Empowering Yourself in an Abusive Relationship

I recently finished writing my online course Empowering Yourself in an Abusive Relationship – a course that I have been working on developing for over 2 years.

I wrote the course as I personally experienced losing my power in a relationship and, through my work as a therapist, have encountered so many women trapped in similar situations without the means or clarity to move forward.

During this unprecedented time in the world where people are staying at home, often isolated because of Covid-19, many people are finding themselves in relationships where their personal power is compromised.

When we think of abusive relationships, images of bruised and battered women come to mind. However not all abuse is physical. And sometimes the wounds we can’t see leave the biggest scars.

Physical wounds heal with time. Many emotional ones do not. And we are left feeling fragile and worthless. Many of us are unaware that verbal, emotional or financial abuse is the cause of our pain. But once you come to understand the types and cycles of abuse and how you can empower yourself, you can make changes in your life to regain your power and self-esteem.

My Abuse Story

I found myself in an abusive relationship with a man everyone thought was charming and behind closed doors he was frightening. When I met him I was confident, vivacious and had an interesting and stable life. Through charm and guile, he promised me the sun, moon, and earth.

I fell for his sweet words and walked away from the life I had created and straight into a web of manipulation and abuse that was nearly impossible to extract myself from. I had lost my confidence and sparkle and when it ended I felt lost.

I took the next step and this led me on a journey back to me … and in the process created a new life where I help my clients live their best lives.

The Cycle of Abuse

Most people experience a honeymoon phase at the start of a relationship where each person is on their best behavior. When this phase passes one might wonder if the characteristics of the other person is as wonderful as you initially thought.

Abusers are very conniving, and it happens gradually with a few unexpected remarks that become part of the relationship. By then you might be so deep in that it is difficult to extract yourself.

With people being forced to be in an enclosed space with their significant others at this stage abuse has escalated and many find themselves in situations that are challenging to be in.

Soul searching in Gozo

5 Signs you are in an Abusive Relationship

1) Criticism:
In a healthy relationship two people want to build each other up and be the best version of themselves. If the other person regularly puts you down, criticized you, calls you names, belittles you and then makes a joke of it while not allowing you to get upset there might be a problem.

This type of behavior is used to make you feel unstable and doubt your own sanity.

2) Gaslighting:
“You are too sensitive”, “You are always so emotional”, “Can’t you take a joke?”

If someone keeps on saying statements like this when you react – they are purposefully criticizing and trying to control you. The aim of the abuser is to switch the attention off their own behavior, to cause uncertainty and confusion, and to make you doubt yourself.

This is called ‘gaslighting’ after the term was used in a popular 1940’s movie of the same name.

3) Laying blame:
When your partner verbally attacks you with their criticism and you dare to react they will never apologize. Instead, you may be subjected to a verbal backlash where they make it seem it is your fault as you do not understand them. You are constantly told that you are the problem.

4) Walking on eggshells:
If you are constantly worried that they might react if something is out of place, or not to their liking, you find yourself always on edge – having to constantly be mindful of what you do and say (walking on eggshells). This fear state is not a healthy one to be in.

5) Control:
Every healthy relationship needs balance and boundaries, and in an abusive relationship these boundaries are often removed as a means of control. These include:

  • A partner wanting to know your every movement at all times of the day
  • Setting rules of who you are allowed to speak to and when
  • Having your pin number for your phone and/or accessing your messages or your phone
  • Accusing you of cheating, taking control of your life and/or making you question if you can manage your life without them
  • If you find yourself fearful of doing something without their permission or you fear their anger

Empowering Yourself in an Abusive Relationship

There are many side effects to this type of situation and one of the most confusing is not being able to view the situation with objectivity. I wrote my self-empowerment course with the aim of giving you insight into what is happening to you, and the skills to take back your power.

One of the most difficult challenges many of my clients and friends have faced is what to do in a situation that they cannot leave.

It’s easy enough to judge and say we should all get out of abusive relationships and leave our worries behind. But whether for financial, emotional, religious / cultural or other reasons, leaving our abuser is not always possible. In my Empowering Yourself in an Abusive Relationship course you will be armed with the tools and strength you need to make that decision for yourself.

Soul searching in Gozo

If you choose to stay – you will have the knowledge and understanding of how to empower yourself and take back control from your abuser.

If you decide to leave – you will have the support, strength and understanding of how to take the next steps in your life.

You can learn more about my online course here.

If you are in an physically abusive relationship or you feel your life is threatened at any time, please do not hesitate – seek immediate help. A Google search (type ‘help abusive relationship’ or ‘women shelter near me’) to find resources close to you that can help.