Excerpted from Beverly Engel's The Emotionally Abused Woman.
All of us travel through life with only one constant companion, and that is ourselves. How sad if your closest companion is someone you don't even know.
Whether you leave your current relationship or stay in it, it is vital that you discover who you are, separate from any relationship. You've been hiding from yourself by getting lost in one abusive relationship after another, and now you need to take some time to put your life in perspective, to heal from your past relationship(s), and to do some deep inner reflection. As scary as the prospect may seem, you need time alone to discover who you really are, to
learn to rely on yourself, to learn to like your own company, and to break your tendency to be dependent upon others.
Taking the time to be alone will help you gather the courage to leave an
abusive relationship, to avoid abusive relationships in the future, and to
discover what you want and need out of life. From this position you will be
less needy, less desperate to immediately attach yourself to someone in an attempt to avoid yourself.
If you have already ended your most recent abusive love relationship, it is
crucial that you do not get involved in another romantic relationship for at
least six months.This may seem like an awfully long time, but I can guarantee
you that if you don't spend at least this much time alone: working on your
own issues in therapy, attending assertiveness training classes, building up your self-esteem, and most important, getting to know yourself, you will find yourself in yet another abusive relationship, repeating the same pattern.
We cannot be intimate with another person until we are able to be intimate
with ourselves. In order to be intimate with another person, we must first
establish our own identity and know who we are and what we feel, prefer and
want. If we do not know these things about ourselves, we cannot share them
with another person. If we are unaware of ourselves, there is no way we can
express ourselves to someone else.
The more time you spend away from your abusive relationship, the more
objective you will be and the better able to recognize just how abusive it
was. You will also get a chance to observe relationships that are not
abusive and to see that there is another way to live.
The time you take to be alone now may be the only time you have ever stood
alone, not depending on anyone else to help hold you up. Your fear of being
alone has propelled you into continually seeking new relationships and staying in destructive ones. You need to know that you can be alone and be happy with yourself. That way you will never stay in an abusive relationship again out of fear of being alone.
Because of your low self-esteem, you, like many emotionally abused women,
have been searching for something outside yourself to give you a sense of
completion and a sense of being worthwhile. And, like many women in our
culture, you have probably looked to love to make you feel worthy and whole,
seeing romance as the solution for your feelings of incompleteness and
inadequacy. From an early age, most females in our society have been taught
that, as the song goes, "you're nobody until somebody loves you".
But the truth of the matter is that you are nobody until YOU love you. As
young girls, instead of being given any preparation for living alone or being
encouraged to discover who we were, many of us were taught to do nothing but
look pretty and wait for Prince Charming to come along. In essence, we were taught to defer the development of our personalities until we found a man.
People with low self-esteem often have a difficult time accepting their
aloneness. In their desperate search for completion, they will look to anyone
or anything, except themselves.