Dating After Abuse: Should She Stay or Should She Go?
My client Jasmine, a 60 year-old pretty petite teacher, and Harry, a 64 year-old tall balding therapist, have been dating for 6 months. After only three months, Jasmine thought Harry was ‘the one’. She was getting impatient. “I already know enough about him to see that he’d be a great marriage partner. What’s taking him so long?” she said. I said, “You were in an 30-year abusive marriage. Second marriages have a very high risk for divorce, especially after abuse. You need to take your time and use both your heart and your head in deciding if he’s right for you. Date him for about a year before you make a decision about marriage.” I wanted her to see him in all types of situations, because he, too, had been in an abusive marriage.
How is he in a crisis? How does he manage his money? Doe he have a generous heart? I asked her to pay extra close attention to his ability to share his heart with her. That was my biggest concern for her. He seemed to hold back his emotions. He didn’t tell her what he cherished about her. She needed help in deciding, should she stay or should she go?
Many of my clients have been emotionally abused in past relationships. Their self-esteem suffered greatly. After years of therapy and/or good coaching, they are ready to date again.
But many still don’t fully trust their ‘picker’. How will they know they’re not making the same mistakes?
Should she stay or should she go?
Two of the biggest issues in dating after abuse are:
1. You don’t trust your intuition. Even though you can acknowledge that your intuition is pretty damned smart, you defer to your intellect. You make a list of all of his good qualities, and then ignore the giant waving red flags. He looks good on paper, but you don’t feel good when you’re with him. Is he shut down emotionally? Does he have boundary issues with his ex?
Pay close attention to the negatives and ignore the glowing positives. Because if you get married, there will be bigger challenges. The foundation had better be able to support the relationship when life gets tough.
2. You choose ‘safe’ over love. You’re afraid of losing yourself in a relationship again, so you choose a ‘safe’ partner. You’d rather be safe than in love. That’s usually a bad idea. If your relationship is built on dreams and not concrete love, it won’t flourish over time. Quite the opposite.
Stay if you share…
1. Values and dreams: You are good friends, you have each other’s backs, you’ve seen how he is in a crisis, you inspire each other, learn and grow together, and the attraction is there.
2. Activities/lifestyle: You can agree on many of the day-to-day things, like where to live, what to eat, when to go to bed and wake up, and what you like to do in your free time. You share the same religious beliefs, or at least you highly respect each other’s belief systems. You both like to ski, or take walks, or bike ride together. These don’t all have to line up perfectly of course. You are two separate people with different likes and dislikes. But, if too many things are out of alignment, chances are you’ll fight more. Try to find someone who’s on a similar page in the activities and lifestyle department.
3. Attraction: Men don’t seem to fall for women they’re only marginally attracted to. Women can sometimes make the mistake of wishful thinking in the attraction department. There has to be initial attraction, which will often grow as the intimacy grows. Don’t get remarried to someone where the attraction is at a 2 and think it will grow to a 10. Start at a higher number, and it if the other factors line up, it will most likely grow.
He’s a jerk. If he treats you poorly, is emotionally shut down, has to put you down in order to make himself feel good, leave this relationship immediately. It will never work.
As for Jasmine, she needed to go. He was too damaged to make a good partner. It was hard for him to open up his heart. He couldn’t compliment her in person, only in an email. With a lump in her throat, she bid him farewell.
A great relationship is worth cultivating. Someone out there will cherish you as you so deserve. Keep on dating until you find him.
Yes, opening up to and trusting a man after emotional abuse can feel scary. It is a risk, but without risking for love, you will never experience the beauty of a loving, fulfilling relationship.
And remember, if you want to immediately turn around your online dating success, sign up here for my FREE report. Happy dating!