Have you become newly single after escaping from a toxic situation and are you wondering how to ease back into dating after an abusive relationship so that you can truly find happiness?
I know that it’s scary, the idea of dating, and good for you for thinking ahead about how to do it in a healthy way.
Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to make sure that, when you are ready to start dating again, you will be prepared so that you can set yourself up for success.
#1- Get to know yourself again.
For many people who have been in abusive relationships we lose who we are. Months or years of being told that we are less than, that everything that is our fault, that we are worthless and not worth respect and that we are unattractive and stupid, takes its toll on one’s self esteem.
And people who have low self-esteem will attract other people with low self-esteem which might just start the whole vicious cycle all over again.
When you have gotten out of an abusive relationship, 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 have 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 get reconnect with your intelligence.
Building up your self-confidence is a key part of being successful 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.
I know the idea might be daunting but getting to know yourself again is an important part of easing back into dating 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 are 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. Ugh.
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 take stock of your role in the relationship. Was your overwhelm such 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 in your relationship, and recognizing things that you did that you can take responsibility for, will allow you to ease back into dating because you will have clarity about what happened and be determined not to let it happen again.
#3 – Believe.
Many people who are ready to ease back into dating after an abusive relationship go in skeptical. Their view of love has been tainted by the past and the prospect of meeting someone new, someone who could love broken them, seems impossible. This is especially true of people who are considering on-line dating, a truly frustrating and seemingly unnatural way to date.
Let me tell you, from years of personal and professional experience, that it is not only possible, but probable, that you will meet someone else out there in the world. That you will meet someone who can treat you right and who will make you happy. It might take some time and you might need to kiss a few frogs but your person is out there.
And while internet dating may seem unpalatable, there are plenty of people who have met their person online and who are living happily ever after.
So, before you put yourself out there to start dating, ask yourself if you believe that this could work. If you don’t believe, it won’t. 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 too you!
#4 – Choose differently.
Many, many people who don’t take stock with what happened in past relationships move on to relationships that are very similar to toxic ones they had in the past. 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 have awareness of what happened in your abusive relationship, it might be easier for you to recognize the things that you need to do differently when it’s time to date. You might now recognize the kind of person you want to date, the kind of behaviors you want you both to exhibit, 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 knew going out of it that there were guys out there she could trust. The guy she met this week is not only incredibly trustworthy but he has many of the traits that her old boyfriend lacked. I see a potentially marvelous future for them both!
#5 – Go slowly.
If there is one piece of advice that I give all of my clients it’s to enter into any new relationship slowly.
So many of us 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, we 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, their past relationships, their relationships with their parents, their hopes and dreams for the future. And DON’T fall into bed with them. Sex changes everything, particularly for women who seem to get more attached to someone after they have had sex, even if they weren’t particularly attached before.
My boyfriend, the love of my life, was a friend for 6 months before we started dating. Because there was no prospect of dating, we were open and honest with each other and told each other things about ourselves that made us quite vulnerable. By the time we started dating, we knew and trusted each other. Our lovemaking was intimate and our love grew quickly from there and was healthy.
So, as you ease back into dating after an abusive relationship, take it slow. Don’t do it like you did last time. (You took it too fast, didn’t you?) 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 knowing how to ease back into dating after an abusive relationship is important.
You have just been through a lot and to embark on the search for another someone is scary. And you are brave.
So, before you do, get to know yourself again, fall in love with yourself again. Take stock of what happened in your relationship and familiarize yourself with the role you played in it. Choose carefully and mindfully who you date, believe that your person is out there and take it slow.
People can and do find good love after an abusive relationship. You can too!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.