Friday, 21 December 2018

Moving On To New Relationships After Domestic Abuse

I've spoken a few times about my past experiences with domestic abuse on my blog, but one thing I haven't yet discussed is my experience of moving on to a new relationship and the impact that my past trauma from domestic violence has had on this.

I think the reason I've never really spoken about it is that it's not something I ever really thought about until recently.

You see, my abusive relationship ended in a slightly unusual manner. There was no big decision to leave, there was no defining "That's enough!" moment, no dramatic end - infact it ended quite naturally, like any other relationship would.

We both decided that it was over, and we both developed feelings for other people. And so, over a period of a few months, we began the process of moving out of our shared apartments and moving on with our lives.

In a way, I'm glad it ended this way because - unlike the relationship itself - it was all very calm and civil. I think a dramatic end would have made it all much harder to move on from, and much more traumatic.

But in another way, I feel that this low-key end to the relationship made it difficult for me to realise what a turbulent and difficult period of my life that time spent with him had been and what psychological and emotional impact the whole experience had on me.

I had already moved on to a new partner before I'd even moved out of our apartment - again, in a way I'm thankful for this because it was the push I needed to make the move to end that toxic relationship and walk away but on the other hand, it meant that my focus was immediately on all of the excitement that a new romance brings - rather than being where it perhaps should have been - which I now realise was on processing my experiences with my ex partner and healing from them.

 I didn't even realise that I'd been left with post traumatic stress disorder as a result of my experiences until over 4 years AFTER the relationship ended.

In the years that followed the end of my abusive relationship and moving on to my new (and current) partner, I experienced a number of mental health issues ranging from mood swings to extreme panic attacks and bouts of depression.

Once I'd had my first baby, I confided in my health visitor about my struggles with anxiety and low mood and was eventually referred for counselling which is where - after a number of months - my experiences with domestic violence were finally pinpointed as the root cause, and I was able to start receiving trauma therapy.

Moving on to a new relationship following an abusive one can be difficult in many ways - not only did I find it very difficult to know how to function in a normal non-abusive relationships after so many years of mistreatment and fear, I also found it very hard to open up about my experiences to my new partner (or anybody else, for that matter.)

I preferred to sweep it under the carpet as much as possible, so although he knew there had been some violence he had no idea of the full extent of it until years down the line.

This made it difficult for him to understand my reactions in certain triggering situations such as during arguments - what would be a normal level of conflict between two adults in a long term relationship seemed like a potentially dangerous situation to me, and I would react with fear and panic which he just couldn't understand.

I found it hard to understand where natural and normal boundaries of trust should be in a healthy relationship, after years of having every social media message and every exchange with another human analysed for potential beytrayals.

Looking back, moving on to a new relationship so quickly was problematic in a lot of ways and I wish I'd taken the time to work through the many emotional issues I'd been left with earlier on.

To anyone who finds themselves in the same situation that I did - I can't stress enough the importance of being open with your new partner about your past experiences as early on as possible.

I also think its crucial to seek counseling in order to process your experiences and move past them emotionally, as well as possibly looking into couples counseling to help your new partner understand things too - and help them to process their own emotions around the subject too, as living with a partner who fears you based on her past experiences in a relationship can be a difficult situation to live with for anybody.

But whatever happens, don't allow your past experiences to damage your future potential for a happy and healthy romantic relationship. With the right help and support, it's possible to move on and trust again - and you deserve to be in a relationship where you are respected and treated well, without having to live in fear.

*Written in collaboration with Regain

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