Being in a relationship with a survivor of domestic violence can be complicated. We carry several scars from our past that aren’t easily overcome. There are even lasting effects we are unaware of until they come up. It’s almost like an Easter Egg hunt, but what you find isn’t typically something you’re excited about finding.
Although we want to trust you, love you and fall all in, it’s not always something that comes naturally. If emotional or verbal abuse has occurred in our pasts, earning our trust can be especially difficult. As the partner of someone who escaped domestic violence the experience can be both complicated and rewarding.
Remember, the key word here is SURVIVOR, the person you are with is a survivor, so they won’t sit around waiting for life to happen to them. We have certain skill sets that provide us strength and have protected us from further damage while we escaped. Those skill sets and habits that make us especially resilient and particularly difficult to get close to. There’s a great quote from GoodReads that goes as follows:
“Survivors of abuse show us the strength of their personal spirit every time they smile.”
We will have trust issues. It seems like a no brainer that trust issues are part of the package, but honestly most partners seem to take this very personally. It will take you a long time to get to know us and often we will be wary to commit to you fully, move in with you, or give up any of our hard-earned independence. Pushing us will only increase our wariness of the situation and of you.
I know it takes a long time for anyone to truly get to know me. I don’t share my feelings readily because sharing those with you provides you the power and ammunition to hurt me severely. I will share things that if used against me will not hurt as bad. Often, you’ll feel like you know me, but there are several deep feelings, hopes or dreams I will have withheld from you to simply protect my heart.
Often in times of emotional stress, arguments, or emotionally sensitive discussions we will shut down. This isn’t because we don’t care, it’s because we don’t want drama or to go through whatever situation we were conditioned to avoid in our last relationship. We withdrawal to protect ourselves, lock in our emotions or regulate our anger. Because in past relationships we weren’t allowed to be emotional or angry. We found these responses counterproductive so now we withdraw. It will take time and encouragement for us to emerge from our shells and show you how we feel.
Perhaps we’ve found ourselves dependent on these past men and we’re not making any concessions this time. Or maybe we want to always make sure we have an out. We will be freakishly independent and wary of you and any situation that encourages us to let our guard down. We will make our own money, own our own things, and not ever want to rely on you to do or help with anything. Again, this will take time. We won’t want to give up what or who we are for anything.
We won’t want to feel as though we are controlled. Perhaps we will resist moving in with you, making the relationship official or introducing you to our parents. All of these things give you insight into us and grant you the power to hurt us. We’ve learned our loved ones can be used against us and any next level relationship steps means we proceed to next level of abuse and power.
In the end there are so many things you’ll find as hurdles as you approach a DV Survivor. But in the end if you pass the test of time you will have a partner you know is strong, independent, and will do what needs to be done. If you earn our trust then you will have a fiercely loyal companion in life. However, if you mistreat us, know we will be prepared to run not walk away often with a nearly clinical seeming attitude because if life has taught us anything it’s how to separate our feelings from our actions.