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Breaking up with an abusive person is hard, and it can take people months, or even years, to fully recover.
But that doesn't mean it's impossible. Perpetua Neo, a doctor of psychology and expert who works with women who are healing from damaging, toxic relationships , said if you sort through your pain, work out what demons you have that resulted in you being attracted to a bad person in the first place, then the magic begins. You will probably be in agony for a while, because your body has essentially been addicted to the intermittent love the abuser gave you. But in time, you will realise that you are so much stronger, resilient, and capable of finding someone who isn't going to discard you for being you.
Here are seven lessons you can take away from the traumatic experience of loving a toxic person — and the strengths you gain from moving on:. Empathy can be both a gift and your kryptonite.
7 Things That Only Happen When You’re In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship
Neo said if you have too much empathy for others, it can mean you start to honour someone else's story over your own. If you do this all the time, it can lead to an "empathy burnout," meaning you give and give, but begin to lose any care for yourself. The more time that passes, the more you will realise how troubling the way you were treated was.
Becoming very clear about your boundaries means you have a better idea of the kind of person you really are. You also know what you are willing to tolerate, and you will be better at realising who will and won't respect you. From then I can trust myself to have as much fun as possible, because I've communicated my line already.
How to spot an abusive partner before it's too late.
In life, we are all subjected to ideas of how we are supposed to act. Some people will be more influenced by them than others. For example, films often clearly convey some of the power dynamics we are exposed to. In "The Little Mermaid," Ariel falls in love with a prince and, in order to be with him, she grows legs and gives up her voice. In James Bond films, notorious for their misogyny, Bond forces himself on female characters such as Pussy Galore. Coming out of an abusive relationship can give you a new perspective about what you might have looked over in the past while you thought you'd met the love of your life.
If you run into a person in the future who you think might hurt you, or acts in a way that makes you uncomfortable, you'll find you're more able to take a stand, Neo said. Realising your own boundaries in romantic relationships helps you out in other walks of life too.
You'll be able to say "here's my line, do not cross it" to people in your family, friendship group, and even at work. And then if you're an over-giver, you're going to give more than your colleagues — so you'll get burned out and exhausted by it. Being with a toxic, abusive person can make you feel like you are being mentally broken over and over again, Neo said, because they always move the goal posts and demand more and more from you.
She said living that sort of life will show you just how resilient you really are, and bring forward the strengths you never knew you had. When it comes to trauma sometimes people believe that it's going to stay in your for the rest of your life, and nothing is going to shift. But you bounce back and recover and become a stronger version of yourself. A traumatic experience like an abusive relationship will change you, Neo said, and you will feel totally broken for quite a while. But once the fog starts to lift, and you see it for what it really was, you fix yourself so you're indestructible.
Neo said once your energy stops being completely focused on your pain, you'll begin to realise that you are not alone. You're not the first person to be taken advantage of, and you won't be the last, as these sorts of people seek out new victims time and time again. When you understand this, you won't be able to let it go.
Neo said many of her clients have gone on to help at women's shelters and written about their experiences on blogs.
Leaving An Abusive Relationship: Why Can’t I Just Leave?
Instead of being insular and sad, you will get a new lease of life, Neo said, and want to spread your message. You'll realise just how important your story is to people who might be going through the same thing. It was terrifying. Not long after, he hit me behind the head while I was driving. I reported it to the police at the urging of my mother, but never pressed charges.
'We are the men of a childhood where the monsters of family violence were real' | Anonymous
I was scared. Scared of him. Scared of what kids at school would say about me. And in a sick way, I still loved him. I thought he would stop. That he was HIV-positive.
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Because we had unprotected sex, I was hysterical. After several minutes of me sobbing, he said he was lying. That it was just a joke. Never all the way back, never all the way forward. In parking lots, or on the street -- my heart quickens whenever I see a man who is the same size and physique as my abuser. I think for a split second, is it him? I scan rooms to identify escape routes everywhere I go. Including, in my own home. I triple turn all of the doors in my house after I lock them, to make sure they are locked.
I check and re-check my home security system before bed. I sleep with my panic alarm remote. It is positioned at the same exact degree and angle every night, so I know even in a sleepy haze, what button to push. The trauma of emotional abuse and manipulation never leaves you. It is scarred into your psyche.
‘We need a Bill that doesn’t leave migrant women behind’
It drives your behavior. I am running to get away from my abuser. I am still running. He was right. Hardly any of my friends did believe me. I mostly suffered in silence, and shame. There are resources, therapies and medications available to help victims. My therapy.
But, for now, I do what works best for myself. Teaching them how to be leavers, not stayers, and fighters, not always lovers -- is how I remain strong. I give them age appropriate tools and resources to stay out of abusive relationships. But, it might not be enough. The bleak reality is that one in three women have been victims of physical abuse in some form in their lifetime. I am taking away the strength my abuser had over me -- and funneling that power to myself and to awareness.
Physical and emotional abuse scar people.
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