Dating After Domestic Violence

Dating After Domestic Violence

Dating after domestic violence can be nerve-wracking and complicated. If you’ve experienced domestic violence, you might have more trouble connecting with potential romantic partners, you might have a hard time trusting people or you might find that your perception of what is healthy/unhealthy in a relationship was warped by your abuser.

life after abuse

If you’re considering beginning a new relationship after experiencing domestic violence, here are some things that you should consider.

Move on Before You Start Something New

Domestic violence can leave behind physical and emotional scars that can last a lifetime. Before you start a new relationship, make sure that you have begun to cope with the things that you experienced in your past abusive relationship. Seek counseling to help you work through your emotional pain and connect with your local domestic violence program to get support. Sever ties with your ex if possible (this is a bit more complicated when you have children with them) and if not possible, develop a system for safe interaction. Before you begin a new relationship, make sure that you are over your old one.

Educate Yourself

Learning about what domestic violence is and what the red flag warning signs for abuse are can help you find a healthy relationship. Make a list of healthy relationship characteristics and respectful partner traits and look for a relationship that matches with those standards.

Trust Your Instincts

If you begin dating and start to notice things about your partner that make you uncomfortable, if you start seeing red flag behaviors in your relationship or if your partner begins doing some of the same unhealthy things that your ex used to do, take heed. Don’t minimize questionable behaviors or write them off as personality traits. If you feel like something isn’t right, then trust your instincts. If you feel safe talking to your new partner about what you’ve noticed, then do that. See how they react to being confronted — that will show you a lot about who they are. If you want to talk to someone about the things that you’ve noticed, you can always call us to get feedback.

Practice Safe Dating

Regardless of whether you’ve been in an abusive relationship before or not, practicing safe dating is important when beginning a relationship. Making sure that you meet your partner at the location of your first few dates, rather than letting them drive you, spending time together in public at first and making sure that someone you trust knows your whereabouts are all ways to stay safe when dating. This will also help you to know that you can trust your partner as the relationship becomes more serious.

Take Things Slow

This may go hand in hand with practicing safe dating, but it’s worth saying again. Take your time in getting to know your partner and letting them know you. Develop a trusting partnership where both of you are comfortable expressing your needs, wants and thoughts. Make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial and that both of you are happy. Treat your partner with respect and demand that they do the same for you. Don’t rush into a relationship. Take your time.

If you are considering dating after domestic violence, feel free to give us a call. Our advocates can talk with you about what you’re feeling and about any concerns that you have: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Comment section

13 replies
  1. I was in a relation ship for 4 years with a guy who was emotionally and verbally abusive. For the last year it was extremely physical. He shoved me into walls and threatened me and my friends. I became isolated from my friends because of the things this man would tell them about me. I was fortunate to have a brother and a father who drove across the state to help me move while he was at work. But some for I felt alone so I continued the relationship and abuse. When I finally had the courage to disengage with this man (about 2 years ago). He told everyone I was gay and that I was cheating on him (both false). He told everyone about every flaw of mine, every fear or failure I had and just advertised some very private issues. I felt like everyone my group of friends hated me. The isolation continued. I changed my phone numbers several times but somehow he always got my number and would send me terrible things that I wouldnt even say to my worst enemy in text messages.

    I moved across the country for a new job two months ago. I change my phone number, deleted my facebook, and have had no contact with my abuser. It has been about two years since I decided to leave for good. I want to date but honestly it scares me. I don’t want to tell people here about the sh#$ (sorry i couldnt think of another adjective) that I have been through. But I feel like I am hiding myself. I have been on dates but am scared to share anything about me. So I don’t talk about anything with any meaning really. People ask questions about my life and I just avoid them. And when I get an oppurtunity to be with someone who I like I self distruct. I push them away because at some point they will want to know about the previous 4 years of my life and that scares me. I am not looking for solutions or pity. Honestly I just want to feel like I am not alone in this. Can you have a normal relationship after DV?

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience and being so brave and open. It can be so hard to talk about past experiences with abuse, especially to strangers, but maybe even more so to new people in our lives. I firmly believe having a normal, healthy relationship after domestic violence is possible. A healthy partner should respect your boundaries about what you choose to tell them of your past. You can tell them as much, or as little as you need or want to; that should be respected. Taking a new relationship slow, and allowing those real things about you and your life to come out over time is perfectly okay.
    If you’d ever like to talk to one of our advocates about this, or anything at all that’s going on, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, we’re here 24/7.

  3. Yes you can! I myself, am a domestic violence survivor. I had my abuser put in jail and I moved back home to Florida (I was living with the abuse in Louisiana). I decided to just be alone for a while and not date after the horrible experience I suffered. One afternoon, I met a group of people and in that group was Kev. He was very sweet and we hit it off well. I was afraid too, as you are and we spoke many times regarding domestuc violence and I told him everything I went through. He was supportive and kind. I must say, many times I kept waiting “For the other side to come out”, but it never did. He is still the sweetest and most gentle man I have ever met. Many times I discussed with my mother that there “had to be something” that would come out. After 2 years of dating him, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was right there beside me the entire time, helping my mother and me through it. It has been over 4 years and we live together and he is still kind. There ARE good men out there and we can;t let the good ones pay for what the bad ones did to us. Set ground rules from the very beginning as to what is not acceptable. Good luck to you!

  4. Sonja,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. It is wonderful to know that you are a survivor, happy, and in a healthy relationship!

  5. You are welcome! I am currently a Domestic Violence and sexual assault victims advocate in the county where I live. This is probably something I would never have thought of doing, had I not lived through domestic violence. When I first thought of working with other victims, I mentioned it to kev and he supported me 100%. (As did my employer. My boss gave me 5 Friday’s in a row off with pay to attend the classes required)
    To sit and listen to others tell their story, you see yourself in them. When they describe what they are feeling or going through, you can relate to them. In a way, I fell that what happened to me has given me the courage to help others, and that is a great feeling. When you see a victim that has survived and moved on and is now living free of violence. That is a great thing!

  6. I hope you all tune in as Huffington Post Writer and Author goes into detail about Dating Again After an Abusive Relationship.. November 5, 2013 @ 12 pm EST… Or subscribe to our podcast. To listen in visit talkzone.com/shows/200/healingconversations.html
    Hope you’ll be listening!!

  7. I recently got out of an abusive relationship. We were only together for 6 months and the verbal and emotional abuse started early on. He only hurt me physically twice the second time was a month ago and he’s in jail. ( hopefully for a long time) I know some people have problems talking about what happened to them. I don’t. I feel better after talking about it and I feel the more people I talk about it with maybe others will be able to help someone else who may be going through it or maybe I can help someone who it may be happening to. But the dating part scares me. I’m afraid that I will be paranoid that I will push someone away. However there is someone I know ( not well at all) but he’s shown interest and wants to take me out. Is it too soon? Its only been a month that I’ve been away from my ex. And I did love him but I’m afraid that if I don’t take a chance on dating or even going out with this guy, I may pass up something good. He knows I just got out of a bad relationship and has said whenever I’m ready that he wants to take me out. But I can’t expect him to wait forever. He and I talk and text all day. So my question is should I go out with him or wait longer? He knows that I don’t want to jump into anything serious anytime soon. I just don’t know what to do. And off the subject of dating. I would also like to get involved in domestic violence groups. I would like to try and help others too. Does anyone know where I would start to find something like that? Any advice is greatly appreciated. Good luck to everyone and thank you all for sharing your stories. God bless.

  8. Hi Chrissy,

    Wow, it is amazing hearing your story. You resemble such strengths being able to share your experience and helping others. I know you are uncertain about moving forward into another relationship. It can be very scary making the move into dating, after leaving an abusive relationship. There is not one set standard for the transition back to dating, and there also isn’t a set timeframe for when it would be best to do so. Each person is different and so this can vary from person to person. I know you read some of the points that were covered in this blog about dating after an abusive relationship. I would like to welcome you to call our hotline with any further questions you may have concerning this. We cannot give you advice, but we can explore options with you and help you as you decide what ultimately is best for yourself. Additionally if you call us we can link you with local domestic violence organizations, as you expressed an interest for getting connected with groups. Give us a call at 1-800-799-7233. We are here 24-7 and would love to talk to you about this. Again thank you for sharing your story and for your resiliency through it all.

    Hotline Advocate MK

  9. I am a lesbian who left my wife almost a year ago and moved 2,000 miles because she was physically, sexually, and emotionally abusive and it got to the point after 4 years where I feared for my life. I had to drop out of grad school. I got a civil protection order but the police never did anything to enforce it because they didn’t think DV happens between women. I’m now in a pretty big, queer-friendly city now. I lost every single friend I had before because my wife isolated me and spread lies. My family was furious with me and I only talk to my mother. I have been in this new city for 11 months and I haven’t made a single friend. I feel like damaged goods. Recently I met another lesbian and she’s totally together, has healthy boundaries and is not judgmental at all. I really just met her so I don’t know if this is going to be a friendship or a romantic thing, but either way, I’m totally panicking. I can’t tell her about my past because she will think I don’t know a thing about healthy relationships and will back off. Which is true. I don’t, anymore. But I want someone to talk to. To touch me and go on walks with. Someone I loved just died and I had no one here to tell. My worry is not ending up with another abuser so much as being alone the rest of my life.

  10. Hi Julia,

    It sounds like you survived an incredibly scary and hurtful relationship with your ex-wife. Four years is a long time to live with the trauma of abuse, and you’ve described several very difficult parts of the situation that you’re still experiencing. Not having the support of the people we love, and losing contact because of abusive isolation is painful. It makes sense that you’d feel lonely and scared about future relationships, whether they are romantic or not. Having someone we trust intimately choose to be abusive is incredibly damaging to our ability to trust, and it’s normal to feel like healthy relationships are completely foreign.

    It may be helpful to find a domestic violence counselor and/or support groups in your area. Sharing your experiences with a support group – people who have been in similar situations – can be empowering and supportive. Human connection is a necessary thing for everyone, and it can be scary to figure out how to protect yourself while creating new relationships in a new city. You deserve to find the support and connection you need, and to heal from the abuse in your past. If you like to talk, or find programs in your area, feel free to give us a call 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or chat us here online from 9am-7pm CST Monday – Friday. All conversations are anonymous and confidential.

    Take care,

    Hotline Advocate AS

  11. I pray constantly that one day I will find strength and feel self worth in myself enough to have strength for a good relationship. I was with my now estranged husband since we were 17 years old. We had our daughter our senior year and I really thought I had my little family. We got married after we graduated, went away to college together and had two more kids a few years later. Within the last year and a half something changed in him. It started with him calling me a loser when he got upset, then it turned into him calling me fat when I’m not fan by any means but I struggle with my legs being thicker due to years of soccer. He knew it was a weak point for me after I confided that in him and used it against me. It started with means words and belittling my family and telling me my mom and dad didn’t love me. I started pushing away from them and things just continued on the negative path until the first time that I made him so angry he picked me up by the neck and slammed me into the wall. I remember being horrified but I didn’t want to tell anyone so I forgave this. Then it happened again a few months later and progressively got worse. There were nights he would punch me in the head so hard I would cry thinking I wouldn’t wake up to see my kids again. I don’t know why I kept letting this happen to me, I would call the police and they would arrive and I would say nothing happened, so they would leave. I continued with this pattern for about 6 months until one night I found out he was cheating on me and went to say something and he punched me and choked me harder then he ever had before. He was holding me by the neck slamming me into the ground, I really thought those were my last moments. He punched me in the side of the head and then threw me outside. I ran to a neighbors to call the police and then I broke through a window in my house unsure of what he would do to my kids. After this he was arrested and charged with felony assault. A week later I found out I was pregnant again and he tried to convince me to have an abortion. I am still pregnant and we are all living at my parents now and as sad and lonely as I get, I see that my kids are so much happier now and that alone is worth the fight. I just pray that one day I can find friends and maybe help others in the same situation and show them the love that was shown to me by people who didn’t even know me. From the police officers who helped me in my darkest moments to the hospital staff and abuse hotline and the counseling they helped me find. I know there is happiness out there for me just praying I won’t find another man who ever makes me feel that way again and for strength to heal from what he did to me.

  12. Allie,

    Thank you so much for reaching out. It sounds like you have really been through so much. One thing that we know here is that abuse escalates over time. It gets worse as abusive people want more and more control. They are going to try to isolate you from loved ones and try to tear down your self-esteem. I am so happy to hear that you are safe and out of the situation now. That is a big deal. I want you to know that you did all of the things you needed to in order to survive and that this is not your fault.

    If you are ever needing further support or need to be connected to local domestic violence program that can maybe provide counseling or support groups, please do not hesistate to give us a call. Our number is 1 (800) 799.7233. We are here 24/7 and completely confidential/anonymous.

    Until then,
    Hotline Advocate MC

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