What to ask yourself after leaving an abusive relationship
Relationships can seem daunting. Words like vulnerability, effective communication, conflict resolution, and intimacy might even scare you sometimes. And they could seem scarier if you have just emerged from an abusive relationship because that kind of trauma can have a devastating impact.
Healing from an abusive relationship does not happen overnight, nor is it linear.
Acknowledging it is one thing, completely coming to terms with the painful experience and moving on is a whole other thing. It is, however, important to set out on this journey of acceptance and kindness towards yourself before you feel fully ready to venture into the dating world again.
Before you decide to start dating again, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:
- What do I want now?
Decide what it is that you want right now. If it is a relationship, what kind? Maybe you want a casual relationship. Maybe, you want to take a break from intimate relationships but don’t mind friendships. Or maybe, you actually want to take some time for yourself. Whatever it is, it is important for you to first identify your needs and then decide how you want to move forward.
If this involves having a conversation with a potential partner about boundaries or more time, ease into it but express yourself honestly. Remember, your past has no control over who you can be now. Everything now is in your hands and is your choice.
- Am I ready to invest time and energy into this?
Think about where you are right now - physically, mentally, and emotionally. Are you ready to make time for a new relationship? Maybe there are other commitments in life like education, work-life, family or your own self that require your undivided attention now. Your priority is to consider your feelings, whether you are fully on board with this idea.
This is not to say that you have to achieve some kind of ‘complete healing’, no. Such a thing doesn’t even exist because healing is not achieved immediately. But if you are unsure of a relationship, it won’t be fair to expect the other person to give their 100%. Take your time so you can be fully present to have a mutually loving relationship.
- Do they make me feel seen, heard and valued in this space?
Finding safe spaces after a traumatic experience is very crucial to heal and move on. In the past, you may have felt invalidated or even shamed for voicing what you felt. You may have felt ridiculed, invisible and unheard. Therefore, you must be valued and treated with kindness by a potential partner. Are they genuinely curious about your dreams and goals? Do you feel like they are fully present in your conversations? If you feel safe around them and feel like they truly want to know who you are, then that builds trust. This sense of trust, safety and comfort is very important in any relationship, more so in an intimate one.
- Do I feel safe to express my most authentic self?
Relationships cannot progress healthily without the people involved bringing forth their true selves. Simply putting up just the best and nicest version of oneself isn’t authentic. It’s simply impossible to be that way all the time. Your number one priority is to protect your energy and ensure safety. You should feel comfortable to be yourself no matter what, and you shouldn’t be ridiculed for it. If that is happening, it is a sure sign that they are not the person for you.
Also, think about whether you enjoy being around them and whether conversations with them energises you. This means talking to them leaves you feeling content and curious to know more. It is a healthy and balanced conversation because they are engaging in ways you appreciate.
Understand that you deserve all the love there is in this world and that a negative experience in the past cannot take away any of that from you now. You will meet someone who will reciprocate your love and energy in the ways you both will appreciate. Know that you are loved and worthy regardless of whether you are with someone or without. It will take time but with patience and compassion towards yourself, the wait will be worthwhile.