Going through a breakup is always difficult, no matter the circumstances. However, when someone has experienced unhealthy or abusive behaviors in a relationship, it can be even more challenging. Someone going through a breakup from a partner who used unhealthy or abusive behaviors can feel anxious, worried or scared about what could happen next. In fact, only 33 percent of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. They could also feel even more depressed or sad, especially if their ex-partner used verbally or emotionally abusive behaviors. Relationships with partners who have used abusive behaviors can have serious ramifications by putting the partner who was experiencing abuse at higher risk for depression, risky sexual behavior, substance abuse and eating disorders.
The good news is that the feeling of a breakup is temporary. If you are getting ready to break up or have recently broken up with someone while experiencing unhealthy or abusive behaviors, here are a few tips to keep in mind to take care of your mental health:
It’s okay to be sad. Allow yourself a good cry (or several) if you need it. It might seem better to hide your feelings and appear strong, but it’s healthy to release those feelings of pain so you can move on from the relationship.
Don’t doubt what you did. It’s easy to think, "I’ve made a terrible mistake!" about your breakup, but you did it for a reason. Your ex-partner may even use unhealthy or abusive behaviors after the breakup to convince you that you were wrong to break up. Trust yourself. Confront the doubt and realize that the decision you made was the right one, because not only do you want to be in a healthy relationship, but you deserve a healthy relationship.
Get creative. It might seem scary to try something new, but it’s healthy to get involved in clubs, extracurriculars, volunteering, athletics or artistic endeavors. If you don’t feel ready to be around new people yet, you can always start a solo project, cook a great meal, catch up on Netflix or read a favorite book.
Go back in time. Did you have a favorite activity before you were in the relationship? Get back to your roots and try some of the hobbies you had that may have stopped because of your ex.
Spend time with others. Sometimes, unhealthy relationships cause people to unintentionally sever ties with loved ones. Reconnecting with the people in your life that you love, like your family and friends, will remind you that you are not alone.
Stay out of contact. You might be tempted to call or text your ex. Resist the temptation and try being alone for a while. Not only will this help you recover, but it can potentially prevent your ex from believing it’s okay to contact you if you do not wish to be contacted by them.
Rely on your support systems. Your friends and family care about you, and they can help you get through this tough time. Talk to them about how you feel after the breakup. If you feel comfortable doing so, tell your parents or friends about anything unhealthy or abusive that may have happened during the relationship.
Tell other people what you want. Put your support systems on alert if you feel unsafe. Even if you decide not to tell them about unhealthy or abusive behaviors that happened while you were together, you can let your family, friends, co-workers and others know that you do not want to see your ex-partner at home, school or work.
Focus on the present. It’s easy to dwell on the past rather than thinking about today and the future. Do your best to concentrate on what’s happening now. Are you enjoying yourself? What makes you happy? The end of a relationship does not mean you can never discover a new passion or reclaim your life.
Love yourself. What happened has happened. You cannot go back and stop yourself from dating or falling in love with your ex-partner, nor can you go back and try to change their behaviors. You’ve broken up, and you can move on from this. You are worthy of real love and happiness! The more you focus on self-love, the easier it will be to find someone who you can love again -- and who will love you in return, in a healthy relationship.
If you’re concerned for your safety, or the safety of someone else, alert administrators, managers or security at school or work. For example, at school, administrators can work to adjust a class schedule to help you or someone else feel safe. A manager at work can find someone to walk you to your car after work, or let security know not to let your ex-partner come in the building.
Want to create a safety plan? We have safety planning tools for both high school and college students, so take advantage and figure out the best way you can stay safe. Do not hesitate to call 911 if you feel you’re in immediate danger.
Want to talk to someone about your breakup? Call us at 1-866-331-9474 and speak with a peer advocate, text “loveis” to 22522 or go online to chat. We’re here for you!