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Healing After an Emotionally Abusive Marriage

by Sharon O'Neil

There was probably a time when you thought your marriage would be happy ever after. Unfortunately, your spouse's emotional abuse turned your dreams of marital bliss into a nightmare. Emotional abuse includes controlling behaviors, such as isolating, intimidating and limiting access to financial resources. Abusers also humiliate, threaten and criticize to have power over their victim. In a 2004 AARP survey of divorcees age 40 and older, 34 percent cited emotional, verbal or physical abuse as the reason for ending their marriage. After escaping from your abusive marriage, you should take steps to learn from the experience and heal.

Protect Yourself from Abuse

Even if the marriage is over, your ex may still be a threat. Put measures in place to prevent or reduce contact with your former spouse. Change your phone number and have your phone company block the number from showing up on caller ID. Make sure your social media pages are on private settings. Have a plan to quickly alert friends or neighbors if she shows up and you need help, such as a signal or code word. If avoiding contact is not a choice -- you have children or need to finalize your divorce -- set boundaries. Examples include talking in person with her only when another adult is present, or end the conversation and walk away, if she begins to raise her voice.

Nurture Yourself to Heal

Even though you don't have physical scars from your ex's abuse, the damage to your self-esteem and self-confidence can run just as deep. Victims of abuse often feel like they are walking on eggshells -- trying to please their abuser and keep him from becoming angry. This causes victims to lose their sense of self-identity, according to Steven Stosny, Ph.D., in Psychology Today. Now that the abuse is over, focus on taking care of yourself and doing things that you enjoy.

Surround Yourself with Support

Reach out to friends and family for positive support. Since it’s easy for abusers to hide emotional abuse from others, let them know what you have been through. Consider talking about your abuse to a counselor who can help you deal with your feelings. Contact domestic violence programs in your area so you can speak to an advocate or join a support group.

Learn About Healthy Relationships

Once the wounds from your abuse have healed and you are ready to start a new relationship, you will want a partner who treats you with fairness and respect. In a healthy relationship, you can set boundaries and let your partner know when you disagree with her or feel uncomfortable. You can speak to one another openly without the threat of criticism.

About the Author

Sharon O'Neil has been writing professionally since 2008. Her work has been published on various websites, including Walden University's Think+Up. She has worked in international business and is a licensed customs broker. She is currently a supervisor with a social service agency that works with families to prevent child abuse and neglect. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in business from Indiana University.

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