It took me one year to find the courage to leave my ex-husband, who almost murdered me when I was 7 ½ months pregnant. For months, I sobbed. How did my life come to this? Then I took my power back and asked, who do I need to become to create the life I want for me and my son?
I forged a successful television career and found healthy, long-lasting love.
Do you wonder why you keep attracting the same abusive types? Are you exhausted, walking on eggshells, suppressing your needs to make everyone else happy? Do you appear strong yet secretly live in shame and fear of the future, that you’re a failure or not good enough?
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Have you lost YOU and want to get your self-esteem back? Do you wake up worrying you’ll spend the rest of your life alone, never finding anyone who’ll love you for who you are?
If so, I have some good news. None of these are the real problems. It’s that you haven’t made the shifts. Once you make them, you'll eliminate guilt and shame around an abusive ex, and know you're good enough and deserve way better than this.You’ll stop walking on eggshells or being a doormat, and create strong boundaries that keep you safe. You’ll banish self-doubt, know exactly who you are and what you want in your life, and confidently make the right decisions that serve you. You’ll fall back in love with yourself and stop attracting abusive types.
Best of all …you’ll never settle for less than you deserve ever again because you’ll be happy with or without a partner.
There are five key shifts you need to make to achieve this:
Shift One: Understand Healing Is About YOU, Not Them
You’ve been with an abusive partner, and you aren’t to blame for it. But this is irrelevant. It’s not about them and how badly they treated you. It’s about you. If you stay focused on your ex you’re stuck in a victim-mentality. If you’re ready to heal then ask yourself the tough questions I asked myself:
- Why did I keep attracting abusive partners?
- Why did I ignore the red flags and warning signs when others would have run a mile?
- Why did I stay too long despite emotional and physical violence? Take responsibility for it, feel guilt over it and accept the blame?
- Why did I go back to them even after he’d almost killed me?
This is controversial I know, but I believe some of us are more attractive to narcissists, who detect we’re vulnerable for their grooming and manipulation.
When I faced this truth about myself, I knew the only way I was going to heal was to take my focus off him and put it back where it belonged—onto healing ME.
Shift Two: Healing Your Inner Child
From birth to the age of seven our subconscious mind is programmed and fully formed. Many of our beliefs are formed in early years from what we see, hear and experience. This becomes the internal script that informs your adult life.
In adulthood, 95% of our time is driven by this subconscious programming.
The hidden 7-year-old inside of you may be sabotaging your life by making bad decisions that hurt you. What if that internal script is: “I’m not good enough”? That you’re unworthy, for example, unless you always achieve perfection or that you don’t deserve better than that miserable relationship?
A 7-year-old at the steering wheel of your life? I don’t need to tell you how that will turn out! It’s not a pretty sight. It takes courage and work but when you can identify the root cause of how and where those negative beliefs, habits and patterns of behaviour came from in the first place, then you can repair those wounds and heal your inner child.
Shift Three: Rewriting Your Internal Script
If you feel like your life is out of control but don’t know why, it’s most likely you’re trying to control what you can’t. Or to fix someone that’s out of your power to do so.
Subconsciously this behaviour is driven by the emotional child inside you reacting to the outside world rather than your higher, rational, adult self choosing how you respond to it with decisions that serve you.
When you feel like your life is out of your control, say when under duress, the child within you takes over and tries to change your external world to feel better. It reverts to what feels familiar and has been conditioned from childhood, even if that subconscious programming and behaviour hurts you.
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Such as when you:
- People-please to avoid walking on eggshells
- Fool yourself into thinking things aren’t so bad
- Do more, try harder, love more to make it work
- Date too soon to find a replacement and get hurt again
- Never date again for fear you’ll make the same mistake
- Suppress your emotions and isolate yourself
If that’s what you’re doing now, it’s not working is it? There is a simpler approach: tap into the power within you to heal yourself.
Let go of what you can’t change externally and focus on YOU. Identify self-limiting beliefs, habits and patterns of behaviour. Discover where they came from. Recognize your internal script. Rewrite your story.
Shift Four: Setting Strong Boundaries
Most people equate boundaries with confrontation. And that scares them. But boundaries aren’t about confrontation. They tell others how you wish to be treated. If you’re not clear what your own boundaries are, no-one else will be. Narcissists are masters at detecting this. But strong boundaries are like Kryptonite to them.
First, decide what your boundaries are and the red lines that are non-negotiable if someone crosses them. Then communicate them in an assertive, non-aggressive way by allowing them to own their emotions, but not buying into them. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t agree,” for example.
Shift Five: Finding a Mentor
A mentor gives you three things: support, new ways of thinking and accountability. You have no idea how beautiful your life will be when love doesn’t hurt and you no longer fear the future. With the right support you can find this.
Are you in charge of your life, confidently making the right decisions? Are you waking up full of joy and putting your needs first? Are you happy within, no matter what happens?
If the answer is “no,” then invest in yourself and find a great mentor, therapist or someone who has experienced abusive partners and understands the power of coercive control and co-dependency and can validate you’re not crazy and give you the path to recovery.
These five shifts will propel you to recover from abuse, fall back in love with yourself and never settle for anything less than you deserve again.
I am not a victim of domestic violence. I’m a survivor. My life is amazing now because of and despite what happened to me. If I can do this then anyone can.
Editor's Note: Remember, abuse almost always escalates, and can happen so subtely a survivor may miss the impending warning signs. Read “Abuse Almost Always Escalates” for the signs to watch out for.
This article is part of #YourVoice, an ongoing column published on this website by individual contributors in their own personal capacity and that involves the opinions, recollections and/or information provided by such contributors, and which does not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this website.
Vivian McGrath is a survivor of domestic violence—her ex almost murdered her. As a single mother she went back to her studies, got a university degree and forged a successful career in television. She found long-lasting love in a healthy relationship and her mission now is to help smart, independent, professional women who have left or are leaving an abuser to recover, fall back in love with themselves and never settle for less than they deserve again in life and love. Watch her free Masterclass: How to recover from abusive partners, fall back in love with yourself and never settle for less than you deserve again.
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