The one of the toughest cycles to get ourselves out of is the cycle of abusive relationships. When we're in them our self-esteem plummets and we stop valuing ourselves. The emotional impact of any type of long term abuse strips us of our confidence and self-belief, and leaves us feeling as though in some way, we deserve this kind of suffering. When the people who abuse us are the ones who are meant to be the ones who love us and protect us, we can't help but feel as though this is all we are worthy of.
Getting out of an abusive situation takes an enormous amount of strength and bravery. It's the most important step in taking charge back of your life, but it's also just the first step in many towards rebuilding yourself and your life. Once you've made that step to walk away, it's essential you take every precaution possible to avoid stepping backwards into that cycle again, whether it be with the same partner or someone new.
Here are just a few ideas to help you break out of the cycle of abusive relationships and leave it behind forever.
Talk About It
When we're suffering at the hands of those closest to us, we can get really good at hiding the truth or downplaying the seriousness of a situation. When you've decided to walk away from an abusive situation, confide in trusted loved ones about what you've been going through.
Talk to them openly and honestly so that they can help support you through this process. The more love and support you have surrounding you, the easier this transition will be for you.
In order to gather your thoughts and process what's happened, distance yourself from the person who did this to you. If you can, cut ties completely or have a trusted person relay any essential messages between you both.
This distance reduces the risk that he/she will be able to manipulate you into coming back and gives you some breathing space to figure out what your next steps are. In order to take back control of your life, any decisions you make need to be made for you, by you, and on your terms from here on in.
Expand Your Social Network
If you were in this relationship for a long time, chances are you share many mutual friends. While this friendship group might be a wonderful support to you, they may also be a constant reminder of what you've gone through.
Get out there and start mingling in new circles. A new social scene will help you rebuild your independence and will give you the opportunity to start creating a life of your own.
Ditch Toxic People
We all have those friends or family members that feel the need to interfere in our lives and bring us down. Those ones that tell us we're overreacting or being selfish, or that we should just give our ex another chance. Don't let these people influence your decision or pressure you into going back into a situation that you don't want to be in. If they can't respect your choice and support you then it's time to walk away. Those sorts of people will only hamper your recovery, you don't need them in your life right now.
If you can, think about moving. A new apartment, a new city or a new state can bring about a new perspective on life. Settling into a brand new place gives you the chance to start over, in a way. You're starting fresh which is liberating and motivating, and gives you the opportunity to create the life that you want.
Rid Yourself of Reminders
When you've been in a relationship with someone for a long time, reminders of them are everywhere. The sofa you watched your favourite TV shows on together, the photos of the holiday you took together to London, the necklace they gave for your birthday. When we're constantly surrounded by reminders of our past relationship, we're going to take far longer to move on from it. There's also an increased chance that we will start focusing on the good memories and will fool ourselves into thinking that maybe it wasn't so bad. If these thoughts start creeping in and distorting the reality of your former relationship, it's crucial that you remind yourself why you decided to leave.
Get Professional Support
Seek out the services of a trained professional to help you through this transition. Their insight, experience and advice will prove invaluable as you move through the many different emotions that situations like this bring up. They can also help you understand more about unhealthy behaviours in a relationship so you're better able to avoid abusive relationships in the future, and can give you tools and techniques needed to help rebuild your confidence and self-esteem.
There are so many support service available these days, from one-on-one counselling sessions, to support groups and telephone hotlines. Use these services as often as you need to, that's what they are there for. Do not be ashamed to ask for help.
Aside from exercise having a positive effect on your mind and body, working on your fitness can give you a great sense of empowerment and achievement. Increasing your physical strength or taking self defence classes, leaves you feeling more in control and has a positive impact on your self-belief and self-confidence.
Nourish your body with fresh, nutritious foods, enough water and adequate rest. Keeping your body healthy will naturally have a positive impact on your frame of mind.
Invest In You
Give yourself time to process what you've gone through and rebuild yourself, there's absolutely no rush. Invest time and energy into your own wellbeing, and work through rebuilding your self-esteem and self-belief in your own time. Don't feel guilty if you need time to deal with the trauma you've experienced, it's far better to deal with it now and move on rather than to avoid it and find yourself struggling with it later on. There's nothing selfish in taking time out for yourself to reflect and rebuild.
Don't forget to do something for yourself. Treat yourself to a vacation to somewhere you've always wanted to go, take up a new hobby or tick something off your bucket list.
Abusive relationships bring out so many negative feelings. We go through moments of shame, and we feel angry at ourselves and our abuser. Perhaps the most important step we will go through is learning to forgive ourselves and let go of the anger we hold for the person who inflicted this pain upon us.
Being able to truly forgive ourselves liberates us from the unnecessary blame we subconsciously place upon our shoulders, and allows us to work on building ourselves back up again.
Forgiving your abuser doesn't mean forgetting what they did to you. It means taking back control of your life, letting go of the anger you feel and not letting their actions dictate how you feel for another minute. Forgiveness will significantly help you in your transition from victim to survivor.
Breaking out of the cycle of abusive relationships may just save your life.
If you are struggling to break free from an abusive situation, ask for help, you don't have to do this alone.
If you suspect someone you know is being abused, reach out to them and ask if they need assistance.
Don't wait until it's too late.
Discover Strengthen Heal offers Life After Domestic Abuse group trips, designed to help you kick start the recover process. Feel free to contact us for more information.
1800RESPECT - 1800 737 732
Lifeline - 1800 737 732
Men's Referral Service - 1300 766 491
Mensline Australia - 1300 789 978
Aboriginal Family Domestic Violence Hotline - 1800 019 123
Shine Helpline - 0508 744 633
Family Violence Information Line - 0800 456 450
24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline - 0808 2000 247
National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1800 799 7233 or 1800 787 3224 (TTY)
Crisis Text Line - Text CONNECT to 741 741
Crisis Text Line - Text HOME to 686 868
Assaulted Women's Helpline - 1 866 863 0511
Mental Health Crisis Line - 1 866 996 0991
Victim Link - 604 875 0885
Battered Women's Support Services - 1 855 687 1868
WAVAW - 1 877 392 7583
IF YOU'RE IN IMMEDIATE DANGER PLEASE CALL YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY SERVICES