From Surviving to Thriving: How I Healed After an Abusive Relationship
Tips on discarding your emotional baggage from a survivor
Eight years ago, I was an emotional wreck. The man I was engaged to had become mentally abusive to me, physically abusive to our dog, and manipulative to his rotten core.
He had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from war and I always made excuses for him. I felt I couldn’t leave him because he was so sick. It was a complete shock when he broke up with me to pursue “younger women”. I was 25 years old.
I left that relationship feeling broken inside, a shell of my former self. However, I packed up and left with my pride, I didn’t beg him to take me back. That’s not my style. Never fear animal lovers, I took my dog Lucky with me!
Initially, I was devastated by this “loss”. After a few weeks, I realized I was more upset about the way Lucky and I had been treated than the loss of the actual relationship.
So what did I do? I began dating again. I thought there was no way I could find someone worse than I already have.
Naturally, I was attracting the same type of men: Egotistical, self-centered, and vain. They were mirror images of my ex.
For the first time in my life, I decided to see a therapist. He was amazing and he really helped me. He made me realize something: I needed to be alone. I needed to be single, probably for a few years. I needed to heal myself before I could date again.
I was seeing a guy during therapy. Naturally, he was just like the others. I actually called him during one of my therapy sessions and broke up with him. I didn’t feel guilty, it was quite liberating. It was time for me to date myself.
This was the beginning of a new life and it led me on a journey of self-discovery.
I moved into a little one-bedroom apartment with my dog. I lived alone for three blissful years. Honestly, it was one of the greatest times of my life. I reconnected with old friends, spent time with my family and found my spirituality. Most importantly, I learned to love being alone.
Many of us are terrified of being alone. I was too until I realized how essential it is to stay single after a breakup. Living “the single life” allows us to self-reflect and learn what we want in our next relationship.
After three years of being alone, I went on a date on Valentine’s Day (cheesy, right?). I didn’t know it at the time, but my date was the man I would end up marrying.
Our relationship is loving, fun, and healthy. We have a deep respect for each other. I know I wouldn’t have this happy life if it wasn’t for therapy and the work I did on myself while I was single.
When we are serial monogamists, we jump from one relationship to another, carrying our past hurts with us. We attract the same people over and over because we are not ready to care for someone else again.
We are bringing our emotional baggage into each relationship, picking up new pieces of “luggage” along the way. This is not fair to the people we are dating. Most importantly, we are not being fair to ourselves.
So how do we break this cycle and leave our emotional baggage behind? Everyone has their own ways of dealing with trauma but these are the things that worked for me.
Seek a good therapist immediately
I will always sing the praises of therapy. Talking to your loved ones is helpful but it’s not therapy. It is helpful to consult with your friends, but they cannot offer the coping skills and healing tools that a professional can give you.
My therapist dug deep into my life and allowed me to sort through emotional wounds I didn’t even know I had! As my therapy sessions progressed, I noticed I was answering my own questions without assistance from him.
People seem very resistant to professional help. I’m not sure if it’s because of the stigma (“only crazy people need therapy”) or pride (“I don’t need someone I don’t know telling me how I should live my life”). Regardless of how you feel about therapy, it is medically proven to work.
Write a letter to your ex (Then burn it)
I wrote a letter to my ex about how much he hurt me. I also wrote in the letter about the mistakes I felt that I had made during our relationship. Writing this letter was raw and cathartic. It gave me my power back and allowed me to let everything out without the fear of his outbursts.
Once I was finished writing, my father lit a fire in the backyard and I burned the letter. I tore it into tiny pieces and let the fire devour it. That fall night, I closed a chapter in my life and slammed the damn book shut!
This process was drama-free since there was no dialogue between my ex and I. It felt so good to release all of the emotions I had been feeling. I knew nobody would read the letter so I didn’t hold anything back.
Delete your dating apps (for now)
I have nothing against dating applications. After I was single for a few years and healed from my break-up, I used a dating app. I met my husband online and he is the best man I’ve ever known!
Before I was ready, I decided to try online dating and it was disastrous. It made me feel insecure and desperate. As I previously mentioned, I attracted jerks like a moth to a flame. This was because I was vulnerable and hadn’t changed my co-dependent behavior.
Manipulative people seek out others who are easy to manipulate. A predator preys on the vulnerable. There is no shortage of hurt people on dating sites, and hurt people tend to hurt others.
If you wait until you are really ready to look online for love, you will be able to spot the narcissists, manipulators, and rebound daters easily. This will make your online dating experience more successful.
I began consuming books about mindfulness and meditation. I was practicing yoga daily. I felt healthy in my body, mind, and spirit.
My spirituality found me when I truly needed it.
I used to think meditation and mindfulness were “hippy-dippy” concepts with no basis in reality. I was very wrong to overlook these tools. Mindfulness is to live in the moment. It is to let go of the past and be appreciative of what life is offering you now. Meditation and crystal healing are also a part of my armory. While I know this type of spirituality is not for everyone, it has its benefits.
Mindfulness allows us to acknowledge that the past hurts but the present moment is what matters. When we dwell in the past, we are not healing, we are inflicting unnecessary pain on ourselves. Mindfulness allows us to observe our thoughts and put a positive spin on them.
I was the most skeptical of all skeptics and this worked for me!
I am one of the lucky ones. I know people who have carried the weight of a tumultuous relationship for many years. However, they never allowed themselves to heal.
Healing from this traumatic relationship was a lot of work. However, the work paid off because I found my husband after I recovered. Now I have a happy little family with a man who has shown me what true love feels like.
You can have a happy relationship too but you need to give yourself the gift of healing from your past. I’m not saying it will be easy, but it will be worth it.
I’m going to close this piece with one of my favorite quotes:
“Your wound is probably not your fault, but your healing is your responsibility”- Denice Frohman