Love shouldn’t hurt -ever

Sometimes, in an unhealthy relationship, you feel you must prove to yourself that you are right to feel hurt and mistreated. Abusers often gaslight victims into believing they are crazy and nothing they are feeling is reality. These relationships are like a death spiral; a never ending spin that always favors the person who wants to have power and control over you. After a while of being hurt, mistreated, and devalued, it’s easy to get comfortable just believing they must be right and to give them power over you and then you are left feeling you aren’t even worthy of love. How do you get off this emotional rollercoaster?

The biggest thing you must do is learn to validate yourself. Let’s stop there and define the word validate. Validate means to confirm, corroborate, substantiate, verify, and authenticate. So the first thing is to acknowledge to yourself that what you are experiencing is real. Living in an abusive relationship full of gas lighting and demeaning behaviors can skew your perception of everything in life, including yourself. It’s a lot like brainwashing. After a while, even you start believing you are just dramatic, exaggerated, overreacting, and something must be terribly wrong with you. No. Your feelings are real. You are not crazy. Just because someone chooses to not believe you doesn’t mean you are lying. Just because someone chooses to not support you doesn’t mean you are not worthy. Just because someone chooses not to love you doesn’t mean you are unlovable.

Once you realize your feelings are valid, overcoming them is a process. You have to find the strength to really examine yourself and the relationship and acknowledge that you have been manipulated. It can be very hard to admit that the potential relationship you hoped for is not the reality of the relationship you have. Deciding to believe in yourself and not believe someone’s lies is a huge step in regaining power over your life.

The next step is repairing your self-esteem. When in an abusive relationship, it’s normal to devalue yourself. After being treated as worthless, you begin to believe it must be true. Reactions to feeling worthless can range from self-harm to addictions to engaging in dangerous activities to any number of things. Sadly, these behaviors are all normal reactions to feeling devalued. The key to overcoming is being able to realize your own value without a need for anyone else to confirm it. Finding friends who are supportive of you and not trying to use you for their gain is important. Realizing that you are a lovable, caring, smart, worthy person, who can make a huge difference in the world, can help you live each day to the fullest. And once you reach this milestone, you can build a life you truly enjoy.

If you or someone you know has experienced intimate partner violence or sexual assault, Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free services such a crisis counseling, court advocacy, and support groups. You may reach us at 256.574.5826 or our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000. You are not alone.

-Teresia Smith

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