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Relationship Abuse: Finding Love Again After Trauma

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Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced domestic violence or emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by clicking “chat now” or calling  1-800-799-7233. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

For many of us who have experienced trauma, it has been at the hands of another person.

• What is PTSD?

Their actions towards us, be it physical or psychological, have affected us to such a degree that being romantically close to someone in the way we used to can seem like a daunting prospect. So, when we do cross paths with a special someone and a relationship starts to form, you’ll feel the butterflies in your stomach, the elation and the sparks flying between you etc. But unlike the movies, when we find ourselves becoming more vulnerable for the first time in months or even years, our survival instincts start to kick in.

We may know this person wouldn’t hurt a fly, but nonetheless, we get scared at the thought of history repeating itself. We don’t want the most vulnerable facets of ourselves tarnished and torn to pieces like it was before. Our minds start to spin with questions: “What if they are just being charming? (Insert name here) also said this, will they be the same? Should I get close to this person or should I stop now before I could get hurt again?”

It’s a duel to the death between your heart telling you that you’re safe with this person, and your survival instincts telling you to run in the opposite direction as fast as your legs can carry you.

Finding love again can feel scary for anyone; finding love after experiencing abuse in a relationship can be terrifying.

You want to find a special someone to settle with, who supports and loves you for who you are, more than anything. But opening up the layers of defense you’ve put around yourself, to share the most vulnerable part of yourself with someone after experiencing relationship abuse, can be one of the scariest things there is.

Heartbreak is one thing. Heartbreak from abuse is in a whole other league of its own.

You feel the debilitating self-doubt from the humiliation and rhetoric, the words of your former partner echoing in your ears — how you aren’t enough and how you were made to feel “insane” for standing up for your boundaries.

Communication is important for any relationship to thrive and be healthy. For some people, talking about their experience is just too painful. If you are a partner to someone who has experienced relationship abuse, let them know you are there for them and ask them what they are comfortable or uncomfortable with. Don’t judge, pressure them or yell at them for not telling you.

For me personally, I have been open with my immediate circle from the start. I didn’t want to get to the point where I just couldn’t talk about it. So from the off, I was open.

When I first started dating my boyfriend, I was so happy because I’d met someone who just “got” me — who I could talk with for hours, feel completely myself with and feel like I never had with anyone else. Nevertheless, when it came to finally letting my guard down, something I had been wanting to do for so long, my insides were shaking.

To my joy, he was absolutely great when I told him and still has been to this day.

A loving partner will do just that: Love you. Not make you feel bad, not try to isolate you, not put you down. That isn’t love. If you decide to disclose what happened to you to a prospective partner and they do this, they are not worth your time. You deserve better.

A loving partner — be they a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife etc — will support you and be there for you through thick and thin, and vice versa. They will love you for who you are and neither want nor try to change you.

This isn’t me saying to rely solely on a partner as a cure for trauma. Definitely not.

Getting professional help such as therapy and medication, along with self-care mechanisms, will be what will really aid you to recover. If you have a loving and supportive partner, having that support network can really help for many people. That’s not to say you need to have a partner. If you prefer to stay single, that’s fine. You do you! But if you do find love again with someone who is a good, understanding person — who loves you for you — I wish you every happiness. You deserve it!

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

Thinkstock photo via eldinhoid

Originally published: August 4, 2017
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