will not arrive.

Another reason you may be feeling intense grief after the end of a relationship—even an abusive one—is not only will you need to grapple with the loss of a partner (even if a shitty one), you also need to figure out what your new identity will be without this person in your life. You need to get over, not only the loss of a relationship, but also the loss of your previous life and your previous self.

Like Nina, you may be able to take solace in the fact that you have friends who want what is best for you and who will be with you as you craft your new self sans abuser. Foster these friendships, as the strength of social support is the number one predictor of how well a person can recover from a psychological setback. Without a controlling boyfriend, you have the freedom to be with your friends and to become the person you want to be.

You may be thinking, "but the person I want to be is my ex's girlfriend!" But is that really so? The pain you are feeling may make you lie to and deceive yourself. You may be wishing you could “fix” the relationship since you have already invested so much time in it. You may be hoping to justify what seems like wasted years by continuing the relationship.

But don't forget what it would be like to be with an abusive person for another year or two or three of your life. If you got back together with your abuser, you would lose more time and be prevented from finding a healthier and more rewarding relationship. You would be unable to do other things that can enhance your life in the long run, such as pursuing additional education or picking up salsa dancing. You would invest more energy in something that is ultimately not good for you. Your ex has already taught you a lesson or two. It is time to move on.

This is easier said then done. Unfortunately, if you are still hooked on your ex, there is no immediate cure that can remove your pain. Breakup pain is a kind of pain you need to live through. But know that grieving the loss of someone you have been close to and intimate with is a universal experience. You can become even more resilient by living through the grief and pain. Be kind to yourself right now. Don’t judge yourself. Even if it doesn't seem like it right now, this too shall pass.

How to survive a breakup - advice from a psychologist

  • Two types of relationships
  • Causes of neurotic love
  • Five consequences of parting
  • How to help yourself
  • How to survive a breakup
  • Psychologist's advice

Healthy and neurotic relationships

Breaking up a relationship is always stressful and difficult to deal with. Moreover, a gap can occur both in healthy relationships and in neurotic ones. Breaking up a healthy relationship is easier. In such cases, the couple is usually in dialogue, this decision does not become a bolt from the blue. Most often, the decision to leave is made together, the partners are prepared for changes in life, everyone is confident in their abilities, expects the best from the future and is adapted to a new life. Of course, even if the decision was balanced, it takes time to emotionally, physically and from the everyday point of view to separate from the partner, to adjust to a new rhythm. And yet, in this case, all this is experienced as something that can be overcome and lived on.

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The rupture of neurotic relationships is more difficult. In this case, within the union there was no practice of confidential communication, an open dialogue, where partners frankly express their will and desires. Often partners do not even really know each other, do not seek to understand the motives and feelings of a partner. If the breakup and separation come as a surprise, it is highly likely that it was a neurotic relationship.

In this situation, the one who did not decide to leave is going through a difficult and traumatic experience. This can exacerbate chronic psychological trauma, which will “finish off” a person already exhausted by a break. Fortunately, this experience can become a turning point in understanding yourself and your needs, pathological attitudes and broken schemes in the field of love (and not only) relationships.

Causes of neurotic relationships

Neurotic love, like toxic relationships, originates in childhood and reflects relationships with parents. For example, if a child suffered from the coldness of his parents, it is likely that in adulthood he will look for the same partner. His ideas about love and relationships are associated with detachment, so the colder the better.

Another example: it is not uncommon for depressed parents (or one of them) to instill guilt in the child. This happens automatically and sometimes without the parents realizing that the child is constantly suffering from the fact that he cannot make mom or dad happy. Such a child will look for a partner who is difficult to please.

Neurotic relationships differ from healthy ones in that, firstly, the partner “loves” through suffering, because, unfortunately, he has no experience of relationships in which everyone is satisfied and happy. He loves those who do not value him, repels and brings pain. Such relationships are based on the fact that a person revisits the cinema of the past over and over again: despite the fact that his partner is cold, nevertheless they are together, which means that it is similar to what happened to him in childhood - in his understanding, this and there is love that he associates with any kind of suffering, just not to be abandoned.

Therefore, when such a person is abandoned by a partner in adult life, the picture of his childhood, in which he was not noticed, did not share warmth with him and did not pay due attention, comes to life. The biggest fear of his childhood came true - he was abandoned after all. The suffering that arises in response is chronic trauma. They are so painful that they do not allow you to look at this situation differently and benefit from it, for example, recognize the previous relationship as destructive, draw conclusions and still find that person who will honestly love in return.

© chuttersnap/Unsplash

Defense reactions of the psyche

If the separation caused the revival of old sores, the psychological defense mechanisms will be the first thing to stabilize the mental state.

  • Negative
    “No, this will pass and we will be together again!” A person who uses denial will selflessly look for signs that he is right. For example, a woman can persuade herself that even though her partner left her, he did not leave for another, which means that he does not love anyone and will soon return back.
  • Displacement
    An abandoned partner can tell himself: “Nothing terrible happened, it will hurt and be forgotten. ” However, this pain can drag on for several years and become chronic. Those who manage to repress unpleasant experiences may not pay attention to internal discomfort and unhappiness, as they have become accustomed to this as their usual state.
  • Regression
    This psychological defense mechanism can induce a person to tantrums - a primitive form of removing responsibility for what is happening. Or, on the contrary, regressing, a person can literally freeze: emotions, as well as will, appetite, desire to live, disappear. A depressive period may begin.
  • Sublimation
    Well known to those who tend to overlook unpleasant experiences. By sublimating, a person can completely go into work or any other activity that helps to forget and not think about the traumatic event.
  • Acute reactions, aggression towards others and self-aggression
    If the tension in the psyche is great, it will look for a way out, for example, in the form of sharp reactions: aggressive attacks, a tough style of communication (for example, at work or driving), angry posts on social networks, frequent sexual contacts that carry a feeling of disappointment, leaving in alcohol and drugs.

All these mechanisms work unconsciously, that is, they manifest themselves not by the will and desire of a person, but automatically. The mind may say that drinking is bad, but the suffering can be so unbearable that any method that allows you to slightly raise the pain threshold becomes suitable.

There is another defense that is at the level of consciousness, which can be controlled and used at the right time. This is the so-called psychological compensation , which is expressed in adaptive behavior. For example, in order not to meet with the former, they block him in the phone book, social networks, and avoid meeting. There is also a reverse situation: in order to better navigate what is happening and get the most complete picture, a recent partner is placed in the field of view. Behind this, there may be a desire to clarify everything to the smallest detail and once again make sure that "this is actually happening."

Whatever type of protection works, you need to remember that this is a natural reaction to severe stress and any psychological protection performs an important function - to protect the psyche from destruction. It is important that after the defense stage, the mourning phase begins, when the fact that everything is over and you can mourn your pain is recognized - this is a natural process when working through the loss of a relationship with a loved one.

© Ben Blennerhassett/Unsplash

How to help yourself

Breaking up a relationship is a big mental burden. We don’t just say “heart breaks” or “soul hurts” - the body is actually going through a serious psycho-physiological stress. The cardiovascular system, digestion, hormones, sleep and ability to rest, the natural rhythm of day and night, all come under attack.

During difficult changes in life, it is very important to remember that you are in an unusual state for yourself, and, if possible, help yourself: eat fully, get enough sleep, do exercises to relieve stress, eat those foods that give strength and do not burden the body .

How to tell a healthy relationship from a toxic one: 5 red flags

It's fair to say that not all stages of stress can be done at all. Sometimes lying flat and staring at the wall is the best thing you can do to help yourself. Take care of yourself whenever possible - take time off from work and order take-out instead of cooking. Try to prepare for yourself the space and time where you can fully surrender to your experiences.

In order for the process of loss to proceed smoothly and end, it is very important to honestly go through all its stages. After the first wave of shock subsides, the stage of aggression begins, interspersed with rationalization - the desire to talk to the partner again and again and thus improve the state of affairs (the so-called bargaining stage). These steps can take varying amounts of time and, unfortunately, it is not possible to predict their duration.

One of the last stages is depression - not so acute, but a stable condition. It is easy to recognize it by a breakdown, dulled feelings and reactions, inability to enjoy, sleep and appetite disorders. Despite the difficult course, this is a very important period that prepares us for the final resolution of the situation - the stage of acceptance and the end of mourning.

Unfortunately, there are no recipes for how to shorten the most painful stage, but to ease the condition, allow yourself to do whatever you want. If you want to leave - try to do it, if you want to lock yourself in the apartment - try to take sick leave. Do not neglect the help of others, but set the limits of what is permitted: tell your family and friends how they can be useful to you and how closely you are ready to communicate now. Ask not to discuss certain topics with you, not to arrange surprises for you to “stir up” and so on. Openly tell them what you need: from domestic to emotional needs. Your sincerity will help set up communication with friends and relatives, who, unfortunately, do not always know how to behave correctly in such situations.

© Jorge Flores/Unsplash

How to survive a breakup with a loved one

Disrupted communication is one of the main reasons that partners move away from each other and cease to adequately assess the state of affairs. To prevent this, pay attention to whether there is a reticence between you and your partner, silence of any feelings or facts, or maybe someone in your couple expects his thoughts to be read, and thus avoids responsibility ? Silence, ignorance, as well as references to social standards and generalizations ("You're a man!" or "A wife should...") destroy trust and intimacy. Features of your unique relationship can be replaced by “life principles” and public opinion about how everything “should be”, which prevents you from following a special scenario that is suitable for your couple.

How and why to repair broken relationships

Proper communication depends not only on the degree of closeness and honesty to each other (and to oneself), but also the style of conflict resolution. Family therapy is based on this idea: starting it, partners learn safe ways to express their desires, suffering, fears, learn to enter into conflict and resolve it. The therapist, as a referee, observes the dialogue, leads both partners to ensure that they get the result and satisfaction from the interaction.

If you feel that you have no strength left to explain what is happening between you, take a few sessions of couples therapy . It will quickly become clear whether you need to continue working on the relationship or whether to stop it. It is important to remember that the therapist does not choose sides and will not support the game of one of the partners to the detriment of the other. The therapist acts as an interpreter between two people who, for some reason, began to speak different languages.

How to avoid a destructive scenario in the future — advice from a psychologist needed.

Neurotic or toxic relationships are different in that they are used to reduce the degree of personal neuroses and work off personal problems. If both partners coincided in neuroses, the union can be stable and strong. For example, someone for whom it is important to exercise control in relation to the closest person meets someone who gladly accepts this control due to their own childhood traumas.

Another case is when one of the partners does not need to work out the pathological scenario and still meets a less stable person and serves as a constant source of relaxation and recharging for him. Then a person who becomes a testing ground for working off a neurosis will most likely want to give up relationships that drain him.

Other roles we play in relationships can be learned from transactional analysis . The main idea of ​​this method is that each of us in different life situations takes the position of a child, parent or adult. Knowing your patterns of behavior, you can adjust the attitudes and inadequate expectations from the relationship. This is important, since a full-fledged and multifaceted strong union is possible when two "adults" meet who know their needs, boundaries and their weaknesses. Knowing these weaknesses allows you not to provoke situations where they can manifest themselves to the detriment of the couple.

All this may seem rather complicated, but in reality, in order to have a healthy and strong relationship, it is not at all necessary to store a store of knowledge in theoretical psychology. To choose a suitable partner, it is important first of all to solve your personal problems, get to know yourself, find out your preferences, understand what attracts in people and what repels you. Mark for yourself with whom you manage to build strong contact, and who you don’t want to see even as friends. Do not forget what is valuable in a relationship, what kind of alliance you would like to build with another person and how you see your happiness in a couple.

What to do after a breakup:

• Three sessions against depression. How to train the brain to be happy and healthy.

• How to tell a healthy relationship from a toxic one: five red flags.

• How to mend relationships if they have been broken.

Tags: relationship

7 signs that you are not ready to be friends with an ex


Actually, why not? Maintaining a normal relationship is an adult and mature act. After all, you still care about this person, and, what the hell is not joking, maybe he is not averse to supporting you in difficult times. True, the ubiquitous psychologists say that friendship with the former sometimes does more harm than good.

According to Susan Elliott, author of Getting Past Your Breakup, it takes at least six months to get into the friendship stage—the amount of time varies depending on the couple, the severity of the relationship, and how it ended . “You need time to take a break and re-enter the world as a single person,” says Elliott. “Even after the most amicable parting, each of the partners needs to take a time out to survive the pain of loss and sort out feelings.”

In addition to this sage advice, Elliott shares seven tell-tale signs that you should put your ex-friend on hold.

1. You still feel pain, anger, or other unpleasant emotions

Breaking up a relationship doesn't happen overnight. You must slowly go through all the emotions that accompany this, without holding them back - sadness, disappointment, rejection, resentment, or some completely unknown combination. If you are still worried, then you are probably not ready to be friends with your ex yet - being in disheveled feelings, it is impossible to open a new chapter in a relationship, even the most neutral one.

Focus on the feelings you are experiencing, seek help from a friend or therapist if things get really bad. Return to your favorite hobbies, walking, exercising, writing in a diary - all this will help clarify your thoughts and free yourself from negative feelings.

2. You can't talk about your ex without excitement

If you find it difficult to talk about it without tears, hand-wringing, and endless tirades that make loved ones sad, then you are not yet ready to become friends. Maybe you are avoiding working through the feelings that overwhelmed you with a sad wave, or maybe you just love him. The bottom line is that you will know that you have dealt with grief when you can talk about your ex in a calm manner. You must not only live through all the emotions, but also realize what exactly you took away from the relationship before you move on to the friendship phase.

3. The thought that he is dating someone makes you mad

Really, you can talk with a friend about anything, including personal matters? If the information that he was on a date gives you a spasm in the stomach, there is only one conclusion - it's too early to be friends.

To test, imagine that you are sitting together in a cafe, having a neutral conversation about dreams and books, and suddenly a notification pops up on his smartphone about a new “match” on Tinder. What would you feel? Indifference? Joy for him? Burning jealousy?

Since friendship requires support and understanding in different life situations, and you are not yet ready to admit that other people are claiming your place in the life of your ex, it would be a good idea to refrain from premature coffee meetings.

4. You still dream of getting him back.

Honestly ask yourself why you want to be friends with him. If deep down you cherish the dream of reuniting as a couple, then friendship is definitely the wrong step, at least for now. This approach will nullify your efforts to get rid of experiences - moreover, it will serve as a painful installation for both parties.

Entering into friendship, hoping to eventually return to romance, is by no means so cloudless - both for you and for him. The problem is that the relationship ended in painful settings for both: you probably have a grudge against him, he also harbored a grudge. And since you are subconsciously set up to be angry, offended or disappointed, this will happen at the slightest pretext - expectations will not come true, but will return you a few steps back.

Forget about this destructive scenario. It is impossible to build a friendship based on ulterior motives and putting yourself at risk of emotional pain. Take time to reflect on what you are missing in a relationship and find ways to bring it out in others.

5. You feel lonely

After the end of a relationship, there is more free time, especially if you lived together, and social life was based on interaction with your ex's friends and family. When you lose that connection, it's tempting to fill the void by appealing to your ex under the guise of friendship. Such a strategy only temporarily brings relief, in fact, turning into a "run in circles" - repeated resumption of relationships and ultimately a brutal breakup "forever", which you can very well avoid - along with an invitation to his mother's birthday.

6. You check your ex's life on social networks or with mutual friends

Regularly checking his activities on Instagram (an extremist organization banned in Russia) is strong evidence that you are not ready to be friends. If you collect information about your ex from all known sources instead of asking directly: "Are you dating someone?", you are undoubtedly hiding true feelings. Yes, it still hurts you, but he, as if on purpose, looks his best and lives a full life. Do not rush to make contact, return to your feelings, let them burn to the ground and go to a new autobiography page, where, by the way, you do not have to be friends with your ex at all.

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