The truth is, more women than I would like to admit are recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship. Sadly, some of these women don’t even know their relationship was abusive. Too many women are left with the emotional wounds of abuse and PTSD, but don’t understand what’s happened to them. It’s not their fault; too often abusers make the victim believe they are crazy, dramatic or even the perpetrator themselves.
All breakups are hard, but ending an emotionally abusive relationship can leave you feeling like you have lost your sense of self and sanity. You may be feeling completely broken with no idea how to recover because you have completely lost trust in yourself. You may be wondering if you are crazy, if you were wrong to end the relationship, or if it would be easier to just give in to your ex’s demands.
As women, we are woefully uneducated about emotional abuse. So when it comes to recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship, the first step is awareness and education. You need to learn everything you can about emotional abuse not only to reclaim your sanity, but also to heal the patterns so it never happens to you again. That’s why I recommend these five books to all of my clients who are recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship.
The Gaslight Effect by Dr. Robin Stern
This book is an epic game changer for ANYONE, but if you’re recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship, it’s required reading. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that causes you to question your own sanity. The seeds of gaslighting are usually sown slowly overtime, encroaching on your sanity inch by inch until you find yourself completely doubting your memory and experience of reality.
For example, your partner constantly flirts with other women in front of you. When you confront him, he blows up, berating you with examples of your “pathological jealousy” he tells you you are weak, needy, crazy, and destroying your relationship. “You are sabotaging our relationship with your jealously because you can’t handle being happy.” A gaslighter will use yelling, aggression, and below the belt insults until you are willing to accept their version of reality, which is that you are crazy and they are always right. It may get to the point where you are quite sure he is cheating, but you convince yourself you are wrong, it’s just your irrational jealousy and fear of being happy.
Being gaslighted can make you a zombie completely controlled by your abusive partner, making it near impossible to leave the relationship. This book will not only help you identify all forms of gaslighting, it will also give you step by step guides for facing gaslighting in all aspects of your life. In short, it will help you recover from the emotional abuse and reclaim your relationship with your self.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go? by Ramani Durvasula PhD
Not only is the book so well written you’ll want to binge it in an entire weekend, it’s one of the best you’ll find about understanding narcissistic abuse. Not all emotionally abusive men are narcissists, but many are. If you aren’t sure what narcissistic abuse is or if you think your abusive ex might have narcissistic tendencies, you can read the first chapter of Dr. Durvasula’s book here.
Dr. Durvasula, one of the top experts on Narcissistic Personality Disorder, categorizes a few types of narcissists. But the thing they all have in common is a pathological lack of empathy. Infidelity, stalking, gaslighting, and love bombing often go hand in hand with narcissistic abuse as well.
Everything starts out great with a NPD partner. They’re charming, treat you like a princess, the sex is great. It doesn’t hurt that they are usually handsome, well dressed, and successful. In the beginning, your relationship will be the envy of all your friends. Which is part of what makes it so hard to admit that you’re living in a nightmare and leave once the narcissists shows their true colors.
I highly recommend diving into Dr. Durvasula’s book, but if you can’t wait for your book to arrive, check out her fantastic episode on Red Table Talk.
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend
If you’ve been in an abusive relationship of any kind your boundaries have been systematically violated, worn down, and dissolved. Maybe your ex insisted on having all your passwords and access to your social media account so he could keep tabs on you. Eventually, you got so sick of the fighting you just gave in and let him have your passwords and anything else he wanted. Now, you can’t even remember the last time it felt safe to say no to someone. Maybe saying no has never felt safe to you.
The problem is, we don’t really teach children healthy boundaries. We are taught sacrifice=heroic and that putting others before ourselves is how we show love. As adults many of us don’t have a healthy understanding of boundaries. Narcissists and other predatory or abusive personalities almost have a sixth sense for women with poor boundaries.
Developing healthy boundaries is not only the first step towards severing the ties between yourself and your abusive ex, it’s going to help you create healthy relationship dynamics in the future. Side effects of healthy boundaries include: more energy, higher income, more free time, healthier partnerships, richer friendships, greater compassion for self and others.
The Highly Sensitive Person In Love by Elaine N. Aron Ph.D.
Education is one of your best weapons when it comes to healing from an emotionally abusive relationship. But if your education doesn’t include better understanding yourself, it’s falling short. The fact is, abusive men, psychopaths, and narcissists are attracted to certain personality types. They tend to be drawn to empathic women, women who are sensitive, giving, and often don’t have the best boundaries. Introducing the highly sensitive person (HSP) a term sometimes used interchangeably with “empath.”
HSPs have sensitive nervous systems which makes them a target for abuse. They will often quickly cave to the demands of their abuser because they can’t handle the stress and drama of fighting. HSPs are often shy, struggle with intimacy, and feel they may never find someone. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the “love bombing” so common at the begging of emotionally abusive relationships.
Turning to the empath side of the highly sensitive person spectrum, empaths identify strongly with the feelings of others, often losing themselves, their needs, and their own perspective in their partner’s. As a result, they find themselves putting the needs (or demands) of their partner above their own. This means far too many empaths end up in toxic or abuse relationships.
If these dynamics sound familiar to you, you might be an HSP or empath. This book will not only make you feel seen and understood, it will give you the tools you need to create healthier relationship dynamics in the future. You can also check out, The Empath’s Survival Guide by Dr. Judith Orloff.
Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
Are you a caretaker or people pleaser? Do you have a need to be needed? Do you have a history of being romantically involved or friends with emotionally vulnerable, needy people? Alternatively, you might feel that you need someone to take care of you, feeling totally lost and vulnerable outside of a relationship. If so, you might have codependency issues and those issues might be a reason you ended up in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Codependency often goes hand in hand with emotional abuse. The codependent finds it almost impossible to walk away from a relationship, especially one where they have taken on the care taking role. That’s why codependents tend to stick around longer than is healthy or safe.
Codependency usually comes from a place of low self worth. You may feel that you are unworthy of love and therefore caretake others. If they need you, they can’t leave you. The problem is that makes you vulnerable to people who will take advantage of your care taking, lack of boundaries, and empathy. These people will leave you depleted (& far worse) then manipulate you into staying in the relationship.
Codependency is a pretty common dynamic, not just in romantic relationships, but in family dynamics and friendships as well. Codependent no more will go a long way towards helping you develop healthy relationships in all areas of your life, while helping you to make yourself a priority.
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