By Shelley Flannery | DomesticShelters.org
If you told anyone during your relationship about the abuse you were experiencing, you probably received some judgy questions (Why do you keep going back?), unsolicited advice (You should just leave!) and some shaming opinions (I would never let someone treat me like that).
Maybe you were expecting that—it’s why a lot of survivors are afraid to disclose. But now, what’s really blindsided you is the judgement you’ve faced since leaving an abuser.
Marriage is for life. You two should just go to counseling.
Your children need their father.
There are two sides to every story.
At a time when you need unconditional support, it’s hurtful when friends and loved ones make their opinions known in no uncertain terms. And more importantly, it can get in the way of your healing.
“Judgement can further traumatize and victimize a survivor, who already usually has a huge sense of guilt and shame around the relationship,” says Stacie Freudenberg, licensed psychologist with Luminate Psychological Services. “It’s hard to overcome trauma when you’re still being traumatized.”
The good news is there are ways to deal with criticism without having to hide your feelings or unfriend everyone you know.
Getting Support from Loved Ones
During your relationship with an abuser, you may have experienced isolation or been forced to distance yourself from friends and family. But now you need people to lean on. If the people who are still in your life are judgmental, it can be difficult to connect with them on a deeper level.
Freudenberg suggests starting by having a conversation to get them to understand what it is you’re going through.
“There is still so much stigma that has been present for such a long time around domestic violence,” she says. “One reason people are judgmental is probably a lack of understanding. In many cases, it can help to explain to a loved one what’s transpired and how they can be supportive.”
Therapy, Freudenberg says, can be hugely helpful.
“I’m always an advocate for working with a therapist,” she says. And that can be on your own or with a loved one to help you open up the lines of communication or better relay your needs when it comes to their support.
Turning to Peers
Whether or not you’ve got the support of loved ones, they may not ever fully understand what you’re going through. That’s why it’s helpful to talk to other survivors.
“Breaking the silence and maintaining that broken silence is extremely valuable,” Freudenberg says. “Peer support groups, which are usually offered through domestic violence agencies are very helpful. There can be some community, and sharing your experience can be very validating, which is so important for healing and surviving after trauma.”
Find out more about support groups, give us a call at 863-763-2893.
Do What’s Best for You
It’s up to you how much judgment you can take from loved ones. If you’re lucky enough to have multiple support people in your life, reserve sharing the details of your situation only with those who have your back.
For everyone else, nip judgmental comments in the bud. One technique Psychology Today recommends for dealing with judgmental people is to say thank you, as in:
I appreciate your input. THANK YOU.
I’m okay with the ways I’m handling this, but THANK YOU.
I’m happy with my decision, but THANKS!
If that doesn’t work, you may need to distance yourself from people who aren’t being supportive, at least until you work through the stages of recovery after trauma.
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