You’ve made the decision to leave an abusive relationship, and you’ve actually accomplished that. Congratulations! Now you are ready to move forward. There are certain steps to take to ensure that you heal and grow stronger. Learn how to assure your safety, learn about yourself, take care of practical matters, and enter into new relationships.
EditAssuring Your Safety
- Get help if you feel at risk. When you are leaving an abusive relationship, you may be in danger. Safety might continue to be an issue even after you’ve left the relationship. If you feel in danger, get help immediately.
- Call 911. If your partner is threatening or stalking you, you can call 911 to get help. Calling 911 can ensure that you and your kids will be able to get to safety. The police might arrest your partner.
- Find a safe shelter. Get familiar with places that you can go to be safe. Make a list of all the places you can go. Think of friends or family who are not familiar to your partner. Find a local safehouse. Safehouses are usually maintained by nonprofit organizations. They have a secret location and are usually accessible 24 hours a day, so if you have to sneak away while your partner is sleeping, you can. They can help you coordinate with government social services to get benefits to get you started, they can help you with a court order of protection and with prosecution, and many offer counseling services.
- Cut off all contact with your abuser. Delete his phone number from your phone and unfriend him on social media. You may need to unfriend some mutual friends in order to eliminate unintentional contact.
- You might want to change your phone number as well, so that he can’t call you.
- Change your routines and everyday locations. Your abuser is familiar with your typical routines and the locations that you frequent. Change up your routines by taking different routes to work or going to new places to pursue your hobbies.
- You may decide that you need to move to a new house or new town if your abuser is too close.
- If you feel that your children are at risk, consider moving them to a new school.
- Get a personal protection order if necessary. A personal protection order (PPO) is a legal way to protect yourself from your abuser. It protects you from being stalked, threatened or harassed. The PPO also restricts your abuser from entering your home or disturbing you at your workplace. If you think your abuser might still try to contact you or harass you, you should use the legal system to ensure that he can’t bother you.
- Carry your PPO with you at all times.
- Resist going back to your abuser. You may feel guilt, loneliness, depression, shame, and other feelings about your break-up. You may have been in a relationship with your abuser for a long time, and it can be difficult to move on from what is familiar. But resist returning to your abuser. Things are not going to get better. You need to put your own safety first. Be strong and patient, and give yourself time. As the saying goes, time does heal all wounds.
EditRecognizing the Abuse in Your Former Relationship
- Admit to yourself that you experienced abuse. Some victims do not like to admit that they were in an abusive relationship. They might feel that they’ll be judged or stigmatized. Many victims of emotional abuse are hesitant to recognize their relationships as abusive. When there is not clear-cut physical or sexual abuse happening in the relationship, some victims are more likely to minimize how much they were emotionally abused.
- Allow yourself to feel emotions about the abuse. Even when your relationship was abusive, you most likely still loved your abuser. You may now be experiencing a range of emotions, including fear, guilt, sadness or numbness. These emotional responses to your relationship are normal. Allow yourself to work through these emotions. 
- You might also feel physical symptoms, including insomnia, nightmares, and fatigue.
- It may help to keep a journal to write about these emotions.
- Grieve for the relationship and for the possibilities that never came to be.
- Remind yourself why you left. As you move further from the relationship, you might remember many of the good things about your partner and the times you spent together. This is a key time to remind yourself about the negative things and why you left.
- Writing in a journal about these reasons can help you remember them when you have second thoughts about leaving.
- Identify your triggers. When you were in an abusive relationship, you were trained to feel and behave in certain ways. You likely have a level of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s important to understand if your behavior and emotions are reactions to the present or to the past. When you have PTSD, you may have underlying fear that crops up unexpectedly.
- Keep track of your emotions in a journal. Write down your feelings, especially if you experience intense ones. Track what happened immediately before you felt that way, as well as how you reacted.
- Triggers can be anything from something said by a friend to a location you visit. When you are aware of your triggers, then you can address them.
EditBuilding a Network of Support
- See a mental health professional. Therapy is a beneficial part of your recovery from an abusive relationship. This person can help you talk through your feelings and emotions. She can also help you develop tools for handling stress, relationships, and other challenges in life.
- Find someone who specializes in dealing with abuse or trauma. This person will be skilled at helping you work through anxiety and other emotions.
- You might also choose to visit regularly with your pastor or minister, social worker, or other person who can give you a listening ear and objective advice.
- Gather support from family and friends. You need support on which you can rely on a day-to-day basis. Spend time with people who are supportive and kind. Reconnect with friends or family, especially if you have been isolated during your abusive relationship. Don’t be shy about asking them for what you need. This might be your friend keeping you from texting your ex to talking about your feelings.
- Join a support group. There are many different support groups for domestic violence victims. Some meet in person, while others are online support groups. These are good places for you to connect with people who have gone through similar experiences as you.
- Get in touch with a domestic violence hotline for help. Domestic violence hotlines have numerous resources, including advocates who will help you navigate recovering from an abusive relationship. Hotlines also can give you lists of books and other publications with information on abuse, as well as directories of local organizations that can offer support.
- These hotlines usually have websites too, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website, www.thehotline.org.
EditTaking Care of Practical Matters
- File for custody of your children. Children in domestic violence homes are more likely to be abused themselves. Even when they are not abused, they may still suffer from emotional and behavioral problems. Abusive parents also are more likely to try to get custody as a way to further retaliate against and control their spouses.
- The court will consider the child’s best interests when awarding custody. The judge will take into account domestic violence, the home environment, and other factors.
- Talk with your child’s school or daycare to alert them to the situation. Let them know who is authorized to pick up your children from school.
- File for divorce. If you are married to your abuser, you need to file for divorce. This will make sure that you are no longer tied legally to this person. File a petition for divorce with the Family Court in your county.
- Be sure to follow the divorce guidelines for your own state. While most states are similar in procedure, there may be differences depending on your location.
- Keep copies of all important papers. This includes social security numbers, custody papers, birth certificates, bank statements, and so on. If you didn’t already collect these before leaving, or it’s not safe to return to your house, then you should be able to get most of these papers from the relevant agencies.
- For instance, visit the social security office in your area to get new copies of your social security card. Visit your local health department to get copies of birth certificates. Ask your bank for copies of bank statements.
- Sever all financial ties. It’s important to separate yourself entirely from your abuser, and this includes your bank account, credit cards, insurance, mortgage, and so on. This can be a time-consuming process but it will prevent further harassment and financial abuse.
- Close your bank account. Start a new account with a different bank. If you can safely do it, make sure to transfer your savings and other assets to this new account. If you have a joint bank account, withdraw half of the available money. This amount is legally yours. If you don’t take the money now, then your abuser may drain the account and leave you with nothing.
- Protect your social security number. Oftentimes, an abuser may try to ruin his partner’s credit by opening a credit card in her name using her social security number. This is fraud, even when you are or were married to someone. Make sure that no one can misuse your personal information.
- Talk with the fraud departments of major credit bureaus. Ask them to place a red flag on your account so that you’ll be alerted any time someone tries to apply for credit with your social security number.
- Work on improving your credit score. Your abuser may have ruined your credit through financial abuse. He may have kept you from being able to develop your own credit rating. If you get a credit card now, then you can start working on improving your credit score.
- Your abuser can use your credit card statements to track your movements, so you should cancel any cards you already have. Then you can get a new card with a different company.
EditReconnecting with Yourself
- Identify relaxing activities. You may be experiencing a lot of stress and other types of emotions as you move past this relationship. Having an outlet to calm and relax yourself will improve your ability to recover.
- Take warm baths.
- Take deep breaths.
- Try meditation or yoga.
- Read a book or watch a movie.
- Get a massage.
- Make a list of your good qualities. Get to know yourself again by thinking about all the good qualities you have. Make a list of these and post them on your mirror. Include every compliment you’ve received so you can remember how other people think about you.
- This will also help you feel worthy again when you start up new relationships.
- Take time for yourself. Spend time doing exactly what you enjoy. Think about the hobbies that you enjoy or used to enjoy.
- Be kind to yourself by giving yourself little gifts or treats.
- Believe in yourself. You are getting stronger and more confident every day.
EditEntering Into a New Relationship
- Identify what you want in a relationship. Make a list of qualities that you think are important in a partner and in a relationship. This will help you identify what’s most important to you. It will also help you figure out what will make you feel safe and loved.
- Move slowly and cautiously. It’s likely that you will be cautious in your new relationship. It can take a while to build trust with someone new in the best of circumstances, and when you have experienced abuse, this process can take a long time. But it’s important that you don’t dive into a relationship too quickly. You need to allow yourself to grow the relationship in a healthy way.
- Talk to your new partner about your triggers. You need to make sure you are communicating your needs to your partner. This involves talking to him or her about your triggers. Then you will be able to work together to build a relationship where you feel safe and loved.
- For example, shouting might trigger your anxiety. In this case, you might ask your partner not to yell when he watches basketball games on TV.
- Don’t try to sabotage the relationship. When you are entering a new relationship after an abusive one, it can be hard to trust the other person. You may become overly critical and fabricate reasons to break up. 
- You may even feel like doing something that forces the other person to leave you, such as cheating on him. This action is your way of telling your partner that you’re not worth being with. But this isn’t true. You do have a lot to offer the relationship.
- Don’t have any contact with your abuser. When you are building a new relationship, you are relearning ways of interacting. You may have found a kind, gentle person to date. But if you have any contact at all with your abuser, you are reminded of how intimate relationships can be.
- Surround yourself with loving, healthy relationships. These will serve as good examples for building your own new intimate relationship.
- Leave the relationship if you see warning signs of abuse. If you think your new partner is heading down the path to abuse, you should leave the relationship immediately. It’s better not to give him the benefit of the doubt, given what you’ve already been through.
- Deal with Emotional Abuse
- Heal from Domestic Abuse
- Love Yourself After a Long Battle in an Abusive Relationship
- Deal With Emotional or Verbal Abuse While Depressed
- Know if You Are in a Parasitic Relationship
EditSources and Citations
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