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Abusive relationships come in many forms, physical, emotional, psychological, and financial. And they can all have lasting emotional effects on the victim. It’s no surprise that being in a new relationship after an abusive one can be a pretty scary thing.
Sign up now to get access to a worksheet on how to get out of an abusive relationship, affirmations for depression and anxiety, a self-care guide and plenty more resources to help you through a traumatic time.
Triggers from the old relationship can easily creep up in the new relationship, even if the new man in your life isn’t being abusive. The trauma from being in an abusive relationship can take a long time to heal from. Survivors need time to rebuild their self-esteem, confidence, and trust in themselves before diving into a new relationship.
There is no right or wrong amount of time when it comes to healing from what you’ve been through. It’s important that you got out safely, take time for yourself, and figure out the best way for you to move forward.
Take Time for Yourself
After an abusive relationship, a person’s confidence and self-worth are pretty low. It’s important you take some time for yourself to process everything you’ve been through, build yourself back up and learn to trust yourself again.
It can be a scary time after you leave your abuser. You may want to stock up on self-defense tools to help put your mind at ease.
I know some people are probably thinking, why would a “victim” need to forgive themselves. Well, being in an emotionally abusive relationship the abuser blames the victim for his actions constantly. He makes her feel guilty for his own abusive actions and assigns ownership of all the blame to her.
Once she is out of the relationship, she beats herself up for staying in the relationship. She blames herself for not getting out sooner, she may even think that she deserved to be treated in the horrible ways she was treated.
Forgiving yourself is the first step to breaking out of victim mode.
When you are out of that relationship it’s important to reflect on the relationship and realize that how he acted is NOT YOUR FAULT. Give yourself a ton of grace in this situation. You’ve been through hell and back. I know it can be very difficult to do this, but it’s important to understand that you were abused in this situation. That is not your fault. You didn’t deserve that.
One of the best things I did for myself while I was getting out of my abusive relationship (and after) was going to regular therapy. Not only did I put myself through therapy, but I also put my kids through it as well. I knew that the abuse they witnessed would have a lasting effect on them too and I wanted to make sure that my boys grew up not to be abusers as well.
As for me, personally, I needed that validation that I indeed was not crazy. My abuser used the gaslighting technique regularly and I had fallen into the line of thinking that I was crazy.
Having a therapist explain to me exactly what my abuser was doing, the effects it had on me mentally and how to work on overcoming those was life-saving.
My therapist also identified my PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). By identifying this I was able to get on the medication that helped me get through the time immediately after leaving my abuser. I would have regular nightmares and was constantly on edge that my ex was going to do something gawdawful.
If you want to read more about my personal story of abuse check out the following posts.
While you’re taking time for yourself after the abusive relationship it’s important to get into the practice of putting yourself first. I get this may be difficult to fathom, especially if you have kids, but trust me on this.
Every woman needs to put her needs first.
I’m talking needs here, not wants, needs.
Practicing self-care is not selfish. You must take care of yourself first to be able to take care of anyone else. Personally, it was very difficult for me to do this, but once my therapist instructed that I do it, I took the time for myself. So if you need permission to take care of yourself, you’ve totally got it, right here and right now.
And while you’re at it…
Check out the following post for ideas on self-care…
Date Yourself First
This may seem a little silly, but hear me out. After being in an abusive relationship I felt like I was stripped of all my me-ness. I didn’t recognize who I was anymore. Getting to know myself was the next step in my recovery process. I needed to get to know myself and trust myself again.
Trusting yourself can seem like a huge leap after the fact. You put yourself in that situation to begin with so that can be a hard reality. However, you did get yourself out of it. You know how to survive, even if you think you don’t.
Building that trust back in yourself so you can self-heal, build confidence and grow that self-esteem takes time. But dating yourself can be the one thing you do to get yourself back on track more efficiently.
Start with small dates. Like taking yourself out for coffee and just people watch. Try a new workout or go for a walk in a new area of town. Once you feel more comfortable with yourself, you can start to do bigger things, like a weekend retreat where you treat yourself to some serious self-care and self-love time.
The more you do this, the more comfortable you’ll be in your own head again. This helps build your trust back in yourself and connects you intuitively as well.
Identify What You Want and What You Won’t Tolerate
Before getting into a new relationship, you need to know what you want as well as understand what you won’t tolerate.
Sign up now to get a free workbook to help you identify exactly what you want in a partner and how to list those non-negotiable things to help you set some. There’s an excellent step by step process to follow to get absolutely clear on what you want and what you don’t.
I personally did this and through this process, I got super focused on what I wanted in a partner and it helped me realize that I would never be with someone like my ex again. I shared this “list” with my current hubby and he qualified with flying colors!
Make your own list using the workbook and then make sure to share this list in your next relationship.
Connect with Your Support System
It’s important to keep a support system as you navigate life after abuse. Being by yourself can get lonely and you want to make sure you have a reliable support system in place in case you get an itch to go back to your ex.
Your support system also can be excellent people to filter any new prospects through. They can often see things you may be blinded to.
Have a Girls Night
Getting together with your best girlfriends can be super therapeutic. It doesn’t have to be an expensive night on the town unless you want it to be. You could have a movie night in, invite the girls over to create an emergency self-care kit together, or go out dancing.
Stay Close with Family & Friends that Support Your Decision
It’s important to keep a connection with family and friends that support your decision. Sometimes that doesn’t happen because those friends support your ex-abuser. Do not associate with those who don’t support you and stand by you in your decision to leave that toxic relationship.
If you have a hard time finding people who do support you, join my Obtaining Bliss Facebook group exclusively for women. I created this group to help women who suffer from depression, anxiety, and domestic abuse. It’s a very positive, uplifting group of women who are there to cheer each other on and provide support.
Dating and Marriage After Abuse
Dating can be a scary thing after being in an abusive relationship. Survivors don’t have the luxury of “trust first” based on their past relationship. The trauma caused in an abusive relationship, unfortunately, has a ripple effect that travels to all other relationships in a victims life. Following the below advice should help make this process much smoother.
Be Friends First
Don’t just jump into a relationship. Be friends with the other person first. Doing this takes the pressure off of both people to try to “impress” them. I met my current awesome hubby playing poker and we were best friends long before we considered marriage.
Looking back at my abusive relationship, he wasn’t my best friend. Although he considered me his best friend, the violation of my trust, my emotional sanity and all those things he did to abuse me drove a giant wedge between us. His abuse kept us from forming that deep connection that’s required in a pure friendship.
Be Upfront about Your Past Relationship
If you are friends first, then they will probably already know about your past abusive relationship. Having an honest conversation about both of your past relationships is key to building trust in a new relationship, especially if you’ve been through an abusive relationship.
Let your partner know how you were treated in the past relationship and that you may need to take it slow in order for you to heal. The way your partner reacts can tell you everything you need to know about this new guy in your life.
Take it Slow
It takes time to get to know someone and I mean really get to know someone. To create a deeply bonded relationship you need to be friends first. You’ve been through a traumatic experience, your trust in people is going to be like thin ice, easily shattered with any wrong move.
When you start a new relationship, there is no reason to move quickly. If this new guy you met is so awesome and great, he’ll have no problem taking it slow, especially if he knows about your past relationship.
Trust Your Gut
Part of taking time for yourself as mentioned above is to reconnect with your intuition. We all have it. But after being in an abusive relationship and having a partner gaslight you, we’ll shut that intuition button off while we’re in that courtship.
In this new relationship, if there’s something that doesn’t feel right or you feel worried that something is going on, don’t ignore it.
Tell your new partner how you’re feeling. Even if you’re wrong, a healthy partner can handle talking about your worries in a way that doesn’t try to manipulate your perception and make you feel crazy. If they can’t handle this kind of conversation, then your intuition is right.
Call Out Any Behavior Reminding You of Abuse
On this go around, make a promise to yourself to speak up right away if you feel like you are not being treated with the respect you deserve.
If your partner is willing to be part of your healing, they’ll be willing to tweak any behaviors without defensiveness to make you more comfortable.
Be open to the possibility of being in a healthy, loving, respectful relationship. It absolutely is possible. And while it may be time-consuming to building trust in relationships again, don’t be stingy on the love.
Understanding what a healthy relationship looks like can help you open that shell and let love out. The more love you let out the more you’ll get in return. Don’t withhold it.
Realize Your Triggers
Coming out of an abusive relationship you’re going to have triggers that can cause an adverse reaction on your part.
However, you may not know all your triggers until they actually happen. Be aware of ones that you do know you have. Like if someone joke’s with you about your arms and that triggers a negative reaction because your ex-abuser would tell you how gross your arms were saying you should wear long sleeves to “cover that shit.”
Some triggers are not as obvious and will take some time to figure out they are even triggers. Telling your partner the ones you know about and asking for extreme patience through situations where you may have a grandiose reaction.
If your partner is willing to work through these with you in a loving and empathetic manner, that’s an excellent sign of a healthy relationship.
This would obviously be something that you would consider if you were in a serious long-term relationship. It’s a good idea for you and your partner to go through therapy together. It’s especially important if you’re going to marry this new partner.
Find a therapist who is trained in domestic violence, trauma therapy and couples therapy. Someone who is trained in this can help your new partner navigate the best ways to help you heal and avoid landmines along the way.
Don’t expect your partner to help you overcome any past traumas you’ve been through. That is up to you to work through and if necessary with someone who is experienced in overcoming trauma (like me!).
In a perfect world, we’d all overcome our past traumas before getting into a new relationship. However, I know first hand this just doesn’t happen. Sometimes we even get into a relationship expecting it to heal our trauma from the first one.
Sadly, a new relationship cannot heal your trauma. Sure the euphoria you’re misted with in a new romantic relationship can definitely distract you from those traumas you’ve suffered. But if you haven’t truly dealt with them, they will keep resurfacing in the most negative ways. Poor diet, another bad relationship, weight gain or loss, severe depression, anxiety, PTSD and more.
Invest in a life coach (like me) who has experienced trauma like you have and who has the tools to help you through. Get more information about exactly what it’s like to work with me 1:1 here.
Stop Living in Victim and Survivor Mode
After being in an abusive relationship we can pick up those abusive behaviors and exhibit them in our next relationships. It’s critical that we don’t get hung up in victim and survivor mode.
This mentally can be detrimental to an otherwise healthy relationship. Working through your traumas by getting to the root cause can help you break from victim mode. *Hint* See above for recommended coaching.
Trust is something that won’t come easily to a survivor of abuse. Trust is not only lost in a partner as a result of abuse but is also lost in ourselves.
Following the above steps, friends first, taking it slow, being upfront, speaking out about your feelings, and realizing your triggers will help you leap mountains when it comes to building the trust in others. Take notes on the self-care portion to help you build back the trust in yourself.
You’ll also need to have a little faith. Being vulnerable in a new relationship can be stressful. But if you realize that you are the only one in control of your own actions and not anyone else’s it’ll be easier to trust yourself.
Being in a new relationship after being in an abusive one can be a difficult experience to navigate. If you take the time to heal your traumas, forgive, and trust yourself you should have no problem finding a new loving and healthy relationship. After reading these tips you will have a solid foundation to find love again. After all, we all just want to love and be loved, respectfully.
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