The Archers has been spell binding and has gripped the nation as we followed Helen's story of emotional abuse in her relationship. For many people, it was the first time they had fully understood this side of domestic abuse and what it really means. To some, it was a chilling reminder of past relationships and for others, it was a real wake up call which shined a light on the reality of their own situation.
Whatever your experience, it has been a fantastic way to put emotional abuse firmly on the map and increase awareness and understanding of this all too common and well-hidden cruelty.
Emotional abuse often starts slowly and in such a way that you don't notice it. A nasty comment or remark designed to belittle you. A confusing conversation where you are persuaded that things didn't happen the way you recall or you end up accepting blame for something that wasn't your fault.
All too often it starts intermittently but as one goes on the incidents become more frequent. "Gas lighting" is the term given by experts to the technique used to baffle you and convince you that black is white and white is black.
One of my clients was heavily pregnant and was sleeping in bed one Friday evening. Her husband returned from a night out heavily under the influence. He passed out at the end of her bed and despite her best efforts calling his name and trying to move him my client could not wake him.
She was so worried that she dialled 999 for an ambulance who arrived within minutes. She opened her front door and returned to the bedroom only seconds later with the ambulance crew. My client could not believe her eyes. Her husband was sitting up in bed fully awake with the covers pulled up over him.
"I'm terribly sorry guys" he was saying. " My poor wife is pregnant and I begged her not to call you but she insisted. I am really concerned about her as she is getting so confused. I wonder please could you check her over while you're here?"
The ambulance crew did some checks on her and left leaving my client feeling completely confused about what had just happened. Her husband looked at her when she got back into bed and said "I think we need to get you checked out by a consultant darling. I'm so worried about you. " With that, he rolled over and fell fast asleep.
This was the tip of the iceberg for my client. Her husband called her vile names on a daily basis and she felt like she was permanently walking on eggshells. It had got to the point where her heart leapt into her mouth whenever she heard the key turn in the door and he came in from work. She was terrified of him as she never knew when the next explosion was going to happen.
I see many clients who have been through relationships like this. Their confidence has been eroded over many years of emotional abuse so it becomes very hard for them to leave. Some have been told many times that they are "unlovable" or "useless" that they start to believe it.
The pressure of emotional abuse will affect your personality and even if you keep it hidden from loved ones, friends and family will notice a change in you. You may become more withdrawn, snappy, anxious, fearful or even depressed.
The good news is that when you are out of that toxic relationship the sense of freedom and relief is incredible and outweighs the negatives of your break-up. You no longer have to worry about how they are going to react and constantly be thinking two steps ahead.
7 ways to move on after an emotionally abusive relationship:
- Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself
- Write a list of things that you want to do that you could never have done during your relationship and make them happen
- Reassess your boundaries about what is acceptable behaviour in a relationship to ensure you learn from this experience
- Cut all ties with your ex and delete them from social media. If you have children with them then there will have to be some contact but keep communication to a minimum and don't share personal information.
- Take some time to focus on having fun and enjoying life. It's ok to focus on you now. This is your chance to redesign your life the way you want it so dream big.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help from a GP or Break-Up Coach. It can often speed up your recovery
- Book on a Break-Up Recovery Retreat to learn the skills to move through your break-up and rebuild your confidence.
Remember that it's not what happens to you in life that matters, it's what you do about it that defines you as a person. I know it's not easy but it is YOUR choice. You can use this tough experience to inspire you to take control of your life and make it one that you are excited to live.