6th July 2018 at 9:59 pm #61095
Hi there ladies. I’m posting for the first time on this forum but I’ve read numerous threads on here and it’s been such a massive help since I got out of an abusive relationship.
I was wondering if anyone has any advice about dating someone new after an abusive relationship. I have been dating someone for a couple of months, not long at all. I’ve just been enjoying this early stage of dating, he has been so gentle and kind and respectful.
Of course naturally things may progress and I find myself getting anxious about becoming close to someone again. I never thought it would affect me so deeply (my relationship with my ex was relatively short). Recently I’ve had a lot of nightmares and anxiety for seemingly no reason. I’m been on a waiting list for therapy for what seems like forever, took me ages to pluck up the courage to get referred.
But in terms of a new relationship, what are your experiences of disclosing previous relationship abuse? Should I bring it up or is that not such a good idea?
I suppose I have to examine my motives for doing so, I think the main thing is to explain my anxiety around certain things and why I want to take things slowly. I just don’t want him to see this experience as defining me. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything for now and wait until I get therapy to help me deal with some of the anxiety I’m experiencing?? I’m just not sure and I would really appreciate your advice/thoughts/experiences! 🙂
7th July 2018 at 10:35 am #61121freedomtochooseBlocked
Thanks for posting here. I’m sure everyone will say that often the issues that the poster is hashing through are helpful to others. Your post is certainly helpful to me – as I don’t exclude the idea of a relationship in future.
Do you and have you read what people write about looking out for red flags? I found this shorthand helpful, although I know it is possible to go overboard and be hypervigilant about it.
I think what they call emotional intimacy is hard for many after such an experience. It is certainly hard for me, and I don’t think I have managed it successfully yet, although that is partly because I have wanted to and had to put my child and my studies first, rather than a love relationship.
From what you are saying, it sounds ok so far – I would just say be very clear to take things at a pace that is comfortable for you. You have your boundaries, that is fine. You don’t have to explain more than you wish to. If a situation comes up you could express a preference – for example – ‘I prefer to go to a quiet coffee shop/pub rather than a crowded one’…
It might be a long time that you are on the waiting list for therapy…maybe journaling your feelings might also help?
thanks for sharing
9th July 2018 at 10:01 am #61206VisionforwardParticipant
I have told my new boyfriend most things. I felt he needed to know to understand my reactions to Things. For instance our unpredictability our good days and our bad days, our overthinking of things.
I would say pick your moment, tell
Only what you are comfortable, I’m sure we all have the “bits” no one else knows because we feel it’s too private/painful etc
To tell and most importantly know you can trust him and his reaction. By that I mean what do you feel safe telling him
9th July 2018 at 7:19 pm #61235
I went down the full disclosure route. It is not the officially advised route – there is a risk that if you show people that you are vulnerable then you could end up in another abusive relationship. But in the end I am vulnerable, the an I am dating appears kind and considerate, and I don’t want to maintain the legacy of secrecy that came with my abusive relationship. So far it is working well. We have a shorthand code for things I find triggering, which means that something has upset me and I am not ready to talk about. He accepts that these are historic and that I will tell him about them when I am ready. It works.
10th July 2018 at 11:01 pm #61302
Thank you so much for your replies, I’ve found them so helpful.
I’ve tried to do as much reading as I can about red flags and early warning signs of abuse. With my ex it wasn’t until a few months in that he verbally abused me in a way that shocked me, but there were red flags right from the beginning that I completely ignored. I’ve seen a few books about abusive relationships recommended in these forums so I’m gonna make sure I keep reading and educating myself as I want to really understand it.
So far, this new guy has done or said nothing to make me feel uncomfortable or unsafe. In fact he has been so gentle and considerate and I’ve been leaving our dates feeling light and happy. It has been very enjoyable so far.
Having boundaries is something I need to really reflect on, I’ve never been great at asserting these and have tended to be in relationships with quite dominant characters. Thank you for the reminder about journaling, it really does help me deal with my feelings and anxieties, it’s good to be reminded of the benefits of it as I tend to forget to consistently make time for it. It’s also been a massive help in recording the progress I’ve made so far.
Thank you for sharing your experiences- it must feel wonderful to have that trust in a relationship to be able to share those things. I have read so much conflicting advice on this on the internet, it’s hard to know what to do. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you pick your moment, did it just feel right, or did you sort of plan to tell him/reflect a lot on it before? How did your partners react when you initially told them?
What you have said about the legacy of secrecy in abusive relationships rings so true for me, thank you for saying it as it has helped me think through some things. I think I’ve spent a lot of my life living with this kind of secrecy (abusive parents) and I suppose part of why I’m interested in disclosing and sharing my experiences with those I trust is that it seems so important as you say to stop maintaining that secrecy, which can be so harmful.
11th July 2018 at 12:59 am #61304
I honestly don’t remember exactly when I told him. Probably on my second or third date. He had been incredibly honest with me, about various issues from his past, and I just felt that I wanted us both to go into things with our eyes open to what we were dealing with. I think I am lucky though, that I live in a small community so although I had only just met the guy I was able to check on the truth of the things he had told me. Literally no one whose opinion I trust has had a bad word to say about him. And he has proved himself over and over to be patient, understanding and caring. So I have no regrets in going down this route. We’ve bumped into our share of triggers. Every time I have told him, and told him whether it’s something I want to work to get over (like my fear of people touching my neck incase they strangle me – I loved having my neck kissed in the past and it is important to me to be able to reclaim that) or if it is a boundary thing – I don’t want anyone to ever call me their woman again. I belong to myself and no one else and even if it isn’t meant possessively I don’t feel comfortable with it and I don’t want to feel comfortable with it. And he’s been really respectful of all of this. If I say I am not ok with something we won’t do it. If I say I want to work on something then we take it at my pace. I am allowed to backtrack on permissions at any time. So most of the time now I am ok with my neck being touched, but on a bad day it is off limits, and if I say that then he will always check if it’s ok or not before he next touched my neck – even if that is days or weeks later. I am literally astounded by how much I am able to trust him. But I also would be gone like a shot if he so much as showed a hint of a red flag. My boundaries are respected or I am getting out!
11th July 2018 at 1:23 am #61306SunshineRainflowerParticipant
I was always someone who was very open when I was dating. I told my ex about my past early on when he seemed sweet, kind and caring and unfortunately he ended up being abusive and used what I told him to abuse me further for example using my mental health against me.
I think if you so disclose early and they are non-abusive it’s fine and can help you bond. The trouble is, knowing for sure. Because if you disclose past abuse to someone who ends up being an abuser they will use it to target and exploit you. I think the recommended advice is to wait which I’m going to try to do if I ever feel like dating again, which a year on I do not.
Whatever you do just be cautious, keep open lines of communication with a wide support network, don’t ignore red flags however small and most importantly go with your gut.
11th July 2018 at 10:22 am #61314
So glad you replied to this too SunshineRainflower. I really feel like you are giving a balance to the perspectives of people who have disclosed and had it go well. I would add that initially all I told my abuser was that I had been abused and that I was going to have to take it slow. I still had all my defenses up at this point. I was absolutely ready to leave at the drop of a hat. I felt that there wasn’t much that he could use on that statement to hurt me as the fact that I was abused is fairly well known in my local community, and I am not trying to keep it a secret. The way he responded to that – with total respect – helped me trust my gut feeling that I was safe to trust him with more details of the abuse. I disclosed the sexual abuse when I felt ready to have sex, so that he would understand if I got part way, then couldn’t go through with it (this seemed preferable to having a panic attack and being unable to explain afterwards). He got slightly more detail on that one, so that he could avoid the triggers, but not the full on details, just “I have issues surrounding sex due to my last relationship and we cannot do X, y and z”. He has gradually gained my trust but I am still ready to leave should anything make me uncomfortable and I suspect that things will remain that way for some time yet.
11th July 2018 at 10:52 am #61316HopeLifeJoyParticipant
I find this tread very interesting and find you all courageous, my-self I don’t dare to date yet…so I’m not sure if I can help but I share my thoughts anyway.
I wouldn’t tell about the details from your previous relationship, in order to protect you from eventuell further abuse. I would just say that it was very difficult relationship and break-up but keep the abusive part to your-self and friends and family you trust.
Because he might just give you all the attention you want to tell your story but then use it against you. I have couple of friends who in order to “protect” me from “evil” started to control me and it turned into abusive behaviour, put-downs etc, crossing my boundaries, making me feel miserable in both friendships.
It is for me still very confusing to make the difference between receiving attention from a man and love, and also protection and control. Can you still be loved and protected without getting abused? I wouldn’t know how it feels like. I always welcomed attention and control from
men thinking it is love and protection.
Just be careful with what you share early on. If it is going to be a solid relationship then there is plenty of time to tell your story to this new man in your life.
11th July 2018 at 8:46 pm #61349fridgesParticipant
I think to tell only if you are ready and want and feel confident to do some.
I shared the abuse with my second abuser – he got the legit reason to abuse me, as for the things happened to me in the past, it made him like he has the right to do it. I can say for sure, after this discovery it the matter of days and hours, my life changed dramatically. I would not advice to share it, not at least you really want and feel it will be right. Better wait for the therapy and talk with therapist.
For some time – I had a diary, i was writing things in days of anger, hopeless situations. At some point I have burned them and then washed in the river, it was kind liberating me from abuse, detaching me.
About boundaries – you need to think about it well, write them down.
Think what is acceptable for you and what is not.
So you will have the guidance. Tell you honest I have created this – and when or if my boundary will be crossed, I need to stop this quick, hope to keep the promise to myself, not letting down myself anymore.
12th July 2018 at 4:25 pm #61394freedomtochooseBlocked
I have a lot in common here with fridges. Needed to do a lot of work on boundaries and still do.
Feel as if I made mistake recently with someone I shared a lot with – I’m afraid there was/is an underlying power and control thing going on, which was quite subtle (as is often the case I’m sure).
So with this particular person I went out with, actually I feel quite violated emotionally because I kind of shared a lot with them and then faced a painful and difficult kind of ultimatum or even emotional blackmail..although it was unspoken. Like for example when we finished he was unable to stay even acquaintainces – even though he lives in the same neighbourhood and angrily accused me of having a ‘negative attitude’ – when what he was really saying was ‘either you do what I say and go with what I want or you can fxxk off’. Made me feel bad and wished I had never told him now, I felt like he was trying to exploit may vulnerabilities – and it was such an effort to kind of uphold my boundaires and not let him, it was exhausting in itself. So I’m glad and relieved that we are finally finished.
On the whole looking back I think I would be a bit more careful with self-disclosures now, even with friends. Reason being I realised that disclosing certain things seemed to make some people see me in a ceratain way, which I didn’t like. You know sort of a struggling, helpless individual, which I am most certainly not…
Just a thought…
Maybe sometimes I think peole think that but it doesn’t make it true…oh dear I’m having a bit of a confusing kind of a day here…
16th July 2018 at 9:50 pm #61552
Thank you so much for your response, everyone. You’ve given me so much to reflect on. I’m really glad I posted here.
As you say there is no rush and if the relationship develops there will be plenty of time to share.
I’ve never been in this position before, of thinking about disclosing previous relationship abuse to a new partner. But I have made the choice to disclose childhood sexual abuse and each time I’ve regretted it, the people I’ve told either couldn’t handle it or used it to manipulate me and know my vulnerabilities. So that’s why I’m extra cautious and having trouble working out what I’m comfortable with. The man I’m seeing has been so gentle and there hasn’t been the tiniest hint of a red flag. However I’ve been had a couple of horrible dreams that he turns on me and behaves like my ex, and just nightmares about my ex. Part of my worry is that if I disclose it will change the way he behaves towards me, perhaps he will see me differently. I don’t know. He has been very open with me about his mental health problems, anxiety etc. I feel like if I’ve been a bit of a closed book. A friend has advised me merely to share what that I’ve had a very difficult relationship and to leave the details until I’m comfortable to share.
I need to reflect on how to assert boundaries though, too. I also cannot be touched on the neck most of the time, the first time I told the man I am seeing he stopped immediately and has not tried since. I guess sharing a little of my history would give context to these sorts of situations, I’m just not sure if it’s necessary or helpful.
Writing down boundaries is a great idea to, thank you.
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