Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy

Being in an abusive relationship is extremely damaging. But even though everybody in your life and on the internet might be telling you to leave, maybe you don’t feel ready for that step yet.

Letting go and leaving a toxic relationship is extremely difficult.

I’ve done it myself, so I know how hard it is to truly give up on a person you care about.

If you feel like there is still hope for your relationship and you’re willing to work hard to fix things, this article will help you understand what it takes to fix an abusive relationship.

1. Both Partners Must Realize That They Are In An Abusive Relationship

In order to even begin fixing an abusive relationship, both the abuser as well as the victim must be willing to see that the abuse is a problem.

If you happen to be the victim in an abusive relationship, you must make sure that your partner sees his/her behavior as abuse. Otherwise, they will never even try to change.

First of all, realizing that your relationship is toxic is tricky in itself. Nobody ever chooses to be treated badly. We only find ourselves in those kinds of situations, because we’re blind to the damaging behaviors, that are either being inflicted upon us, or we’re inflicting upon others.

I used to be completely blind to verbal abuse and physical threats, crazy as it sounds, I perceived it as “means of communicating”. It wasn’t until I saw it for what it was, that I could start doing something about it.

The first time I realized I was being subject to verbal abuse and physical threats was during an internship. Even then, it took me two months of working in a completely toxic atmosphere, with bosses screaming at employees every single day until I realized that this was not a “normal working environment”.

It’s not just victims of abuse that are blind to it, the abusers themselves don’t see it either. They often view their behavior as justified and necessary.

Much like an abusive parent believes that spanking their kid is an act of love required to teach them a lesson, your partner might view his/her verbal abuse as e.g a way of expressing how much you mean to them.

So the first step in fixing an abusive relationship is making sure that both you and your partner don’t perceive their abusive behavior as normal or justified.

2. The Abuser Must Be Willing To Give Up The Power They Hold Over Their Victim

The power dynamic in an abusive relationship is often extremely unequal.

The truth is, all abusers rule with fear.

They might give you presents and then threaten to take them away.

They do something kind for you, then make you feel like you now owe them a thousand thanks, and must comply with all their desires.

Often victims of abuse feel like they’re walking on eggshells the whole time, constantly trying to avoid the next outburst.

All these kinds of behaviors are extremely manipulative. The abuser makes sure he/she can control their partner. They hold the power to make or break the relationship.

In order to turn a toxic relationship into a healthy one, both partners must make an effort to create a more equal power dynamic. That means the abuser must let go of the power and control and give it back to their partner.

The abusive partner must free their victim to act and choose as they please. It is a hard and scary step to take. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Sometimes To Gain Something, You Must Be Ready To Lose Something Else

True change often requires a sacrifice. Much like an abusive partner must let go of control and power, in order to fix a relationship, the victim must be ready to give up this paradoxical sense of safety that comes from being controlled.

As a victim in an abusive relationship, you’re going to have to learn to take charge in your life and accept responsibility for your own choices.

Moreover, if you and your partner truly want to save the relationship, you must face the source that caused both of you to be the way you are.

They say abusers aren’t born, they’re made. In order to fix an abusive relationship, you’re gonna have to talk a lot about where these kinds of behaviours originated from.

It’s not just the abusers that had had a rough childhood.

For someone to become a victim in an abusive relationship, they must have had their share of bad experiences as a child too.

There are a lot of books and resources that deal with the effects of all sorts of childhood trauma in adult life. If you are serious about fixing your relationship, you will have to look into it.

The book that really helped me to begin to grasp how toxic relationships work and where they stem from was Toxic Parents by Susan Forward.

4. Realize And Accept That The Change Will Not Happen From One Day Onto The Next

People don’t change their behavior from one day onto the next. All lasting changes are gradual.

Much like with losing weight, losing bad habits takes time, there are setbacks too. It’s about changing your mindset and developing a healthier attitude towards people.

Don’t expect your partner to suddenly stop all their abusive behaviors.

Likewise, don’t expect yourself to suddenly effortlessly set boundaries and always stand your ground.

Demanding a sudden change will only set you and your partner up for failure.

You have to come to terms with the fact that fixing an abusive relationship is a long term project. There are no quick fixes when it comes to this one.

Having said that, every little change in your or your partner’s behavior and attitude can make your relationship significantly better.

5. There Is Going To Be A Lot Of Emotional Baggage And Resentment To Deal With

A lot of relationship experts and religious leaders teach us to forgive and forget. This is really bad advice, especially when it comes to handling abusive relationships.

Forgiving and forgetting will inevitably set you up for more suffering, as an abusive partner will never have to face any consequences of his/her actions.

It’s in your interest to remember all the bad things that happened in the relationship, it is the only way to ensure that they will not repeat.

Holding your partner accountable is necessary to help them overcome their abusive tendencies and change their behavior for the better.

Unfortunately, all the abuse that has already taken place between you and your partner is taking a toll on your relationship. Abusive incidents shatter trust and cause resentment to build.

In order to save your relationship, you will need to talk about the bad things that happened between you.

Your partner will have to work on regaining your trust and you will have to find ways to process and express all that resentment and anger that gets pent up in every victim of abuse.

Conclusion

So can an abusive relationship be fixed?

I believe it can. However, in my personal experience, I’ve never managed to make it work. Not even when it was just an abusive friendship.

In most cases, the toxic people in my life didn’t want to see that there was something wrong with our relationship, and even when they did see the problem to some degree, they refused to give up the power the abuse gave them.

If both parties are not willing to make it work, it will not work and the abuse will continue.

In my thirty years of life, I was forced to leave a lot of people behind. Even though it was very sad and took me a long time to let go, cutting the abusers out freed me and changed my life for the better.

I understand if you’re wanting to do everything in your power to fix your abusive relationship. I did too. If your partner is willing to put the same effort in that you are, things could really change for the better.

However, be wary and don’t hesitate to put yourself first. Nobody deserves to be emotionally, verbally or physically abused.

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What are your experiences with fixing an abusive relationship? Let me know in the comments section!

Karolina

Karolina Bartnik