If
you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, there are ways to
break away and stop the cycle of domestic violence. I have personally
experienced physical and emotional abuse, and lived through the challenges
associated with rebuilding my life as the single parent of a young child. I am
here to say that it is not only possible to survive, but it is possible to
thrive with the right support and commitment. With these tips, my hope is that
you will feel empowered to love yourself.

If
you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, there are ways to
break away and stop the cycle of domestic violence. I have personally
experienced physical and emotional abuse, and lived through the challenges
associated with rebuilding my life as the single parent of a young child. I am
here to say that it is not only possible to survive, but it is possible to
thrive with the right support and commitment. With these tips, my hope is that
you will feel empowered to love yourself.

1. Acknowledge the existence of abuse. Victims tend to minimize the abuse. Abuse does
not have to be physical. It is frequently emotional and/or psychological. You
don’t have to wait for broken bones or a black eye before you consider it
abuse. Yelling, name-calling, intimidation and threats are all forms of abuse.
If you are forced to have sex without your consent, it is abuse and
is sexual assault. Ask yourself: “Are you often walking on
eggshells?” Keep in mind that most abusers are charming and apologetic
after the abuse; there is a honeymoon period. Then predictably the tension builds
followed by an explosion. Many women and men stay trapped in this cycle hoping
that this time the abuse will stop.

2. Reach out for help. Fortunately, there are many organizations (local and
national) that specifically have the resources to help you. You are not alone!
Your friends and family members are not necessarily the best people to help
you. They mean well, but they could still be minimizing the abuse or you could
jeopardize their safety by obtaining their help.

Call
the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or
1-800-787-3224. They will refer you to the organization in your area. Many have
emergency shelters that provide many resources. If you have children, they will
be able to shelter them as well. They understand and will not judge you in your
predicament. They provide individual and group therapy. They will help you with
legal matters such as obtaining temporary restraining orders.

3. Use a safe computer. The National Domestic Violence website warns
users to use a safe computer not accessible to the abuser as computer usage can
be monitored quite easily. The website has many resources. Yes, you need to take precautions so you
can be safe before you leave this relationship.

The time to be most vigilant is when the abuser
realizes that you are planning to leave him or her. Have a safety plan in
place. The above-mentioned website has a section to help you make these plans.

4.
Make every effort to address the underlying issues that led you to being in a
dysfunctional relationship.
 Did
you have a childhood that led you to doubt your self-worth? Although men and
women (heterosexual and homosexual) of many different cultural, racial, ethnic,
educational, economic groups become victimized in abusive relationships, the common denominators are lack of
self-esteem and self-love.

When we stay in these relationships, we become increasingly depressed; our
self-esteem plummets further. The downward spiral must be interrupted by
obtaining help. If you are depressed, you probably feel tired and indecisive.
Your thoughts are negative, which furthers the depressive mood. It is easy to
feel trapped and hopeless, but dig deep and look for that flicker of hope. It
is there!

5.
Get to the bottom of things.
 Are
you addicted to loveor
the feeling of being in love? Do you equate love with pain? Those of us who
felt alone, alienated and unloved growing up tend to seek out relationships
early in life. However, if our parents were in an unhealthy relationship, an
abusive dynamic will feel familiar and comforting.

It is vital
to acknowledge, explore and heal what led you to this pattern. Otherwise, you
are doomed to repeat it.
 Take
a break from relationships for a while. Taking the time to heal is so
important. If you have children, they need time to recuperate from the trauma
of witnessing abuse. It is normal for you to feel angry and sad, as well as
regret that you left the abuser.

Don’t wait until you don’t feel anything to leave. As
dysfunctional as it was, you cared about him or her. Surround yourself with
support; find a therapist who can assist you in rebuilding your self-esteem,
and start rebuilding your life.

Originally published on YourTango.

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