Dating after abuse
Dating after being in an abusive relationship can be nerve-wracking and complicated. If you’ve experienced abuse, you might have more trouble connecting emotionally with potential partners, you might have a hard time trusting people or you might feel like your ideas about what is healthy/unhealthy in a relationship were warped by your abusive partner. These are all totally normal feelings to have, and it’s important to be gentle with yourself moving forward. Healing is a process. There’s no set timeline or “right” way to do it.
If you'd like to start dating again after experiencing abuse, here are some things to consider:
- Move on before you start something new.
Abuse can leave behind physical and emotional scars. Before you start a new relationship, it’s important to make sure that you have begun to cope with what you experienced in the past. A counselor or therapist can help you work through your emotional pain, and, of course, we always recommend a lot of self-care! Cut ties with your ex if possible (this is a bit more complicated if you have children with them). If that’s not possible, create a safety plan for when you have to interact with them. Before you begin a new relationship, make sure that you are able to put your old one behind you.
- Educate yourself.
Learning about the signs of healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships can be really helpful. Try making a list of healthy relationship characteristics and respectful partner traits. Look for a partner who lives up to your standards.
- Trust your instincts.
If you begin dating and start to notice things about your partner that make you uncomfortable, don’t just ignore them. Don’t minimize questionable behaviors or write them off as personality traits. If you feel like something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. If you feel safe talking to your new partner about what you’ve noticed, then do that. See how they react to being confronted — that will show you a lot about who they are.
- Practice safe dating.
Whether or not you’ve been in an abusive relationship before, practicing safe dating is important when beginning a relationship. A few ways to stay safe while dating include: making sure that you meet your partner at the location of your first few dates, rather than letting them drive you; spending time together in public at first; and making sure that someone you trust knows your whereabouts. This will also help you figure out if you are able to trust your partner as the relationship becomes more serious.
- Take things slow.
This may go hand in hand with practicing safe dating, but it’s worth saying again. Take your time in getting to know your partner and letting them know you. Develop a trusting partnership where both of you are comfortable expressing your needs and thoughts. Make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial and that both of you are happy. Treat your partner with respect and expect that they do the same for you. There’s no need to rush into a relationship. If they seem eager to rush things or get very serious very quickly, that can be a red flag. Both partners should feel good about the pace of the relationship, and no one should feel forced or guilted into moving faster than they want to.
If you’re considering dating after abuse and need a little support, we’re here for you! Our advocates can talk with you about what you’re feeling and about any concerns that you have.
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