After an abusive relationship the world can seem pretty bleak and terrible. Many survivors of physical, emotional and mentally abusive relationships take years to recover themselves, to laugh and enjoy life again, and to date again.
It’s difficult to trust someone else again after abuse. In fact, it’s difficult to even imagine being able to trust someone again.
There is someone you can trust, however – yourself.
It may not seem that way at first. Many victims of abuse blame themselves. They think the defect lies in their own personality, that something drives them into abusive relationships over and over again.
But you can trust yourself. And it’s important to listen to yourself and trust yourself.
After an abusive relationship, take time – a lot of time – to heal and focus on yourself. Do not date anyone, or even think about dating anyone, for at least a month, and probably for several months.
This is time to focus on yourself, to enjoy yourself, to celebrate yourself, to do all sorts of things for yourself, things you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t. During this period of healing, you need to remind yourself of the joys and pleasures of life. It’s important to remind yourself that you can be happy and enjoy living even if you aren’t in a relationship with another person. You need to take back control of your own happiness from others. [RELATED: Embracing the Single Life: How to Be Alone & Happy]
There are many, many options for you to consider. Travel is one. It doesn’t have to be a major expedition overseas or anything dramatic, but you should consider taking a trip. Even a weekend away, by yourself or with a friend, can do wonders for you. Seeing new places, exploring and enjoying yourself in an unfamiliar locale, will help you remember how to have fun.
If you’re up for a bigger trip, by all means consider it. Is there a destination you’ve always dreamed of visiting? Plan a trip there. You deserve it.
Just don’t depend on travel to fix your problems and make you happy automatically. Sometimes people try to run away from their troubles, thinking if they go far away everything will be different. Don’t get into that mindset. You are traveling to have some fun and to do something different after an abusive relationship. Be honest with yourself about what you are doing – don’t put any big expectations on yourself. Go on your journey and be open to the idea of having fun. Don’t try to force yourself to have fun. If you find yourself feeling dark or depressed one day, just acknowledge that and accept it.
Accept and honor your negative feelings after an abusive relationship. You are sure to go through periods of feeling sad or angry or afraid, but there will also be periods of feeling better. Find healthy ways to express your emotions, through writing, or exercise. Even just scribbling how angry you are on a piece of paper for five minutes and then throwing it away can be helpful. Denying and suppressing your feelings is what will cause trouble later, so don’t do that. You have just ended an abusive relationship – you are allowed to feel angry, confused, hurt and sad. It’s normal. [RELATED: How to Get Over a Breakup]
Other good ways to find yourself again include classes that stimulate your mind and get you mixing with other people. Is there something you’ve always been interested in learning? Check out the course catalog of your local college or university. Most such schools have classes for people in the community, and some will allow you to join or audit their regular classes. Treat yourself to a course on the history of art, or a foreign language, or literature. Reading great books is often much more fun when you have a group of people to discuss them with.
Other types of courses to consider include cooking classes. These are much more lively – you don’t sit around at a desk! Instead, you’re up doing things, working with other people to make delicious food, which you then get to eat. Perhaps there’s a style of cooking you like but have never learned to do yourself. Sign up. It will do you a world of good to spend time working hard and enjoying yourself with a group of people, and you will also learn a valuable new skill. Learning tasty and healthy ways to cook is another way of being good to yourself.
Perhaps you’re more keen on art – try painting or sculpture, or throw some pots on a wheel. Don’t limit yourself to things you feel comfortable doing – now is the time to stretch yourself and try new, even difficult skills. Doing so will help you remind yourself that your old habits and your former life aren’t all you have. Just as you can learn something new, so can you learn to change your love life.
Music classes are another option. You may want to try playing music on the guitar or piano or another instrument. Don’t let your age discourage you – plenty of people learn even difficult instruments like the violin as adults. Your local university or symphony orchestra may also offer music appreciation courses, where you listen to music and learn more about it.
Another good way to be kind to yourself is through exercise. Treat yourself to a daily walk, at least, or a bicycle ride. Get outside and see the world. Consider joining a gym if you don’t already belong to one. You don’t have to go to the weight room and suffer by yourself, either – gyms usually offer many types of group exercise classes, where you can suffer and sweat with a whole lot of people. Some classes, like dance workouts, even teach you new and fun skills. This is a great way to make friends and have fun.
Exercise is an excellent way to let out negative feelings, too. If you’re very angry, for example, vigorous exercise is a great outlet. You might even consider some sort of boxing or martial arts class where you actually learn to hit something. Hitting heavy boxing bags feels great, and is especially fun because they don’t hit you back.
It’s important after an abusive relationship to find yourself, to remind yourself that you are an independent, interesting person who knows how to laugh and have fun. These sorts of activities will all help you with that.
Good luck on your healing journey!