You’ve escaped a bad situation and you’re thinking about dating after an abusive relationship. You’re recovered and you’re single, and it’s time to get back out there.
But, you’re wondering if you can truly find happiness after recovering from an abusive relationship.
The idea of dating might seem scary and you’re trying to figure out how to do it in a healthy way.
The emotional scars of past relationships shouldn’t deter you from finding love again.
Here are 5 steps to ease yourself back into dating when recovering from an abusive relationship.
1. Get to know yourself again.
For many people who have been in abusive relationships, they lose who they are.
Months or years of being told that you’re less than, that everything is your fault, that you’re worthless and not worth respect, and that you’re unattractive and stupid, can take its toll on your self-esteem.
And people who have low self-esteem will attract other people with low self-esteem, starting the whole vicious cycle all over again.
Take some time to get to know yourself again. Spend time with people who love you so that you can re-learn how loveable you are.
Do something that you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t believe you could, so you can learn how strong you really are. Learn something new, so that you can reconnect with your intelligence.
Building up your self-confidence is a key part of success in the dating world.
If you can go into it not thinking of yourself as a victim or as less than, but as someone who had the strength to get out of an abusive relationship, someone who values themselves and is surrounded by people who love them, you will attract like-minded people, the kind of people you would want to be in a relationship with.
The idea might be daunting but getting to know yourself again is an important part of easing back into dating again after an abusive relationship.
2. Take stock of what happened in your relationship.
Abusive relationships are devastating.
You find yourself in a place where you’re constantly miserable, questioning yourself and everything around you, being subjected to verbal, and maybe, physical abuse, treading water just trying to prevent yourself from drowning.
Once you escape from an abusive relationship, it’s important to take stock of how the relationship turned abusive.
Was it that way from the beginning or did something happen that caused the abuse to start? Was the abuse constant or only during a certain set of circumstances?
Did other people know about the abuse or did you hide it? Were you aware that you were being abused?
It’s also important to evaluate your role in the relationship.
Were you so overwhelmed that you found yourself provoking your person at times? Did you roll over and take the abuse, even in front of your children? Could you have left the situation earlier than you did?
Being aware of everything that happened and recognizing things that you take responsibility for will allow you to have clarity about what happened. Thus, you won’t let it happen again.
3. Believe in love.
Many people who were in an abusive relationship turn cynical. Their view of love has been tainted by the past and the prospect of dating after abuse and finding someone who could love the broken them seems impossible.
This is especially true for people who are considering online dating, a truly frustrating and seemingly unnatural way to date.
Though it may seem unpalatable, there are plenty of people who have met their person online and are living happily ever after.
So, before you put yourself out there again, ask yourself if you believe that this could work. If you don’t believe, then it won’t happen.
Putting out negative energy is going to doom your dating prospects from the start.
Believe that you will find someone and the positive energy will draw that person to you!
4. Choose differently.
Many people who don’t analyze what happened in past relationships move on to relationships that are very similar to the toxic ones they had.
For whatever reason, they find themselves attracted to the same sort of person, sometimes over and over, and the relationships end up the same every time.
Now that you’re aware of what happened in your abusive relationship, it might be easier to recognize the things that you need to do differently when it’s time to date again.
You might now recognize the kind of person you want to date, the kind of behaviors you want you and your partner to exhibit, and the kind of feelings you want this person to make you feel.
I have a client who was in a relationship with someone she didn’t trust. He had fooled around on her repeatedly and lied to her about it. She was determined to find someone she could trust the next time around and she did.
And, while that relationship didn’t work out, she now knew that there are guys out there that she can trust.
5. Go slow.
As you should with any new relationship, go slow.
So many people meet someone, fall madly in love, and then fall quickly into bed, without even getting to know the new person.
When that new person finally starts to show themselves, they are often too far in to get out of the relationship easily.
If you meet someone you like, take your time. Get to know their likes and dislikes, past relationships, relationships with their parents, and hopes and dreams for the future.
And don’t fall into bed with them! Sex changes everything, especially if you find that you get more attached to someone after you’ve had sex with them.
As you ease back into dating after abuse, take it slow. Don’t do it like you did last time.
Get to know this person before you give them your heart and your body. You will set yourself up for success if you do.
Dating is hard in the best of times and after an abusive relationship, learning how to ease back into it is important.
You’ve just been through a lot and to embark on the search for another someone is scary. But you are brave.
However, if you haven’t learned how to heal from an abusive relationship just yet, take your time.
Get to know and fall in love with yourself again. Take stock of what happened in your relationship and familiarize yourself with the role you played in it, without blame.
Choose carefully and mindfully who you date, believe that your person is out there, and take it slow.
People can and do find love after an abusive relationship. You can too!
Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based, certified life and love coach. Let her help you find, and keep, love in this crazy world in which we live. Email her at [email protected] and get started!
This article was originally published at Let Your Dreams Begin. Reprinted with permission from the author.