Trust is bashed in by an abuser. We joined with our partners believing they had our best interests at heart, like we had theirs. We believed that they would love and cherish us, encourage us, be our wing-men—protect us. It is what they promised. So, we pasted them into our expectation-dream. Awakening to the truth was painful. They lied, cheated and attacked us both verbally and physically. It is no surprise we vowed to never again open our hearts to anyone.
We not only lost trust in our partners, we also lost trust in our judgement. We blame ourselves for ending up with a violent person. How could we be so stupid? How can we ever again believe that we are making the right decision about anyone?
Before we even consider dating, we must heal the lack of trust in ourselves. Working with a therapist we can rebuild our confidence in our ability to make good decisions, learn to like and respect ourselves again and clean up the debris left inside. During the healing process is a good time to begin to uncover our gifts and find a passion in life (other than finding a new partner). Then put ourselves in places where healthy people go. Join a cause. Volunteer.
When you start dating, expect that you will go through a few people before you find the right one. Grab anxiety about being alone by the scruff of the neck and hang it on the hook in your closet. Shut the door. Remind yourself that it takes time to get to know someone. This time around there will be no innocence of passion, like your first love when you fell open armed into the abyss. However, it will be a more mature and authentic love.
I can’t promise you will never be romanced by another potential abuser. They don’t come with “dangerous” etched into their foreheads—though that would be nice. The good news is that there are clues that tell us when someone is potentially violent—red flags. We didn’t know to watch for them before. This time we are smarter.
We have experienced the well honed, believable facade that those seeking to control us wear. They seemed absolutely crazy about us, wanted to be with us all the time, wanted to know everything about us, began planning our future together. All this felt heady. Who doesn’t want to be loved and adored? (Maybe there are some people, but I’d be suspicious of them. 🤔) How do we know who is legit?
Since we cannot be sure who is being genuine and who is a fraud, we have to make some agreements with ourselves. Since we know that abusive, violent people cannot remain behind their facade forever, time is our friend. With patience on our part, they will eventually show their true personality.
Our first agreement is to not allow anyone to rush us into intimacy. Even if we would love to be swallowed up in the romance because it feels so good and we’ve missed it so much—we slow things down. If this person is seeking a quality relationship, he or she will respect our wish to take it slow.
The second agreement is that before we make any long-term commitment we collect data. I know it doesn’t sound very romantic, but avoiding a violent partner makes it necessary. We want to see how this person reacts to life situations, such as how he or she:
- Reacts to a personal disappointment.
- Reacts to confrontation.
- Reacts to as obstacle in her path.
- Responds to a “no” from us.
- Behaves during an illness or difficult circumstance.
- Cares for us during our illness or difficult circumstance.
- Interacts with his family and friends.
- Interacts with our family and friends.
- Interacts with children.
- Interacts with animals.
- Spends her free time. Is she active in a cause that enriches other’s lives?
When the whispering comes from our gut saying, “Something’s not right here,” “Ouch. He can’t really mean that?” “Why don’t I ever get to pick the movie we see?” “She must not have heard what I said, she didn’t acknowledge my opinion.” “Whoa, he’s getting awfully angry because I didn’t agree with him.” You get the idea. We pay attention. We do not disregard bad behavior. Anything that makes us feel discounted, ignored or disrespected will no longer be explained away. We will not make excuses for him or her. Absolutely no more minimizing or denying what we witnessed. No matter how much time and energy we gave to this person—we walk. We don’t waste one more minute on anyone who does not deserve our love. We clear the space for a better partner to enter.
We have control over who we allow to stay in our lives. Our super-power is that we have the strength to walk away at the first flap of a red flag. No demeaning or beating ourselves up by saying, “I did it again.” We accept that we can’t know who they are before we know who they are. Taking time to observe a potential life partner is paramount. Will it guarantee that you will live happily ever-after? There are no guarantees in life. However, It will put you in a better position to find the best partner for you. Someone who will work with you to build a healthy relationship.
The bottom line is:
We trust others until they prove untrustworthy, then we trust ourselves enough to walk away.
This is the victory.