Sadly, too many of us have suffered some form of abuse either in relationships or during our childhood. Surprisingly, some are not even aware that the way they are currently being treated is considered abusive. Abuse comes in many forms but we’ll tackle emotional abuse here.
Anyone who has suffered abuse knows that the healing journey can be a very long one, sometimes their whole life. We have moved on, often through therapy, and continue to lead somewhat normal lives. With that said though, any new relationship is often handled with kid gloves. We love differently.
We have a twisted version of love.
The person that was supposed to have loved us instead abused us by controlling, manipulating, criticizing, judging, berating and belittling us until we felt worthless. Therefore, we don’t really know what ‘love’ is: we only know love as abuse – abuse as love; we have created a twisted version of love where abuse and love is one and the same thing. So, when you meet us and treat us well, we are confused and don’t immediately sense or interpret that treatment as ‘love.’
We try to sabotage the relationship.
You are confused because the better you treat us and the more ‘perfect’ you are, the more we want to run away and we look for ways to sabotage the relationship. We are opening up to you just enough that we are feeling extremely vulnerable and therefore, we are deeply terrified that we will be hurt or abused again. We are confused and scared.
We feel unworthy of a healthy, loving relationship.
If we are trying to sabotage the relationship, it’s because we subconsciously don’t believe we deserve to be loved. Please understand that because we were abused we actually subconsciously believe that we deserved the abuse and are not worthy of love and happiness, even though our soul cries out for love.
We struggle in the bedroom.
Sex isn’t just physical intimacy; it represents much more. We want to let go and feel safe with you; we want to trust so that we can experience ecstasy and unity with you and yet, at that moment, when we do let go, we know that we might become overwhelmed, flooded with raw emotion and pain that we don’t even yet understand or can fully process. Sometimes, the result is we might be numb or appear to be cold; we don’t consciously choose to be that way.
We can easily be startled or flinch at loud sounds.
Some of us experienced or witnessed physical or verbal violence such that we are constantly on edge: a sudden loud sound can make us flinch or jump because our “fight or flight response” is too often engaged.
We are affectionate – on our own terms.
We long for physical touch, for the safety of being held; we just don’t know it as a safe experience. We are guarded. Be patient with us as we reach out to express our warmth beneath the cold exterior; we just need space and time to do it in our own way so we can feel safe and accepted and without it leading automatically to sex.
We are unsure about what is truly right and what is truly wrong.
For years we have only known abusive relationships and our abusers did everything they could to control us, all the while battering home that they are perfect, they know best and that we are flawed, worthless, useless, and never good enough. Therefore, when you are doing the right thing – being mature, responsible, patient, calm, accepting, flexible, supportive – we don’t recognize it as the right thing and we need to turn to others to help us redefine ‘right and wrong’ and a healthy relationship. We might also associate romance with pain; we need patience, persistence, and reassurance.
We need space & security.
We are searching for safety and security; we long for stability in an environment where we can be loved, accepted and reassured. Our security will come from within and without of us; we need you to be consistent and patient. We need to know that you will be there, so we might be erratic occasionally; we might even push you away just because we doubt ourselves. We have heard you use the “L Word” and we want to reciprocate; we are just unsure about why you might actually love us and we are not even yet articulate or confident enough to tell you we enjoy your company and who you are.