How to rebuild after leaving an abusive relationship

It was around this time 4 years ago my life pretty much fell to pieces. The abuse and threat on my life reached a level I never anticipated, my life spun out of control and I wondered if I would be able to pick up the pieces.

Now, I run a marketing company, I’m an international speaker, own multiple blogs (my favourite, after this one is The Thrifty Issue where I share ways to make and save money), I have won a variety of awards and been finalist for others including Young Australian of the Year. My life now is the opposite of what it was. I have a new partner who is incredible, my daughters and I are happy, we live in a city we love, we travel and have a lifestyle that seemed so far out of reach 4 years ago. It’s often surreal to me, despite how much work I put in to get my life to this point.

4 years ago I had separated from my husband. It spiraled out of control, he pulled a knife on me, assaulted me, stalked and harassed me. My daughters and I left the family home. Within 1 week I was robbed of everything including my underwear. A few weeks later I was raped in that home and we ended up homeless. It wasn’t the first time we had been homeless, the first time was Christmas/New Years 2009, when my daughters were 2 years old and 9 months old and we were living in a garage because I had left their dad at that time, unfortunately, in 2010 I got back together with him (which is common in abusive relationships) and in 2012 separate again. In 2013, we were bouncing around homes and scared of their dad. (You can read more about my homeless experience here).

How did I rebuild from nothing?
I had my daughters and giving up was not an option. I came extremely close to suicide a few times, ultimately, I needed to be an example for my daughters and create the life we wanted. If you need to leave an abusive relationship, I highly recommend reading this post – how to get the money to leave an abusive relationship to help you get started with planning to leave.

How to rebuild after abuse

1.) Dealt with the now while focusing on the future
My needs for safety, schooling for my kids, counselling for all three of us, speech therapy for my daughters, income and the basics like a house, food, clothing etc. were all my first priority. However, if I focused only on my immediate needs, I was not going to be able to move past them.
I had a psychologist to help with the mental and emotional issues.
The police took out an AVO against my soon to be ex-husband to protect my daughters and I.
I made the school aware of the situation and gave them copies.
I applied to Centrelink and looked at what help I was eligible for (check out this list of discounts for healthcare and pension cards to get an idea.)
I secured a new home for us and moved to Canberra half way through 2013 so we could start over. (Check out how to create an unbeatable rental application to see exactly what I did.)
I ignored child support because I didn’t get it most of the time, so I learned to budget without it and if it ever came (like when he lodged a tax return and the tax department took it), then it was considered a bonus. I still don’t rely on it. (Read how to survive without child support).
I looked at extra ways to make money such as ideas in this post and the steps to take to set up a business or multiple streams of income.

I did what I could to improve and get a handle on my current situation. At the same time, I set goals and focused on the future I wanted.

I knew I wanted to move to Canberra, what sort of work I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to travel and that the only way I could have that life is if I worked hard for it. I created my 10 steps to success with goals system and worked my butt off.

2.) Daily affirmations
I had 3 quotes I lived by that I repeated to myself often:
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” by Carl Jung
“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” (unsure who said this)
“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” (A variation of one from Seneca)

When things got really hard, these helped a lot. It kept my mindset focused and helped me snap out of it when I got really depressed.

3.) Gratitude
I kept a gratitude diary where I wrote in it three things every day I was grateful for, no matter how bad my day was. Being grateful for other things helped me see the good in my life even when it felt like I was drowning.

4.) Look for the lesson
On the night I was robbed, I sat down and wrote a list of things I could be grateful for about the robbery and within this list I looked for lessons. Once I realised how beneficial this was, I started applying it to every other part of my life.

I find it easier now to be grateful and find the lessons in things, something positive I can take from whatever negative situation is happening in my life. For example, last year I was paralysed for most of the year. This forced me to slow down and take stock of my life, a cancer scare forced me to look at my health and both of these things combined made my partner and I become close. I don’t ever wish to relive those experiences, but I can see the lessons and blessings from those experiences.

5.) Worked on my confidence
My ex husband eroded my confidence for years. I felt fat, ugly, worthless and while I had started to achieve things and my confidence had grown a little by the time I left him it took a long time for me to love myself. I still have days where I can hear his put downs in my head and I believe them, but they are few and far between. 20 ways to increase confidence has the things I did and still do to boost my confidence.

6.) Get help
Tell people you know and trust what is going on. Let them help you and access the services that are there to help. At times I was too proud to ask for help and it was detrimental to me. Other times I asked for help and got knocked back, but overall, when I did ask, I got the help I needed and reduced my own levels of stress as a result. Read how to ask for help and 10 tips to help you do everything.

7.) Read, read, read
I read every book I could get my hands on, mostly relating to self-help, psychology, business and real stories. Reading distracted me from my life, taught me things I could apply and I could take books anywhere. Reading a book is very different to browsing online.

8.) Know what  you want
Along with the goals, I worked out my personal mission statement, created a vision board (and motivation wall), plus my core values. I had to know what I wanted and where I was going otherwise I would have simply drifted around and had no real structure or direction.

9.) Be kind to yourself and others
Leaving an abusive relationship and trying to rebuild your life is traumatic. I still have issues with my ex-husband. It’s not a quick process and you need to be gentle on yourself, help others to understand if they don’t, get rid of toxic people in your life and learn to love yourself. Do what is best for you and your children and don’t worry about what others think.

Do you have any advice for people who have or are leaving an abusive relationship?


  • Rachel

    I’ve had a few friends tell me about their journey out of domestic violence lately, and this is an awesome resource. Thanks for sharing your story Kylie!

  • Georgie Watts

    What a story! And all of it true. Far out Kylie. Proof that the mind is indeed the strongest muscle, and a positive mindset can really make all the difference. (Shivers, I just came over all Hallmark! But I mean it!)

    • admin

      Thanks Georgie. Haha, all good about being Hallmark, it really is amazing what we can achieve when we put our minds to it.

  • Caroline Kelly

    Thank you for your raw and unadulterated post. I enjoy reading from Napoleon Hill’s works and that helps me to realise that I can falter or thrive from each experience and encounter.

    I recall one day when my father, once again, told my mother once again that she was worthless and that she should kill herself. I recall my mother getting a chef’s knife from the kitchen, going into a bedroom and my calling out that my mother had a knife. My abusive father told me to call the police and he coached us to tell the police that we wanted to stay with him. Without my mother’s security, two vulnerable children went through a hellish childhood where we were subject to financial, psychological and physical abuse. If I were to attempt to call the police on my father, I was subjected to worse physical abuse than before. On a couple of occasions, I was knocked unconscious. My father told me that the government allowance for two children was $27 per fortnight and that the federal government gave him extra money for his, “smokes.”

    I believe that abuse is an attempt to control someone and degrade them into believing that they have no options but to accept the abuse as status quo.

    I did make it to a police station when I was sixteen and tried to get a restraining order. I was given incorrect information regarding the secondary hearing where he was able to present his case. He allegedly turned up with my mother. I asked her why she did so, despite the despicable treatment that he gave her – including knocking out one of her teeth. She told me that he was afraid that he would go to prison. I reminded her that was precisely where he belonged and that he coached my sister and I to tell the police that we wanted to stay with him and that he had deliberately kept us away from her for years.

    • admin

      Caroline, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am so sorry you went through that. It is totally about control and making that person eventually believe the abuse is normal and acceptable.

      It is so hard when given the wrong information in court issues too. I know of too many situations like yours, especially with parents involved. I am glad you have been able to make a life for yourself despite it.

  • Trilby Johnson

    Kylie, so glad you pulled through. Thank you for your vulnerability and sharing because now your story can empower so many others. I know from similar experiences in my life that the worst feeling is when we don’t feel safe and we can’t see a way out. That’s the reason we must tell our stories because there are always solutions and though sharing we can inspire others to never give up and to keep going. I salute your brilliance and courage!

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