Abusive Relationships/Recovery

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Question
After 20+ years in a verbally/emotionally abusive and very controlling relationship, I am free now, divorced now for over 2 years. I should be happy now, but face painful loneliness, and depression/anxiety. I have been to divorce recovery group and PTSD therapy, but still wake up every day feeling terrified. My question is this: It feels as if I will never feel normal again. Will I ever be able to fully recover? Somehow I just need to believe that it will get better. I have friends, children and a dog to keep me company. I shouldn't feel lonely. But I still do. I have great longing for a male companion, and to have someone to just hold me, but don't thing I am ready for that yet. I think I should be whole first. I don't want to be needy and clingy. I want to be centered and complete before I enter a new relationship. Otherwise it is just selfishness, and unfair to a new potential partner. I feel like I'm "stuck" and I just want to put the past behind me and move forward with my life, but I feel emotionally paralyzed. And being close to 50 years old, it seems that it is just too late. I thought everything would be better after I left him.

Answer
Hi Jan,
Often what happens in an abusive and controlling relationship that lasts a long period of time is that the person who has been victimized has become conditioned to believe they can't be on their own and survive.  The abuser makes it abundantly clear that the victim doesn't have the judgment, the skill or the ability to be independent from them.  Even though you know in your head that you can, the conditioning from the relationship creates a place of doubt.  That may be where the feelings are coming from.

What happened to you if you made independent decisions, did things on your own, spent money the way you wanted to?  If those things brought abuse upon you, that may also be where you are having those feelings spring from.  Additionally, abusers condition their victims to receive validation and a feeling of being OK, not from within themselves, but from the abuser.  Your own opinion of yourself has become secondary to an outside person approving, accepting or providing an opinion, most likely.

These are things that will short circuit a feeling of confidence and happiness in getting on with your own life.  Things are better, but abused women often have to deal with the ghosts of the relationship after it is over.  It would be advisable for you to consult with an abuse counselor, perhaps someone who knows how to do EMDR.  EMDR is a wonderful trauma therapy that will help you to move past some of those emotional triggers that keep you from moving on in the areas of your life that you need confidence.

Hopefully that helps explain how you are feeling.  You have done the hard part.  Looking at a scale from -10 to +10, where 0 is the middle of the scale, just removing the negative from your life has moved you from -10 to 0, but there is always additional healing that needs to be done to get you to the positive end of the scale.  Ground zero works for awhile, but eventually you need more than that to be happy.

If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me.  I invite you to visit my blog as there is a lot of information there that you can glean from.

Abusive Relationships

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Kriss Mitchell, M.Ed, CRC, CNHP

Expertise

I can answer questions regarding emotional and physical abuse in dating and marriage situations, however I am unable to give legal advice. Having had firsthand experience in an abusive relationship, I understand the feelings, the questions and the doubts we have as we try to make decisions about how to improve our situations. I am also able to address spiritual concerns regarding staying in or leaving these types of situations.

Experience

Having been a victim of emotional abuse for many years and having family members who were in violent abuse situations, I have personal experience on many levels. I have since gone on to become a professional counselor and work with abused women.

Organizations
American Mental Health Counselors Assn., American Association of Christian Counselors, International Association of Prayer Counselors

Publications
I currently maintain a blog at www.livingwellcc.blogspot.com. I also have links and currently written articles on my website at www.livingwellcc.com. You can also follow me on TWITTER @livingwellcc, or on facebook at Living Well Counseling and Consulting. My writings have appeared in The Good News Northwest and the North Idaho Business Journal

Education/Credentials
Licensed Professional Counselor, Board Certified Professional Christian Counselor, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, Certified Natural Health Professional

Awards and Honors
Board Certified Christian Counselor

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