Share this with someone who might benefit.

When the emotional abuser apologizes and tries to make amends with their ex-partner after they’ve done a lot of personal growth and development, should they expect a response from their ex? Is that expecting too much?

Or is it time for all to move on and start anew?

In this article, I’m going to share a perspective from someone who has been on the journey of healing from being an emotional abuser.

This person (I believe she is a woman) wrote a heartfelt letter to her ex-partner, admitting to her past behaviors. She acknowledged her issues and the therapy she was undergoing and even brought up the possibility that she may never cross paths again. Her apology listed the wrongs she had committed, and she accepted full responsibility for her behaviors.

It’s always reassuring when the one who has been hurtful takes such accountability. It gives me hope that other people causing difficulties in a relationship will follow that path as well. Yet, I also recognize the complexity of these situations. Sometimes, the relationship has been damaged to the point of no return.

In my response to her (who asked me a question I’ll share in a moment), I addressed the challenge faced by the person who has been on the receiving end of her hurtful behavior, maybe for years.

When the victim of emotional abuse has found the strength to leave an abusive relationship, whether it’s because they chose self-protection or they decided they no longer have love in their heart for the other person, the last thing they might expect or want is an apology from the one who caused them so much pain.

If you’ve been the victim in an emotionally abusive relationship, imagine you’ve moved on from that relationship and found peace within yourself. But then you get a message from the ex or family member who had been hurtful to you. In their message, they apologized, expressed regret, and claimed to have changed. They may or may not be seeking reconciliation, but they want to make amends.

How would that feel? Is that something you’d welcome?

To the person who wrote to me about her apology to her ex, all she got was silence in return. No response. This left her feeling insecure, questioning whether the lack of response was a reflection on her as a person. She wanted some sort of closure, perhaps to either reconnect or move on.

For the emotionally abusive person, it might be incredibly hard to accept, but someone who has been deeply wounded over a long period of time may choose never to engage with their former abuser again.

When an abuse survivor makes a decision like that, they aren’t necessarily concerned or thinking about the abuser’s need for closure or validation. They’re usually thinking about their own right to heal, wanting to move forward on their own terms. They are no longer trying to meet the needs of someone who may never have met theirs.

Some survivors can find closure within themselves without needing any further interaction with the person who hurt them. Others may actually seek answers from them as to why someone who loved them hurt them in the first place. But everyone’s steps to healing are unique to them.

To the woman who wrote to me: you may be seeking closure after hurting your partner, but it’s vital you respect his space and silence. That’s what he needs from you now.

Of course, it’s natural to want to know the message you sent him has been received. It’s normal to want and hope for some acknowledgment. But it’s equally important to honor his choice to respond or not.

Whether it’s been weeks or months, I know the silence has been challenging for her. But she needs to focus on her own healing and growth, not on his thoughts or behaviors. This is important for both people to heal post emotional abuse. They need to focus on their own healing journey.

To the woman who wrote to me:

You told me you made significant strides in therapy and want to share that progress with your ex. That’s completely understandable! However, it’s crucial to remember that he has his own journey, and that journey may not include you.

Everyone has their own journey. It may be difficult, but it’s vital to support someone’s choices, even if their choices lead them on a path away from you.

That’s a tough pill to swallow, I know. In this woman’s case, respecting his need for distance is a part of taking responsibility and truly respecting his healing process. Some people who have been emotionally abused aren’t looking for closure from those who wronged them. Some just want to move forward and leave the past behind.

The question I see very often is:

If you loved me, why would you hurt me?

In other words, “If you supported my happiness, why would you inflict pain on me?”

That’s a question that might haunt you if you’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship.

Healing involves taking one step after the next. This is how you make progress. But if the person who was once hurtful to you reaches out after you’ve been separated for a while, it can feel like an unwelcome echo from the past.

It’s like being pulled back to a version of yourself that was too tolerant of unacceptable behavior and not aware enough to address things sooner. When you’ve worked hard to become a person who will no longer tolerate anything less than respect and kindness, you will never want to settle for that, ‘anything less’ ever again.

To maintain forward momentum and continue moving in that direction, your choice might be not to reconnect with the person you were once in a relationship with. And hearing from someone from your past can feel like a regression.

Victims of emotional abuse may not even attribute their negative thoughts and feelings to the perpetrator any longer. Maybe they’ve healed and moved on.

But, coming back to the point I made earlier, the perpetrator of hurtful behavior must understand that the person they’ve hurt might never want to hear from them again.

The emotionally abusive person who is on the healing path must accept that the victim of their behavior is taking crucial, positive steps to find peace, comfort, and happiness now.

Victims of emotional abuse must prioritize self-care, which sometimes means leaving the past behind without seeking closure.

To the woman who wrote, if you reach out to the man you’ve hurt and are met with silence, respect that silence.

It’s possible he could read or listen to what you sent them years later and then choose to reconnect with you. But no one knows if that will ever happen. So give him the most respectful and meaningful gift you can by letting him be.

I’m not saying sending an apology letter or sharing your growth and remorse is entirely off-limits. But if you do choose to reach out, do so with the mindset that it may be your final communication with the person you’ve hurt. And do so with no strings attached.

Never apologize expecting a response. That is a “string,” and it will feel like coercion to the person you’re apologizing to. This is what I call a “strings-attached” apology.

For example, asking for forgiveness is a strings-attached apology. It can be seen as an attempt to influence their response.

That’s not what a true apology is about anyway. An authentic, genuine apology with no strings attached doesn’t ask for forgiveness. A true apology is about expressing remorse for the pain you’ve caused and committing to never repeating those actions ever again.

Then, let them be. Walk away. Give them the space they want and need. If they react or respond to your apology, it should always be their choice and on their terms.

Love, in its truest form, always allows the other person to be who they are, even if that means they choose silence or distance.

That means supporting their choices and recognizing that they are perfect just as they are because they are making decisions that are right for them. Supporting someone on the path they’re on is how to show love.

The person who wrote to me said she was concerned about the silence she received in return. She feared it was a reflection on her as a person – something deep at her core, perhaps.

Let me be clear: that silence is a reflection of who you were.

The person you’ve hurt might indeed recognize and appreciate that you’re on a path to healing now. But he didn’t get to experience the loving, supportive person you are becoming now. He only know the person you were back then. And that’s the memory he’s left with.

But when you genuinely care about someone – when you truly support their happiness and their goals – sometimes the kindest thing you can do is to let them go, let them be, and wish them well, hoping they find fulfillment and happiness.

Then step back. You honoring what they want and need is the most loving gesture you can offer.

I understand the yearning to hear back from someone you’ve hurt, to have some sort of acknowledgment or dialogue. However, when they don’t reply, as hard as it might be, respect their silence and let them go.

The irony here is that a person who was once emotionally abusive may now be experiencing a similar sense of confusion and lack of closure that their behavior caused the other person to feel on a daily basis!

The roles got reversed. And it can be painful and difficult to reconcile inside their mind. This is usually the moment when a healing emotional abuser might finally understand the full impact of their past actions.

Through my Healed Being program, I help people realize and change these patterns. Participants often have epiphanies during the course, recognizing that their behaviors, which they believed were appropriate, were actually toxic and abusive.

But sometimes, these realizations come too late to repair the damage inflicted on the relationship and the person they’ve hurt. Sometimes, the victim has experienced too much for too long and reaches what I call their threshold: The point of no return.

The person doing emotionally abusive behaviors who takes responsibility for their past is a significant step toward healing. When they acknowledge, “I did this. I hurt this person. How could I have been so awful? What have I done?” They finally understand the full breadth of the destruction they’ve caused.

This is what I help people learn in the program. They reflect, analyze, and understand that the coping mechanisms and survival skills they developed in childhood, which served a purpose then, are harmful and destructive in their adult relationships.

I don’t only help them change their behaviors; I also help them get to the root of these behaviors so they can develop healthier ways of coping and relating to others.

The journey of healing the emotional abuser takes is a path that requires courage, accountability, and a willingness to transform from the inside out – usually becoming someone they’ve never been. That’s a tough road to travel for anyone to travel, but every step on the journey is worth it.

This woman’s therapist said that the letter she wrote to her ex was sincere. They said it’s a promising sign, and it’s possible that their ex-partner might respond to it one day.

But I want to remind her that it’s also important for her not to see the lack of response as a reflection on herself. My message to her:

It’s very normal for his silence to stir up emotions and cause you to feel insecure and unsure about your future. But it’s essential to focus on the present and take stock of where you are now.

If a month has passed without a word, it might be time to come to terms with that silence and move forward. It’s important to get some momentum in the right direction no matter what happens with your previous relationship. That way if you do end up reconnecting, you have done all you can to be the best version of yourself.

While this article primarily addresses those who were once hurtful and are now on a path to healing, I definitely don’t want to minimize the experiences of those who have been hurt. There are very few people who choose to change their abusive behaviors, which is why I continue to create episodes of Love and Abuse and write articles like this.

If you are in a relationship with someone who is hurtful to you, it’s crucial to communicate your pain. If you’re unable to pinpoint exactly what they’re doing to cause the hurt, and all you know is that you feel bad, it’s okay to express that, too. Let the person know that their actions or words are causing you pain. Let them know you feel disrespected, uncared for, unloved, or whatever is true for you.

And do so only if you feel safe enough to share these things. Always pick your battles wisely. This isn’t about winning, it’s about feeling safe enough to express yourself without putting yourself in harm’s way. If you can express yourself, letting someone know directly what you’re feeling should be enough for them to reflect on their behaviors and change what they’re doing.

If they don’t choose to change or just want to blame you for all the problems, you may have to make a bigger decision for yourself. You may have to reach your “threshold” to get to the point where you must take action or you’ll nothing will ever change.

Taking “action” means taking care of yourself. It’s about focusing on your own needs when the other person will not or isn’t capable of meeting them. When they don’t seem to grasp how to support and contribute to your happiness, you may have to accept that they may never be able to do that.

I realize the person who wrote that message to me may not appreciate my response to her message. It’s probably not something she wanted to hear. But sometimes, we have to stop dwelling on what we can’t control and accept that those we’ve hurt may have moved on as well – even if we’ve transformed into a completely different person and know that we will never hurt them again.

To the author of that message: You’ve done your part by reaching out. It’s now up to him to decide if he wants to respond to you. And you have to be okay with the possibility that he may never do that. As I stated earlier, some people prefer to leave the past behind and not rekindle connections with those they had a life with. And that’s a choice we have to respect.

You might compare that to watching a terrible movie. It’s an experience most of us would rather not repeat! Even if the director releases a new cut or an extended version that promises to change everything, the memory of the initial bad experience might deter you from giving it another chance.

Sure, there are good moments in most relationships. But sometimes, the bad moments outweigh the good, and the best decision could be to step away from both the good and the bad.

It’s a tough call, but self-preservation may need to become the top priority.

You can spend many wonderful moments with someone you care about. But if the hurtful times were overwhelmingly painful, it’s understandable to choose to leave it all behind and start anew.

A fresh start is an opportunity to be vigilant about the warning signs, the “orange flags” and “red flags,” to avoid falling into a similar situation.

The hardest part about loving someone is to wish for their safety, happiness, and fulfillment, whether they want to be with us or not.

My final words to the letter writer: I’m incredibly proud of you for embarking on the path to recovery from being an emotionally abusive person. Your life is going to change. You’re going to feel so much lighter and more free than you’ve ever felt.

And those you love will also feel that way being around you. Feeling free to be yourself is what love is all about.

Share this with someone who might benefit.

Paul Colaianni

Host of Love and Abuse and The Overwhelmed Brain

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x