Dating someone after they have been in an abusive relationship of any kind can be challenging. An abusive relationship is not just physical abuse, but also and emotional. When someone leaves an abusive relationship, they are usually drained completely. They do not trust people like they once did, they do not act like they once did, and they do not love like they once did. It is very hard to leave your abuser, but it is very rewarding once you do. If you are someone who is dating someone who has been a victim of domestic violence, be aware that it will be hard on you. Here are a few things to help you help them.
1. Be patient.
One of the main things that someone who has been in an abusive relationship suffers from is trusting. Whether it be trusting in general, trusting potential relationships or whatever, it is hard for us to trust again. We put all of our faith and trust into someone that promised that they would never treat us how they did, and they let us down. Personally, I struggle with this a lot, and it has cost me some friends and some potential people that I could have been in a relationship with. Some people say that since the new person has never done anything to cause them not to trust them, then they should be able to trust them, and that is not always the case. It is not easy for us to trust people again. It is actually extremely hard, so be patient with them and let them learn to trust you again, even though it will be hard on you, too.
2. Be there for them.
A majority of domestic violence survivors suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. The PTSD can happen immediately after and last for forever. Someone who is suffering from PTSD can have symptoms that include anxiety, depression, agitation, outbursts of anger, insomnia, and loss of interest in other people or things that they once loved. PTSD symptoms can include other things, too, but for me personally, those are the main ones that I suffer from. When someone is going through this, they can be depressed and withdrawn from the world, they can have panic attacks, and they can also have suicidal thoughts. THIS DOES NOT MAKE THAT PERSON CRAZY!!! This can cost us our friends and families, and it is not something that we choose to go through, so please be there for us if we are having a panic attack or are going through a depressive state, or whatever the symptoms that they are experiencing may be.
3. Show them that you care.
When someone has left an abuser, they usually feel like they are alone and that no one cares for them. This is not being dramatic, but simply because their abuser has belittled them so much that they really do feel like they are worthless and that no one cares for them. One thing that abusers like to do is say things like "No one else will love you like I love you" or "You won't get anyone else like me" or something along those lines. After hearing that so many times you start to believe it. When we get in a new relationship, it will probably seem like we are not all there, which is because we are not. Show us you care and that you really want what is best for us, because that is not something that we are used to.
4. Don't ask questions about our past.
This is a big no no. DO NOT ask someone questions about their abuser or what happened because that will probably cause us to have anxiety or make us feel depressed because all of those feelings from that relationship will start to flood our memory. When we are ready to talk about what happened then you will know.
5. If we bring up the past just listen.
Don't talk. Don't judge. Don't ask questions. Just listen. Depending on the person, it may be okay to ask questions, but be sure that it is okay with them first.
6. Love them with everything you've got.
Some days we may feel great, while others we may not want to get out of bed. This is normal, and there is probably nothing that you can do to make things better. While the great days are GREAT, the bad days can be BAD. Do not get mad and frustrated with them, especially if they are not wanting to talk or tell you how they are feeling. We are not used to having someone who cares about us and actually cares how we feel. If that person is like me, then they will not be used to someone understanding their feelings, since I was always told that I was the problem and that I was just crazy. Again, all you can really do is be there for them. Be there for them when they are ready to talk, but do not push them to talk unless they are ready. Sometimes we just like to keep these feelings and thoughts to ourselves because it is not easy to go through, and we do not want many people, if anyone, to know that we are a survivor.
Believe me when I say I know that we are hard to love and it is even harder to stay with us. It is not easy for us either. We don't want to feel like a burden to you with our problems and our past, and we do not want you to think that we still have feelings for our abuser because we still experience these horrible feelings and memories that come along with dating someone who is abusive. Just please bare with us and show us that you love us and care for us, because once we see that you really do care then we will love you hard.