This article is an adaption of How to Get Over a Verbally Abusive Relationship, by Stacy Mosel, MSW, that was published online by PsychCentral.com on March 22, 2014.
If you are your parent’s caregiver and live in your parent’s house, move out NOW, even if there’s no one else to care for them. If your parent lives in your house, tell them to move out. If they don’t, or don’t have anyone else to care for them, call your city’s or county’s Abuse Hotline (in some areas, it’s called Adult Protective Services) and ask for help.
When the dust settles, you’ll feel a wide variety of conflicting and unresolved emotions. That’s normal. The recovery process takes time, support from others, patience and paying close attention to your own needs. The good news is that you will get through it and emerge as a stronger, happier and healthier person. Think of yourself as a beautiful butterfly, slowly emerging from its transformative cocoon.
Cut All Ties with Your Parent
People who end abusive relationships often feel the need to contact their “former” abusers. On some level, you know that you shouldn’t have any contact, yet you might feel compelled to show your parent that you’re better off — or you may feel the need to offer forgiveness. Yet it’s vital to cut off all contact. Don’t open the door to your emotions — not even a crack.
It’s very hard to have closure until you’ve severed all ties with your parent. Delete phone numbers so that you won’t feel the urge to make a phone call or send a text in the heat of an emotional moment. Unfriend your parent on social media sites. Don’t read or answer their emails. If you don’t already have one, buy a phone with caller ID; don’t answer it if your parent calls, and delete their voice message without listening to it. Distract yourself whenever you feel the need to contact them. Go for a walk, exercise, watch TV, call a friend or get out of the house until the feeling passes.
Process Your Emotions
Healing from an abusive relationship is an emotionally challenging process. When you first leave a verbally abusive relationship, you might feel utterly alone and as though you have no one to turn to. You may feel a decreased sense of self-esteem and self-worth, depression, anger, frustration or isolation — and you might even miss your parent. But, that’s the parent you wish you had, not the one who made your life so miserable.
Although you may experience a host of painful, upsetting emotions, don’t suppress them. According to domestic violence expert Patricia Evans in her book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Expanded Third Edition: How to recognize it and how to respond [affiliate link], recovery from verbal abuse offers you the chance to accept and recognize your emotions as valid. Write in a journal, cry, scream, beat the couch with a pillow, join a kick-boxing class or find another activity that will allow you to physically and mentally process your feelings.
Find Social Support
Verbally abusive parents often socially isolate their children. You may have been cut off from your friends, family and other forms of previous social support. Even though you’ve taken the steps toward a better life on your own, it’s a lot easier to move on when you’ve surrounded yourself with an encouraging and loving support network. And an understanding friend can keep you on track when you feel like contacting your parent.
Reconnect with loved ones and seek opportunities to meet new people by reaching out and developing your personal interests. Take a cooking course, join a group fitness class, knock on your neighbor’s door and say hi. Join a domestic violence survivors group to connect with and obtain support from people who’ve been in your shoes.
Individual counseling can be a very beneficial source of support throughout the recovery process. Trained counselors who specialize in abusive relationships can lay out a framework of recovery and help you identify the skills and strengths you already have to begin moving forward in your new life.
Ignore the pleas and protestations of your siblings and other relatives. Don’t fall into their guilt traps. If necessary, suspend those who “just don’t get it.” You are your own person. You have a right to own your own feelings, not to be embarrassed by them. Stand up straight. Take pride in yourself and your decision. Stay strong, despite the naysayers.