Survivors of emotional abuse, especially the type perpetrated by malignant narcissists or otherwise toxic partners, can struggle on a holiday like Valentine’s Day. Whether it was because this holiday was consistently ruined by the narcissistic partner during the relationship or because they’re still healing from the toxic relationship, self-care for survivors is essential during this time. I asked survivors the advice they would give other fellow survivors of abuse and their responses were incredibly inspiring and moving. Here’s what they shared:
1. “Louise Hay once said, “You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” You must first take care of yourself; you cannot pour from an empty cup. Love yourself; treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Indulge in something you like and don’t for one second feel guilty about it! Remember that all the ugly things they said to you were just projections of themselves. Take some time to do something just for you – whatever brings you joy.” — Sarah
2. “Celebrate your freedom. The air in your lungs. The lack of eggshells between your feet and the earth. Celebrate peace by candlelight. Remind your spirit she is more than enough and deserves to smile. Take your inner child to her favorite place, feed your inner child her favorite food, listen to her favorite music, read her favorite book, write her thoughts and dreams into manifestation. Fill her day and night with serenity and certainty that her existence is not a mistake and her presence is purposeful. She deserves these reminders, in whatever form they come, and the detachment from the everyday.” — Bernice
3. “I transformed Valentine’s Day into a celebration. I am part of and follow a great uprising that is One Billion Rising. A movement against violence against women. It is empowering to “flip the script” to change the messages you tell yourself. To examine, heal and progress towards a better life. With this great knowledge, you then can support and help others to rise.” — Sonja
4. “Celebrate the beautiful perfect whole you. Order in your favorite meal. Pick up your favorite sweet treat. Buy yourself something new and personal that makes you feel beautiful and happy-a new set of pjs, a silky robe, some nice lingerie. If you know a fellow single, regardless of age, meet up for a drink or coffee. If you are young, you can make someone older and single feel loved. If you are older, you can make someone younger feel loved. If all else fails, help someone else. Volunteer at an animal shelter or a soup kitchen, wherever help is needed.” — Jill
5. “Buy yourself flowers! You don’t need anyone to buy you flowers – buy them for yourself! It makes me so happy so I do it all the time now. I am 2 years divorced from a 15 year horribly toxic relationship!” — Rachelle
6. “Make V-day Victory Day and take time to acknowledge any personal victories, whether large or small. Let yourself be proud of your accomplishments whatever they may be. Validate them to yourself.” — Crystal
7. “If they’re still creeping around or you’re still hurting I recommend you don’t call or contact them in any way. Instead, call a friend or even a crisis line if you have to. Ignore any attempts they make to manipulate you, or get a reaction from you. Don’t look at their social media, better yet stay off of it for the day.
Treat yourself, have friends over, buy chocolate or flowers for yourself, or for a family member who could use a thoughtful gesture like that, or watch a favorite movie, binge-watch a television series, play video games, go for a hike, whatever YOU enjoy. Or, if you don’t know anymore, try something new if you’re able! Volunteer, go to the theatre, anything to stay busy and away from feeling alone with your thoughts of doubt or sadness.
This is a time to find yourself again, and pamper yourself a little. It’s okay, you need it, and deserve it.
It gets better, a little at a time, I promise. It’s a long hard road to freedom. It seems to never end some days, but it’s so worth it to be free.
I hope all of you stay safe on Valentine’s Day. Don’t let it get to you and even if it does, it’s okay! Try to keep no contact!” — Kirst
8. “I booked a spa reiki session on Valentine’s Day. Reiki re-energizes my inner warrior and gives me outstanding clarity.” — Emjay
9. “It’s Victory Day. Wear the clothes you weren’t ‘allowed’ to wear, eat chocolate, drink wine and remind yourself that there are some couples in unhealthy relationships that are ‘faking it’ for social media. Narcissists fake it to the outside world and you know the battle his new victim is fighting in private. This is happy to be free day!” — Lee
10. “Give yourself a Valentine. Treat yourself to a nice dinner, dessert or something to take care of you. You are a warrior and survivor and you owe it to yourself to treat yourself like the special person you are. Stay strong.” — Patti
11. “Pamper yourself. You are a survivor and you deserve it. Use the day to show yourself some much-needed love.” — Danielle
12. “Even though I am sad about it being Valentine’s Day, I did not believe I could feel any hope or not be in a constant state of grief when I first really started recovering. I can say now from the bottom of my heart – give yourself a chance to turn toward yourself. Get help to do it. Be as loving and gentle with yourself as possible. Don’t give up, don’t compare yourself – it’s okay. You can start right where you are and it is possible to move forward and exist and actually FEEL the pain shift, lift, move away, and lessen.
It’s happening to me and even though I’m still sad and lonely, it’s not the same agony. I am alive, I am getting better, I have a hope for a future I’m sure will have happiness once I get through some real healing. Love isn’t supposed to be painful. Let yourself feel whatever it is you feel and get through it – there is joy to be had – I just know it.” – Mimi
13. “If the narcissists in your life are your parents, remind yourself that you may have gotten here because of them but they do not deserve the credit for who you are today. That was all you. Your courage, your self-care, your energy, your ideas…. you are awesome and the self-care you demonstrate will set a great example for our nieces, granddaughters, goddaughters, stepdaughters and future generations.” — Connie
14. “I wish I had some outstanding piece of advice to give to any and every woman who’s ever experienced something like this because it absolutely breaks my heart for them. I wouldn’t wish it on a single soul. Ever. But I don’t. All I can do is share what helps me sometimes and hope that maybe it will help someone else too. I try to think about all of the terrible feelings that used to come along with the day. The uneasiness, the letdowns, and the belittling.
Even when there were nice gifts involved, the emotional price I had to pay for them wasn’t worth it. The backhanded compliments and so on. Focus on those, then try to realize how peaceful this new Valentine’s Day is. Without all of that emotional mindf*ckery. If I really start to feel lonely & falling back into that, “Maybe it is all my fault, if I hadn’t acted this way he wouldn’t have said that or maybe I really can’t just take a joke,” spiral, I have a video of us during an argument. I watch that and I’m quickly reminded to be thankful for the day as it is.” — Emily
15. “For those that were really givers, think of those little (or big) things you did to make the day or any day special for someone who didn’t appreciate it or ruined it. And then do that for yourself. Make a big special breakfast or dinner or both. Slip love notes into your lunch bag. Start a love affair with yourself. When you hear a song that might hit a chord, think about singing it to yourself. Just appreciate and love who you are and your value and your ability to love. It is helping me really grasp my value.” — Eddie
16. “Remember, he or she NEVER LOVED YOU. But it wasn’t your fault. They are incapable of love. You must believe that part. It was all a manipulation.” — Renee
17. “Remind yourself – I am okay and strong enough to do this alone! I still get sad on Valentine’s Day and it’s been 8 years but then I remember that what I thought was love was abuse and manipulation. While I might be sad to be alone, I am worth a lot more than that! Keep busy to stop yourself from dwelling on them.” — Louise
18. “Regardless of your budget, take the time to do something you enjoy or never could enjoy during the time that you were with him or her. Part of healing is self-care which leads to self-love…eventually. I am fortunate to be in a relationship now that allows me to heal and spend “me” time.
In a prior relationship, which was a more abusive and manipulative one, I was shamed for both my weight and introverted interests. Whenever I refused to go out with a crowd of people to a party, I was put down and made to feel “not good enough” over silly group outings. My point is, this Valentine’s day, whether you’re single, in No Contact with your abuser, or on the tipping point of No Contact, whatever your situation – take the time to do something you once enjoyed before you were shamed out of that self-love habit.
If you never had the chance to start, do it on Valentine’s Day. Be safe, stay strong and know even though the world feels like it is against you there are many of us ashamed and scared to start somewhere. You are worth your dream relationship. Let’s get there by loving ourselves first.” — Jessica
19. “If you’re not financially or emotionally ready for a “Love and Spoil Yourself” session, stay in your pajamas, cry, read a helpful book or Facebook page, connect with a true friend. Feel your feelings. But, stay No Contact or Minimal Contact if you have children. It is the only way to freedom and healing. Trust me.” — Renee
20. “This is a day for you. Just look at what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve survived. Be proud of yourself.” — Donna
21. “If you have an urge to romanticize your former partner, make a list of every instance he or she disappointed you, guilt-tripped you, demeaned you, made you feel worthless and crazy, said mean things to you. Read it out loud to someone. Let your list empower you. If you have a memory of a past Valentine’s Day where he did something romantic – for example, when he had flowers delivered to your workplace, think of this: it was a show for your coworkers and everyone else; it wasn’t genuinely for you.
You do not need a holiday to remind you of your worth nor do you want a partner who uses Valentine’s Day as yet another way to prove to everyone else that he’s wonderful while abusing you behind closed doors. Be grateful that sometime after Valentine’s Day when you try to voice a concern about something, you won’t have to hear “You’re so ungrateful, I got you flowers on Valentine’s Day and I took you out to dinner! I just don’t understand you! You’re so mean!” Do something that makes you feel strong and beautiful and authentically you…but do it every day, not just on Valentine’s Day.” — Hope
22. “Loneliness is not a good reason to invite toxic people back into your life. I promise, it is always better to feel lonely or around good friends and family than it is to re-open the lines of communication with a toxic, abusive person. Don’t give them any power again just because you’re single.” — Amanda
23. “Treat yourself special! Whether that means buying a big bouquet of flowers and having them delivered to yourself or taking a long hot bubble bath and really soaking in it, allow yourself to savor this day. Light candles and give yourself a warm environment to relax in. You can wear an outfit you feel confident in, some pretty shoes and some lovely jewelry.
Order a nice meal and open a bottle of your favorite wine to go with. Go to town with it. Get ready for your special “date” with yourself. Then, while eating that scrumptious dinner, think about how much you deserve this. Because you do! You are a new and spectacular you! A survivor, a warrior, you have come through the fire and been made new! A wiser, better you.” — Angela
24. “To every survivor out there: self-love is the best love. Take a “me day.” Pamper yourself and just breathe.” — Lindsay