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The Best Advice No One Gave Me For Learning to Love Again After Abuse: Watch Rom-Coms

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

When you’ve experienced abuse there are a few common recovery routes and healing techniques such as journaling, therapy, support groups, creativity and art, and working out or other fitness-related activities.

There are more than that, but those are typically the things people do to rediscover themselves and also find hope again in the world. When you’ve experienced abuse, it feels as if you have to reset your brain and retrain it so you can be open to love, people, new experiences, and opportunities. 

When I was more actively healing from an abusive relationship, I found solace in writing and poetry. Looking back, none of it was good, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I found a space to process the lengthy complicated feelings that I was experiencing. After a while, I noticed that I felt empty. I purged all the toxins from my body and mind (metaphorically speaking) which was great, but it left me wondering, “What now?” 

Therapy taught me that what happened wasn’t my fault and that I deserve a better love or friendship, but I couldn’t quite picture what that looked like. Unrelated: Around that same time I started reading and watching a lot of rom-coms. I’d lay in bed kicking my feet back and forth swooning because of simple gestures one romantic lead would do for another. Inadvertently I started picturing myself as that main character who the other was yearning for. I inserted myself as the person who was receiving flowers, genuine apologies after a simple miscommunication, going on late-night trips and somehow having it be some pivotal moment that changes everything, and yes, even sharing one bed when the hotel promised two. 

Without realizing it, due to rom-coms, I was envisioning what it would be like to actually be in a healthy relationship. Not just that, but it felt like trying on shoes. Every trope, gesture, and way to say “I love you,” that I read, I imagined I received. Through these characters, I lived different romance styles without even leaving my bed. Additionally, the different tropes and relationship dynamics helped me figure out what I’d be open to and what I wouldn’t. It put words to wants I didn’t know I had.

Rom-coms painted a beautiful picture of what I should yearn for, even if the couple was fictional. The goal isn’t to have a love post-trauma that’s reminiscent of my favorite love stories, but rather one that surpasses it instead of someone who treats me poorly, doesn’t care about my interests, or is physically, sexually, verbally, emotionally abusive, or otherwise doesn’t contribute to that.

I am the main character and I want my life to be a rom-com. I deserve the spontaneity, goofiness, passion, patience, and tenderness that I didn’t get in my abusive relationships. I don’t think I’d have as clear of an image of what that could look like without reading non-stop Jasmine Guillory and Elise Bryant novels.

No one told me how lucrative rom-coms could be in the healing journey (because who expects them to be), but I’m very happy they were. Now I can go live my best Hallmark life, and maybe even allow it to happen.

Getty image by PeopleImages

Originally published: July 25, 2022
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