What does it look like to start dating again after a toxic relationship

I have a first date in a restaurant in Jordan. It’s the first date since my debut You will never allow that It is a feminist non-fiction book about my abusive relationship from several years ago. Online, my date and I have already exchanged words and added each other on Instagram, through which I now know he designs shoes and listens to UK Jungle, and he knows about me that I love eating seafood and has written a book about my abusive ex-partner. That’s why I’m sitting in a seafood restaurant talking nervously about the most vulnerable moment of my life with someone I just met. “I usually ask about someone’s favorite color on a first date, but now we’re all of a sudden talking about therapy,” he says with a smile.

For a while, I kept the violence in my relationship a secret from the people around me. Somehow I found it very embarrassing to admit what my ex was doing to me. I should have stopped him, right? Why did you allow violence? With the help of my therapist, I’ve learned to understand that you never allow violence, and that for a million reasons it can be very difficult to leave an abusive partner. Victims are often traumatized, manipulated, or dependent (financially) on their partner. In our last session, my therapist advised me to start dating again if I felt the need to, so I could have fun experiences again and write a new script for my view of relationships.

Dealing with stimuli

I’ve always been very comfortable with my sexual side, but after bad experiences with my ex, during dates and casual sex, I felt like I had to watch my limits very carefully. As a result, I didn’t care much about my pleasure. This feeling was prompted by a number of stimuli, such as touching a certain spot or cold water on my body. According to my therapist, trauma can be processed once you recognize a traumatic memory while both parts of your brain are active. “If one hemisphere of the brain serves you with feelings and memories of the past, and the other provides you with the rational awareness that this memory is in the past, you can work on finding a solution,” my therapist says.

I describe in my book how we are exposure therapy Do, which is a way to confront your painful memory without being distracted or anxiously thinking about anything else. This can be done by discussing the situation at the time in detail, or by recalling elements from memories, such as sounds and position, and then representing the memory. My therapist carefully asks about the moment I am most afraid: How was I lying, what could I see? What sounds did you hear? What did you feel? We play it together in her counseling room. After a few sessions, the stimuli are greatly reduced. I can happily slut again without feelings of panic.

Define the limits

Was it difficult to start dating again after that? My date stirs up ginger tea and I love being able to talk to him honestly, but also a little crazy. I answered “Yes”. “I thought it was terrifying.” The moment you become intimate with someone, you are weak by nature: you cannot develop true feelings for someone if you keep pushing up the wall. However, you are naturally looking for red flags that you may have overlooked in your previous relationship. “So how do you know if you’re setting healthy boundaries or if you’re reacting because you’ve become paranoid?” Asked.

I told him: “Borders are subjective.” At first I was so afraid that my trauma was making my boundaries too tight, but now I think: If I need those boundaries to feel safe, so be it. For me, for example, it looks like this: I stop dating if someone is inconsistent, says one thing but does another. I also indicate if I do not want to hear certain comments, even if they are intended as a joke. The best way to find out what boundaries are healthy for you is to know your desires. What type of relationship or dating do you like? If you don’t completely trust yourself with it, you can also use a trusted friend or family member as a soundboard. What do they think is healthy in a relationship? And why? Conversation can help you deal more consciously with boundaries and desires.

be honest

During the main course, my date shares about the bad sexual experiences he’s had. “I find it very exciting, because I have the idea that women find it unattractive when men are vulnerable,” he says. When I wrote my book, I also feared that I would be seen as weak and pathetic, rather than the happy, seductive, sexual girl that I am. “Of course it’s not a good idea to get rid of unwanted trauma with someone you barely know,” I begin, “but I don’t think true love exists if you can’t be honest about your feelings and your past.”

in this book From aversion to feeling again Written by Carlie van Tongeren and Ingeborg Timmerman describes how to start a conversation about sexual trauma with your new partner and what tricks you can use to make sex feel safe. They suggest, for example, introducing breaks at first sex parties after a bad experience, giving “translations” by explaining how you experience something during sex, and indicating in advance which parts of your body are “red areas” and your partner should not touch you.

My date and I share candy and I’m not nervous at all anymore. In fact, I feel confident. Because of this transparency about my past and what I want and expect from dating, I definitely know I’m sitting here with myself: I’m not interested in what he thinks of me, but what me I want to. In addition, my companion also felt the space for the first time to talk about accidents in his life. Dating after a toxic relationship can be exciting, but I’ve never felt so close to myself.


You’ll Never Let It Go: When Love Becomes Toxic van Tessel ten Zweege was published in February by Uitgeverij de Geus.

Are you a victim of intimate partner violence or do you have doubts? In the Netherlands, call 0800 2000 for advice. In an emergency, call 112. You can also chat with an aid organization proud In Belgium you can call for free and anonymously 1712 , email or chat with them. (In an emergency, call the police at 101.)

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