Dating After Domestic Violence

In Creating Happiness, Domestic Abuse Posts By Barbara, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

I received a very interesting inquiry from a friend this week that has served as the topic for this week’s blog.  It is quoted, as follows: 

“Do you have any tips or pointers for someone who begins dating after leaving a DV marriage?  Before my DV marriage, I had several non-violent relationships. The DV guy that I married was the odd man out. Now that I am looking to enter the arena again, the last time I dated was 2002. I am wondering, how do I tell if the man is a good one or a bad one?”           

I believe that the first questions that you need to ask when you find that you are ready to re-enter the dating world are ones that you pose to yourself. 

I think that we need to look at life and meeting new people as something that is fun to do.  And if we do that with an open heart, we will “know” whether another person would be someone that we would love to have as a friend.
  • How has this domestic violence experience changed you, meaning do you live each day in fear or are you grateful that you got out with your life and you know that there will never be any such thing as a “bad day” again after all of those days of abuse that you lived or are you at some point in between?
  • How do you see yourself, meaning do you still believe all of those negative things that you were told about yourself and do you believe that you were the cause of all of your partner’s problems that caused the abuse and do you believe that you are anything less than a wonderful person who has had to deal with a lot in your life and now you deserve to have some good things come your way?
  • Why do you want a new relationship, meaning are you looking for someone to support you and/or take on your financial responsibilities or are you looking for someone because you hate to be alone or are you wanting to find a partner with whom you can share your life and the experiences that come your way, both as an individual and perhaps as a couple?
  • Do you believe that all men (or women, etc.) are alike and you just have to find the best of the worst?
  • Do you believe that anyone is fair game as a partner whether they are married, in a committed relationship, etc?
  • Are you willing to sacrifice your core beliefs or your money or your soul or your life in order to “get” the relationship that you want?

 These are just a few of the questions that you need to ask yourself before you begin dating again.  I cannot tell you what may be right or wrong for you personally but I can tell you what I believe and what worked for me.  

First of all, I was willing to assess what the 10 years of abuse had done to me as a person.  I had to acknowledge that I was a different person, that I had changed and that I could either be bitter about it for the rest of my life or I could take responsibility for my part in the relationship and the desire to take away from it the lessons that I learned that made me a better person.  Second, I had to acknowledge that I was not the cause of the abusive behavior of another person.  Each person is responsible for his/her own behavior.  Third, I had to understand that I was not any of the things that my abuser had named me.  I had to start focusing on all of my positive traits and make a decision about any things that I might want to change about myself and take action to do so.  Fourth, I had to ask myself why I would even want to find another partner after the relationship that I had just experienced where I had been treated so badly. 

The bottom line is that I had to become right with myself.  That meant that I had to believe in myself, to know that I am a good person and that I deserved a good life.  I had to accept myself for the person that I am and to understand that while I will never be perfect, no one else will ever be perfect either.  I had to be willing to establish my core values and to understand that anyone else that I brought into my life would have to share those basics and that everything else was up for negotiations.  And, for me, I believed that if I were treated well by another person and wanted to give back the same thing to that person, I had found a person that I wanted to know better. 

I don’t think that we need to go looking for the person that we would want to have in our life forever.  I don’t think that we need to look at another person and question in our minds whether this is “the one”.  I think that we need to look at life and meeting new people as something that is fun to do.  And if we do that with an open heart, we will “know” whether another person would be someone that we would love to have as a friend.  What evolves from there is either a fun thing that we would like to continue or it is a revealing experience of that which we have lived before and don’t ever want to experience again.  It is easier now to tell which is which so go forth armed with a whole lot of living and experiences that will serve you very well in knowing who may or may not be right for you.

If you or someone you know is affected by Domestic Abuse, you can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (TTY)