In an abusive relationship? Here’s how to take back your power

By Cheryl Benadie

You’ve tried to ignore what your friends and family have been hinting at – but deep down you know, you’re in an abusive relationship.

You might be telling yourself right now “at least he hasn’t hit me”. A part of you fears it’s only a matter of time before that happens. And then you might be too afraid to leave.

We find ourselves in relationships that are not serving us because a part of our inner life is fragmented. There is something that created a propensity in us in our formative years to seek out the drama and the danger of the “bad boy”.

Maybe it’s because we were wired for dysfunction by watching our mothers get beaten up over and over again and we learned we are only worthy of love when we can help another person first become who they really are.

Because that’s the big lie, isn’t it?

That deep down, the scary monster of anger that shows up in the face of the man you love will only change into Prince Charming if you were just good enough. If you just love enough. If you just suffer enough.

But it’s never enough.

The first moment when you stifled the anxiety in your stomach – which you thought were butterflies – was the moment you started giving your power away. Then, every time he said something rude and you changed the subject, or you apologised for his behaviour, you surrendered more and more control.

Until eventually you realise you built this cage with your own hands – and now you feel like you deserve to be punished.

Relationships are mirrors – we subconsciously attract people that confirm our core beliefs. If we believe we’re not worthy of being loved, we will attract partners that will confirm these limiting beliefs.

The words he shouts at you are words you first shouted at yourself – on the inside anyway. And you’re hoping that if you can just prove to him that you can contort yourself into being whatever he needs, he might just deem you worthy of being loved.

Monsters only transform into men in books and movies. And in real life, hardly ever by human hands.

Two broken people can’t make one whole. You’re not a broken piece of a person, looking to find the other broken piece that will complete you.

The minute you were born, you were already priceless. You are already whole, complete, worthy.

You just forgot that.

Reminding yourself that you came into this world fully deserving of the best that life has for you is the first step in reclaiming your power. Most people asking you why you don’t just leave don’t really understand the process you went through to get to this stage.

You’re in relational quicksand and it’s going to take some careful and intentional manoeuvring to get out of it. There are a few ways this can happen.

He might just flip out completely and cross that line that you thought you were safe behind. If you’ve been promising yourself that the first time he hits you would be the last, then you need to keep that promise to yourself.

Just know that even if a violent episode causes you to leave, it will still be a process of untangling yourself from the enmeshment and control. You will seek to fill this void: perhaps with another person or a temporary comfort, like shopping, eating, drinking.

This is the best time to seek professional help. There are incredible counsellors and therapists who will help you rewrite the internal script. If you avoid this step, you will be more likely to repeat the cycle.

The other way of freeing yourself is by starting to get stronger on the inside. You might not feel able to leave the relationship now, even though you know you should. It is scary to remove the mask of self-deception, but knowledge is power.

Read books about co-dependency and watch videos of people who were able to break free. You’ll start to see that you actually have more power than you realise. And then, if you’re really brave, write down all the reasons that you’re in the relationship. You might need some outside help with this process – a friend you can really trust, a coach, counsellor or religious leader.

No one else can heal you and restore your wholeness. You will need some divine intervention here, to reconnect to the true essence of who you are. Who are you, really? Why are you here? What kind of work makes you come alive?

If you’re really honest with yourself, you know it’s been unfair to expect someone else to love you when you don’t love yourself yet. So, find out what’s lovable about you. What’s truly phenomenal about you being on this planet?

You might not have believed that you had the power to your own life before this relationship. Start to set healthier boundaries and saying small no’s. Pay attention to how you felt in that toxic, romantic relationship. How are the unhealthy patterns showing up in other areas of your life?

Are you also people pleasing at work? Do you still do things you don’t want to do because you need the approval of your parents or extended family members? You don’t have to play the role of victim anymore. Victims give all their power away and blame the people they gave it to.

Victors own their power unapologetically.