Dating after an abusive relationship presents unique challenges since most survivors experience chronic PTSD… especially if you were with a cluster B personality (narcissist, psychopath, sociopath, or BPD) and survived childhood trauma.
But pat yourself on the back for taking the first step in leaving.
Abuse alters brain chemistry, making it almost impossible for victims to leave their abusers. According to a study conducted by UCLA psychology professor Shelley Taylor, “oxytocin released from the amygdala promotes positive social bonds and has a calming effect, but under distressing conditions such as domestic violence, it’s released from receptors in the lateral septum to trigger a social stress response. This response is associated with physical feelings of pain and withdrawal, along with a desire to return to happier times in the relationship. Neurochemicals like oxytocin are powerful in dictating an individual’s emotions and actions, and they cannot simply be turned off or overridden with logic.”
People who have not experienced psychological abuse or domestic violence have trouble understanding this. As you venture out, unfortunately, you will hear invalidating comments from friends, family, or even potential romantic partners, such as:
- There are always two sides to the story.
- The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
- Get over it. It’s the past.
- Why did you let her do that to you?
- I can’t believe he did that to you. He’s such a nice guy.
Remember, most refuse to look at the world as it is.
But if you’re recovering from abuse, you must commit to reality at all costs to heal and eventually to date again.
In abusive relationships, victims acclimatize themselves to terror. They reinterpret, repress, distort, disown or use any number of strategies to accommodate their reality. And they have traumatic amnesia with no conscious recall of specific events. Since your survival depends on accepting the terror, you disbelieve the obvious and accept the improbable.
As we leave abusive relationships, we no longer have the cushion of denial, and the accumulated pain envelopes us. We grieve the…