Reclaiming Your Body And Heart After Surviving Abuse

Reclaiming Your Body And Heart After Surviving Abuse

I spent five years in abusive relationship. Even today, years after I finally left him, it’s a difficult thing to say out loud. But I do it anyway, because it needs to be said. I spent five years in an abusive relationship.

It slowly and steadily grew worse. Taking an increasingly larger toll on my physical and emotional well-being, until I finally managed to escape.  It left me with scars from physical, mental and sexual abuse.

The Aftermath

After I left, I tried to jump into another sexual relationship and found myself floundering. Before I had really started coming to terms with what happened. As I threw myself into intimate relationships with others. Quickly realizing, the focus had become pleasing my partners.  I was making choices that were dangerous. I could only look at my relationships through the lens of my abuse. Until a roommate, of all people, pointed it out to me.

I started to reevaluate my behavior. Stepping back from relationships I wasn’t totally ready for and realizing that I couldn’t give a potential partner what they needed until putting the work to heal. It wasn’t fair to a potential partner to try to be a rebound for a relationship that had been so toxic for me—  and would only lead me back to toxic relationships to try to ‘fix’ myself.

During this time I learned some valuable lessons, lessons I believe that anyone who has been in an abusive relationship needs to hear. Be it a relationship they just got out of or one that they walked away years ago from.

Go At Your Own Pace

I cannot stress this enough. It is so important to take things at your own speed. Relationships, sex, dating, everything. This is about your comfort, your safety, and your fulfillment. You may find some resistance now and then, but it is important to stick to your guns. Too often I would be clicking through various dating sites only to have most of my would-be suitors be pushy about wanting to meet right away, or think they could fix all of my issues with their dick. It was enough that I actually gave up on that after a few months.

Even now in the relationships that I have, I find that sometimes I can go weeks feeling normal about sex/touch only to experience a drastic shift and not be able to even so much as kiss my partners. All because of feelings that can be dredged up from what happened with my abuser.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

This is something that seems like common sense, but is all too easy to forget when you are in a bad place after abuse and you end up spending a lot of time in your own head. But this is an absolutely crucial thing to do— not only with current partners but potential partners, and especially if you have more than one.

I’m not talking about spilling everything— not everyone is prepared for all the details about a partner’s abusive past all at once, especially early in the relationship. (Conversely, you are also not obliged to give a full disclosure to anyone who demands it. This is YOUR LIFE and YOUR PAST.) But fulfilling relationships depend on honesty and on openly communicating your needs. This is especially important if one or both partners are abuse survivors.

One example is telling your partner(s) what potential triggers you may have, both with sexual intimacy and in day-to-day life. Warning them about areas of your body may have physical triggers. Or words or topics that might be hard for you.

This is especially important for those who are also looking to bring kink back into their relationships after abuse. Make sure it is brought up during negotiations and that you talk about it. My wrists are more of a soft limit than a hard one, because once I learn that I can trust that they won’t abuse it, I can let it become a thing that we do more often.

Outside of the bedroom, I let them know that I have triggers with slamming doors, my personal property being snatched away from me or threatened (even in a playful way), and not being good with one-word answers via text. But all of these things, when discussed, helps them to understand them and make sure that they aren’t suddenly surprised down the line. No one likes suddenly falling into a trap that they had no warning about, and I don’t like falling into a depressive episode because I did not give them any kind of heads-up.  

Don’t Look Back

I know everyone says this but it is so so important— don’t go back to your abuser.

I know it can be hard. There are emotions tied up in that relationship beyond the abuse. Maybe it was your first serious relationship and you still have a lot of good memories. It’s also possible you’re still experiencing the effects of gaslighting from your abuse, or your feelings are clouded by unresolved trauma.

When it comes to sexual abuse, I personally have found that I will often think that I need or deserve what happened to me. Maybe you have those thoughts too. That it will be the only thing that will bring you pleasure, or the only way you deserve to have sex. It’s a recurring intrusive thought for me. They were right. No one else wants you the way I do. No one else will touch you. You are better off right here.

That voice. Their voice. It is wrong. It will always be wrong.

You deserve the sex you want to have. There are people who will be there for you when your abuser is out of your life. You are better off away from them— far, far away. You are strong, you are beautiful, and you are allowed to take back what they tried so hard to steal from you. Never forget that. Never allow yourself to think otherwise.

It will take some time to get to that place, but trust me. You got this.

If you need help, there are resources available for you. Here are a few:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

RAINN

Safe Horizon

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