In my last entry I wrote about how I was going to write about things I enjoyed writing about. I had imagined that I would be writing about nothing in relation to abusive relationships. But as the weeks have passed, I have been bombarded with messages from friends, and friends of friends saying how much my blogs have helped. How they find strength in these blogs…
If I am honest with you, I never had really intended for these to be seen by many. I had no idea that I could help people with my experiences. So as I write again, knowing I am helping someone heal – I am thrilled to be writing on this topic.
I was speaking to someone I didn’t know recently, he was referred to me through a friend. Let’s call this referral Ashton*
Ashton: Athena, my mother keeps telling me I should break up with my girlfriend and be alone to figure myself out.
When I heard this, I had a few questions come to mind.
- What is your relationship with your mother?
As I mentioned in the SPEAK UP AND TELL YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER POST https://athenaandhermes.wordpress.com/2018/10/21/speak-up-tell-your-friend-you-hate-their-significant-other/ If someone close to you is telling you to end things with someone you are dating – it is worth listening to. However, I still asked because there are toxic child-parent relationships where parents like to get in the way of their children’s dating life. If this isn’t the case, and this is not a habit that occurs – it is worth listening to.
2. What do you think of being alone?
Some people fear being alone – sometimes it’s what propels them into toxic relationships. They are so lonely they would rather settle with someone who hurts them, then be alone. If that resonates with you – then it may be worth considering.
However, there is a huge societal misconception that one needs to be alone to heal. I have had girlfriends tell me that I should “take a year to myself” to “find myself” before I start dating again. And though I am a huge advocate in understanding oneself, I don’t believe the narrative that people need to be alone to heal. You need to do WHATEVER YOU NEED TO DO.
This is what I told Ashton – and this segues me into the real meat of this entry.
In Carl Jung’s book Memories Dreams and Reflections he discusses the power of being alone and how one can discover their own personal individuality. Often times this is boiled down to the idea that one must be secluded with their own thoughts to find who they are.
Sure, I mean it’s quite a boiled down idea… one that has made itself known to the societal expectation that if one breaks up they MUST take time for themselves.
I call bullshit, and I’ll tell you why.
The mind of an abused person is one of the scariest places to be, and put that person alone in a room to “ruminate” with their thoughts (which are more the thoughts of the abuser than their own)… good luck. Not only that, but most often, the abused person has felt alone DURING the relationship. They have had to fight tooth and nail to find the reality of what is happening to them, and ALL BY THEMSELEVES pull themselves out of this abusive situation. Since it takes 7-10 tries to escape an abusive relationship by the time they have gotten out, they’ve already likely moved on.
So – before you tell your friend that they should “take some time for themselves” after being in an abusive relationship. Take into consideration that they may very well need to be around someone healthy instead.
LET ME MAKE THIS VERY CLEAR:
there is no right answer to healing.
If you want to stay single for several years and focus on yourself – DO IT.
If you want to jump into bed with several people, to shed off the ownership of your ex – DO IT. (please be safe)
If you want to get into a serious monogamous relationship with someone who has been waiting for you, or who has helped you escape your abusive one. DO IT.
Despite what you might think, you actually DO know what is best for you. And before you scoff or roll your eyes I have proof for you:
YOU GOT YOURSELF OUT OF AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP.
If that isn’t enough proof to show yourself that your inner voice knows best… I don’t know what is.
If you do decide to jump into another relationship, or into bed with someone else, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- The healing that you are experiencing from your past relationship is mainly around TRUST and AUTONOMY. This is a really great place to start slowly testing your boundaries with someone new. See how they listen to you. Make sure to assert yourself, and speak up when you feel your boundaries are being crossed. See how patient someone is with you – if they aren’t, this is a red flag and a sign to move on.
- Your personal thoughts likely aren’t your own. Before you start telling this new person what you think about things, take some time to really think about them. It is very likely that you have thoughts about yourself that your ex has planted, that maybe don’t nessisarily resonate to your authentic self. (Anal sex is a huge one that comes to mind here. Very often toxic partners will force anal and talk them into liking it. There is no shame in liking it, but be sure that you truly do, and this isn’t some pleasing tactic.)
- Take some time on your own. UM WHAT?! ATHENA YOU JUST TOLD US THAT WE DON’T HAVE TO!! I know I know but read this section until the end. This is where individuality comes in. The societal idea of being alone is not wrong.. it’s just implemented incorrectly. What Carl Jung talks about is taking time out of your day, everyday, to be on your own with your own thoughts. Very often we get pulled into toxic relationships because our abusive partner wants to bombard your focus so you can’t think for yourself. It is very important to disconnect (this can be anyone in your life, friends, lovers, parents, etc.) and take time to think alone on a topic. (**TEXTING IS STILL TALKING!!) I personally take this time while walking my dogs. I tell my partner that I am going alone, so that I can ponder and think on the day. If it’s his turn to walk the dogs, I will take the alone time in my office to journal and think. This makes it possible for me to keep my individuality within my thinking.
- Misery loves company. You have been through a lot. You are vulnerable and very susceptible to others like this. It’s not to say that you can’t surround yourself with people who have gone through the same thing. There is great connection and support within that but be aware that your goal is to heal. Many people who have gone through trauma are also trying to heal and your company (or theirs) can be triggering. If you are spending time with others who have been in toxic relationships or are healing from something traumatic be very aware of setting boundaries for them, and yourself. Communicating while one is trying to heal, and trying to assert oneself can be difficult. It is often helpful to make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people who have healed already, or who are also understanding of your struggle.
- This new person could be a rebound: It is important to acknowledge that this new person may not be around forever. They could be there to help you heal, they could be there to be a support while you try and find yourself again. They could just be the person who makes you feel clean again. Personally, the first person I jumped back into bed with was someone I needed to cleanse me of my exes body. I wanted to make sure he was no longer the last person I slept with. It’s okay if they aren’t around forever. People come into your life sometimes just to help you with your next journey, knowing this is a huge part of your healing. It’s also important to know so you don’t hold onto them like some sort of medicinal fix. Sometimes, they do stick around and that is also just as wonderful.
- Toxic behavior can create more toxic behavior: If you have been put through the ringer, it is very likely that you can regurgitate that behavior onto someone else without wanting to. Acknowledging this possibility allows you keep an eye on it, particularly when you feel scared or angry. Just like an abused dog, when we are put into a corner we can lash out, especially when we haven’t been able to express ourselves in our abusive relationship. Lashing out on a new person is our egos way of showing ourselves that we are in control – unfortunately it can be very damaging not only to relationships but to our self esteem. Just make sure to keep an eye on this.
Remember. You know best.
~Athena and Hermes~