How an Abusive Relationship Can Impact a New Love
I jumped into a new relationship without healing from a past one. My situation felt fragile.by S. Nicole Lane
I was 24 when it hit me smack in the face, quite literally.
Blue eyes and blue tears were not how I imagined my post-graduation, big city life. Battling an emotionally and physically abusive relationship wasn't in the equation. Nevertheless, there I was. Stuck in a labyrinth of anxiety, fear and loss.
After some time, I somehow found the strength to leave my ex-partner, who tormented me sexually, physically and emotionally for upwards of three years. And just like that, I was in the middle of a new blooming love.
Healthy, strong, and trustworthy, this new love was (and has been) nothing like my past. Where I cowered in fear before with my ex, I stand on my own in my present relationship.
I didn't mean to fall in love, of course. No one ever does. And my situation felt particularly fragile.
Was it safe to move on without properly healing? Was I even sure this old relationship would affect my new one? Where did I even begin to go for help? These questions floated around in my mind, but two years passed before I decided to seek help.
"In an ideal world, we would undergo all of our healing, gain our wisdom and life lessons in a safe, sterile environment where we can use simulation to 'practice' life, love and relationships," said Misha N. Granado, a therapist at Love Grows: The Relationship Consultants, a boutique firm located in Houston, Texas.
"We would have the privilege to stop everything (i.e. work, parenting, etc) in order to devote our undivided attention to intensive therapy sessions with amazing therapists only to emerge into the real world after we have perfected it all."
The reality of moving on
I jumped right into a relationship without healing from my previous one.
Sure, I went in joyful, loving and at peace. But after a few months, insecurities, anxieties and trauma reared their ugly heads.
I assumed the worst, thinking my new partner would eventually act out in the ways my ex-partner did. I adopted a fight or flight mentality where I was always on guard, always ready to defend myself. And still, after four years of this love, I continue to work on healing from the trauma of abuse.
Since each relationship transforms us in a certain way, Granado suggests looking at the ways in which we need to grow or heal in a new relationship.
- Establishing new boundaries
- Focusing on replacing and releasing defense mechanisms
- Individual therapy
- Couple's therapy
- Remembering your new partner is not your punching bag
"They cannot heal, save, or fix you," Granado said.
"And once the honeymoon phase is over, all of the cards are on the table, and reality steps in."
Healing should be a priority
Support is crucial through the healing process. Granado said folks can support their partner's therapy journey, keep in mind their triggers, avoid blaming statements, figure out their love language and consider couple's therapy.
"Healing is a journey, one in which you are responsible for taking all of the steps, but you do not have to do it alone," she said.
"[In] the same way you are not expected to extract your own wisdom tooth, conduct your own pap smear or do your own root canal, healing your emotional wounds is not a solo journey. Utilize therapists, who are experts in the areas you need to heal."
Personally, I dove deep into hot yoga and fitness. Yoga gave me a release I didn't realize was possible. I was sometimes at the studio, obsessively, two times a day.
I found a local therapist and practiced meditation and mindfulness as well. Gardening, blooming tea, journaling and fitness training are other common healing practices.
Be patient and take care of yourself
Remember, what you feel and how you feel is all real. Loving is never easy, even without the trauma.
When I realized I was negatively affecting my new relationship, and struggling on my own, I decided to see a therapist. I needed to get to the root of these traumas. I needed to expunge and exorcise my past in order to love in the present.
Sometimes, I still find myself getting flustered—my anxiety swells deep inside of me—and I try to catch myself.
Healing isn't a quick fix. It isn't easy. It's a day-by-day process. I have to actively work on my thoughts and focus on why I feel frustrated or angry. I have to constantly ask myself: What is bringing up this undeniable anxiety?
Practicing mindfulness, unpacking my feelings and becoming aware of how my emotions impact my entire well-being is hard work. But it's hard work I'm willing to take on, because what other choice do I have?
There isn't an easy how-to guidebook for shutting off toxic traumas from the past and not fearing them, feeling them and instilling them in your new partner.
Recovery from abuse is tangled up in fear. Fear of sabotaging your new love, fear that you're the toxic one, fear that you won't heal. It's an uncontrollable sense of anxiety even a new love can't fix.