I fled abuse in October 2016 and have been single and celibate ever since. Recovery takes time, and I had no intention to jump back into another relationship. Plus, technically, I’m still married. And although I won’t ever be going back to that marriage, it feels like I’m breaking my vows. And I’m no oath breaker.
But lately it has felt like something has been missing in my life, and then I realized that I had been subconsciously seeking out romance via books and movies. Suddenly I knew what I was missing; Romance, dates and love. I wanted to share some thoughts on dating after abuse, from a domestic abuse survivor.
We All Need a Little Romance
Romance, being in love, dating, sex, these are all things that bring us happiness. Literally, when we are falling in love our brains are basically on crack. We are high all the time, the hormones and endorphins that course through our body and brain brings us pleasure and happiness. It’s fascinating to learn about, you should check out a book I recommend in our RAD book club (next week) to get more info about that. But just know, when we are romancing another, getting close and sharing stolen moments, you’re high AF.
I have chosen to not seek out this romance stuff. Yeah, I remember how amazing it felt to be falling in love, it’s one reason why I stayed with an abusive person; because it felt so good. I haven’t been ready to fall in love again because I am still trying to put myself back together. It’s no easy task, and I knew I didn’t have the energy or time to put into another person, aside from my son.
As I said though, I felt like something was missing. We all need a little romance. It’s fun, boosts our self-esteem, gives us something to do and can potentially lead to something pretty amazing. Dating should be fun, dating should be exciting, much like life. I’m getting a better hold on my life, and better control over my triggers and conquering some fears. I’m thinking I’m ready to start dating again.
I married my first boyfriend. Sure, I’d had a few ‘friends’ before him, but no one ever thought of me as girlfriend material, it was basically being on call to hook up. Very rarely did we ever do anything else. I always wanted to be that special someone to someone else, but it never seemed to be in the stars me. You could tell I was so happy when I was falling in love with him, when I wasn’t crying because of him. We dated a year and got married on our first anniversary. Actually, not a whole lot of dates happened.
Yes, I have gone out to dinner with my (soon-to-be-ex)husband in the past. But it was never fun. We never dressed up in nice clothes to impress each other and never had a wonderful night out together. I remember crying in the car, in restaurants, sometimes I sat silently for the entire dinner afraid to speak. One waitress gave us separate bills and quietly offered to help find me a way to get home. I was married to the guy!
Most of these dates meant we would go to iHop or grab some fast food and go home. Several times we tried to go to the movies, but turned around and went home after arriving at the doors. I’ve not seen a movie in the theatre since 2012. We went to the club to go dancing once. That lasted about 30 minutes before we went home.
That is my dating history. It’s not much and now I don’t have any idea what I am doing. Dating for me is brand new territory at the tender age of 25. But it’s not my dating history that causes me grief and hesitation to get back out there. It’s a whole lot of other messy problems that, in the end, I’m sure makes me unworthy of this natural high we can get just from living life.
I’m a Mom Now
Last time I was single, I was 20. Now I’m a mom of a 4-year-old, a single mom who does it all on my own. I don’t get weekends off, I don’t get help from the dad part-time. I do it all. I’m extremely thankful for my own mom, who has stepped in as a surrogate father when I need time to be a person and not just a mom. But this being a mom thing really seems to put a damper on my abilities to date.
I send my son to preschool so I can work, attend counseling sessions and volunteer to give back to the community that helped me get back on my feet. That’s up to 8 hours a day I don’t see him. Add in the 12 hours he sleeps at night and that leaves me about 4 hours a day with him. My weekends and days off are based around Gregory and trying to spend as much quality time with him as I possibly can.
Dating, I fear, will take me away from him even more. Maybe I can go on a dinner date after bedtime, but only if it works out that I can have someone watching Gregory. Maybe I could do a day date in the week, carve out some time, make it work. But if I can find a way to carve out some extra time in my day I’ll be spending it with my son. He is my number 1.
Also, being my number 1, he’s extremely important and precious to me. I protect my son like a true momma bear protects her cubs. I won’t allow anyone to meet my son. I won’t hide that I’m a mom, but I’m not wanting some random guys walking into my kid’s life. I’m not looking for a father for my son, I’m looking for some romance and love for me. Trying to squeeze in some dating time in between being a protective mother has so far been a challenge.
Not Too Serious
I’m terrified of getting into a serious relationship. I am heading into this whole dating thing with the idea that I’m just wanting to go meet some new people. My one and only serious relationship I had broke me. It broke me so bad that I will never fully recover my mental health thanks to PTSD. I am afraid to risk that again. I can’t give my all to someone again. Well, maybe I can, But I don’t want to. To let someone have that opportunity… I don’t feel comfortable putting myself in that situation again.
Not All Guys are Like That
But Katrina, you say, not every guy is like that. You’re right. But the guys out there who aren’t like that deserve someone not broken, like me. I have met a few decent people over the last months, just acquaintances, and they seem to be pretty half decent people. But I thought that about my ex as well.
I’m a pretty transparent person, what you see is what you get. I’m like that because I don’t have the energy to try to pretend to be something I’m not. But not everyone is like that. And it’s those people that I don’t want to run in to.
It’s those people who have the ability to break me again. I’m still waiting for the glue to dry that put me back together, and I’m already missing a few pieces of me. I can’t risk breaking again, I can’t lose any more parts of me. Love is all about taking a risk, but I can’t think of just myself when I take a risk.
I’m a mom. I’m thinking for two. Whatever affects me will no doubt also affect my son. This risk just doesn’t seem to outweigh any reward when there is a chance of my being shattered to pieces again. The reward also just doesn’t seem to be attainable to me. It’s all Hollywood magic that doesn’t exist in my world.
Confidence? Try Confi-NOT!
It’s no mystery that people are attracted to other people who are happy, confident and take care of themselves. We can put on a front and pretend we are confident, it’s easy. But I’ve got some serious complexes that limit how confident I am. I’ll start out strong, but quickly deteriorate when I start to realize how out of my league I am. I’m like this with lots of things, not just dating.
This is a result of being talked down to for years. Being torn down, insulted, screamed at, told I am worthless, a bitch, a cunt, a gold digger, a whore, a slut, a tease, a stupid Indian, retarded, a horse face… constantly being told that I’m to listen, my opinion doesn’t matter and isn’t correct. That I don’t know what I am talking about, that I’m uneducated and don’t know anything.
These words play in my head all day long. Some days the voice that replays them over and over is quiet. But some days it’s very loud. And when I talk to other people the voice is always screaming at me. It’s hard to remain confident and keep your head up when your brain is telling you-you’re a piece of shit.
Everyone has body issues, that is no secret. But my body has been attacked, taken advantage of, belittled and hurt. I have an injury from the physical abuse, it’s nothing noticeable to others, but it makes a big difference in my day to day comfort.
It’s why I keep active, to keep my body healthy and strong and able to continue and not let my past intrude my present and future any more than it already is. This being active allows me to take care of my body and know that it IS strong and capable.
As a mom, I clearly was pregnant at one point. Touching back on the whole self-confidence thing, my body is stretched out, marked up and saggy. The voice in my head repeats all the time ‘who would want you now? You’re just a mom. You’re used and nothing special.”
It’s not my voice, it’s his. On an average day, I am so proud of my body. I created a real living human being. It’s a miracle and I am so proud of that. But when I’m naked, I cringe, I cover up and look away. That voice is persistent in making me believe I am undesirable, used up and not worth anything to anyone.
I have made some pretty amazing progress with my mental health. All my medical professionals I see tell me my recovery speed has been pretty astonishing. I’ve got a great support system that helps me, but that doesn’t mean I am healed. I will forever struggle with my mental health. PTSD never really goes away, and anxiety and depression are common in my family already so I’m pretty susceptible to that already.
I know how I get when I’m in the dark place. The last time I was in the dark place I was lost for a month. My best friend would be on call to drive an hour or so that it would take to get to my house in the middle of the night because the dark place consumes me. I get lost and can’t see the light anymore. Like I said, I’ve got an amazing support team that keeps me going. Family, friends and paid professionals.
When I get to the dark place, it takes a lot to bring me out. And I don’t think I can be dating or in a relationship in a time like that. It wouldn’t be healthy for the relationship to be so pessimistic and depressed. Plus, I don’t think I’d feel remotely comfortable putting this on another person. Everyone has problems, but not everyone has problems like mine.
Wanting to Date Again
These thoughts, and so much more, are in my brain all the time. Shuffled amongst a stream of traumatic memories, hopes for the future, and a little bit of present mindfulness. It sucks living like this. I want my life to be better, I want to be happy, make new memories, move forward.
I want to date, have fun, meet new people, make a few friends, try new things and laugh with others again. I’m just terrified to do so. Not even sure how to get started on it. I could always turn to online dating, but I have a complex about that because that’s where I met him. Tinder is new though, well to me it is. It wasn’t around when I was last single, so maybe I start there and have some safe conversations with people and see how I feel.
Getting back into dating after separating from your husband is tough, especially when you’re still married and you’re only 25. Getting back into dating as a single mom is difficult in itself. Getting back into dating after abuse… it’s terrifying. Yet I don’t want to miss out on the great things that life has to offer because of one asshole who broke me.
Before You Go
Those are the thoughts on dating again after abuse, from a survivor of domestic abuse. As I said, I’m still technically married and I feel like a pretty horrible person already just thinking and looking at other men. But divorce is on the horizon, and I think I may want to try dating again.
This is the reality of dating for me. It’s not easy getting back out there. I want to, I want to live my life and be happy, but it’s going to take some work. And some real special guy to think I’m worth the time and energy to go out with for a night on the town.
To read more about abuse and my journey to freedom, click here. It’s a master list of posts I’ve made on the topic. When I have the courage to share, I do. I wouldn’t wish abuse on my worst enemy, who happens to be my abuser. I think we need to talk about abuse more, make it more known and understood. So fewer women and men have to suffer and deal with the life-long repercussions that come with being a survivor. Like, being afriad to have fun and go on a date.