Grieving After Your Abusive Relationship
“Why Do You Still Love the Abuser You Left?”

Dr. King


by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

I often hear patients and readers ask, “What do I do about the fact that I still love the abuser that I left?”

How can that be, she longs to know, as this is the person that injured her, brought her grief...or as some say, ruined her life.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

When there is intimate partner abuse, it’s usually not about pure love after the fact; it’s more about attachment. That is, attachment to the fantasy now lost.

For some people, it is more about attachment to the life they lost or the years that have passed them by. Invariably something that longer is, and that’s what hurts...the absence of what was once there.

I liken it to an amputee’s pain after the limb is removed. The neurons are still firing and the experience of physical pain is quite real. We call it “phantom pain.”

Moving Forward Through Loss

The grieving of a bad relationship has many of the characteristics of grieving an assumed good relationship. It doesn’t matter whether your relationship was dysfunctional or healthy. When you are grieving its absence, you can experience any or all of the “Five Stages of Grief,” as we know from Kubler-Ross’ model...

1. Denial and Isolation - There may be utter denial that things have come to this. And you could isolate yourself in the shame of it all.

2. Anger - You may have rage toward yourself, your ex-partner and much in between.

3. Bargaining - You may even fantasize how life could be...may be...if and only...

4. Depression - The raw sadness that you taste is palpable, turning your day into tears.

5. Acceptance - And ultimately, you reach into your resources of self-repair aiding you in emerging from a relationship that didn’t work.

Self-Compassion Mends Grieving and Loss

When grieving the loss of a relationship, some domestic abuse survivors compound their grieving by reliving their victimization. They interpret the natural experience of grieving as something their former abusive partner did to them. However, this person can be far out of the picture.

Yet, in the survivor’s mind, “He stole those lost years, or he tricked me into being his spouse, or raped me in some other way,” they say. The moment you recognize that the pain and loss you feel is part of the natural grieving process, then you own your experience. And from here, your healing begins.

So if you are asking yourself, “Why do I still love this person that hurt me so much?”…consider the fact that you are grieving the loss of a relationship that you chose to leave. And what you feel is natural to that experience.

For more information about healing from domestic abuse, visit and claim your Free Instant Access to Survivor Success eInsights. Psychologist Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people nationwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse. © Jeanne King, Ph.D. — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

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Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.