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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!

kasareem Tue 27-Aug-13 00:36:47

Oh velvetdon't give up, it's such a cliche but the right man is probably not the obvious one. I already knew my DH before we got together, but changes in both our circumstances meant we suddenly noticed each other differently. You have to be consciously open minded or else you can keep going after the same type of man and not give someone truly good a chance

dandydorset Tue 27-Aug-13 00:46:09

lemon thank you

glad uve found somebody you deserve,gives hope to us all

Kernowgal Tue 27-Aug-13 17:58:27

I suppose a good way of looking at the "I'll never meet someone nice" situation is: you are nice, you are single, you exist. Therefore there is a good chance that there is also a man out there who is nice, and who is single. Then you've just got to hope that your paths will cross.

Lovingfreedom Tue 27-Aug-13 18:08:27

Beware love bombing after an abusive relationship. It's great to get presents, compliments, great sex and loads of attention...but beware. You might be in the adoration phase of what turns out to be a new abusive relationship or you might be getting groomed for something. In my experience I've enjoyed every minute of this phase before ditching...but really I should have seen...I did see...plenty of red flags. Could have got nasty.

dandydorset Tue 27-Aug-13 18:18:53

love you summed it up very well,my relationship after my abussive one was worse in some ways,the name calling,accusations started within 2weeks,i could see the flags,couldnt believe it was happening again

though i still blame myself and think its something i must do

MrsSnail Tue 27-Aug-13 18:21:14

I'm just out of an EA marriage and have learnt a lot but its so hard to believe someone else saying nice things actually means them and doesn't have some nasty ulterior motive.

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Tue 27-Aug-13 18:24:49

It's very strange isn't it? I keep expecting my date to force me to do something or to criticise me.

He says nice things to me which is something I struggle with after being with a twunt of the highest order for years.

I find it hard to understand why on earth he would be interested in me (this would be because afore mentioned twunt told me no one would want me).

The man is a nice man. I've never had a nice man. Its strange but I am determined not to self sabotage because I deserve to be happy.

Am a little undecided as to whether or not new man needs to know about the abusive ex. Unfortunately twunt is still in my life due to DD, and still being abusive although now its 'only' sexual abuse, which is a vast improvement.

Lovingfreedom Tue 27-Aug-13 18:26:55

If you learn to trust your instincts and ditch out when boundaries are crossed. Don't accept too many apologies maybe? Shouldn't need to. I feel like I'm learning not to get so hurt but still attracting the nutters so far!

Lovingfreedom Tue 27-Aug-13 18:30:36

I think it's quite dangerous to accept compliments from a man when your self esteem is low. Better get some of that bolstering with help of friends and/or family. You lay yourself vulnerable.
Still getting sexually abused by ex? This is very concerning.

ivegotaniphone Tue 27-Aug-13 18:38:02

I'm so pleased I found this thread... I left STBXH 6 months and have recently been out with what seems to be a very nice man, who I knew before my marriage ended, but not very well. STBXH is still in my life (and my house sometimes unfortunately) due to DS. I have checked and checked for red flags with new man but cant find any, but also doubt my own judgement. I have run some things by a sensible friend, who tells me he is wooing me, which is strange but rather nice

Dahlen Tue 27-Aug-13 18:38:25

I can only make my comments retrospectively. After I left my abusive X I quickly discovered that I loved life as a single person and remained that way for many years. If you'd have asked me in the early years of that if I was over my X I'd have said 100% yes.

I wasn't.

I was over him sure, but I hadn't even begun to process the lessons from that relationship about how abusive relationships work, about why I didn't see the signs for what they were, about why I didn't leave earlier, etc. What he did was neither my fault nor my responsibility to prevent, but until I totally rewrote my own role in relationships, I couldn't have prevented it from happening again.

I would say that it took me two years to do that. It took me another year to find normal, because having opened my eyes to red flags I suddenly saw them everywhere and became convinced that 99% of the males I met were abusive. Since I knew men who categorically weren't abusive, I realised that I still hadn't found my baseline and had simply gone from being too trusting to too distrustful.

In all, I would say it was about a good 4 years before I was totally ready to participate in a normal relationship without either overanalysing everything or casting caution to the wind. It was 2 more years after that before I actually met anyone who interested me enough to want to bother.

We are now a year down the line. It has been the easiest relationship I have ever had. Absolutely no angst or game-playing. We are both able to be direct without being confrontational. Even when we want has been in conflict, we have been able to sit down and chat about it calmly and rationally without it descending into a row. And none of it has required any effort whatsoever. It is totally unlike any relationship I have ever had (only my recent X was abusive, in the relationship before that I wore the trousers). I will hold up my hands though and admit that if I had met him a few years earlier I wouldn't have been ready for him.

Bant Tue 27-Aug-13 18:38:30


I think there is some myth that people who have been abused must attract abusers again and again - they must give out some signal, which can lead into a negative spiral of self-blame even apart from those problems in an abisive relationship itself.

Whilst there may be vulnerable signals given off by some people, it's much more likely that abusive men are approaching everyone - but get told to fuck off by many women. The only way abusers are 'attracted' is if they're not rejected.

Most men, believe it or not, are actually decent people. But the abusers and arseholes just cycle round more often, online or in real life, because the decent ones get taken off the market and stay off the market. Abusers and twunts and players just keep on popping back up and seeing who's around who will accept their bullshit.

Those with decent self esteem will spot the flags and feel fine about telling them where to go, thus freeing themselves up for the next decent guy who comes along. And if he turns out not to be so decent, then they'd tell him to get bent too..

Fozziebearmum2be Tue 27-Aug-13 18:38:31

Some of what others have said reminds of when I met dh :-) ie not quite understanding when dh was lovely to me, 'was he after something?'

The other incident I remember was early on dropping some plates/cutlery in his kitchen when I was sorting out a nice dinner and I completely freaked out. He came in and asked if I was okay (after hearing a massive crash!) I panicked and apologised 100x and he was completely shocked and couldn't understand why I was worried. Also started shaking and ended up crying over him and explaining all about previous partner. He understood and was so supportive, he gave me the reins in the relationship so everything was at my speed, exactly what I needed! grin

MamaTo3Boys Tue 27-Aug-13 18:44:31

Wish I could find some of the strength you guys have got.

I'm totally off men and the idea of a relationship altogether.

I suppose I'd go as far as saying I'm quite bitter about the whole situation. I get angry about it mostly when I think of the "relationship" I had with xp.

Not sure if thats normal or just my way of coping with it really.

I refuse to let some other guy treat me like that again and so, stay away from them altogether x

Lovingfreedom Tue 27-Aug-13 18:47:52

I wasn't saying that certain people attract abusive's a matter of identifying red flags and not accepting unreasonable behaviour I think. But if you have low self esteem after abuse you can be vulnerable...easy game.

Bant Tue 27-Aug-13 18:51:42

Yep, I agree. But some people think in some way that they deserve it, because they've had their self esteem so damaged.

Dating itself can give people more self esteem, but they have to be in the right place to spot the flags and not accept them to avoid the tossers, and get to the point where they can accept a decent person for who they are

MrsSnail Tue 27-Aug-13 18:52:14

I've had that fozzie, freaked out apologising over spilling a drink and the poor guy had no idea why I was so panicked

Lovingfreedom Tue 27-Aug-13 19:00:45

I don't agree Bant. I think if you look to dating for your self esteem then you are at a high risk of getting hurt. It's too easy to get into the mindset of feeling grateful to whoever is going out with you.

VelvetSpoon Tue 27-Aug-13 19:11:34

I completely agree that relying on dating to boost low self-esteem is potentially fraught with hazaard.

It always makes me wince when posters say that dating has been great for their self-esteem, because so often that isn't the case. It worries me vulnerable people are encouraged by comments like that to rush into dating looking for a self-esteem boost, only to get caught up in game playing and twattish behaviour (of which there is a huge amount) and end up feeling worse rather than better.

I think the only way to approach dating (and the inevitable disappointments and lows that will result) is with a large and healthy self-esteem. Whilst dating might give you a boost, often it won't. I have seen too many people (mainly women) grateful for the flattery and attention of a man who is obviously an arse, just a different kind of one from their ex. It rarely ends well.

turbochildren Tue 27-Aug-13 19:47:37

i'm going to watch this thread! I panick just by the thought of talking to guys.

Fozziebearmum2be Tue 27-Aug-13 19:55:27

Totally agree Velvet spoon, its best to stay alone until (and I know this sounds cheesy) you've built up your self esteem and are ready to meet someone again, no-one else can restore it, only you.

After my abusive rship, I rebounded into another disastrous relationship and then once that ended badly (he cheated on me loads) I resigned myself to be single and enjoy myself as a single girl with my mates (I went on one date in over a year). Cue dh, who chased me for 9 months... I didn't go out with him as wasn't ready, but when I was, he was there for me, and I realised that he was the one for me smile

It's not been plain sailing (I've had my issues to work through) but he's understood and been v patient. It's about meeting the right one, not meeting loads of men to boost your self esteem. I can't see how that would work, least not for me.

comingintomyown Tue 27-Aug-13 20:03:53

All I know is this :

Age 14- 44 in a constant relationship/marriage and up and downs

Age 44-47 single and carefree, happy and tons of self esteem

I am still far too busy bathing in the surprise and joy of being single so dating is out of the question. Men and relationships are very overrated I think , its a shame really.

Bant Tue 27-Aug-13 20:04:35

I should rephrase. I think if you have a healthy self esteem, then dating can boost your confidence as it gives you the opportunity to meet people who think you're great and decide if they're good enough for you - and you may decide they're not, and move on to find someone better. You have to have a certain level of self esteem to do it though.

I've seen lots of people (metaphorically) come back from dates feeling that glow of feeling good about themselves, and also being reassured that it was okay to dump someone who was showing red flags.

Other people who aren't in the right place yet though, it can be a negative experience.

So if you're feeling okay about yourself, dating can make you feel better. If you're not yet, then avoid it as it might hurt you more. The tricky bit is knowing what you're ready for. Dating can't give you self-esteem, it can just reassure you and improve what you already have if you're ready for it.

chocoreturns Tue 27-Aug-13 20:56:52

the one thing that is helping me to be ok with dating right now is the fact that I have done Freedom 3x (lol) and over the past year of doing it, I've met a group of amazing women who are also restoring their self-belief and esteem. We have dinner together, playdates with our kids and talk through the crazy thinking and cry about the awful memories. I feel normal even though some of my experiences haven't been normal.

I totally agree though it's a case of taking time to know yourself before you try to date. I had an horrifically abusive relationship in my twenties, out of which I gave myself a huge 3 months to be single before meeting my STBXH, and getting engaged to him a whole 4 months after that. I was incredibly broken back then in terms of self-esteem and saw no red flags, as I was so grateful that he wasn't as overtly abusive as the XP from before. Over time, his abuse was just as damaging. FA, EA, SA etc etc. The difference is that between the first ex and my early marriage I suffered depression and anorexia as coping mechanisms, while depending on a new relationship to fix me. This time I've spent 18 months attending Freedom, seeing a domestic abuse support worker and really learning about myself - what I like, what I want, and who I would like to be.

This time, even though I freak out and laugh nervously, while rushing off to make a calming cup of tea, if the new guy compliments me... deep down I'm starting to accept that maybe <just maybe> it's because he is just into me and nice. And maybe I can be ok with that. I'm still taking it slowly though!!

Bant Tue 27-Aug-13 21:14:53

choco - after dating for a while, I'm now seeing someone who I really like a lot. It's a long distance thing, unfortunately, but we skype every day for an hour or so (we did meet in person originally but she lives away)

And I tell her she looks great, that I like her smile, that I miss her. The only reward I expect for telling her stuff like that is to see her smile again at the compliments. I tell her because they're true, and it's nice to say nice things to nice people. And many, probably most men are like that. There is no ulterior motive, we just say you look nice because you do.

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