If you’ve been through a long-term relationship or marriage with an emotional manipulator, chances are you now blame yourself — for everything.
Your self-esteem may or may not have been all that high before the relationship began, but after years, possibly decades, of gas-lighting, shaming, yelling and relentless put-downs, being able to trust yourself again may be a far more difficult task than trusting the next romantic interest to come along.
With time, patience and generosity towards yourself, these 6 techniques will help you rediscover your true worth and accept the kind of love you deserve.
1. Read and hear your ex’s words as directed to themselves.
Someone who uses and abuses others emotionally or physically is expressing internal rage in a dysfunctional way. All of those nasty things they have said to you in the past, and will say again to you in the future, are expressions of how this person actually feels about him or herself.
Understanding their worst statements to you as statements to themselves will help release you of the shame and guilt you have absorbed.
2. Examine your social network closely, both online and off.
Most of us who have allowed an emotional manipulator into our lives in an intimate relationship have allowed others in our less immediate world to treat us the same way. Take a good look to see who else treats you in a similar fashion, and whether or not you can reduce or discontinue all together your connection to those people.
3. Create a list of behaviors you will not tolerate in the future.
What behaviors did your emotional manipulator and those people you recognized as treating you in a similar fashion have in common? Did they yell? Belittle? Coerce? Blame?
Create a list of behaviors that you will now be able to recognize as red flags and — here is the big game-changer: stick with it.
4. Keep a running log of your daily accomplishments.
Decide on a set time of day to sit down and remind yourself of what you have achieved. It could be a morning coffee time check in of the top 3 things from the day before, or a bedtime reminder that no matter how overwhelming the day may have felt, X, Y and Z are now in place.
5. Recognize ruminations on guilt and shame.
Most of us find that at some point in each day we have essentially zoned out briefly in deep thought about what we have done wrong, what we never get right or how if only we did what our ex had told us to everything would be so much better than it is.
The moment you realize that you are getting caught back up in these negative thought habits, tell yourself you have one more minute to finish the thought, and then you must pick a new, productive topic to shift your mind to.
6. Find a cause so you can channel your need to be of service in a healthier way.
Emotional manipulators don’t tend to pick victims who are weaker or less intelligent, but rather who are people-pleasers with a helping mindset. You likely were attracted to the idea that you could be of service to your ex in some way.
So find a cause that truly does need you and set aside a reasonable of time to work selflessly for them. Then look to build new relationships based on mutual respect and mutual service rather than you as giver and your partner as receiver.