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It is very common for people in abusive relationships to feel a sense of guilt when they stand up for themselves and get out of the relationship. Guilt is partly what causes people to stay in abusive relationships. Abusive spouses can use fear, guilt and intimidation in their attempt to control those they abuse.
The first thing you can do to help yourself is to understand and recognize that you were abused. Being criticized daily is a form of domestic emotional abuse. Once you accept you were a victim, then it becomes easier to learn about the effects the abuse had on you and how you can start to heal.
The second step is to seek therapy. Talk therapy can help you get in touch with the trauma of being abused and help you understand why you continue to feel guilty. You can find a therapist either through your doctor or search on line at http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/.
You may also want to consider getting your children into therapy. The trauma they witnessed will have an effect on them, especially as adults. Children exposed to violence in the home, even if it is emotional, often grow up to either be victim themselves, or perpetrators. They can also develop fears and other problems such as alcoholism. Your children's doctor should be able to help you with a referral, or you could see a Family therapist together.
The third step is to get in touch with others who have gone through domestic abuse. There are in person and on line support groups available. Here is a link to help you find one:
The fourth step is to educate yourself about domestic violence and it's effects. This will help aid you in your recovery. Here are some resources to get you started:
It's My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence, 2nd Edition by Meg Kennedy Dugan and Roger R. Hock
Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft
The Emotionally Abused Woman : Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself by Beverly Engel
You can find these books on Amazon.com or your local library may have them for you.
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