By Sunny Lim
For many domestic violence survivors, dating might seem daunting after surviving abusive relationships. For survivors, a time will come where they’ll feel comfortable dating again.
However, some survivors might fear dating again because they fear future partners might be similar to their abusers. Some survivors struggle with trusting and opening up emotionally to future partners. They also worry about struggling to differentiate what is toxic versus what is healthy in relationships after suffering through abuse and manipulation.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, counselors recommend survivors seek treatment to recover from their physical and emotional trauma before starting to date again. Healing takes time, and each survivor’s journey is different.
When you feel like you’re ready to date again, there are several signs of healthy relationships to keep in mind.
According to Love Is Respect, healthy relationships are devoid of emotional, mental, sexual, and physical abuse. Healthy relationships have open and safe communication, mutual respect, trust, compromise, support, and boundaries.
In healthy relationships, both partners speak up if something is bothering them instead of ignoring the issue. Disagreements happen in healthy relationships regularly, so it’s important for both partners to resolve any problems in a rational calm manner.
While it’s important to know the signs of healthy relationships, it’s also necessary to know safe dating tips.
Take it slow.
There’s no need to rush, so take your time getting to know your partner. If your partner tries to rush the relationship, it might be a warning sign. Don’t feel as if you should rush just because your partner pressures you. Everyone should be on the same page and feel comfortable with the relationship’s pace.
Make sure a trusted friend or family member knows where you’re going with your partner for dates. Date in public areas like meeting up in coffee shops. These methods will help you figure out if you can trust your partner.
Trust your gut.
If your partner displays red flags and other warning signs that make you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut. Don’t ignore these signs. If you feel safe talking about it, discuss these warning signs with your partner and observe how they react. Most people show their true nature when you confront them.
Create a list and remind yourself.
Make a list of signs of healthy relationships and carry it with you to remind yourself. Look for partners who match those characteristics.
With these safety tips in mind, they’ll help survivors date carefully. If at any moment, you start seeing red flags in a new partner, know that you have the power to end the relationship and seek support.
Additionally, here are ways to promote healthy relationships.
Set your expectations with your partner in the beginning.
Create a list of expectations with yourself and your partner. Even healthy relationships have difficulties, so be realistic with one another about expectations. Your relationship doesn’t have to look perfect or impress anyone. It’s more important that you and your partner are on the same page about what both people desire from the relationship.
Check yourself and your partner.
During the early stages of dating, perform a check by asking yourself if your new partner is displaying red flags such as pressuring you and flaking on commitments. If they are, cut the relationship.
Don’t make promises that you and your partner can’t keep. If your partner promises anything, make sure they deliver. Saying is one thing, but doing is another. Keeping promises is a solid way to build trust in a relationship by showing you’re dependable and dedicated to the relationship.
Support each other.
Encourage one another to grow and become better day by day. Stand by each other through the good and the bad.
Set and maintain healthy boundaries.
As you spend time with your partner, make sure both people have separate identities instead of melding into each other. The relationship shouldn’t be the only defining characteristic for you and your partner.
Set boundaries early on in the relationship by discussing rules with your partner. Setting clear and healthy boundaries with your partner reinforces mutual respect within relationships.
Spend equal amount of time with your family and friends along with your partner. Do hobbies that you like separate from your partner. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time with your partner. Maintain space by doing activities separately and hanging out with friends without your partner.
Wherever you’re at in your healing journey, remember that it’s okay to stay single if that’s your choice, and it’s also okay to date at your own pace.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.