How to start a new life after a relationship with an abuser

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You are free. You did your best to get out of an exhausting, traumatic, painful relationship and are now listening carefully to herself, trying to understand how you feel, aren’t you?

Joy? No, sadly. More like, emptiness.

Relief? Also unlikely at this stage. More fear of the unknown.

Hope for changes? You still have to allow it to reveal itself.

Unfortunately, after experiencing a prolonged colossal emotional pressure, physical and / or emotional abuse and neglect, it’s impossible to immediately get “in shape”. Imagine that you woke up after a very difficult surgery, the anesthesia has just faded, every cell of your body is in pain. After all, surgery is also a trauma to the body and now it needs to recover.

The most frequent friends of the first stage after the “freedom” comes are anxiety, confusion and emptiness. Don’t be alarmed, it should be so.

After an abusive relationship, you need to restore yourself, rebuild yourself in order to stop feeling like an amorphous blot, and build up new internal support beams.

That is why today, we’re going to create a new map of your inner world, together. The key word here is Yours, separate, independent.

Until this moment, when you were in a relationship with an abuser, you probably didn’t have anything “yours”. Everything was his or “ours”. It’s unlikely that you’ve had a right to your own feelings, thoughts, desires – everything was strictly regulated and subject to harsh criticism. That’s why it’s hard for you to trust yourself right now. The feeling that you think and feel “wrong”, want the wrong things, act in the wrong way has been rooted too deeply inside you.

The first stage is the physical and psychological separation (and distancing) from a person.

You might have very different internal reactions at this stage.

Natalie said that in the first weeks after she left Alec, it seemed to her that she herself literally couldn’t make any decisions: what to wear to work, what to cook for dinner, what to do in her free time. All of this was previously dictated to her by Alec. Natalia had a great desire to “stick” to someone else, for example, to her mother, it was very uncomfortable to be “separate”. And Sasha told about the opposite sensation: after a hard separation from Max, she caught herself realizing that she accepted any words from another person “with hostility”, the most innocent phrases seemed an encroachment on her personal space, which she would no longer allow.

So, what’s going to be on this new map? What important points, signs, states?

The Body Bay

The return of the sensation of your body to yourself, of its right to exist, sometimes arises suddenly. As if this item on the “map” were completely absent, and now – completely out of the blue! – showed up.

This is very explainable. Being in an unhealthy relationship, you will inevitably be traumatized, and you may lose the ability to feel your own physical boundaries due to disengagement with your own body. This is reflected in other areas of life – for

example, difficulties arise in establishing boundaries in interpersonal relationships, because there’s no way to establish any reasonable restrictions if you don’t feel the limits of your being.

In this zone, it is important to carry out destigmatization works (that’s normalization of yourself and your body. And no, nothing needs to be improved. You are ALREADY normal), because you need to pass a new idea through the body, which we will designate as: “I am normal”, and not a “Moron”, “Screwed in the head”, “Idiot”,“ Bitch”, “Nuts”.

This is how you can help yourself become aware of your body boundaries:

  • classic “grounding” exercises: stand up straight and feel the floor underneath your feet, sit down and feel the back of the chair with your back and the floor with your feet;
  • a contrast shower, with attention to skin sensations: temperature, pleasant / unpleasant;
  • yoga, stretches, the simplest exercises with mandatory questions to yourself: “What am I feeling now”, “How am I?”;
  • pay attention to the body, take into account its needs and comfort
  • when choosing clothes, shoes, pay attention to the convenience of poses, the need for rest;

Try to perform balance poses with eyes closed; if there are difficulties with balance, you can first lean against the wall.

Swallow stand scale. Stand on your right leg, and slightly bring the left back, until the gluteal muscle is clenched, and start to tilt the body to be parallel to the floor and perpendicular to the right leg. Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to the starting position and make another five tilts. Repeat on the other side

The tree position. Stand up, distributing body weight over the entire surface of the foot. Close your eyes and feel the connection between the feet and the floor. Imagine that your legs are rooting in the ground. Now open your eyes, lift your right leg up, place its foot on the outside of your left thigh andmove your right knee to the side. Put your palms together and, once you reach a stable position, raise your hands up. To make the task more challenging, you can close your eyes and try not to lose balance. include soft dynamic exercises in your routine, based on external work, accompanied by periods of muscle contraction and relaxation. It’ s important to perform the exercises slowly, trying to feel the sensations that arise at the start and the end of the exercise.


  • Lift your arms up in a standing position, stretch and look at them. Exhale as you go back to the starting position. Inhale as you stretch your arm out sideways, turning your torso, and look at it. Exhale as you go back to the starting position. Do the same with your left arm. Repeat 5 times.
  • The same starting position. Slowly turn your head sideways and then up and down. 5 times.
  • The same starting position. Inhale as you pull your hands back and place your shoulder blades together. Exhale as you point your elbows forward. Repeat 5 times.
  • Stand with your arms extended to the sides, legs shoulder-width apart. Rotate your arms backwards. Increase your amplitude with each movement. Repeat 5 times.
  • alternate effort and relaxation, trying to feel the difference between these conditions;

The Tomorrow Mountain Peak

Here’s the next item on our map. It’s very important and really beautiful. After all, you can see your future from this peak.

Imagine how you’re drawing your beautiful TOMORROW, free (!) of violence on your map. It’s an imaginary (for now) space where you’ve already lived through it all and started a life full of freedom.

How do you want to see your life? What will be in it? What has helped you withstand and reach this stage? Thanks to which things you’re still existing in this world, in spite of everything? Which internal forces have you mobilized to survive the fight for your health, life and right to happiness?

The Might Lawn

No, this isn’t some sort of almightiness – we’re still not supermen and that’s great. It’s a derivation from a careful but more and more confident “I can do it myself!” And you really can! Even if you don’t believe it right away. You’ve had a toxic idea that you’re dumb and helpless for weeks, years, months. That you can’t do anything yourself and shouldn’t be allowed near anything. Even if you were resisting initially, constant drops wear away a stone and sooner or later, you started to believe it. So, this is a very important zone – feel its significance!

In practical terms, it’s a zone of activities, work, income, self-actualization through action.

Alice doesn’t drive. That is, she used to, but that was before meeting Nathaniel. Then she’d drive less and less, because he’d say that he would take her, pick her up himself, and in general, she shouldn’t drive, he would give her money for a taxi. Then it somehow began to sound that Alice wasn’t at very good driver, it was unsafe, and then she completely became a “chicken behind the wheel”. A year after the wedding, Nathaniel completely took the keys away from Alice, “taking care” of her and of “unfortunate pedestrians”. And, although Alice had been driving for 2 years before the wedding, and wasn’t in any accident, she somehow believed that she was “a danger” behind the wheel to herself and others. After the divorce, several months had already passed, but Alice couldn’t drive – falsely “caring” phrases of her ex-spouse played over and over in her head. In the process of working on the subject of beliefs with a therapist, this one came up and was questioned. Alice resisted for a week, and then … got behind the wheel. And she felt as though some part of her had returned to its place. Another piece of the puzzle of inner freedom.

It’s important to try in this zone. Collect all the accumulated beliefs which came “out of nowhere” about you not being able to do something (in fact, it’s pretty clear they’re not out of nowhere). And check again – are you really unable to?

Did he use to say that you won’t be able to change a tire without him? Well, you don’t have to do it yourself, you can organize this process through a tire shop, no problem. And Tanya has put up the wallpaper in her room herself, checking the idea of her own “softness” that was broadcasted by her ex-boyfriend.

Get to work. It’ll take more than a day, of course. And that’s fine. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And we’ll continue tomorrow.

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