Abusive Relationships, Self-love & Valentine's Day: Tips From an Abuse Survivor to Help You Move Forward by Arielle Spring
Valentine’s Day is not all love and chocolates – especially for women who are in or have been in abusive relationships. I know first-hand how difficult Valentine’s Day can be for anyone who has been abused or how triggering romantic gestures might be from the abuser. Valentine’s Day is extra hard for someone in an abusive relationship because it jars them into the reality that they are not being loved but abused. This stark reality is extremely unnerving when you are in denial.
Negative attention can feel like love to someone who was abused as a child. For those in abusive relationships, the victim is often dependent emotionally, financially and physically on their abuser, and if a mom, she doesn’t want to break up their family.
For those who have faced abuse and have begun their healing journey, here are some tips to help you look forward to celebrating Valentine’s Day with a new non-abusive partner:
- This could easily be a time when you may experience flashback memories of the abuse you endured. My recommendation is to seek extra time with your therapist or wellness practitioner because it’s important to work on working through and letting go at these crucial markers. This will allow you to "make room" emotionally for the new, healthy love to penetrate your heart, mind and spirit.
- If your abusive ex attempts to contact you, make sure you do NOT engage with them. If a situation arises where you must engage, only engage around logistics – nothing else. This boundary allows you to stay focused on the present.
- Share with your loving partner how you are feeling and if any rumination or flashbacks are occurring. Let them know in what ways you need them to support you.
Here are some tips to help you love yourself this Valentine's Day:
- First, remember that it is OK to feel feelings that may not be puppies and rainbows. However, if these feelings continue and you find yourself struggling to get back to the present and your gratitude, seek help immediately.
- You are not your past. Remember how hard you have worked to get out of the toxic, abusive relationship and have the life you deserve. So, treat yourself to whatever fills you with joy and happiness.
- If you are not in a relationship with someone on Valentine’s Day, I want to remind you that you ARE. You are now in a loving, committed relationship with YOURSELF. In the past, you likely focused solely on the other, becoming consumed with "keeping them happy." Now you can turn all that caring and love onto yourself. This is not just about material gifts, but gifts for your body, mind, and soul. Ask yourself, “What feeds my mind? What feeds my soul? What feeds my body?" And proceed to execute the answers.
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