Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

dating after abusive relationships. What realisations have you made?

(74 Posts)
chocoreturns Mon 26-Aug-13 08:37:11

I was talking to a friend about this last night who also had an abusive relationship and I found it incredibly reassuring to know it's not just me who feels like a crazy person now that I've dated a nice, normal guy.

So here's a few things I thought I'd share, please add your own experiences so that we can see that we're not mental when we think crazy things with non-abusive partners... things like these crackers - welcome to my internal dialogue!!

"I said I'm not in the mood for sex and he accepted it, no questions asked. Doe this mean he's not into me??"
- NO. He's just not rapey. Well done for finding a nice guy.

"I offered to pay for dinner and he said he would love to pay for me this time. What does he want from me, will I have to pay him back later?"
- NO. He' just wants to do something nice for you. Say thank you!

"He sends me messages after I go home telling me how much he likes me, what's his game? Why do I feel like he's setting me up?"
- HE JUST LIKES YOU. Not every guy says nice things as a prelude to tearing you down. Sometimes he actually just, you know, likes you. You are likeable you know.

"I might have to dump him. I don't know if I can stay with someone who is just so nice. It feels a bit wrong and boring."
- This is the biggest and worst legacy of all. It's ok to not have the crazy highs and lows, nice isn't bad, and nice isn't boring. Being safe is not boring. Being appreciated and treated politely isn't boring. And if you can stick with it and be patient, you might find that actually, nice is sexy as hell because when you stop walking on eggshells and relax a little, you'll find out that it's actually rather lovely to not be waiting for the next drama to arrive!

I can relate to a lot of the posts here. I am nearly 11 months out. Had a short fling, but recognised I'm still not ready to try again.
A major thing for me will be trusting that mistakes can happen or things go wrong and that nobody will go mental, shout or throw things.
The guy I had the fling with was complimenting me all the time and full of how perfect I was, but I just can't believe stuff like that after 8yrs of being criticised for every little thing.

currentlyconfuseddotcom Tue 27-Aug-13 21:38:46

Matchsticks yep me too, I've realised that I'm not ready. I didn't realise how insular and downtrodden I'd become and still get a bit startled when I talk to friends now and they yelp 'he hit you?' and 'he got arrested?' etc - I hadn't realised that I'd stopped telling people what was happening, I was a ball of terror for a while.

I've been really disappointed that I haven't just snapped out of it, so to speak. It's going to take a long time. Some people say they feel much better after they've left the relationship but I just feel a bit bewildered still that I let it happen, it changed me for the worst, and it took up so much of my life. Hoping to snap out of this eventually confused

chocoreturns Tue 27-Aug-13 21:40:02

Bant thank you for posting that, it's really helpful to hear a guys point of view. Timely too, as I just got off the phone from my guy, and he's just been bloody lovely again. And I've been slightly thrown by it all again.

Which I confessed to, because I realise that the only way for me to not make him feel weird in return is to at least try and explain a little bit when I find the compliments and thoughtfulness all a bit much. So we had a kind of mini chat about it tonight, and he said it's nice that I appreciate him, but he's a bit sad that I appreciate his niceness so much, because it tells him something about the other men I've known.

It's telling me something about myself too. I think it's going to take me a long time to be comfortable with a healthy relationship. Just as a random example, talking tonight about a hobby I'm into he offered to buy me something (in a slightly jokey way, but still) and I really felt uncomfortable - so he asked me if I can handle being spoiled a bit, and honestly, I just said no. Not really, so please don't do that, not yet anyway. It's weird when things come up that trigger the panicky feeling because I don't really know what will and what won't yet.

Montessorisam Tue 27-Aug-13 22:41:40

Chocoreturns - I can relate to everything you have just said too!! I have met someone and he is bloody lovely and caring. It is a beautiful thing and at the same time scary! Can I really let him in and trust him? I would truly like to but it will take time.

Strength to everyone on here. xx

BerylStreep Tue 27-Aug-13 23:45:33

Choco I was on your previous threads, and haven't caught up with what you have been doing for the last 5 months or so (although I have often wondered how you are getting on <stalker alert>)

I am delighted to hear you are dating. Enjoy!

Dearjackie Wed 28-Aug-13 06:32:19

I haven't started dating yet and won't be anytime soon as oly 4 weeks out. I think I will be terrified of the person leaving me as all through the relationship he did that if we had an argument, or I said something he didn't like/ want to discuss.

I became more and more insecure and predictably the arguments were then about my insecurity which actually he was causing. It was horrible. I don't think I'll ever be the same again certainly I'll never be relaxed. He used to say he loved me more than anything, he'd never leave me, he wanted to marry me. I'm only just realising the damage. Is it possible to come through it??

getmeoutofthismadhouse Wed 28-Aug-13 08:53:33

For me it was not having that feeling in my tummy when he came home from work like I used to with my ex. It took me a while to relax . Not having to worry that the house Wasnt tidy when he walked through the door. I was seeing the new guy for 3 months and it took me a while to figure out why when we had disagreements he didnt just kick off. Then I realised ... he wasn't my ex. He wasnt gonna smash up my house. I half expect it though. I expect to be spoken to like I'm nothing. The ex gives me abuse most days even now and somedays I would lie in my new fellas arms and feel relieved that the abuse wasn't in front of me anymore.

I split up with him last week though and partly because I am so used to drama and being around an abusive man , a normal laid back man I find boring and I was turning into a controller because I haven't had control of my own life for so long . I need to be on my own I think a while longer .

TwoStepsBeyond Wed 28-Aug-13 10:00:23

GetMe that really rings bells with me, that panic that he was due home any minute and the kitchen wasn't tidy and there were shoes near the front door, so I'd get the kids to rush around making it all look ok for him (and he'd still moan about the mess the second he got in).

I have also become a bit controlling, as ex had such specific ways of doing things that I had to adhere to, which I'm now passing onto my DCs and my new bloke. He says its hard to help me because he has to ask if he's doing things the right way all the time, I have trouble letting things go and just allowing him or the kids to step in and help imperfectly but then feel downtrodden because I'm doing it all!

I don't want to become the control freak who picks up on every little error, but when you've spent 10 years thinking that you can only use certain cups for certain drinks or that its the end of the world if someone gets crumbs in the butter, its difficult to let it go!

ResNullius Wed 28-Aug-13 10:17:33

"You look lovely" ....isn't a prelude to insisting on sex before going to wherever it is you had just finished getting ready for. Its just a compliment.

Compliments are not the leadup to a put-down punchline. They are just nice things he says because you deserve them

"What are you having" means you really are free to order from the menu and not have your selection rubbished, and changed to something which will go better with his wine choice.

"Let me help" is a genuine offer, not the opener for a 30 minute lecture on how something is supposed to be done, and your inability to perform any task correctly.

Laughter is shared about something, not his enjoyment of your stupidity

"I think I would like to keep my own bank account" is totally accepted - no rage until you agree salary can be paid into a joint account which you somehow never get the card for

God ...this list could be endless

DragonsAreReal Wed 28-Aug-13 13:15:19

I think I'd really like to be with someone who wanted to make plans and go on holiday with me instead of saying certain things like oh I'd never go on holiday with you all you would do is moan and I'd have to leave you there, or if we ever got married you do know you would have to buy your own ring and mine if you want me to wear one....

Someone just being nice would be nice, I like nice but tend to feel safer with not nice.

themidwife Wed 28-Aug-13 13:43:59

This is really interesting! I'm currently reading "women who love too much" & it's like reading about myself (& many of us on this thread perhaps). So worth reading! Because of the way my emotional needs were ignored as a child I have chosen damaged emotionally unavailable men because that feels normal. I have confused sexual attraction with love & friendship.

Not sure yet how that cycle is broken & my current partner is on his own journey to change too but it's so hard isn't it?

Stepinstone Wed 28-Aug-13 14:29:34

I remember the first time I cried in front of my partner, and I was so shocked when he just put his arms around me and comforted me.

I thought he'd storm out or shout that I was being manipulative! hmm

MarlboroughMillie Wed 28-Aug-13 17:56:21

I have only just seen this thread, and I wasn't sure I would identify with it - until I saw the bit in your original post about it feeling uncomfortable with someone who is consistently nice.

I have had a series of unhealthy relationships, and after the last one ended, I just despaired - I couldn't work out what I was doing to keep attracting people who treated me like crap. Even though they seemed so different on the outside, sooner or later the behaviours all seemed the same, and I felt worthless.

I saw a brilliant counsellor who helped me to see that just because somebody said something bad about me, it didn't make it true. That their opinion was simply that - an opinion - and no more valid than my opinion. It sounds so simple, but when that penny finally dropped, it was a lightbulb moment, and changed the way I viewed myself. Through my own eyes rather than reflected in someone else's.

After a year I met my current partner (OD does have some success stories!) and I can honestly say I NEVER had any idea that a relationship could be this easy. I worried terribly that the lack of drama would be boring, but it so isn't! My friends were tearing their hair out that I might throw away something this good. He moved in a few months ago, and life is so calm. I can't remember the last time I cried, whereas it used to be a daily occurrence. We are equal partners. He cares what I think, looks out for me, and me for him. He's great with my DCs, my parents, my friends.

I can't believe I have waited almost 50 years to discover that this is what my friends meant when they said they were happily married!

Hang in there and believe in the good when you find it. If you give it a chance, it might just really be as good as it seems!

chocoreturns Wed 28-Aug-13 18:58:49

all the positive stories are really helpful to hear, thank you for sharing! I knew I couldn't be the only one who was totally weirded out by 'nice and normal'. I think it's really great to remind each other (and especially the posters who have only just or recently left an abusive arse) that recovery is a process, not an event. You don't just wake up one day fixed because you changed the locks. It takes time, and the good times are sometimes just as challenging to adapt to as the bad times!!

I'm really happy for you guys who have stuck it out with lovely new DP's, and discovered that it was worth it. You're giving me confidence to do the same x

Misspixietrix Thu 29-Aug-13 00:06:12

"you don't just wake up one day fixed because you changed the locks" <<< This! I was seeing someone for a while a few months ago and I couldn't get over how NICE he treated me. He was nice when we got together (didn't rush me) nice whilst we were together and even nice when I decided to end it. I think it hit me at the beginning when he said to me "MissPixie I don't think you're used to anyone paying you a compliment are You?". Still kicking myself for letting that gem go...

themidwife Thu 29-Aug-13 03:30:38

Miss Pixie could you get him back?

Misspixietrix Thu 29-Aug-13 10:32:16

Yes probably. I'm still in contact with him. (see? Nice?). Lol. But I know I'm not in that place right now and I would feel a right bitch messing him around. Will always thank him though for showing me how a woman should be treated grin

themidwife Thu 29-Aug-13 11:27:09

Yes that's good. Our perception of a normal relationship is skewed isn't it?!

Lweji Thu 29-Aug-13 11:47:39

Interesting, I don't think I was surprised to be treated well, maybe because I never really felt like my relationship was normal, as such.

I am in contact with lots of nice men and I was painfully aware of exH's faults.

If anything, I may have the bar too high now. confused
Although perhaps not, as I think I still let nice people in. But I am very sensitive to any off behaviour.

Even today with a friend, when he suddenly told me "this is what you will do", with a long description of what I would say. Erm. No. And he was told that.
If he was a bf, he would have been told off immediately for expressing it in those terms.
And a yellow flag would have been raised for future reference.

Kernowgal Fri 30-Aug-13 19:47:19

My parents' relationship is so dysfunctional that it's no surprise that I ended up with the man I did. I have no idea what a good relationship is like. I just expect there to be sulking and shouting and point scoring and a general feeling of walking on eggshells.

How shit is that!!

Montessorisam Sat 31-Aug-13 18:58:43

My ex has just found out about new man and he has upped the abuse big style tonight...just been told he is gonna knock my effing block off.....at least Ex is showing himself up to be the abusive man I knew he was!!

chocoreturns Mon 02-Sep-13 10:53:23

Hi Montessoriasam I hope you're ok - that sounds horrible sad

I've just had a rather lovely weekend. I think I'm starting to relax a little bit. Having said that, some of the really nice things that are happening seem to come with a surprise kicker - the latest one was seeing new DP with my eldest DS, just chatting about something, but in a really lovely way.

Then realising that a) it's possibly the cutest thing I've ever seen, and b) I've never seen a man do that with my son before. It never happened with his dad. And that bit makes me incredibly sad, for DS1, for DS2... it's just so weird and unsettling. The good things about the new guy just seem to highlight the total shitness of my twunt, and I have all kinds of upset emotions that really have nothing to do with new DP.

I'm taking a step back to process how I feel about it. Not back from the relationship as a whole, but from the stuff with the kids. I'm glad he's met them and it's clearly going to be absolutely fine in the long run, but I don't know that I am ready to have someone (even someone bloody lovely) to be involved with them very much for now.

Montessorisam Mon 02-Sep-13 20:52:29

Hi Choco yes, it is horrible. EX appears to want to make my life as miserable as possible and is still doing a bloody good job of it! My new realisation is that I'm still very wobbly about everything and very very insecure!! Hate that idea but that's what comes of living with someone who disregards your feelings constantly....

Taking a step back seems to be a good idea and think I will follow your example....I feel all mixed up and confused about everything right now and feel that I should 'emotionally detach' a little bit from new man!

Whenever I have a lovely weekend or a fantastic time with new man I then feel sad that I have to go back to my stressful life with ex giving me grief and I feel guilty for being happy!! Would love to just feel happy without all the extra add-ons that come with it!

AintNobodyGotTimeFurThat Thu 03-Oct-13 17:49:08

*"I said I'm not in the mood for sex and he accepted it, no questions asked. Doe this mean he's not into me??"
- NO. He's just not rapey. Well done for finding a nice guy. *

That's really true actually. I didn't consider my ex partners to be that bad in comparison to a lot of other people's partners. He was horrible sometimes and very forceful, but I just thought that kind of happened. When I started going out with someone else, who was a friend at the time and really lovely and who I am still with I asked him to stop during intimacy once, can't remember the reason. He stopped straight away and I burst out crying. I was so shocked that he had stopped, if you see what I mean. He realised then how traumatic it actually had been for me, because that isn't really a normal response. We are great together and I love this man lots and lots.

I hope you all find someone deserving, if you haven't already.

I have a beautiful little girl with this man and I wouldn't change ANYTHING.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now