We all have countless relationships, and every one of them is different. I grew up a very trusting person, seeing the good in everyone around me. This could be labeled as naïve or ignorant or just plain optimistic. Whatever you want to call it, it was an ideal life. The only problem is that, without very small nicks and bumps along the way to make you cautious in life, you might run headfirst into a doosey of a problem—like I did.
Here’s just a little background on my issue. When I left home for the first time to go to college, I soon realized that almost everyone I met was very different from me and the friends I grew up with. It wasn’t long before I was very lonely, and that made me a little more desperate than I should have been to enter a relationship. I ended up dating a guy a few years older than me, who seemed very complicated. Long story short, he was emotionally abusive.
It took me two years to finally end the relationship for good, and it has taken about the same amount of time to come to terms with the whole situation. Even after being married for a couple of years, I still have some emotional triggers that will sweep the guilt, pain, and shame from under my emotional rug into my full mental view.
Though I may always have some pain from my memories, I have that found the following things have really helped me in getting past this period of my life:
1. Don’t be a victim
It is easy to get caught up in the traumatic time period, but it won’t serve you to feel sorry for yourself. You may have been a victim, but that doesn’t define who you are now. Don’t give your abuser any more time of your life by focusing on him or her on a daily basis.
There is so much more to you than someone needs sympathy! That time of your life was what it was, but now is the time to look forward to what you want from tomorrow and the day after that. What do you want for your future children? What do you want for your career? Your future doesn’t include your abuser.
2. Find a listening ear
Even though you should steer away from throwing yourself a pity party, you still need a way to heal to put your thoughts out on the table. Some people heal by talking about things, others by writing a journal. Whatever your outlet is, it is important that you have a way to verbalize your emotions. You may not want to confide completely in a family member or a close friend, because he or she may be too close to the situation. Find someone who is not biased in your favor or may find it difficult to forgive.
A helpful source for listeners is a counselor or a support group. Here, you can form friendships and be built up without feeling too exposed or judged.
Many people find it very hard to forgive their abusers. I personally didn’t have as difficult a time forgiving mine as I did forgiving myself.
As part of his emotional abuse, my boyfriend would manipulate me to believe that I was the reason for all of his sadness. He would play my heartstrings, telling me that he never felt like anyone loved him. So even though I had been manipulated, lied to, and abused in other ways, when I finally left I still felt like I was the one at fault. I felt a lot of guilt for leaving him.
Many victims of abuse feel that they are in some way at fault for what happened. That is not true.
I finally realized that I needed to forgive myself for not protecting myself better. It took many, many months before I could feel at peace with what happened. I was angry for myself for allowing this relationship to consume my life and weaken all of the strong relationships I did have with others. One thing that I found helpful in forgiving myself was to insert a sense of gratitude in my life.
Which leads me to the final point…
4. Show your gratitude
When I finally had the strength to get out of my relationship, I found myself feeling grateful for everything in life! I even found myself physically changing, pointing my eyes upward at the sky and trees instead of just looking at my feet. The world felt so much more beautiful than I ever had noticed before! I felt moved almost to tears as new friendships developed in my life and old ones came back out of the woodwork. I was so grateful for all the people who came back into my life when I needed them the most.
I began speaking my mind more and voicing my gratitude to everyone I knew. If someone touched my life, I let them know.
I even felt grateful for my bad experiences. I had become more experienced and stronger because of them. I thought seriously about all the important things in my life—my family, faith, and personality—and vowed I would never sacrifice those things again for anything.
My past gave me more empathy than I even knew was possible, and I stopped judging people. I now had compassion for everyone I saw. I wanted to reach out and help others the way I had needed someone to help me when I was struggling.
It is easy to think that you will never be the same again after you experience abuse, and in some ways this is true. The challenge is to look in the mirror, embrace the person you are now, and feel blessed that you made it out. You now have a chance to renew yourself.
Lisa New, author of this article, graduated from BYU with a major in English and a minor in editing, but also took many preliminary courses in psychology to learn about how the mind functions. She thrives on studying human behaviors and addictions, and has been involved in helping others overcome these issues. She has recently become a stay-at-home mom, and loves this new adjustment in her life. She keeps her creative foot in the door by doing freelance writing, photography, and blogging.