Right now, my abusive ex is violating his restraining order by hanging around places I may go, and calling me. Despite being arrested for breaching the order, he continues to do this. Why? I believe its because he is trying to trigger the bounce-back effect yet again. In the past, he knew which buttons to press to wear me down and get me to return to him.
But now, it’s different. It isn’t working. Not because he has changed – but because I have. So, this got me thinking. What am I doing differently? How is this helping me to stay strong, and may this help others?
With that in mind, here’s my To Do list for anyone seeking to make that final break from an abuser. Some of these things may not be easy, but they have worked for me and I’m glad I did them.
I’d love to hear from others, too – what worked for you?
An Essential TO DO List
Go ‘no contact’: delete his number, block his emails, do not ask his friends about him, or allow your family to pass on messages from him. I really mean it! I know after living with an abuser this can be extremely painful. You are used to being in contact with him around the clock, and now I’m asking you to go cold turkey. You may be worried about him – especially if you’ve been in a co-dependent relationship – or, you may miss him desperately.
But, trust me: an occasional call or email will not soften the blow of your leaving. You are giving him a direct line to Manipulation Central – and he won’t hesitate to use it for guilt trips, threats, or expressions of love as he tries to blast that door firmly open again.
Even if you have children, you can still maintain no contact. Child contact arrangements should be made through your lawyers – tell him this, and stick to it.
Recognise emotional blackmail as an extension of his abuse. Threats or attempts to commit suicide are common amongst abusers, who may also declare that they can’t function without you. He will tell you he can’t eat, or dress himself. He can’t muster the energy to get out of bed. He’s lost his job. He is about to be made homeless. He has cancer. He drunk-dials you, sobbing.
Don’t buy into it. Do not offer him sympathy. Do not feel sorry for him, or worry about him (or, if you do – don’t tell him that you do!) You need to know that it is not your job to fix his life: it is his life and he needs to take responsibility for it. It is liberating when you realise that you are not responsible for him.
In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
Start a journal – or even a blog. Abuse causes significant trauma that needs to be processed. Writing is great therapy, and you will learn a lot about yourself in the process. Since I started blogging, what I have learned about the dynamics of abuse has helped me enormously. Knowledge is power!
Get to know others who have been where you are. Reach out to other survivors through your local domestic violence service, or online. Sharing your experiences with other people who understand the abuse dynamic is entirely empowering. You won’t have confused questions like ‘What do you mean, you still love him? How can you?’ Other survivors know how complex our feelings are when trying to break free.
Spend an evening drafting a Memory List. You know all those horrible, painful memories of the abuse that you’ve shoved to the back closet of your mind? Well, I’m afraid it’s time to bring those skeletons out of the closet. Write down every bad thing you can think of about your abuser and what he did to you. Record every memory.
Yes, it will be hard. You may feel sick. You may cry buckets. But, please bear with me, because next time you start feeling nostalgic about ‘the good times’ you can pull out your list and read at least three entries. Doing this, you are re-programming yourself to see the relationship how it really was – not how you dreamed it could have been.
Reach out to your family and friends. If you’ve been in an abusive relationship, you may have lost touch with friends and fallen out with family. Your man will have worked hard to isolate you – this is your chance to repair your support network. It may be difficult, but you need to be honest. Most of us are uncomfortable talking about abuse, but you have nothing to be embarrassed about.
Do things for you. Remember the days, before you met him, when you could buy that pair of shoes without worrying about taking them home? When you could go for lunch with your girlfriends without fielding his continual calls? When you had time to go to the gym, or read a book in bed? The last time you belly-laughed? Do them all, and relish the heady feeling!
Treasure the simple things and celebrate your successes. Every day that you are out of an abusive relationship is a triumph. Too many women never make it. So, count the days if you have to – and celebrate the small steps in the right direction as well as the big milestones. Accept that some days will be harder than others. Don’t feel guilty, and don’t kick yourself for any mistakes. You are on a journey – the most important of your life, and you get to decide which route to take.
You are safe. You are free. You will be happy, and stronger than ever before.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14 https://avalancheofthesoul.wordpress.com