Experiencing abusive behavior in a previous relationship can make it difficult to live with a new partner and build a healthy relationship. Seeking professional help and other self-care strategies can help.
Experiencing abusive behavior can affect people mentally, physically, and emotionally. It can make it difficult to trust people and to allow a new partner into their lives.
There are many lasting effects of abusive behavior. However, with professional help, a support network, and self-care strategies, a person can build a healthy relationship with a new partner.
This article discusses the effects of abuse and finding love again after experiencing abuse, and gives tips for living with a new partner.
The article includes the personal stories of Brittney, the owner of Brit Nicole Photography LLC, and Christian Miller, a travel expert and travel guide writer, both of whom have experience with past abusive relationships and finding love again.
Abuse in a relationship can come in various forms, such as physical, emotional, and sexual.
Relationship abuse is common. In the United States, almost 1 in 2 women and more than 2 in 5 men reported experiencing intimate partner violence in their lifetime, according to the most recent data available from the
Experiencing abusive behavior can have physical, mental, and emotional effects. These may be short or long term. Effects can also vary widely from person to person.
“I met my ex-partner during my college years. She seemed like the perfect girl — beautiful, intelligent, and fun. However, things took a turn for the worse when she became increasingly controlling and emotionally abusive.
I remember an incident when we were arguing, and my partner threw a vase at me, causing a deep cut on my arm. That was the breaking point for me. I knew I had to get out before it got worse.
Experiencing abuse in a relationship had a profound impact on me, both mentally and physically. The scars left by that toxic relationship went far beyond the physical cut from the thrown vase.
Mentally, I was left with deep emotional wounds. The constant criticism, control, and manipulation eroded my self-esteem. I began to doubt my worth and capabilities. Anxiety and fear became my constant companions, making me question my every decision and second-guess my every action.
Physically, the consequences were tangible. The incident with the vase left a visible scar on my arm, a permanent reminder of the violence I had endured. But it was the invisible scars that weighed on me even more. The stress and emotional turmoil of the abusive relationship took a toll on my overall health.”
The long-term effects of abusive behavior can affect every aspect of a person’s life. A person may find it difficult to adjust to living in a safe environment after experiencing abusive behavior.
Physical effects of abuse may include:
- cardiovascular issues
- digestive issues
- traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- sexual issues
- reproductive issues
- chronic pain
- symptoms of musculoskeletal issues
- symptoms of pulmonary issues
Mental health effects can include:
- generalized anxiety disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- major depressive disorder
- substance use disorders
- low self-esteem
Emotional effects of abuse can include:
- feelings of unworthiness
- feelings of hopelessness
- feeling apprehensive or discouraged about the future
- feeling unmotivated
- questioning or doubting spiritual faith
- not being able to trust others
“I’m a professional photographer and have been for 17 years. After we got married back in 2010, my husband not only ripped away my ability to make an income but also took away my relationships with my family and friends so I was only dependent upon him. Even in church, I couldn’t sit inside the sanctuary. We had to sit in the coffee shop. No one was allowed to come to the house, no one. Not even my parents.
One night when I was too tired to clean dishes, he got very angry and threw me up against the wall while choking me. He kept asking, ‘Where is your God now?’ and then eventually let me go. He ended up passing out about 5 minutes after that, so the next morning when he left for work, I grabbed my husky and a few of my things and left.
I shut down. I’m a pretty strong-headed person, but when I was in this relationship, he made me believe that my way of life was wrong. He made me believe that it was wrong and childish of me to enjoy family or friend hangouts, game nights, going out to eat with people, or even photographing my clients.
He made me believe that when you ‘become an adult,’ adults don’t do those things, that as an adult my focus should be on my partner — him — and making sure his needs were met.
Over time, this emotional and mental onslaught stripped me down to where I didn’t know who I was anymore.”
Experiencing abuse can make it difficult for individuals to build relationships and find love again. Abuse can make a person feel isolated and alone.
The effects of abuse may make it difficult for a person to connect emotionally with a new partner. It may also make it difficult for the person to trust someone.
A person’s ideas of what healthy and unhealthy relationships are may also become skewed as a result of experiencing abuse.
However, it is possible for a person who has experienced abuse to build healthy relationships and find love again. While learning to build healthy relationships, trust, and love again can take time, it is within reach.
“The day I left my ex, I made a promise to myself that no one would ever rip my life away from me again. I swore that no one would ever tell me what kind of life I was allowed to live. No one was ever going to take my money or my career away from me or rob me of my freedom.
I did some serious soul-searching and healing. I reconnected with my church and began to spend more time seeking answers about what God thinks of me and who God says I am. More than anything else I did, this helped me regain my strength and once again believe in the promises of the life I could have. And man, did God deliver on those promises.
About 8 months prior to meeting Colby, my now husband, I wrote a blog post boldly declaring the type of family I would have and the type of man I would marry. I decided enough is enough of listening to others say, ‘There’s no such thing as someone who checks all those boxes. You just have to learn to live with it.’ I not only rejected that, I put it out for the whole world to see.
I wanted someone tall with dark hair, blue eyes, who dresses nice. I wanted someone who drove a black Chevy truck, enjoys country music, and loves Jesus. The day I met Colby, he stepped out of his black Chevy pickup looking put together… and country music was playing on his stereo. I looked up at his 6-foot frame into the most stunning blue eyes.
I had found him. And he has been my gift.
I knew from that moment forward that I was free to chase after what I wanted in life because I was going to get it. There isn’t anyone who can hold me back anymore, and the life I have is so beautiful.
I could not imagine life without Colby or the babies we have together. Colby and I were made for each other. He is my best friend and my security blanket.”
There are various factors to consider before beginning to date again after an abusive relationship. These include the following:
- Be sure to cope with the abuse and its effects. A mental health professional may be the most effective way to do this.
- Learn the signs of a healthy, unhealthy, or abusive relationship.
- Trust your instincts. If something does not feel right, do not just brush it off.
- Practice safe dating. This may include meeting a new person at a public location for the first few times and making sure a trusted friend or family member knows the location of any dates.
- Take things slow. Allow time to develop trust in a person.
“Finding love again after the nightmare of my previous relationship was like emerging from a long, dark tunnel into the warmth of the sun.
Initially, I approached it with trepidation, my heart still bearing the scars of the past. Trusting someone new was a monumental challenge. But the person I met was unlike anyone I had ever known. They were patient, understanding, and genuinely caring.
Their unwavering support gradually allowed me to lower my defenses. They understood the weight of my past experiences and gave me the space to heal at my own pace.
Through their actions and words, they showed me that not all relationships are built on manipulation and fear. I discovered the power of open communication, mutual respect, and genuine trust.”
Taking the time to get to know a new partner is an important part of coping with past experiences of abuse. This can help to develop a level of trust where each person feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and feelings.
A person who has experienced abuse should give their new partner respect and also expect the same in return.
Christian’s tips for living with a new partner
- Set boundaries and respect each other’s space: In an abusive relationship, boundaries are often crossed, and personal space is violated. It’s important to communicate with your new partner and establish boundaries that make you feel safe and comfortable. I made it clear that I don’t like to be touched unexpectedly, and my partner respected that.
- Seek therapy or support: Healing from an abusive relationship takes time and professional help. This can also help improve communication with your new partner as you work through any residual trauma. When I started therapy, I found it easier to let go of my past and fully embrace my new relationship.
- Practice self-care: This will help with your healing process and strengthen your self-worth and confidence. I used to neglect myself in my past relationship, but now I prioritize self-care, and it has greatly improved my overall well-being.
- Learn healthy communication skills: In an abusive relationship, communication is often toxic and one-sided. Learning how to communicate effectively and respectfully with your new partner can help build a stronger and more fulfilling relationship.
Working with a mental health professional can help a person rebuild their self-empathy after experiencing abuse. Self-empathy allows a person to reconnect to their feelings and past experiences. This helps them identify the pieces of themselves that are energetic, alive, and worth loving again.
Just like with beginning to date again after experiencing abuse, it is crucial for a person to trust their instincts about living with a new partner.
Generally, if something does not feel right, it is not right. It can help to talk over concerns, doubts, and fears with a new partner.
Brit’s tips for living with a new partner
“Be vulnerable. Allow your partner to speak life into that aspect of your past. Your new partner loves you for you, and even though it might be embarrassing that you allowed yourself to get into that situation, they love who you are as a person. It’s not your identity, and it wasn’t your fault.
On our first date, I laid everything out on the table to Colby. Our date lasted hours because of this, but I’m so glad we did it. So I would advise others to do the same. Share your truth boldly and confidently, because anyone who can’t handle that truth is not the person for you, anyway.
I told Colby about my past, how it affected me, what I want to do with my career, what type of parent I want to be, what I will or will not put up with as a spouse, holiday traditions, money management… everything. He did the same with me, and here we are, 10 years together and solidly in each other’s corner.
Our love is deeper now, more intrinsic and intertwined, and we are still as invested in one another as we were that night on our date.”
Living with a partner who has experienced abuse can come with challenges. Learning ways to support them and help them heal is an important part of a relationship.
Remember that the healing process is not linear. It can take time, and every person’s process is different.
There are ways a person can help support their partner and aid in their healing processes.
“One of the most amazing things about my husband is that he lets me talk about what I want or need to talk about. He doesn’t make me feel like I’m being judged or that I need to just ‘let it go’ because it’s something that happened in the past.
He is on my team, and he has taken the weight off my shoulders since the day I met him. He builds me up and holds me accountable for saying nice things about myself and being on my own team. I feel safe with him, and it’s because we talk about the hard things.
I let him open a few doors to see what was inside the rooms that were full of hurt for me, and he didn’t run. He didn’t look the other way. He didn’t even wince. Instead, he sat with me in the yuck and has continually supported me and loved me through it all.
“Through Colby, I have learned that I can not only have this type of love in my life, but that I am actually deserving of it.”
Ways a person can help support their partner’s healing process include the following:
- Validate their feelings: Their thoughts and feelings may appear irrational to you. However, validating their feelings and not simply responding with logic can help them know their feelings are valid.
- Listen to them: Try to be a listening ear when they need it. This may mean listening to them at what can seem like inopportune times. However, being there when they need someone to listen can help build trust in the relationship.
- Be patient: Healing is not linear, so it can seem as though it comes in waves. It can feel like taking a few steps forward, only to take one back. Be patient with their process and allow them to heal in their own time.
- Do not allow them to dismiss their experiences: Do not allow them to play down their experience. Give weight to it and allow them to mourn. This can be a critical part of the healing process.
“My new partner played an instrumental role in my healing journey and transitioned into a new, healthy relationship. Their unwavering support and understanding became the pillars of my recovery.
They were the listeners I had longed for, offering a compassionate ear without judgment. They patiently allowed me to express my fears, concerns, and experiences.
Understanding the importance of personal boundaries and emotional safety, they respected my need for space and time to heal. They never pressured me to share or open up before I was ready.”
Experiencing abuse can have many short- and long-term effects. These can include mental, physical, and emotional effects.
It can be difficult to begin dating again and build a relationship with a new partner, but healing is possible. It is important for an individual to truly begin to cope with their own experiences before beginning a new relationship. They should also trust their own instincts and allow the time to build trust in a new partner.
Someone living with a partner who has experienced abuse can help them by listening to them, being patient, and validating their feelings.
Seeking help from a mental health professional can be a key part of the healing process after abuse.