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How to Recover from an Abusive Relationship

Recovering from an abusive relationship may take both time and attention.

From my perspective, the old adage “time heals all wounds” needs to be altered. Time and attention heals wounds. An ignored wound may just get worse and grow larger if it isn’t taken care of.

The healing process often can’t really start until you are out of the relationship. When you are in it, it’s difficult to allow yourself to see how bad it really is. When it’s over, you may be overwhelmed with pent-up painful emotions.

Let the realizations and accompanying pain percolate. Acknowledge it. Processing it can help the pain flow through; trying to ignore it can result in it getting stuck inside or festering into something even bigger.

If your ex pours on the abuse through a divorce or behaves vengefully after a breakup, it will likely be very painful dealing with them and the havoc they create.

One man who felt isolated and alone as he went through a nasty divorce from an abusive woman admitted: “I felt like I wouldn’t survive the divorce. I went into a black hole. I had struggled for so many years trying to figure out how to make her happy. How do you deal with someone you loved totally betraying you?”

The way to deal with it is to:

  • Acknowledge the reality of what you have been living with.
  • Remind yourself that their view of you is distorted by their own agenda, history, and health.
  • Stop being shocked by their doing what fits their personality and patterns.
  • Acknowledge your emotions, such as frustration, regret, feeling foolish and taken advantage of, and fear.

A person recovering from an abusive relationship offers this advice: “Whatever they are doing isn’t your business. As fast as humanly possible, recognize what’s yours and what’s not. Put down what’s not yours. Lose the anger. Any venom has got to go. The hurt takes longer.”

Quickly or slowly, life should get better.

Sometimes, having been in an abusive relationship brings up skepticism about relationships in general. It may be difficult to trust another potential partner when the last one created havoc in your life, drained your energy, or morphed from a friend into an enemy.

To protect yourself from getting involved in another abusive relationship, take time to reflect on what has happened to you. If you don’t learn from your past, history may repeat itself. You may find yourself in a similar relationship.

Debrief the abusive relationship experience. Notice:

  • what contributed to you being pulled into the relationship, and
  • any red flags that you chose to overlook previously or didn’t recognize at the time.

Work through any personal issues that may have contributed to you getting pulled into an abusive relationship Try to take a new relationship slowly. Keep your eyes wide open, taking in the information about who the new person really is.

Look for signs that the new potential partner takes responsibility for his or her attitudes and actions. Do they recognize how those affect other people?

  • Do they make a lot of excuses?
  • Do they blame others or circumstances for their situation?
  • Can they admit to making a mistake?
  • Can they give a genuine apology?

Be careful that you don’t fall for the opposite of the particular abuse you experienced. Look for a person who is assertive, rather than either passive or aggressive. And work on developing a healthy balance within yourself so that you attract a healthy partner and let go of unhealthy ones.

How to Recover from an Abusive Relationship

Ann Silvers, MA, LMHC

Ann Silvers, MA is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, relationship coach, and author with 30 years’ experience helping people improve their communication and relationship skills. She has published many products that she developed while working with women and men as couples and individuals, including her book, Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It’s Time to Get Real About It. Find out more at http;//

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APA Reference
Silvers, A. (2018). How to Recover from an Abusive Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 21 Sep 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.