I can attest that the first date you go on after being in an abusive relationship is going to suck! I know I’m supposed to sugar coat it and tell you that life goes on and it’s made of puppies and roses but I can’t because it’s not true. It’s scary and it’s awkward and no matter what you do you’re going to be nervous and at some point during the evening you will flinch.
However, there’s also some great news. A lot of great news actually. One of the best things about dating after being in an abusive relationship is that everything is new again. Even though it doesn’t feel like it, you now have the tools you need to avoid the same mistakes you made when you got into that first abusive relationship to begin with. What happened to you was not your fault. Now you know what to look for and you know what you want.
To give you some background on me: until a few weeks ago I’d never had a real date. I spent most of my twenties getting over the worst relationship in history. He was mean, cruel, abusive and just plain awful. I ended up spending the next few years surrounding myself with people just like him because it was my comfort zone, it was all I knew.
Sometime around my 33’rd birthday however I decided I didn’t want to be miserable and drunk any more. I didn’t want to waste my precious money to spend time with people I needed to be drunk to stay around. I wanted to have fun, go on adventures and find people that I genuinely liked spending time with. So I cut everyone out of my life and decided I was going to start dating. So I reached into my arsenal of women friends from around the globe and decided to ask their thoughts on my new dating life and we’ve agreed that we should pass these tips on to you!
Step 1: Ask for advice
My friend Melinda suggested that you find someone not as invested in your love life as you are. A Therapist or Life coach can help bounce ideas around and be an impartial ear when it’s time to dissect the date. I think this is a great idea because a friend or family member is less likely to listen with an unbiased ear.
Step 2: Make the first date fun
The days of men planning dates are long over. As two of my writer ‘sisters’ Janine and Rachel suggested, sometimes guys like it when you take the lead and plan the date. Something fun and out of the ordinary. On my first date after my Epiphany we had dinner at a restaurant we both knew and enjoyed. He went to his event after and I went to mine. This made dinner fun and gave us the chance to get to know each other without the pressure of “Do I” or “Don’t I” kiss him after? Instead it made it almost necessary to have a second more relaxed date at a Restaurant downtown. We had a great dinner, got to know each other even better and walk around the dark city with it’s pretty winter lights. We laughed, we joked and we even had a tiny peck. Although it didn’t work out (mutual decision) it definitely made me more secure about trying again with someone else.
Step 3: It’s ok to date several men
One date does not make a relationship. They don’t have to know that you’re dating several guys at the same time and chances are they are dating several women at the same time. Part B of step 3 is that he doesn’t actually need to know your past right away. It’s okay to hold on to it. I don’t know about you, but after ten years of sharing my story and talking about how much better I am now I’m pretty much over talking about abusive relationship. I want to have fun and enjoy myself. If and when a guy becomes important enough – if and when I feel safe and comfortable telling what I went through, I will. Until then I’m just going to enjoy meeting new people.
Step 4: Have fun
If any of the women who read this article (or men for that matter) really understand what it’s like to have been in an abusive relationship you know it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t amusing. It was soul draining. This is your chance to go out and enjoy yourself. This is your chance to do things you have never done before. I’m not of course talking about jumping on a plane with some random stranger, but what about going deep sea diving or taking a helicopter ride around your city? I bet you haven’t done that before.
Step 5: Do it with confidence
I’ve given you a lot of information and you’re going to get a lot more by reading some of the other really amazing articles. It is terrifying taking that first step but once you do it’s not a far leap before you begin to fly. You’ll meet a lot of toads along the way but I’m taking this journey with you so you aren’t alone. Remember the most important thing about a first date: you’re not getting dressed up for him, you’re getting dressed up for yourself. If he likes your fancy new nails and cute outfit that makes you feel amazing that’s a bonus, but the outfit, nails and hair are not about him.
We’re all jumping back into the dating scene after some really cruddy experiences and so we’ll do it together. I’ll tell you about my experiences and you guys can write me and tell me about yours. We may even include your dating stories (good and bad) in this column! I know I’ll feel a lot better about this journey if I know I can count on you guys sharing your thoughts and ideas with me like I’ll share mine. So who’s with me?