Loving Yourself after Domestic Violence

Can you love yourself after domestic violence? Let’s delve a bit deeper and ask another question: Did you love yourself beforehand? Be transparent and honest with yourself here. Did you truly and completely love who you were before the domestic violence occurred? Maybe you didn’t (or still don’t) fully grasp what that means.

Here’s why I’m asking, and I’m going to be transparent with you! I did not love myself. That’s how I ended up in an abusive relationship. If I would have respected myself, I would have seen the disrespect clearly and would not have made excuses for his behaviors. I would have seen the red flags and would have turned and run the other way.

We teach people how to treat us. I didn’t know this either. Hang with me for a few more moments. Like you, I certainly did not enter into the relationship saying, “Oh, please be emotionally and mentally manipulative, spiritually void, and physically forceful.” I entered the relationship with high hopes of spending the rest of my life with this man. He was fun, brought me flowers, hid jewelry in the flowers, made breakfast, laughed with my children, and was playful. We danced, laughed, and went on adventures together. He even had me fooled by praying as a family. Little did I know these were all actions to weasel his way into the sad part of me which didn’t feel worthy of love since I was a single mother of two young girls.

My self-esteem was low. My need to be loved and to love was high. It was optimal circumstances for the perfect storm. And it had certainly become tumultuous within a year of our relationship. I bore him a son and the switch was flipped the other way. Expectations were made clear, demands were obvious, and life was filled with continual degrading words. The cycle had begun.

Had I respected myself at all, I would not have stood for his behavior. I would have quickly packed up and left him in my rear view mirror. But there I was, a new mom and two blessings from a previous marriage, feeling like this was my fate. I did not love myself. I had a rough road ahead of me to learn how to love me.

After finally packing up and moving far far away, it was critical for me to never be in another abusive relationship. I felt alone — though I had an amazing support system. Thankfully, no one in my immediate support system had endured the type of relationship I escaped. They didn’t have the capacity to understand the depths of what happened. (I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone.)

There I was, living in my brother’s basement, divorced again, and now with three tiny mouths to feed. I was in full-on survival mode. I had absolutely no idea what to do next. My inner circle also had no idea what to do with me — other than love me the best they knew how. I wish someone would have said, “See this road, it’s the one you want to take for a bit. Then you’ll know which paths to continue to follow.” Instead, the sands of the desert were vast, and my thirst for peace could not be quenched.

I wasn’t given permission to feel the feelings. So I was mostly stoic until I sobbed in the shower, in the closet, and in the kitchen once my children were asleep. I wish I would have found a group of like-minded people; people who shared the same interests and were willing to put their hands out to help me up. I wish I started a new hobby sooner. But when you’re in survival mode, there are days when breathing was difficult. I had no idea how to seek the wisdom of others who have healed before me. Where was I supposed to meet them? How was I supposed to trust anyone ever again? (Especially since I didn’t trust myself.) I turned back the hands of time and sought out relationships from my past. I wanted to feel worthy of love and welcomed with open arms. I no longer wanted to feel like used goods thrown out on the interstate for others to run over and ignore.

If I would have been aware of ways to love myself, my journey may have taken a bit less time. It’s not about the time really. It’s about what’s been learned, how you’ve healed, and what you do to help those who come after you. Healing is possible after domestic abuse and domestic violence. The first step is to love yourself at least as much as you want to love others.

Most humbly,

Orsika Julia

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Orsika Julia

Orsika Julia

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Raised by Hungarians, single-mom of humans & other things, author — nothing scares me