People who are happy on the inside despite abuse can and will find new supportive friends who become like family. Those victimized as children yet refuse to remain victims as adults approach others with hope, not necessarily faith. We hope the guy or girl who shows interest has good intentions, but we don’t believe it until and unless a decent body of proof develops. That takes time. And, patience....
Patience is necessary for both parties in any relationship, regardless of context. But it’s particularly important in relationships where one or both individuals have lived through a traumatic experience—by the way, living with a hostile, neglectful, abusive, and/or controlling spouse for five years or longer is considered to be a legitimate trauma that can affect both the physical and mental health of a person. But that doesn’t mean you can’t heal....
Your humanity is not baggage. You are not “broken” or “damaged” because you had the guts to try for long-term love. If it fails, it’s because it wasn’t right, not because you yourself are “wrong.” You are simply human. If you were able to get out of an unhealthy relationship, it’s the exact opposite of “damaged.” Removing yourself from toxicity is a healthy response. That said, it has to be acknowledged that not everyone has the ability to leave—especially those orphaned by the living.
Financial independence is often hard to obtain for victims of childhood abuse and/or spousal abuse. Even though you are an adult when living with a spouse, if the relationship is vertical, it means one partner makes and/or controls the majority of monies/assets. That’s not a true partnership because it leaves one spouse vulnerable to the other—and that’s the space where abuse can happen.
Partners who put us at the bottom of a vertical relationship are playing out familial psychological patterns observed during childhood. If you were attracted to a future abuser, you also are playing out familial psychological patterns. It’s important to recognize your own role in how a vertical relationship develops. If you came from abuse, you likely had no support—financially or otherwise. Depending on your “otherness” and general health after coming from an abusive background, it may not have been easy for you to find opportunities to earn. That’s not your fault. It’s a societal disadvantage that--combined with being connected to abusers for most of your life--adds to the difficulty of extricating yourself. Psychologies like learned helplessness, institutionalization and Stockholm Syndrome are real. When you're being abused in any way by a spouse and you can't leave, you have to survive. But, you can't let that bring you down or stop you from trying to get out. You must believe every day that you will succeed and, one day in the not-so-distant future, you will.
Staying employable (and healthy!) is the key to attaining and maintaining independence, as well as ensuring that future relationships don’t devolve as well. But finding an equal can be quite a challenge! Settling based on things like proximity is tempting, but it’s not going to lead to long-term happiness—it’s a short-term band aid. Things may feel and/or look better on the surface, but underneath, you’re not healing. You’re self-sabotaging. Yet again.
In order to break the cycle, an individual has to become more self-aware. Knowing your motivations is the only way to avoid the pitfall of “settling.” We settle when family and friends pressure us to stop being “picky.” We settle when we let social attitudes surrounding age dictate our choices. We settle when we are afraid of being alone, or feel isolated in some way. We also settle when we think the person we feel a connection to isn't as interested in us as we are in them--that goes back to having a context of abuse. Not feeling worthy of more than just a passing fancy is letting your abusers win. You are worthy. And, the right person will find ways to show up for you. The right person can recognise your worth and will make themselves available. In the meantime, live your very best life—traveling, getting outside, going to the gym, engaging in the human world on every level means love can find you. In my experience, that’s how the real deal often manifests. It’s unexpected. Which means, it’s never convenient and never, ever easy.
No matter how you meet a person, when you do find someone of interest, the process of getting to know one another begins to evolve. That evolution takes time and sets the foundation for your future relationship. If you meet after age 30+ the process can be somewhat tricky, thanks to our psychology. Which is why knowing your motivations through increased self-awareness is so very important if you want long-term success with a romantic partner.
Projection is when a friend, family member, colleague, or romantic partner literally projects their experience with others onto you. Projection is a form of self-sabotage. It’s usually unwitting, too. Try to be supportive of a new love interest who may be projecting old hurts. If you're patient, you can help them heal.
Ego is why we want to believe that the person who took a car, a train, two planes, and a cab to see you for six hours is really interested in you—not just looking for another night of great sex as a band aid before going back to their “real” life. I mean, no one goes to those lengths just to get laid. But there may be other psychologies at play that you aren’t aware of. The one constant in all relationships is time—give someone enough of yours, and you’ll have no problem seeing who they really are. The trick is knowing who is worth the most precious of all your resources...and, who isn’t.
Be considerate of context and compassionate toward your romantic interest's current life situation by avoiding the urge to make assumptions (or judgments). Instead, live your best life by continuing to improve yourself, and the right person will always match your efforts. Real connections are instantaneous, but it can still take time to process psychologically—especially after age 30+. You may never want to leave each other’s side, but you both likely still have social obligations already in play that you'll need to complete before making things official. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun together in the interim—but it may mean that your happily-ever-after is not going to be instantaneous (even if you want it to be).
The Bottom Line
Give people a chance. When you do, you give yourself a chance at finding real love, real joy and real happiness.
I believe in you...but, you must believe, too.