Finding Love After Emotional Abuse

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emotional abuse

Reema Zaman found love again after emotional abuse. If you’ve experienced relationship trauma, this episode will give you hope!

Reema Zaman is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and speaker. She is the author of the memoir I Am Yours, the forthcoming dystopian novels Paramita and Motherland, the anthology Love/Sex, and creator of the TV show SNAP. She has been a guest on Dear Sugars and Vice News, and her essays have been published in Vogue, The Guardian, Salon, and other noteworthy platforms. Born in Bangladesh and raised in Thailand, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her rescue chihuahua, Fia the Fierce.

In this episode of Last First Date Radio:

  • The story of how the abuse built over time in Reema’s marriage
  • The clever way she got her husband to leave her
  • The steps she took to rebuild her life after divorce
  • How she found profound mature love after emotional abuse

EP 483: Reema Zaman – Finding Love After Emotional Abuse

I discovered and fell in love with you because of your video about the emotional abuse you suffered in your marriage. Can you talk a little about what happened?

I’m 38 now, and when I was in my late twenties, I married a man I knew for only six months. I was a feminist who studied violence and abuse, and I still managed to walk into an emotionally abusive relationship. It felt familiar due to what I had witnessed growing up. The first critical relationship is about working through the pain points of our lives.

He was charismatic and possessive, and I thought controlling love was authentic love. He demanded to know everything about all my choices. I had an artist’s visa and was about to renew it, and the guy I was dating told me to marry him and he would sponsor my green card. My ability to live and work in the US depended on him now. We were never on solid ground. Everything I earned was put into his pocket. Nothing had my name on it. I had no agency or voice over anything. I couldn’t find my way out. He knew my deepest need in a relationship is belonging. He identified my core wounds/fears and attacked me where I was most sensitive.

I was overperforming to prove my value to him. And he would threaten to kick me out. He threatened to date other women as sister wives. I started writing what was happening to me every day, to analyze my psychology and his psychology. How did I get myself here and co-create this. I began to uncover all that had happened in my childhood and teenage years, and I started to understand his psychology. The only way to get him to take his hands off of me was to get him to kick me out. 

Abusers thrive on fear and feelings of sadness. So I starved him of all that he wanted from me. I stopped engaging or having dominance over me. I’d say, “Do whatever it is you need to do, just leave me alone.” One day, he called and said he was done.

All I had a backpack, the pages I had been writing, and I was filled with gratitude. Since I had the courage I needed, I wanted to develop those pages to share with other women.

What did you do to heal after that relationship ended?

I went to live with my mom, because she was now with a man who loved her. I healed and wrote my book. I took five years off from dating to focus on myself and my career. The book was published in 2019. I ended up traveling for seven months, and I met so many people who had gone through abuse as well. When I returned home in 2020, and the pandemic hit, I came up with my new book about a matriarchy world. My main character Gaia is the mother of two kids. I realized I was ready to open myself back up for partnership. I ended up adopting a puppy, and she melted my walls. I downloaded a dating app and met my partner.

I had to heal from a lot of trauma in my past, including rape, sexual trauma, molestation, and anerexia. At thirty, I knew I had to heal from all of the self-harm. I listened to my body and ate healthy. I rested and stopped trying to control every part of my life. I treated myself with love. I witnessed my mom’s joy and abundance. And writing was healing. I was grounded and allowed myself to express all the accumulated pain. 

“We’re not a product of our experiences. We’re a product of how we choose to see those experiences.”

You’re in a healthy, wonderful relationship now. What are some of the lessons you learned through this relationship?

I had to become the right person to meet the right person. It’s effortless now because of the work I did leading up to this relationship. It shouldn’t feel difficult. Be accountable for your own growth. Take inventory about how you caused pain prior to meeting your person. Discover the wisdom you need to co-create the right relationship. You have to meet at the right time of growth, wisdom, joy and self-esteem.

Develop your solid self esteem that’s not dependent on external validation. You are in power of yourself. It’s also critical to realize every lasting relationship has stages and seasons where you or your partner will go through a tough time and need the other to stay inside courage and love. It helps you to not personalize your partner while they heal a pain point. 

Joy: learn how to cultivate sustainable joy independent of anyone or anything. It will help you repair and renew. 

Awe and admiration: become a person you can admire and trust. That’s what sustains lasting joyful relationships and attraction. 

Emotional intelligence and the ability to communicate effectively: my partner and I communicate effectively. It’s so important. 

When you’re with that type of person, you can complete your healing. That healing occurs with your right true match. 

What are your final words of advice for anyone who wants to go on their last first date, especially after abuse or trauma?

Be accountable. It takes two to create a relationship. To be ready for the next relationship, you have to own your part in it. Uncertainty is terrifying, but it’s also a form of limitlessness. We can cultivate a sense of audacity from our past experiences. We always have a choice as to how we engage in our challenges. Courage, clarity, and confidence can come from crisis. Awe and admiration are what sustains happy partnerships. Engage playfully, not arduously.

Watch this episode on YouTube

Follow Reema: @reemazaman on instagram and her website

Please subscribe/rate and review the podcast here.

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