Moving on after any breakup is challenging, but healing after an abusive relationship can be especially difficult. Sure, all breakups have their aftermath of sadness and loss, but for someone transitioning from victim to survivor, the fallout may include continued harassment or attacks. The resulting ongoing mental trauma and emotional stress can make a survivor question — was leaving really worth it?
We’re here to say YES. Yes, leaving is worth it. Why is moving on after abuse so difficult? Because abuse is rooted in power and control, and an abuser holds that power by minimizing their partner’s self-esteem and breaking their spirit. If you’re leaving an abusive relationship, rebuilding your life can be a hard process, but with time and space, finding closure and peace is possible. A violence-free life is waiting, and you are so very worth it.
How do you start to move on? Here are some tips for moving past the experience of abuse into a safer, happier reality.
1. Cut Off Contact With Your Ex
During the healing process, you may feel the need to offer forgiveness, help your abuser through the break up, or show your abuser how you’re better off. However, it’s difficult to really get closure without severing all ties with your ex.
Try different methods to avoid contacting your former partner. Delete their phone number and change yours. If you’re picking up the phone to call, put the phone in a different room and walk away.
Resist the urge to look them up on social media. Unfriend or block them, and if pictures or news keep popping up, it could be helpful to remove mutual friends as well.
Try writing a letter with all the things you want to say to your abuser and don’t send it — or, if you’re in counseling, send it to your therapist instead.
2. Surround Yourself With Support
After an abusive relationship, allow yourself to get help and support from others. Spend time with friends and family who care about you. Tell them what you need from them, whether that’s someone to talk to about what you went through, or someone to keep you from answering phone calls from your ex, stop you from texting back, etc.
If your abuser isolated you from friends and family, you may find that you no longer have that support network — but there are always people who want to help. Consider finding a counselor to talk with one-on-one, or join a support group. If you call NDVH, one of our advocates can connect you to services in your area.
3. Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself is such an important part of the healing process, and that begins with understanding that the abuse that happened wasn’t your fault.
Find things that make you happy. Rediscovering what hobbies you enjoy can be a learning process, but that’s half of the fun. Join clubs or try activities like a group fitness class to meet new people.
If you have children, find ways to make time for yourself. Some gyms offer free childcare while you work out, and different domestic violence centers provide childcare while you’re attending support groups.
Praise yourself for accomplishments, little or big, and counter any negative self-talk with positive mantras or affirmations. Becoming aware of what you think and say about yourself can help shift negative thoughts.
4. Remember That You Will Get Better With Time
The old saying that “time heals all wounds” can be incredibly frustrating, but there is truth in it. Recovery does take time and space. Give yourself as much time as you need to heal.
Recovery looks different for everyone, and each person has to find what works for them. Have you left an abusive relationship? What have you found to be helpful in recovering? What would you recommend to others who are coping with moving on after abuse?