Dating tips for survivors of abuse

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Dating as an adult can be quite difficult and frustrating, but when you add in being a survivor of abuse, it adds an entire new dimension to the process.

As a guy in my 40’s, trying to find my way through the online dating scene is such a frustrating experience. Online dating is really the main option these days, unless you want to try and meet someone at a bar or wait for just the right person to bump into you in the produce aisle of the grocery store.

Good luck with either of those options, but if I had to pick one I’d go for the grocery store. 

dating-and-survivors-214x300 Dating tips for survivors of abuseSo you go online to the latest dating website that a friend or coworkers tells you about because they know someone who found their soulmate there.

You fight off the urge to get your hopes up, and spend hours filling out these ridiculously long profiles. You try and figure how best to explain your personality, hobbies, and life story in hopes of attracting Mr. or Mrs. Right.

Then you start going through your phone and your computer to try and find pictures that you think make you look the best.  That’s a whole sage in itself; which is your best side, what outfit makes you this way or that, how far back can you go to find a picture that is acceptable?

The list goes on and on, and for your average “normal”, that process is trying and frustrating.

Enter the survivor.

  • Ask us to try and find a picture that we think we look good in.  Good luck with that!
  • Try and ask us to write about ourselves and portray who we are in such a way so we appear positive, outgoing, and have it all together. Yeah Right!
  • Describe the ideal man or woman we are seeking.  Oh boy, like that’s easy…
    • They’ll need to understand that I’m a survivor and what that means.
    • They’ll have to realize that my good days and bad days aren’t the same as others. My rough days are really rough and my good days often times are nothing more than the absence of really bad day.
    • A prospective dating partner will need to also understand that survivors like me often times don’t have healthy relationships with some or all members of our family.
    • Holidays and Birthdays don’t normally hold very many fond memories, and often stir up a world of emotions that cause us to melt down.
    • We take things more personally than others might, our feelings get hurt quite easily, and we don’t take kindly to those who don’t listen and understand the way we think they should because they “just don’t get it”.

The list can go on and on but you get the picture and I’m sure you can insert your own struggles in trying to make your relationship work with your spouse or partner.

It seems odd to say but I can admit that I would likely rather date a survivor than someone who isn’t one.

It’s not that I wish anyone to have gone through what I have experienced, but those who have survived trauma of any type of abuse generally have a better understanding of what a survivor really is.

That’s not to say that we all wish to date a survivor. For many, their desire is to date someone who is considered “normal”. In other words, a man or woman who hasn’t experienced a past filled with abuse and trauma.  This way we can try begin to fit into their world, which is so different from ours.

For the record, I really don’t like using that word “normal” to describe anyone, but I just know from experience that often times we survivors perceive others using that term. Mainly because we feel like we are living a life where our normal is very abnormal to others.

162248-Just-Be-Yourself-300x300 Dating tips for survivors of abuseSo how do we go about trying to date as a survivor?

Well here are some tips that I have either learned through trial and error, or that have been shared with me from colleagues or other survivors.

  • Don’t share too much too soon.  Should you feel comfortable enough in sharing, or the subject somehow comes up, it’s perfectly acceptable to just say, “I’m a survivor of childhood abuse and I’m in a continual process of healing and recovery”.
    • You’d be surprised how often that statement can invoke compliments and admiration for how strong you are and how much you are helping others.
  • Be proud of who you are. Being a survivor automatically means that you are strong, resilient, and have a will to live and not give up.
    • Even if we don’t feel that way, the fact that we are still here on this earth is a testament to our determination to keep fighting.
  • Be on the lookout for red flags.  People who make insensitive jokes about physical disability, illness, race, religion, etc. could be someone to be leery of.
    • As survivors, the last thing we need to surround ourselves with those who invalidate us or others.
    •  There’s a fine line between trying to find them vs letting them present themselves. You don’t want to spend the entire date trying to analyze someone so much that you start to see things that aren’t there and burn the evening trying to find out what’s wrong with them.
    • On the same token, if something is blatantly obvious then trust your gut instincts.
      • If your date shares a lot of personal information right away, it could be a sign that they don’t have healthy personal boundaries.
      • If they want to start a serious relationship right away, before you guys even have time to learn about each other, it could be a sign of co-dependency problems.
      • If they invalidate you in anyway, even after you call them on it, that’s a serious red flag to take note of.
  • Don’t apologize for who you are.  This goes a long with #2. Quite often we can minimize our past once it’s brought out in the open because we don’t want to seem like we are “all that bad” or that what happened “doesn’t bother us all THAT much”.
  • Just try and enjoy the moment for what it is. Don’t look into it and wonder where it may or may not go right out of the gate. Be fully present, enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, and atmosphere.
    • After all, it’s part of experiencing life and even if the date doesn’t go as planned, you can feel proud that you got out of the house, were around other people, and you made it through OK.
  • Lastly, just remember that your date might be as nervous as you are, maybe more so. Sometimes we just stick our foot in our mouth or feel so insecure that we are afraid to really open up.
    • It’s ok to say that you are a bit nervous, or that it’s been a long time since you’ve dated. If your date has any feelings and compassion whatsoever, they will admire your honestly and your willingness to branch out and try something new.

Above all else, just be you. Don’t pretend to be something you are not. You are a strong survivor, and you are worth finding that special someone just as much as anyone else is.

I’d love for you to share your tips too, in the comments. 

-Matt

Since I wrote this article, I have met an amazing woman who is also a survivor and has become a huge part of my life. I am truly grateful. 

 

feature image courtesy of www.ryylxjw.com

 

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Blogger-Podcaster-Advocate for Mental Health.

Matt is survivor of childhood sexual abuse & narcissistic abuse, living with Dissociation, Anxiety, & PTSD.

This blog exists to inspire all who have survived the trauma of abuse. All posts, podcasts, and videos are my life as a survivor shared openly and honestly to help inspire as many as possible to speak up, speak out, and not be ashamed.

3 Responses to " Dating tips for survivors of abuse "

  1. Brenda Yuen says:

    This is wonderful advice Matt. Spot on…very realistic and practical and helpful! Thanks for zeroing in on a huge issue for most survivors of childhood abuse. These tips are solid.

  2. Don says:

    I still remember one friend that set me up with someone and little did I know, he had shared my story with them. The first thing they started to do when we met for dinner was playing the role of counselor. Um, that didn’t go over well with me at all.

    When I met Jeff, it was by pure accident and coincidence. We met through an online survivor support forum (no longer in existence and one of the first of its kind). Even when we met, it wasn’t like either of us was looking to date someone. It all just happened and if I would have tried to orchestrate those events, I doubt it would have happened.

    If I would have put together a list of what I wanted in a soul mate, I doubt we would have met. We are different, but we share similar things. The thing is, we just enjoy learning about the world each other lives in. At the center of it all is love, and the rest of it is window dressing.

    I did have to take my blinders off though and follow my heart because the blinders would have prevented me from seeing what my heart did.

  3. […] essentially find out where this person’s true intentions are to the best of our ability. Now, we don’t want to invent red flags and see things that maybe aren’t really there, but we should be cognizant of how we feel around them and how they act around […]

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