Dr. Hawkins explains how to navigate through emotionally abusive relationships and emphasizes the importance of extrication and reconnecting with your sense of self as one of the first steps you can take to free yourself if you’re not yet ready to leave.
Victims of narcissistic relationships—typically women—find it challenging to emancipate themselves from their partners because they’ve been disconnected from their sense of self. The current relationship has distorted their view of themselves and what a healthy and genuine partnership looks like. Healthy relationships are supposed to be a safe mental and emotional environment for everyone involved, built on compromise and collaboration. In healthy relationships, both partners still have a sense of autonomy and individuality alongside their connection with each other.
How to Navigate Through Emotionally Abusive Relationships
Emotionally abusive relationships can be incredibly challenging and overwhelming. You may find yourself in a situation where you are fully aware of the emotional abuse you’re enduring, yet you’re not yet ready to leave. This article is dedicated to those who are trapped in such relationships but are not prepared to make a hasty exit. We understand that leaving an abusive relationship is not always an immediate option, so we want to provide some guidance on how to navigate through this difficult phase.
Acknowledging the Abuse
Before we delve into strategies to extricate yourself from an emotionally abusive relationship, it’s vital to acknowledge that you are indeed in an abusive situation. Recognizing the abuse is the first step toward healing. When you are sure about the emotional abuse, you’ve already made a significant stride towards a healthier future.
Taking Ownership of Your Life
One crucial aspect of dealing with emotional abuse is taking ownership of your life. This might seem daunting, especially when you are dealing with the constant turmoil created by the abuser, but it is a pivotal step. Taking ownership means that you become less reactive to the abuser’s manipulative tactics.
Identifying the Crazy-Making
Emotional abusers often engage in what is known as “crazy-making” behavior, where they manipulate and gaslight their victims, causing confusion, self-doubt, and emotional distress. Recognizing when this crazy-making begins is key to taking control of your life.
Choosing Your Responses
Reacting to the emotional abuse by arguing, trying to change the abuser, or convincing them to behave differently only keeps you entangled in the toxic cycle. Instead, consider how you want to respond when the crazy-making starts. What are your values, and how do you want to stay true to them in the face of emotional abuse? Choosing your responses consciously can help you regain your sense of self.
Seeking Individual Counseling
One powerful way to navigate through an emotionally abusive relationship is to seek individual counseling. A qualified therapist can provide you with a safe space to process your emotions, develop coping strategies, and work on healing from the abuse.
Join Support Groups
Support groups, like our Women’s Redeemed or Women’s Core programs, can be incredibly beneficial. Being surrounded by individuals who are going through similar experiences can offer validation and insight. It helps you understand that you’re not alone in this struggle and can provide valuable guidance on how to navigate through emotional abuse when you’re not yet ready to leave.
Taking a Break
Even if you’re not ready to leave the relationship permanently, it’s essential to prioritize your well-being. Taking a break, whether for a day, an hour, a week, or a month, can provide you with much-needed breathing space. During this time, you can reflect on your responses to the emotional abuse and how you want to move forward.
Setting clear boundaries is crucial when dealing with emotional abuse. Understand that you are not responsible for the abuser’s actions; they are solely responsible for their behavior. By establishing boundaries, you can protect your emotional well-being and make it clear what you will and will not tolerate.
Self-Care and Self-Reflection
During this challenging time, prioritize self-care. Self-care skills, such as managing stress, practicing mindfulness, and seeking moments of peace, are essential for your emotional health. Self-reflection is equally important, as it helps you identify patterns and triggers in your responses to the abuse.
Emotionally abusive relationships are incredibly difficult to navigate. If you find yourself in a situation where you are emotionally abused but not yet ready to leave, it’s essential to recognize that you can take steps to extricate yourself from the mess. This process involves understanding what is happening, identifying the abuse, and taking ownership of your life.
While it may not provide an immediate solution, it sets you on a better course for the future. By becoming mindful, aware, and setting better boundaries, you can create a buffer between yourself and the abuse. Additionally, you can make better choices for self-care and work towards being the person you want to be, ultimately regaining your sense of self. Remember, there is support available, and you don’t have to face this journey alone.
Also read: Narcissism as Self Protection
About Dr. Hawkins:
The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.
Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.
He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.
In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.