How to trust in love after domestic abuse

Has an abusive relationship left you feeling unable to look for love again? Do you feel stuck, and doubtful of your judgement? Are you afraid to open up your heart? Here are FOUR steps to help you trust yourself to love again.

I escaped one abusive relationship only to fall into another, even worse than before. When I finally hit the exit, I thought I’d never be able to let another man into my life. I craved a loving relationship, but I was afraid to let myself be vulnerable again. I realised that something needed to change, and I needed to start with me. By following these steps, I’ve moved on from fear to build a relationship with a new man.

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1. Be single for as long as it takes

There is no way to overstate how important this is. In the early post-abuse days we are more vulnerable than we realise. Our emotions are all over the place – ranging from euphoria to fear and sadness and everything in between. Often, we long for the comfort that a relationship offers. However, this is not the time for making relationship decisions.

When I left my first abusive partner, I was scared and exhausted by the hoovering campaign that he unleashed. So, it was perhaps unsurprising that I fell hard and fast for a man who set himself up as a knight in shining armor. Armed with the knowledge of what had happened to me, this human chameleon took pains to show that he was different, that only he could protect me, and that he would never hurt me. Years later, he dropped the act altogether and I saw him for the living lie he was.

I now believe I was targetted precisely because of my vulnerability. Had I taken the time to be single, I could’ve broken the dependency cycle and allowed myself the space needed to invest in my recovery.

2. Invest time and energy in your recovery

Leaving our abusive partner isn’t the end of the matter. In many respects, it is the beginning. After the chaos of abuse – where we typically sideline our own needs in favour of his, and try repeatedly to fix him (always without success) – you probably want to move on as quickly as possible. So, I’m not asking you to dwell on what happened. Instead, I recommend you take positive steps to learn more about yourself and the dynamics of abuse and to come to terms with your experiences.

After breaking free from my second abuser, I invested time in myself and my own recovery. I completed the wonderfully empowering Freedom Programme. I engaged with a local support group. And I found truly valuable information and support networks online, particularly among the blogging community. Now, I’m much more informed than I once was, and feel confident in my own judgement once more. I am better able to trust myself and others.

So, whether it is a course, informal learning, counselling, professional help (essential if you think you may have PTSD or other health and wellbeing conditions) or simply confiding in friends and family, make a recovery plan and do it. It is so worth it.

3. Be kind to yourself

You’ve been through a traumatic experience. You may be feeling guilt that you ‘allowed it to happen’ or maybe because you stuck around as long as you did. Know then, that the guilt is not yours, and stop beating yourself up. Be kind to yourself by:

  • Allowing yourself to grieve. Wallow with a tub of ice cream and box of Kleenex if you want – but set a time-limit so you don’t get stuck in the mourning period.
  • Doing something that makes you happy, preferably something which you could not do whilst you were in that toxic relationship. Go out with the girls without worrying about what will happen when you get home. Take a day-trip. Enjoy time with the kids. Curl up on the couch with a good book. Whatever helps you feel recharged and at peace, take the time to do it.
  • Being productive with your free time. Volunteer for charity. Redecorate, and take pride in the result of your hard work. Write. I started this blog, and I get so much joy from knowing that it has offered some support to others.
  • Carving out some time to be alone. Experts say a little purposeful solitude, on a regular basis, can produce many benefits, including enabling you to re-energise, take stock, boost your creativity and improve your mood.
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4. Put your new understanding to work when you date

All you’ve learned about yourself and about domestic abuse is a priceless tool. So, when you’re ready to re-enter the dating pool, put your new understanding to work.

Initially, I was terrified at the prospect of meeting someone new. Falling in love again – or even simply dating – felt like making myself horribly vulnerable. It seemed a huge risk to trust my own judgement once more. But I wanted to believe it was possible to live a full life once more, so eventually I decided to dip my toe back into the dating pool.

I avoided the ‘type’ of man I usually go for. I trusted my gut, alert to the early warning signs of abuse. I valued myself, and was clear about the standards that I would accept. My trust had to be earned, and in time it was – by a guy who has shown himself to be compassionate, caring, and understanding. My boyfriend knows about my past trauma, and is supporting me to work through its after affects. He is a part of my recovery too.

Opening ourselves up to love again may seem frightening, but it is an essential part of our recovery process. I’m glad I have given myself the chance to heal, and to love again. You can too.

Handful of stars

Photo by xJasonRogersx

What do you think? Is it hard to love again post-abuse? What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to trust?

© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14
https://avalancheofthesoul.wordpress.com

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17 responses to “How to trust in love after domestic abuse

  1. Thank you, I really enjoyed your article. I especially like the advice to stay single for as long as possible. There is that pull to find comfort in another relationship but without oneself fully, it is very dangerous to fall into another relationship. I have come out of an abusive codependent relationship and have been living alone for almost 8 months now. There is someone I have a crush on but I think it’s safer to fantasize over what could be than for me to actually have a relationship with anyone right now. I am learning to trust myself and my instincts again so I know that I need a lot more time alone! I am afraid though that I might view every man as a potential abuser from now.

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    • Thanks for your words of encouragement, tellingheavysecrets. You are so right, it is tempting to look for comfort in a new relationship – when in actual fact I think we need to work on ourselves before even thinking of dating again. Otherwise we risk making bad decisions, and for the wrong reasons.

      You are so switched-on, and approaching this in a positive way. I am sure when you do decide to give a man a chance to get close to you, he’ll be thanking his lucky stars!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello my friend
    Your post will help many who are/were in the same place. I don’t know first hand domestic abuse, I watched it everyday as a child. It must take nerves of steel and tremendous confidence to open yourself up to a relationship. I’m so happy to hear you have found someone who treats you with respect. You are so deserving of love in your life.
    I would like to reblog the post if you don’t mind. I think your words need to reach as many survivors as possible.
    Take care.
    M

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  3. Fantastic article and very similar to my story…the best thing ive ever done is work on myself, with the freedom program and therapy. If I hadn’t of done this I would be in another abusive relationship now, luckily after 3 abusive relationships and the last one being the worst I know I am now free from abuse…finally.

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  4. As a gay teen this is helping me a lot. I was dating a guy who was very abusive. he wasn’t like that at first.. but then again they never are. The relationship is over now but I am still haunted by the memories. He kicked me in the face so now my jaw pops whenever I eat. Living with the mental reminders is painful but the physical damage left behind is what gets me… I’m 18 now and I haven’t had a successful relationship sense..

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    • Hi Steven. I’m so sorry to hear what you went through, but happy to hear that you have escaped this man. I’m not sure the psychological scars of domestic violence / abuse ever leave us, but like any other they do fade in time. Be kind to yourself, don’t push yourself, work on your recovery and one day you will find yourself both willing and able to trust again. And when you do, you will do so from a position of strength and knowledge 🙂

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  5. I’m currently in a abusive relationship and we been good off and on we both fight each other and it’s not just one of us mainly I sometimes see myself hitting them and putting them in a postision that makes them cry or ask god why for what they done and I look try to think it didn’t happen but it did I start to clean everytime it happen while they try to clean up any bruises I have from them and I look at them with the face of shame I tell them I love them as well as they done the same weather after I start the fight or them I notice that we fight over the littlest thing like turning the tv down so the other person can sleep or leaving this and that on and that starts the abuse I don’t hit don’t get me wrong but yes I grab and act like I’m going to hit them with the closest object in sight it came to a point where knifes have came about where a biracial couple not like that matter but we had to fight more because our families don’t get alone it cause us to do crazy things weather with each other family or to each other mainly we’ve now try to get married but scared to because the relationship goes Back and forth with either me saying sorry or them we just got into last night as well I’m marked up pretty badly as well as they are we go around friends and family we get ashamed of what we’ve done to each other because of the marks and gotta lie there nephew just yesterday asked me what’s the marks on me and I felt like crying right there we love each other like crazy but can’t seem to find help together bc of our insurance so we try to do it weather it’s by friends family or together but it do much friends and family can take before they say they don’t wanna hear it anymore or say just break up then idk what to do my life seem so perfect with them it’s like you don’t wanna go without them

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  6. One of the hardest steps we take as Domestic Violence/Domestic Abuse Survivors is opening the door and taking this step. Failing and trying again at another point. I chose to try. It takes strong men (and women) to be with a survivor. Wish you all the best and thank you for your blogging it’s definitely helped so many more than you could begin to imagine.

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  7. I enjoyed reading your post.
    i stayed single for 5 years, I recieved councilling in that time. I’ve recently met somone wonduful, but then something happened FEAR creeped back and now I’m undergoing councilling again. He’s said I’m often cold, which I don’t mean to be. Should I explain why I am this way? He is suffering from depression at the moment and I’m helping him through it and don’t want to burden him with my issues. But the fact still remains I’m still damaged after all of these years. Many thanks

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  8. This post described my experience to a T! I’m currently trying to shake off the trauma of my past. Blogging has been therapeutic.

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  9. Pingback: Three days of quotes: Day 3 | When I thought I was fat!·

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience. I really enjoyed reading your post. I was in a similar situation for 3 years with a man who made me feel worthless and made me believe a bunch of lies about myself. Living with this man honestly felt like I was living in hell. The worst part about it is that I actually believed I loved him. I realize now that what I felt for him was not love. It was more a need or responsibility to fix him.

    Anyway, after three years of abuse I was finally able to leave the relationship. I soon realized though that my troubles were not over. I was left completely damaged. I had no self worth, no self esteem, and I was more vulnerable than ever. When I left the relationship, a few months later I filed for divorce and set a restraining order. I consulted a lawyer to help me with the filing process. The day of the consultation, before stepping out of his office, this man offered a piece of advice. He said to me, ” You did the right thing in leaving this type of relationship. It’s not an easy thing to do. But this isn’t over for you. Now you make sure you get your self some help. People who have been in an abusive relationship, almost always fall into anther abusive relationship.” Of course this was the last thing i wanted to hear at the time, but his words always stuck with me.

    I began to do massive research on domestic violence. I wanted to know everything about it, and I wanted to know why I had fallen victim to this type of relationship. I thought there was something wrong with me and if that was the case I wanted to know what that was. I was determined to fix myself and I promised myself I would never be in that type of situation again. I started working on myself with the help of a counselor. I read a lot of books and articles on boundaries and healthy relationships. I also took a general psychology, abnormal psychology, biological psychology, human sexuality and child psychology class at my local community college. Yes, when I said I was determined to get to the bottom of “my problem,” I meant it.

    I wish I could say I went on to become a psychologist after taking so many psychology classes, but I didn’t. People usually take a lot more than just a few basic psychology classes for that. What I did do though was continued to work on myself. I stayed single for 5 years. Hell, I’m still single but not because I am afraid of being in a relationship anymore, but because I haven’t found the right one yet. I recently started a membership on a dating site where I’ve met some great candidates! But I’m still accepting applications lol. It wasn’t easy but I can finally say that I can now trust my self and my judgment. And if I can trust myself then I can trust others. So that is exactly what I’m doing I’m trusting my instincts, and my intuition to make a good judgment about the person I want to be intimate with. I can now say “no” without hesitation. I know what I like and don’t like and I know what I am looking fr in a relationship. I can honestly say that have finally healed and I am finally free.

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