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You Asked: How Can I Move Past my Abusive Past?

Dear Sugar--
I was in a relationship for 4 years with an abusive man. He abused me mentally, verbally, physically, and cheated on me. We've been broken up for 11 months now but I'm still having trouble dealing with the aftermath. When I was with him I became a very anxious and nervous person, gained 15 pounds, and started drinking a lot. I was always on edge and could never relax.

Now, I'm doing better but not as good as I'd like. I'm still very anxious and I suspect this is where most of the weight gain came in (I'm a nervous and emotional eater). I don't drink as much, which is good, but I have trouble sleeping and can't relax a lot of the time. I do see a therapist, but when I told her about the physical abuse she said that it wasn't as bad as some stories she's heard (stories of sexual abuse, women being set on fire, etc, very horrific things), so I kind of felt like I shouldn't be upset about it since it's not as bad as what some women go through. However, I was choked, hit, pushed, bruised, shaken, and constantly emotionally and verbally abused. I guess I'm having much more trouble dealing with this than I thought I would. I'm so happy to be away from him, and I have great relationships with my family and friends now, but I still can't quite get over it all. -- Trying to Move on Molly

To see DEARSUGAR's answer

Dear Trying to Move on Molly --

First off, I want to commend you for leaving this man - abuse does not belong in any relationship. It takes a lot of courage to do what you did, but it's important to realize that it will probably take longer than 11 months to recover from such an abusive and traumatic relationship.

I am glad to hear that you are seeking professional help, but I'm wondering if you have found the right therapist. While many women have had more traumatizing experiences from an abusive man, no one should ever compare your situation with anyone else's. You are very lucky that some of the horrific things your therapist spoke about didn't happen to you, it isn't fair for anyone to suggest that your situation isn't just as serious or heart breaking - abuse is abuse - anyway you cut it, it isn't acceptable. With that said, you might want to consider exploring new options if you feel you aren't getting the emotional support you need.

Feelings of anxiety and nervous energy are totally normal so don't be too hard on yourself for still feeling the effects of this relationship. Have you discussed the possibility of taking medication to help you get over the hump and ease your anxiety? I don't think anyone has ever said it's easy to mend a broken heart or to put an abusive relationship in your past, so try to be patient with yourself, treat yourself well, and let time take its course. Although it might not give you any sense of relief, time is a great healer. I wish you luck Molly and you can get additional help or support by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.


Join The Conversation
MrsJigglesworth MrsJigglesworth 9 years
and hang in there... you are headed in the right direction. I'm so glad you are away from him.
MrsJigglesworth MrsJigglesworth 9 years
You should tell your therapist how it made you feel to hear that from her- be as honest and open as you can... if you are not supported by her, consider terminating w/ her and finding someone else. She will have to give you 3 referrals upon termination.
La-Belle La-Belle 9 years
definitely get a new therapist!!!! and commend yourself for getting away from him and for the new life that awaits deserves to be abused and treated like trash and YOU ARE NO DIFFERENT!!
junebrug junebrug 9 years
Good job girl! You deserve to be commended, so women never leave. But as everyone else has said, get a new therapist. She may only have been trying to make you feel better, but it doesn't matter, she is there is support and help you, not tell you you're fine because you're better off than some people. Many therapists specialize, try to find someone who specializes in domestic abuse.
Marci Marci 9 years
Run, don't walk, away from that therapist. ANY abuse is bad, and if your therapist isn't supporting you and working with you on that, then it's time to move on. I was in an abusive relationship when I was young. It took me along time to trust a guy after that, but I was finally able to get over it and move onto a healthy relationship. Good Luck and keep working on yourself. No one will ever take as good care of you and you will of yourself.
Ikandy Ikandy 9 years
Youre so courageous, to leave, to seek help, and share your experiences. I know women who are very close to me experience this insanely horrific situation and dont always come out strong and well...I commend u for your strength, and wish you luck with moving on with your life.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
I know from my own experiences with an abusive man (four years worth of it) that after i left him i felt embarrassed, guilty,stupid, alone, gullible, vunerable, i didnt think ANYONE would understand, and i thought everyone would judge me for staying so long. I found a group through a local church, and talked to them about it. Its always good to find some fellowship, even if your not religious, and never be alone.
Arielrb38 Arielrb38 9 years
I would also like to lend my support to Dear and the others who have commented. It takes a lot of strength to leave an abusive relationship, and to stay out of it. I was in a relationship that was mentally and emotionally abusive, and I often minimalized my own feelings by thinking "well, it's not like he hit me". It took me a long time to be able to sit with the fact that I can't compare my experience with anyone else, it was mine and affected me uniquely. I also empathize with being frustrated by how long it takes to heal. I am so impressed that you are able to identify that the therapist was wrong, and I hope that you are able to find someone who will work to validate your experience and the way you feel about it. Congratulations on making some very tough decisions, and I hope that you find your self in a better place before too much longer.
MamaD MamaD 9 years
Hurray for you!!! Strong you and brave you!!!!! I was in an abusive relationship for 10 years. I sought therapy for a few months but ultimately found healing in listening to what the people, who loved me and saw me through all of it, had to say. They boosted my self esteem alot and I believe laid the foundation for me that I built my new life on. It's been 21 years since that part of my life ended and the new part began. I have a few risidual effects remaining. I am over weight but I'm working on it.But I'm stronger and healthier as a person than I've ever been before. The most important thing to realize is you are completely worthy of being happy and being loved!! The abuser is a sick individual and is not the kind of person you want in your life. They're toxic. You wouldn't keep your food next to the rat poison so why would you keep yourself next to a toxic person?? Surround yourself with good, happy people. People with successful and loving relationships or at least good friends who love and value you!! That friendship is a healthy relationship!!! Build from there. But remember, you are responsible for you!!!
SeaFoamGreen215 SeaFoamGreen215 9 years
I totally agree! As a psychology enthusiast (I'm about to take my second psychology course), it is never ever right under any circumstances to claim that one form of abuse is less severe than another form. It's your therapists job to help you overcome these issues, not blatantly minimize them.
smp7328 smp7328 9 years
I would like to commend you as well for getting yourself out of that horribly abusive situation. You are a very brave, strong person. I have to say that I am very appalled to hear that a therapist would dare compare your experience to someone else's and say that your experience wasn't "that bad". That is just terrible. I am so sorry for all that you are going through. I would definitely recommend getting a new therapist, as nicachica stated above. You are on the right track, hon. Keep your chin up. Remember that you deserve to be treated like a queen. You deserve all the happiness in the world. Take care and best of luck to you!!!!
schar schar 9 years
It is also important to point out that there were most likely underlying issues before you got into the relationship that you need to address with your therapist.
nicachica nicachica 9 years
I completely agree with Dear's advice...please switch therapists! No therapist should ever minimize your issues by comparing them to others because it diminishes your painful experiences and causes you to feel ashamed that you aren't grateful that something "worse" didn't happen. I really commend you for getting yourself out of an abusive situation and I wish you continued luck as you recover from the experience. Its hard now but what you are doing right now and the pain you feel will help you in the long term. This is a rough patch and I really wish you the best of luck. I'm sending lots of HUGS your way!
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