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6 Things I Learned from My Abusive Relationships
I was sitting at my mentor’s home one evening, sobbing over the latest happenings in my abusive relationship when she said something to me that changed my life forever.
“I’m about to say something that you’re not going to like,” she started. “But it’s not for now. Tuck it away and bring it back out when you’re ready because it’s vitally important to your future. You’ve been in several abusive relationships, and YOU are the common denominator. You need to figure out why, learn from these relationships, and avoid them in the future. Then you need to share what you learn with the world.”
I felt hurt, offended, confused, even a little angry. But I trusted her. If she gave me this advice it was because she knew that only by being brutally honest could she help me in the long run.
Fast forward a few years and I did revisit this advice, taking the time I needed to grapple with the answers and implications. What I discovered allowed me to find mental and emotional healing. Now, it’s time to share what I learned with the world.
6 Things I Learned from My Abusive Relationships
1. It’s not your fault but you’re the common denominator
If you’ve found yourself in multiple abusive relationships, the cycle can seem endless. This isn’t your fault! You didn’t make anyone abuse you. But it’s important to understand why it keeps happening. Take time to dig in and reflect on your past experiences, choices, and traumas. The choices that may seem stupid were not for naught if you choose to learn and grow from them. And don’t feel ashamed, guilty or weak if you need to seek professional help to work through these difficult things. Sometimes, it’s the best way to navigate challenging situations.
2. Abusers gonna abuse
After experiencing several abusive relationships, I was shocked to realize that abusers have a pattern of abusive behavior – it’s what they do. They often don’t even realize they’re being abusive; they see it as normal and may even blame you. While this doesn’t excuse their behavior, it highlights their refusal to acknowledge their actions whether that be by choice or by ignorance.
3. Your life will not improve until you get out and break the cycle
You may not see a way out of your situation right now. But there is always a way. Understand that your life will not improve if you stay in abusive relationships. You must take action and break the cycle. How this happens depends on the nature of the relationship and the level and extent of the abuse. Again, don’t be afraid to seek help. If the relationship doesn’t change, your life will not improve. And you deserve a life of happiness and freedom from abuse, not misery and fear.
4. To avoid a return, upgrade your relationship with yourself
In case no one has told you – YOU are important. YOU matter. YOU deserve to be happy and have a wonderful, fulfilled life despite what your abuser(s) may have told you. Once you realize this, you’ve taken the first step toward freedom and recovery! Take the time to work on yourself and process your own trauma. Learn to love yourself and when you do, you’ll be able to establish boundaries and standards that will protect you from entering future abusive relationships. Your relationship with yourself is the single most important relationship you will ever have! Nurture it!
5. Abuse comes in many forms
When we hear the word “abuse” our minds seem to automatically think sexual or physical. But we mustn’t forget mental, emotional, verbal, and even spiritual abuse. These are detrimental and destructive in their own ways, and they can also be a lot more covert. What starts out as a snide remark can quickly turn into gaslighting and a complete tearing down of who you are as a person. If someone repeatedly tells you how stupid you are, do NOT convince yourself that’s ok. It’s abuse!
6. Their unresolved childhood trauma is not your fault or your problem
Childhood trauma can impact people in different ways throughout their lives. It can affect their physical health, leading to various health issues or manifest as chronic anxiety and depression, impacting their mental well-being. Additionally, some individuals who have been abused may exhibit abusive behavior themselves because this is what they consider ‘normal’.
It’s important to recognize that their past trauma is not your responsibility or burden to carry. As adults, ultimately we are responsible for our own behavior. While understanding their past may provide context, you cannot change someone who is unwilling to acknowledge their behavior. It’s crucial to remember that their behavior is not acceptable, even if they’ve experienced difficult circumstances.
It’s been said that hurt people hurt people. People can get stuck in their hurt. If they don’t process or heal from it, they can stay frozen in that moment in time when they were hurt and they react to others the way they would have liked to react in that abusive situation.
While we want to have empathy and compassion for people with traumatic pasts, you deserve better than to tolerate abuse from anyone. I hope these 6 lessons I learned help you to recognize and remove yourself from abusive relationships or steer you away from potentially bad situations – because it’s vitally important to your future.
About the Author
Name: Kathy Wisniewski
Professional Title: Health Coach
Bio: Kathy Wisniewski is a health coach certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and owner of True and Lasting Wellness where she helps survivors of abuse rewrite their stories and improve the health of all key areas of their lives. Kathy is also the host and producer of the Tragically Beautiful podcast which aims to help abuse survivors focus on the beautiful things life has to offer beyond the abuse.
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