Recovering from emotional abuse in a romantic relationship is a process of rediscovering one’s own true voice, instincts, beliefs, desires, needs and feelings. It is a process of rediscovering one’s true self, as opposed to how your abuser defined you.
When you’re recovering from emotional abuse, don’t beat yourself up if you have found yourself in an abusive relationship and endured abuse for however long. You’ve already been beaten up emotionally in your relationship, and most likely verbally as well.
Anyone can fall victim to abuse, but most typically, the victims of abuse have been abused in some way as a child, and so therefore, the poor treatment and emotional chaos feels familiar and the usual warning bells do not go off as they should.
Inside the psyche of an abuser
Understanding the psyche of the abuser is an important step in the process of healing from emotional abuse.
It is important to know that abusers often present a façade of kindness, generosity even, and can be very endearing, giving and loving at times. Usually, it is during the honeymoon phase of the relationship where they seem the nicest, or it is after a period of abuse when they become apologetic and loving again.
Understand that this is purposeful on behalf of the abuser. Abusers are master manipulators and present a façade to maintain an outward appearance of being nice. After all, abusive people would never survive in the real world if they were always abusive outwardly.
Also understand that abuse is always conducted very purposefully and deliberately behind closed doors and out of view of witnesses. Abusive people know what they are doing and are very aware of the social norms they must maintain to cover up who they truly are.
It can be very confusing to the victim, feeling like there are two sides to the abusive person, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, if you will. There is not a nice side and a mean side to the abuser. They are one and the same person.
It is also important to know that abuse in any form, is always about power and control over the victim. Abuse is never about love. It is not love.
So, understand that while you may have fallen head over heels in love with an abuser, what they gave you is a mask of love. Abusers do not know how to love. They only know how to manipulate and exert power and control to compensate for their deeply rooted insecurities. Abusers are inwardly very insecure people and are very, very disturbed people.
So, now that you understand that abuse is not love, it is about power and control, and that the abuser is a deeply insecure and disturbed person–now you can take the control back into your own hands by rebuilding and empowering yourself.
Recovering from emotional abuse
1. Don’t try to get an apology, it is false and abuse is cyclical
Emotional abuse involves many different types of tactics, which I detailed here, Verbal and Emotional Abuse in Relationships.
Typically, the abuser denies and disrespects the victim’s feelings, needs and desires, and will deny all accusations of abuse or disrespect.
The abuser will counter-argue with any type of confrontation, and typically, the abuser attacks verbally when confronted. They will turn the tables on you–which is called blame shifting–and will make it seem like it was your fault, or that you deserved it because of something you did or because of some quality of yours. Or, they will excuse their behavior somehow.
Do not feed into this type of manipulation and never, ever believe that you deserved the abuse, or that their poor behavior is your fault or someone else’s fault. The abuser is fully responsible for their treatment of you and for their poor behavior.
The abuser will never apologize or honor your pain because of their poor treatment of you, and they will never genuinely own up to their actions. So, don’t even try to obtain an apology. Trying to get an abuser to admit to their mistakes and faults or apologize is like trying to get blood from a rock!
And if they do apologize, it is purely a form of manipulation. The abusive behavior will repeat itself, even if the abuser appears to be on their best behavior for a while. Abuse is cyclical in nature and always repeats itself. Not only that, but abuse statistically worsens over time.
2. Cease all contact with your abuser
Once you have left the relationship, initiate a NO CONTACT rule for yourself with your abuser. Do NOT respond to their phone calls, emails or gifts and tears of apology, no matter how hard it is and no matter how much you may miss them. Do NOT look back. Once you have decided to leave, you’ve made an important step towards your recovery. ANY type of engagement will hinder your progress.
The relationship is over and it is best to not engage with them any further. You will only receive more abuse if you try to confront them, or more manipulation to win you back over.
Abuse often escalates after the victim leaves. Or, the abuser will cry and tell you how much they love and miss you, with promises of change and that they will never hurt you again. Do NOT feed into this. Delete all messages and emails, and do not even read them. NO CONTACT and NO ENGAGEMENT is the best and emotionally healthiest policy for yourself.
3. Validate your feelings and reclaim your own voice
Emotional abuse can leave you feeling off-kilter, off balanced and questioning your perception of reality. This is due to the manipulative tactics of the abuser, who will confuse you, manipulate you and have you questioning your own reality. Know that your reality is valid.
Reclaiming oneself, taking back control and empowering oneself involves validating one’s own experience, feelings and thoughts within the relationship.
So, validate yourself in knowing that all you experienced is very different than how your abuser painted or presented things to you. This is a part of reclaiming your own voice, instincts and feelings. Go with what you know to be true. Trust yourself and trust your own instincts.
4. Know what you deserve, and it’s far better than that
You also must fully absorb, understand and know that you deserve far better.
You deserve to be respected, you deserve to have your needs met, you deserve to have your feelings heard and respected and you deserve to be treated with loving kindness at all times. A healthy relationship involves all of these things, and more. Sure, there can be disagreements, but a healthy relationship involves respect, even in a disagreement.
If you need help discerning a healthy relationship vs. an unhealthy relationship, read my article, Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships.
5. Acknowledge and let out your anger and rage
You may be consumed by anger and rage for a while, and rightfully so. Let your anger out. Journal your feelings even, and talk to your closest friends and family members. Exercise to help get it out. These feelings will eventually subside, but you need to acknowledge your anger and work through it.
You may even feel guilt or shame for having allowed yourself to be abused, and you may feel angry at yourself, but again, don’t beat yourself up. Self-forgiveness and self-compassion are very important for recovery and healing from emotional abuse. Also, the most important thing is to learn and grow from the experience so that important changes can be made within you.
6. Rebuild your self-worth
When recovering from emotional abuse, you also need to rebuild your sense of self-worth. Self-worth comes from within only. We do not need others to validate us to feel good about ourselves. We do not need the love of a partner to feel good about ourselves.
So, if your feelings of self-worth are suffering or non-existent, I suggest working on this with a therapist, or perhaps with an abuse support group and by reading articles on how to build self-worth.
That being said, removing yourself from an emotionally abusive relationship is the first step towards rebuilding your self-worth, so congratulate yourself for a job well done! You have shown that you value yourself too much to put up with the abuse any longer!
Also understand that the love and worthiness of love you are trying to obtain from your abuser is most likely the love you never received as a child from a parent. Typically, we repeat patterns and relationships that came from our childhood relationships. This can best be worked through with a therapist, if you need additional help.
7. Work on self-love
It’s also a good time to work on self-love. Emotional abuse wears down a person’s self-esteem. Have self-compassion for what you went through. Be kind to yourself. Embrace and love all your inner qualities that make you unique and special. Write them down even, and read them several times a day, if needed.
Dismiss anything negative that your abusive partner accused you of, and replace it with the positive truth about yourself. It is time to feel good about yourself again.
If you need assistance with developing greater self-love, read my articles, How to be Happy with Yourself and Self-Love Attracts True Love and Leads to Greater Happiness.
8. Educate yourself on abusive relationships
It is also very beneficial and healing to read up on the signs of emotional and/or verbal abuse in relationships and the warning signs to avoid next go around. Be aware of the warning signs, or red flags, so that this does not happen again.
Perhaps some of the signs were overlooked and you put “love blinders” on. It is easy to do when disrespect has been familiar in other formative, childhood relationships. It is also easy to do when everything feels wonderful in the beginning.
Again, do not beat yourself up for having overlooked the warning signs or the abuse, but learn from the experience and the mistakes you made along the way. Think about at what point did they start disrespecting you? Or what was the first red flag indicating there was danger ahead? That’s the moment when you need to think about walking away. Next time, you will know better.
9. Seek professional help
I highly recommend seeing a therapist if you have experienced prolonged or severe emotional and/or verbal abuse. Such cases can cause deep depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions. If this is the case for you, working with a therapist will be most beneficial, in addition to possible medications to treat your symptoms.
10. Know that there is happiness on the other side
You will heal from this and you will recover. It will take time to work through and process your emotions, which may conflict with persistent feelings of love or missing your abuser, but you CAN feel happy again. You CAN be whole again, without the abuser in your life. Remember that what you fell in love with is not who the person truly is.
When recovering from emotional abuse, if you work on your self-worth, self-love and self-forgiveness, you will be that much stronger and that much more empowered and ready for a healthier relationship. This is very important for the healing and recovery process.
So, there are some tips on recovering from emotional abuse. Here’s to you, to your mental health and to your happiness in life!