10 Tips to Help You Get Back Into Dating After Leaving a Relationship Filled With Domestic Violence
Those who have been in an abusive relationship breathe a sigh of relief when they are out of it. The last thing on your mind is getting back out there to date again, because you are still reeling from the roller coaster relationship ride that you escaped. You may not want to entertain the possibility of dating again and find yourself making statements such as “I am working on myself right now,” or “the last thing on my mind is getting into a new relationship” or “all men/women are no good.” Here are 10 tips to help you get back into the dating game after getting out of an abusive relationship.
1. Acknowledge that you need to continue to work on your healing, but that does not mean you need to do it alone. Many people use the excuse “I need to work on me right now” after breaking up with an abusive partner. While it may be true that you need to work on things that arose as a product of being in an abusive relationship, that is not an excuse to be alone. In fact, it is better to come out of isolation, and surround yourself with friends and love ones after making your exit from your destructive ex-lover. This reduces the chance that you will go back into that relationship due to feelings of loneliness, or believing that you don’t know how to move on and live life without your ex. Your healing should be an ongoing and evolutional process but should not condemn you from starting to date new people.
2. Therapy. Therapy after a breakup with an abusive ex-partner should be mandatory. Not only does it help you with processing the trauma of the abuse and the behaviors which contributed to staying in the relationship; but it also provides you with support so that you are able to move on. Moving on beyond the aftermath of a relationship is difficult, and you may find that you don’t trust yourself to make the right decisions when beginning to date again. Thus, the objective guidance of a therapist can help you with reassurance, rebuilding self-confidence, and alert you to red flags to look for in new and budding relationships.
3. Make a list of the ideal qualities you want in a partner. It’s always good to reflect on your previous relationships with partners and review things that worked for you in the relationship versus things that didn’t. Thus, you should make a list (and review it with your therapist), of qualities that you will need in an ideal partner versus absolute deal breakers. The idea behind this is having a list in black and white to refer to, in which you clearly list out what your needs are in an ideal partner. Therefore, if the next person you decide to meet doesn’t match up with your list, then you need to move on. Running this list by your therapist will also help you in reviewing these qualities to ensure that they are healthy and realistic characteristics for you.
4. Screen the person you are interested in dating. Whether you are dating online, or you just exchanged numbers with the person in the supermarket, remember to always date safely. What that means is: a) go with your gut feeling about this person. Does this person feel safe and friendly, or did you get the feeling that something was off? If something does feel off or odd, make a beeline for the exit and don’t second guess yourself. b) Check out the person you are considering dating as much as possible. We live in a world where most people can be found on Google, Facebook, and other social media handles. See what you can find out about this person prior to dating them.
5.Take the new date to meet loved ones immediately. Family members and friends know you and love you, are they are going to be looking out for you. Who better to screen your dates than your defense team? They will ask pertinent questions about how your date’s background and future intentions, as well as keep an eye out for things that don’t add up. Remember they love you so they will always have your best interest at heart.
6. Double date. Remember way back when double-dating was the thing? It was fun because it was a group of friends, and it was also safer. If things didn’t work out with the person you were dating, then you could always leave with your friends who were also looking out for you. It was also a way to get quick on the spot feedback from people that you trusted about the person that you were out with. There is strength in numbers.
7. Keep your options open and go slow. In the first 90 days of dating, it’s better to date multiple people so that you don’t zero in on one person. When we date one person, we are more likely to develop bonds that make us feel more connected to that person. Thus, you are likely to the person you have spent the most time with, as opposed to the person who is the right fit for you. If you refrain sexual activity and date multiple people in the first 90 days of dating, you are more likely to be objective and focus your efforts on getting to know other people. Dating should be a time of discovery, where you are focusing on your likes versus dislikes. Refraining from sexual intimacy allows you to keep the relationship platonic. Relationships escalate quickly, especially in the intimacy department are more likely to be destructive – because there has not been adequate time to get to know the person. Pump the brakes on the amount of time spent together in the beginning. If you are spending hours talking in the beginning, that means that the relationship is moving quickly, and you are less likely to look for other options, because you have become comfortable with this person. This can be troublesome because moving too fast in the beginning may make you more likely to get involved with another abusive personality.
8. Ask lots of questions. Those who have been in the abusive relationships, typically hate the dating phase, because it requires getting to know a person and their likes and dislikes. There can be a lot of anxiety and uncertainty around meeting new people. As such, we often enter social situations with our guard up, and our mouths closed. This is the worst thing that you can do. When you meet new people, you should always ask them questions and observe their character and behaviors for consistency. This allows you to get to know people and be more aware of who are allowing into your life. In addition, that person should asking you questions and be genuinely interested in you. People who have something to hide only provide superficial answers, or don’t like to divulge too much of themselves.
9. Date yourself. Tap into your inner fabulousness and start finding out more about you by going out and trying new adventures. Rediscover yourself and pique your own curiosity by leaving your home regularly and doing things outside of your comfort zone. Push yourself to try new adventures. You are more likely to meet people when you leave your home. You are also more likely to be comfortable with dating casually if you get used to the idea of being by yourself. People who are in abusive relationships are often terrified of the idea of being alone. While online dating is also growing in popularity, and people can be successful at it, you should also be comfortable with exploring your surroundings and trying new things. Enroll in a cooking or crafting class, do a wine and paint night, or visit a museum. Get comfortable with exploring.
10. Stop victimizing, overgeneralizing, and punishing. Remember that your past relationship was an experience and does not define who you are. You should not continue to think of yourself as a victim in every situation or relationship or make statements such as “all men or women are….” This is self-defeating behavior, and it is toxic to current and future relationships that you will develop. All or nothing thinking is limiting the potential of your relationships. Also, making a future or potential partner pay the consequences for actions that your ex-partner used to do is unfair, and abusive on your end. Be mindful of your pain, and how you experience things. If you feel like you are bringing past demons into the present and the future, be sure to seek out counseling for support. Resolving your own inner conflict will help you to have healthier relationships.
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This blog was written by Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC. This blog is meant to be educational and not meant to diagnose anyone or to be used in place of therapy or treatment with a licensed mental health professional.
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© 2021 Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC
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