Often times, months after you stop speaking to your abusive partner, your insecurities can remain on a loop in your head: “Why does everyone always leave me? Everyone abandons me.”
The traumas you know your partner had experienced can pull you back to worrying about his well being, well after you blocked him from all of your online accounts. Days would go by where your inner life consisted of fighting the urge to message him and make sure he knew you were still around.
After finding a myriad of ways to show you you are worthless to him within and without the relationship, his pain can feel like yours and can become something you feel like you need to treat.
It’s a combination of your love for him and a savior’s complex that keeps you with an abusive partner.
As a partner you might think, “if I could make him feel better about himself – love himself – then he would treat me better.” You are trying to nurture both yourself and the relationship.
When trying to save someone, you can feel like if you walked away, you would be leaving him in the terrible mental space he was. You felt it would be selfish of you to leave before he healed – even when, of course, that was never the case.
Personal values transform within relationships with abusive partners. Because two lives have collapsed into one due to the power dynamics, the boundaries of who you are become blurred.
You started living out of his ideas of selfishness instead of my own. You started running your life based what he felt was important, instead of what you felt was important. You didn’t realize then that this, too, is an act of self-neglect.
The time you spend reconnecting with your own values after the end of a relationship with an abusive partner. How wild it feels that the world expects you to keep loving yourself when you don’t even remember who you are.
It can take a long time to simply realize he is abusive, and then even longer to heal from it. You also might not stop loving him.
It can be hard to love yourself when you still love someone who made you hate yourself.
You deserve to understand that there is nothing wrong with the process you took, or are still taking.
So here are six things to remember when maneuvering through the process of loving the person who abused you.
1. Trauma Doesn’t Remove Your Understanding, But Understanding Won’t Remove Your Trauma
When someone is speaking to another about their abuse, the person who inflicted the abuse is usually stripped of their complexity by the listener.
This is harmful because it encourages questions such as “How could you love someone who would treat you like that?” or “What were you thinking?” – as if that was the only aspect of the person’s character.
Being used for company to fend away his loneliness is painful. Being told how many times he wished you were someone else, and how worthless he thought you were, can still be agonizing. Especially when he knew they were the same words you’ve heard said to you when you were younger.
And you believe him.
As much understanding as you can give someone, at some point, you have to give it to yourself.
If you can understand the reason behind their actions, which justified them to you for so long, you can also justify your action of eradicating the person from your life. As much as you wanted to help him, you weren’t the cause of the hurt in the first place.
2. You Didn’t Cause This, So You Can’t ‘Fix’ It, Either
It may be hard to believe, but the person you were in a relationship with was dealing with their pain before you came into their life.
And prior to your presence, the person had already decided who they were going to be with that pain and out of which values they were going to live.
You are not responsible for another’s bettering because you cannot directly affect how another person acts with themselves or with others (unless you act abusively).
While it’s possible to inspire someone to improve, they must already have the inner belief that this new way is better than how they were acting prior to being inspired. If the belief isn’t there, then you can act as pleasantly as possible, and if they don’t consider that way to be better, they will not change.
Your partner not changing is not an indication that there is anything wrong with the way you are, no matter how long they’ve been making it seem like there is.
Everyone has the capacity for both goodness and evil-doing inside of them, so always seeing the best in someone (even when they’re acting abusive) is no more foolhardy than always seeing the worst in someone.
It’s great to see someone at their full potential.
It’s only dangerous when we commit the act of neglecting our own needs in an effort to get them there.
At the end of the day, it’s always that person’s choice who they are going to be, which means that even if you left them on their journey to self-realization, you didn’t abandon them.
3. You Didn’t Abandon Anyone
Your partner is responsible for their own health and happiness, always. At best, you can provide resources for self-care, patience, and understanding. But if giving these things is coming at the cost of your well-being, it isn’t growth.
If the relationship is not the uplifting of two (or more) partners, then there’s a deficit. A partnership must be for the uplifting of both people within it.
Staying with someone to support them cannot come at the cost of self-abandonment – because in the end, someone is still getting neglected.
The love you have for yourself is just as valuable as that gotten from another, so if you must remove yourself from a partner and cultivate the love within yourself, for yourself, this is not a downgrade. Being with an abusive person can make you feel as if your love isn’t valuable, because they make you feel as if you aren’t valuable, but it is and you are.
You have an obligation to yourself first, before you have an obligation to another, because you are the one you are guaranteed to be with for the rest of your life. You are your most important commitment.
You are your greatest love.
The things you do to cultivate the relationship with yourself, such as breaking up with a partner, is not against them. The things you do in your committed relationship with yourself is not against them.
4. You Left Because You Love You, Not Because You Don’t Love Them
You cut off all contact and did not speak with him for some time.
You felt terrible but it left you with questions such as:
“If I was willing to give up my peace of mind for his well-being, what will I be willing to give up for my own peace of mind and my own well-being?”
“What if I chose to love myself like I loved her?”
Your relationship with yourself cannot be jeopardized while in a relationship with someone else. You must always have the space to give yourself the same things that you also gave to your partner.
This includes acts of understanding, acts of support, acts of self-devotion, and acts of self-love.
Self-care must be a prominent factor in all things – from the way you treat yourself to the way you are treated by others.
You need to be fully aware of not only your needs, but how to meet them.
In working to understand your process and take care of yourself, there’s no reason to feel ashamed.
5. There’s Nothing to Be Ashamed Of
There’s nothing to be ashamed of for lending understanding to your abuser.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of for trying to help them heal.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of for leaving.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of for feeling like you abandoned someone.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of for simultaneously loving you and still loving them.
Because after understanding that you went through an experience of abuse, the worst part is the shame. The feeling of weakness you feel for loving someone who abused you.
Because of that shame, you begin to associate love with weakness.The love you shared was never the problem. It was the abuse.
It’s important for you to understand that you don’t cause abuse.
6. It’s Not Your Fault
You might notice that you have been spending the bulk of your free time by yourself.
Maybe you caught myself having the fleeting thought, “No one can hurt me.”
You must understand that you cannot control how someone reacts, and know that you did nothing to deserve the abuse from anyone in your life.
This is the most important milestone we can reach after an abusive partner.
The only way to love yourself is through understanding and accepting yourself. However, that can only happen when you remove the idea that you can cause someone to treat you badly.
When you stop feeling this way, you stop living life on the defensive, and living as your authentic self.
Once you see who you are apart from the psychological and physical reactions you’ve created to keep yourself safe, you can find your way. You can remember your own values, and live out of those. You can start in your journey towards self-devotion.
Your story can end in pain – or it can end in healing.