That First Healthy Relationship
They say the first healthy relationship after a toxic one is the most difficult relationship.
I have no idea who “they” are, but they are right. After you heal, work through the toxic parts of your past relationship, and begin to feel better again, you consider dating—adding someone to your life.
So you swipe, or make eyes at someone from across the dance floor. You feel happy. Open. Willing. And you are all of those things. At first, it feels nice, but then almost in the same sense as your toxic partner began to reveal toxic signs, you begin to overthink. Read into everything he says. You are no longer sitting next to the man you like, but rather someone who may be hiding toxic traits better than your ex did.
So you sit, listen, observe yourself down a rabbit hole that leads you to losing someone who most likely is a great fit and absolutely nothing like your ex. At home, now alone, you can see what you did. You can see where you went wrong. You can see how you’ve gotten yourself into this black hole. On the other side of the black hole, with him moving on without you and you wondering if you should try again, you heal.
But this time, instead of healing from what someone else did to you, you heal from what you did to you. And it’s not entirely your fault. You had no idea it would be like this. At first, dating sounds fun—”fun”…something you have never really had. You meet someone and you have fun and laugh and look forward to seeing him again, until he says one thing that your ex said—and it triggers you.
From there, it’s a snowball effect. One thing turns into another, and you are a wreck in your head while he’s going on like nothing happened, and guess what?
How do we, as recovering survivors of abuse, ever feel good enough to accept someone? To let someone in? To let go and embrace the good we all deserve? At this moment, after five years of being single, learning to love myself, and after years of healing through recovery, I can honestly say I have no idea, but I am learning as I walk this path of a healthy relationship unfolding right in front of me.
Walking into something new with someone who has no idea what it is like to be in something toxic and abusive, I can’t expect to be treated as if I’m fragile—because he, too, is walking into something with his own traumas. His own hurts. We each have to be responsible for how we feel and take care of ourselves first. Understanding and patience are key.
While recovering and healing, we work through the things we can see and touch. We work through what is on the forefront of our minds, but it isn’t until we begin to date that we realize there’s more beneath the surface to heal, and this is not only okay, but it is also normal.
We have to walk the path of uncertainty in the way others do, but we walk slower, with a lantern, and full of caution. It will take those of us who have been abused longer to trust and longer to commit because we are making sure we are not in the place we once were.
You will know when you’re ready to date. If we waited, any of us, to be completely healed before we date, we would never be ready. After breaking a leg, we heal, and then we learn to walk again with the leg we broke. It is the same thing with dating: we heal and then learn to walk again while we date.
It’s not easy to be with someone healthy after abuse even if you have gotten help. You can go to school for four years, learn what you need to learn for the job you want, but that job is entirely different on the first day than the thought of it was in your head—and that is scary.
But we have to move on. We have to live. Each one of us deserves to love and to feel loved back. If it is not right with him, it will be right with someone else. So pick up your pieces, learn your lessons, know it’s going to be okay, then try again.
Keep trying until you find your match. It can only get better from here.