Why Can’t I Move On After Abusive Relationship?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I was in an abusive relationship for one year. I went thru the cycle of abusive about ten times before I got the courage to leave him. Because I kept going back to him after he apologized, I decided the only way to really get away from him was to relocate to another state. It has been a year since I left him, but it feels like I just left him yesterday. My emotions and moods are very volatile. Sometimes I am happy and ok with being here without him, but some of the time I miss him and I feel sad, cry or get depressed. About eight months ago, I could not control my urge to call him, so I did. When I spoke to him he appeared as if nothing had happened, but as usual I could sense anger. He said he has looked for me and still loved me. He had different ways of expressing his anger. A lot of the time he was silent and passive aggressive. We talked for about an hour and I told him where I was and gave him my cell phone number. After I had done this I realized my mistake and changed the number.

I also found out that he had a criminal charge of domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature, in 2000. He had told me a completely different story. He also has past drug charges and burglary charges. I have not spoken to him since, but I feel like I can’t move on emotionally even though I am physically gone. I also feel very homesick and do not particularly like living where I am. Sometimes I feel angry that I was forced to leave because of him. My question is why can’t I move on and recover from this relationship? I feel as if I still love him.

A. It’s difficult to know why you can’t move on. It might be because as you alluded to, you’re homesick and lonely. You may be confusing these feelings with love.

Feeling homesick and lonely are not good reasons to continue to contact your ex. I know that you are lonely but reconnecting with an abusive ex as a way to combat loneliness has the potential to be harmful to you. It puts you in danger of entering back into a relationship that was a struggle to end.

You also mentioned in your letter details regarding your ex. When you last spoke with him you could sense a hint of anger in his voice. You also learned that he had a new way to express his anger. You noticed that he was silent and passive aggressive. You need to know that this new way of expressing anger can still lead to abuse. It might take them longer to get to the point of violence but they are no less prone to lose their temper. Passive aggression might be his new way to express his will but it’s assuredly not a better way.

You also learned (but did not say how) that he has a history of domestic violence as well as past drug and burglary charges. This should concern you. It’s a major red flag. This information lets you know about his history of physical abuse, using, abusing or selling drugs and robbing others.

Take the information you learned about his past and couple it with your more recent experiences with him. When you add it all together what you get is a picture of a troubled and dangerous man. Based on these facts it does not seem that re-entering into a relationship with your ex would be a wise decision. When you start to doubt your original decision to leave the relationship, consider the facts about your ex, which are that he has the tendency to use illegal substances, be violent and to rob and harm others. Is this who you really want as a mate?

When you’re not emotionally stable, which is what you stated in your letter, it can be very difficult to think logically and rationally. Emotional instability undoubtedly inhibits the ability to remain logical. Recognize that you’re experiencing emotional distress. Account for this fact and then try to force yourself to focus on what the truth is regarding your ex. It is imperative to regard the truth as paramount and set aside your feelings about your ex. You may feel that you love him and that it is right to return to the relationship but logically you know better. Feelings can be misguided. Just because you feel a certain way does not always mean that your feelings are correct or accurate. That’s your challenge. In this instance let logic override your feelings.

If you truly want to move on from this relationship then it’s going to take more than just altering your thinking. You need to put together a plan that ensures that you won’t return. You can do this several ways. Counseling is one way. I would also recommend that you search for a support group. There are often many support groups in communities available for domestic violence victims. The basic idea is that you need some form of support to help you overcome the impulse to succumb to your old, familiar behaviors.

You made the difficult choice to leave the relationship. You even moved to a new town to separate yourself physically from your ex. These actions took great courage. You have done the difficult work of ending the relationship and moving on. Now you’re starting to doubt yourself. It’s a vulnerable time. You’re moods are volatile and unstable. You’re alone living in a new town. You probably don’t know many people yet. Nor have you likely developed a strong support system. Therapy at this juncture would be wise. I would strongly recommend therapy and/or connecting with a support group. Therapy and support at this time might be what is needed to help stop yourself from undoing the hard work you’ve already done to begin rebuilding your life. Thanks for your question.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Feb 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Why Can’t I Move On After Abusive Relationship?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/02/02/why-cant-i-move-on-after-abusive-relationship/