25 August 2022

Major Lessons Learned from an Abusive Relationship

Challenging Healing Lessons from an Abusive and Narcissistic Relationship

Major Lessons Learned from an Abusive Relationship : Vernon Chalmers

"Remove yourself from people who treat you like your time doesn’t matter, like your feelings are worthless, or like your soul is replaceable" — s.mcnutt

25 August 2022 marked my second anniversary after leaving an abusive, violent and overall toxic relationship. It was an emotionally charged and challenging period of my life, especially the first couple of months. I had to come to terms with getting out of the FOG (Fear | Obligation | Guilt) for letting go and walking away from someone that I thought (at the time) I have fallen in love with.

Recognising Abusive Behaviour
I have written extensively here on my Mental Health and Motivation website about some of my now ex girlfriend's unacceptable behaviour that I was subjected to during the relationship. I will therefore not repeat the well-documented encounters of her abusive behaviour against me, her chronic lack of gratitude, the many overt and covert relationship red flags, my paradoxical cognitive dissonance and / or my interpretation of love, loss and grief.

25 August was my late mother's birthday. Celebrating this special day with her was one of the highlights of every year while she was alive. It is ironic that 25 August is now also associated with reminiscing the most challenging relationship of my life. It was not in any way scripted like this, but rather the unfortunate unfolding of events after some unjustified abusive behaviour towards me. I don't mind sharing this day between one of the best and the most disappointing relationships of my life - it places my mother's sincere character and sense of gratitude into such a healthy perspective (and positive reinforcement of how I should conduct myself in the presence of all other).

Decision to Leave an Abusive Relationship
Two years ago I reluctantly, but sensibly removed myself from a toxic relationship with an attractive, intelligent and charming woman (albeit with an unashamed false sense of entitlement and the definite queen of grandiosity at times). Her initial impeccable character and intellect, at least in my presence,  made way for a staggering flow of abusive behaviour against me. After a few months of various unprovoked physical and verbal attacks I faced the daunting realisation of being close to the edge of clinical exhaustion as a result of a perpetual trauma bond with an emotionally unstable partner.

Going No Contact
I isolated myself for a few weeks in going No Contact for essentially reflecting on her poor time management, limited empathy, abusive behaviour, lack of remorse etc. that unfortunatly created an overwhelmingly toxic relationship environment. I realised that I cannot continue to ignore the increasing red flags any longer. After a rather dramatic detachment (final breakup) I was consumed with disappointment and grief that inevitably developed into months of severe post-relationship trauma. The objective of staying No Contact (even after the breakup) is still 100% maintained.
Behavioural Research and Self-Assessment
I spent more than a year in not only researching the psychological 'cause and effect' of antisocial (relationship) behaviour and the traumatic consequences, but also assessing (and understanding) my own codependent behaviour vulnerabilities for staying in an abusive relationship. 

Letting Go... 
Letting go of this transactional and abusive relationship was not an achievement as such, but rather the acceptance of ending a dramatic trauma bond that had the toxic behaviour dynamics to cause severe (and possibly long-term) negative consequences. I was unfortunatly enmeshed in an unhealthy relationship with someone who was emotionally stunted in the ability to trust, love and / or respect others as part of the reciprocal values required for an emotionally stable relationship.

Achievements after Leaving an Abusive Relationship
  • Apart from gaining an extensive body of additional psychological reference knowledge I have had many opportunities for discussing the abusive relationship with family members, friends and professional contacts. I did not (at any stage) consider professional counselling, but rather through no further contact, self-determination, honest reflection and informal psychodynamic talk therapy (with my professional contacts) pursued improved control over my own cognitive dissonance, emotional conditioning and relevant behaviour modification.
  • During the relationship (and extended aftermath) I lost some of my creativity, daily motivation and sense of self. My own photography was severely compromised for focusing almost exclusively on someone else's omnipresent needs and wants. It took me months for regaining my normal confident self, my interest in my own photography, photography training and the daily management of my CFD trading portfolios.
  • Spending less time reading and researching about the 'cause and effect' of antisocial behaviour / personality disorders. I spend more time lately with my own photography and the daily reading / researching about trading and investment opportunities / threats.
  • The ability to once again engage with a variety of people with trust, effective communication and the setting of assertive personal boundaries (when and where required). It has happened a few times recently where I had to set and enforce personal boundaries for protecting my privacy and personal space.
  • I have always considered empathy and gratitude as important personal / relationship qualities - its only now that I truly understand the impact and consequences when these emotional values are vaguely selective or completely absent from someone's Emotional Intelligence repertoire. The words 'thank you' became the most important words in my vocabulary over the last year. 
  • Spending relatively long periods in solitude without anxiety (and worrying) about someone else's feelings, actions and reactions. Many hours were consumed with soul searching / self analysis to eventually emerge with a renewed sense of self-awareness, continuous self-enrichment and an ever-increasing emotional intelligence. 

Lessons Learned from an Abusive Relationship (Narcissistic Abuse)
  • I cannot take responsibility for someone else's (antisocial) behaviour, I did not cause her inherent propensity towards aggressive tendencies and I do not have to be in the 'firing line' of any abusive and antisocial behaviour against me. I can only control my own behaviour towards other people and that I should be more mindful in terms of my own judgement, decision-making and social behaviour towards the actions and reactions of other people (in an intimate relationship and / or otherwise).
  • That I should be more vigilant towards pathological behaviour patterns and obvious and / or covert (silent) red flags during any stage of an intimate relationship. I've read, researched and listened to an extensive range of world-class intimate relationship abuse recovery and psychology resources. Not only for the identification / understanding of psychopathy and related personality disorder traits, but also for assisting me with reference to responsible (re)actions towards any antisocial behaviour.
  • That there are indeed people who cannot say 'thank you' - with a preconditioned disregard for not expressing any gratitude whatsoever. It was the first time in my life that I have experienced such a profound sense of self-entitlement (for any received goodwill) and / or deliberate rejection of thankfulness. It took me a while to understand and except that I should not just assume someone will say 'thank you'.
  • To address and improve my own relationship codependency behaviour in terms of setting healthy boundaries by not accepting any destructive behaviour tendencies towards me, not trying to please other people and not to feel / be responsible as a 'caregiver' when a more mature relationship disposition is required.
  • That processing, letting go and healing from an abusive / toxic relationship is an emotionally challenging detachment, especially without (proper) closure. It required a conscientious effort of personal introspection, own behaviour modification, resilience, forgiveness and acceptance to move beyond the realms of just accepting someone else's (false) sense of entitlement, lack of respect and incessant aggressive behaviour tendencies. 
  • Recovery and healing time from an abusive relationship is a different journey for anyone going through the challenge(s) of detaching from an unfortunate trauma bond. Its easy (in hindsight) to say it took me a year. A year ago I had no idea how long it would take - some days It felt it would never happen.   

Throughout the last two years I have had invaluable private conversations with many people about the toxic dynamics of this abusive relationship and the eroding effect on my emotional wellbeing. I was brutally honest in describing the essence of every (physical) attack against me, the utter disrespect for my integrity and her grandiose disdain for everything that I tirelessly offered during the relationship.

Acceptance and Rebuilding after an Abusive Relationship  (Narcissistic Abuse)
What made the acceptance so much more sustainable was the realisation that the grief of losing someone special does not have to go away. What did go away eventually was my fear of letting go. This quote by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler provided me with the necessary perspective and solace for moving on - “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”

Having accepted the undercurrent ebb and flow presence of my grief (and trauma from the abuse) I find myself thinking less and less of this specific grief / trauma (and person). The ever-consuming dark thoughts of grief, loss and associated trauma made way for more coherent thinking and mindful living of being in the moment - focussing on the daily awareness of here and now... It took me more than 18 months of introspection, reflection and soul searching to finally arrive at the other side of this emotionally challenged, but self-enriching journey.

Recovery from Narcissistic Abuse
In the aftermath of the relationship I struggled to come to terms with the grandiose disdain shown for any contributions of compassion and goodwill I effortlessly offered during the relationship. I questioned my empathetic vulnerabilities, my own identity and core values that could possibly have 'justified' the abuse against me. It took more than a year of soul searching, research and the passing of significant time for creating the inner peace to complete the recovery puzzle. Read more >>

Mental Health Healing Process Disclaimer / Reference
This healing process is entirely structured around my own experience(s) in developing a coping and recovery strategy for dealing with the aftermath / trauma from an abusive relationship. The healing process I followed is not in any way intended as a consequential recommendation (or guidance) for others to follow and expect similar results (in the same time frame). It should be viewed as a source of information / frame of reference as one specific attempt to come to terms with and heal from an unhealthy relationship. 

© Vernon Chalmers : Mental Health and Motivation (Healing from Trauma and Narcissistic Abuse)

Healing Process After an Abusive Relationship

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