What are some of the best self-help books you read after leaving an abusive relationship?
June 7, 2011 1:22 PM   Subscribe

What are some of the best self-help books you read after leaving an abusive relationship?

I just left my boyfriend after a year or so of dating, because last night his anger escalated to the point of him getting in my face, yelling at me, grabbing me from behind and pushing me down a hallway. Prior to this incident, there were issues with alcohol and many instances of emotional abuse (threatening to kill himself if I left him, etc). I am sad, furious, and ashamed that I loved someone so much who was so awful to me. I have no intention of seeing or talking to him ever again, but I am looking for books/resources to help me heal. I also have an appointment with a therapist this week. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
First of all - you are a champ for leaving. It is not easy. And it will only get easier from here on out. The first thing you need to do, before you read any books, and what you should focus on with your therapist, is this: I am sad, furious and ashamed that I loved someone so much who was so awful to me. That thought is going to make this harder than it needs to be. Shame is not just useless in this situation, it's devastating and will set you back. Feel no shame about your actions in the past. Recognize them and give yourself mondo props for being able to do that. Examine the things that made it hard for you to stand up for yourself objectively and with kindness.

Now, all that said, and this book may sound cheesy - and it very well may be cheesy - but when I was 19 I got out of a very emotionally abusive relationship, and I read this book. It was like a lightning bolt for me.

Good luck to you - you are so strong for stopping this cycle. I am so sorry you are hurting. You are doing right by yourself and that can't be undone. Feel free to memail me to talk more if you'd like.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:27 PM on June 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

I read, When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
posted by marimeko at 1:47 PM on June 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

[comment removed - answers need to have book suggestions in them. Sorry.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:05 PM on June 7, 2011

I read Reviving Ophelia and realized I hadn't gone crazy during adolescence, and that yes, I had just left an abusive relationship. I definitely feel it's worth a read, no matter your age.
posted by Specklet at 2:19 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I found Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds Of Angry and Controlling Men really helpful for making sense of how I got trapped in the situation. I also remember reading It's My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence, although ten years after the fact it doesn't stand out to me too much.

And oddly enough, I also found How to Survive the Loss of a Love helpful - even though my ex was a horrible, abusive dickwad, I had had an established relationship with him that I thought was love, and dealing with his absence was challenging, especially because my support network thought I should be 100% relieved to be rid of him. I got there eventually, but acknowledging that I was dealing with the end of a romantic relationship was useful.

(And I really understand why you feel ashamed right now, but I hope that with time you'll realize that he's the one to blame, and you did the best you could. Feel free to memail me if you want to chat with someone a long time out of it.)
posted by Neely O'Hara at 2:21 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. For when you are doubting your own ability to judge people/situations.

Good luck.
posted by mrfuga0 at 2:34 PM on June 7, 2011

The relationship is found it helpful for wasn't abusive, but the content of thus book covers that; sounds cheesy, but How to heal a broken heart in 30 days was a pretty good read.

As with all things, take what is helpful, leave the rest.
posted by platosadvocate at 3:18 PM on June 7, 2011

Sorry to hear you're going through this, though it seems you're moving in the right direction, and things will get better.

Mine wasn't abusive, but when I was having a hard time after coming out of a 10-year relationship, I was also helped by When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, previously mentioned by @marimeko.
posted by mistikle at 3:32 PM on June 7, 2011

My suggestion is an oldie but a goodie: Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood. Helped me.
posted by likeso at 3:40 PM on June 7, 2011

Thirding When Things Fall Apart. That book helped me immensely and was, most importantly, non-gender-specific (I'm a gay male). Which isn't to say that some great self-help books can't be reverse-engineered for their message alone, but I just wasn't in the mood for splitting the difference at the time.
posted by mykescipark at 4:09 PM on June 7, 2011

I know you said you're looking for self-help books, but I'd also suggest you consider also reading any novels that feature strong women. For example, I really got a lot from reading the book These is my words by Nancy Turner. Reading the (fictional) journal of a strong pioneer woman as she grows up and fights to survive was a pleasure. She's a woman who can say no, who is figuring out what she wants to stand for. I'm envisioning you with a stack of self-help books, and can definitely see a couple of good novels in that stack. Something to help you look toward the future, focus on yourself and who you are. Sounds like you did the right thing - lots of women have been there, done that. Absolutely wonderful that you got out okay.
posted by belau at 4:47 PM on June 7, 2011

I too read When Things Fall Apart. Very helpful! I looked for a book on abuse recovery and couldn't find one I liked.

I also read the book on codependency that I recommended here: Diagnosing and Treating Co-Dependence: A Guide for Professionals Who Work with Chemical Dependents, Their Spouses, and Children. But I'm not sure now is a great time to read it, because it made me feel "screwed up" at a time i wanted to be feeling proud of myself. But if you find yourself trying to figure out how to fix your relationship, or wondering if you were selfish for leaving it, that book will jolt you out of thinking that way.

I'll also nth Why Does He Do That. But given the timing, I'd start with When Things Fall Apart.
posted by salvia at 6:05 PM on June 7, 2011

P.S. That book I mention on codependence was ultimately really helpful to me. But if I could do it again, I'd read it a month or so after the breakup, when I was a little stronger and ready to take the next step of self-help learning, not while I was still "treading water" to stay afloat emotionally.
posted by salvia at 6:09 PM on June 7, 2011

Nthing infinity When Things Fall Apart. I also read, on the recommendation of my therapist, The Emotionally Abused Woman. She also recommended The Emotionally Abusive Relationship by the same author, but I couldn't make myself read it.

Congratulations to you for getting out and seeking resources. Best of luck.
posted by motsque at 5:45 AM on June 8, 2011

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