Growing through what you’ve gone through is ultimately possible when you leave a bad relationship. You just have to do it mindfully. Some of the ways in which you can not only recover, but thrive, involve finding out who you are now, with the smoke clearing and the dust settling from whatever carnage you’ve been through.
If you are mentally resilient, the first step is to acknowledge that you’ve been a victim. Might sound strange, but if you don’t do this, you don’t clear the trauma, and it sits there, waiting to recreate itself in the next relationship.
This can be hard to do, because whatever view we hold or held of ourselves, feelings of gullibility are a hard one to acknowledge, but this needs to be tackled and recognised because if you don’t you will lack trust, and without trust forget meeting anyone new and building any sort of foundation for a new relationship, trust is everything.
Remember too that you were probably dealing with someone who had mastered manipulation and deception as an art form, so it’s not that you are gullible, it’s that you were trusting, so you need to mend the trust as it’s been broken.
Then, when you’ve done that, take some time to get to know yourself again. You are a different version of you now, and your success rate at getting through whatever happened is 100%, because you are here, reading this.
Take yourself to lunch, take yourself to dinner, take walks in nature alone, journal, and find out what you like to do by means of exploring your thoughts and desires as you write.
As you do this, you access that part of you which is the new version, because this version is sure as hell not the version you were before.
Write to heal. For four days, take 20 minutes every day to write about an aspect of the way the person was with you, or trauma from the relationship that needs to be healed. When you’ve done this exercise, it’s up to you whether you re-read it, tear it up, or even burn it.
What matters is that this traumatic stuff leaves you, and as you clear the energy, find ways to replace that by writing about things about yourself that are good, and then that you love. Despite the hype otherwise, it’s not only OK to love yourself, it’s imperative to your emotional well-being.
It’s also OK to acknowledge your scars, and your battle wounds from whatever hell was inflicted on you in those bad times. Oftentimes in a bad relationship your partner will have had tried and tested ‘go to’s’ that they used against you. Sit with that, if they told you that they didn’t like your body, your job is to learn to love that body. If they didn’t like your laugh, laugh all the harder, because all they wanted to do was take your confidence and joy.
As you begin to recognise that these were projections, and that they were malicious projections at that, you will begin to heal. As you heal, you will hold the realisation that this is not you, it’s not even about you. You could have been anyone, and this person who caused you to be so miserable will almost certainly have moved on to the next sweet-natured victim.
So don’t hate the new partner either, they almost certainly have the same fate to come as you went through. Reach out to friends, or take up a hobby and meet new friends, explore the things you may have held as aspirations that have been shelved, and get out there and try new things.
Most importantly, live again, as slowly as you need, as carefully as you need, but safe in the knowledge that you will heal if you hold that intention, and that life will get better, and realising, that you are the hero of your own story.
Caralyn Bains is a coaching psychologist. She is an associate fellow with the British Psychological Society.