Updated: Feb 28
For years I remember thinking have I got 'abuse me' written on my forehead, or did I give out an 'I'm easy for you to abuse' kind of vibe?
I have since discovered that I am not the only one who felt this. Many people, especially women, can go from one abusive relationship to another. Maybe we don't feel we deserve any better. Perhaps, we are kind and gentle. Some people may take advantage of our demeanour. Or do we actually like the bad boy/girl image?
Whatever the reason, It's not unusual to see similar patterns and toxic relationships throughout our past. How do we break this cycle? How do we make better choices in the future so we can stop repeating the same old, same old?
Here are some tips that may help
Heal first - take time to heal from past relationships and childhood trauma. Speak to a professional and take your time. Don't be in a rush to fall for the next person who shows you attention.
Find happiness within yourself rather than depending on another person to satisfy you or complete you. Whilst healing, find out what makes you tick, what makes you happy, what do you like or hate. These things could be finding new hobbies or discovering different foods. You may realise that the things you did in previous relationships you didn't like to do, but you did them because the other person liked it. When in a new relationship, learn to express what you like now and don't just blend into what the other person wants you to be like.
Set Clear and healthy boundaries from the beginning - Right from the start of the relationship, know what you are prepared to tolerate and stick to them. When you know your boundaries, you will learn to stick with them. It is hard for some people to understand what their boundaries are. They may have a rough idea, but when another person gets involved, their own boundaries may get blurry and lost. It is worth writing them down for your own clarity. You may discover that zero tolerance will sort out the good, bad and ugly reasonably quickly.
Listen to your gut - don't dismiss your feelings, as soon as you feel them. Learn to listen to it and not ignore it. You will be surprised at how much your intuition tells you when you take the time to listen.
Be active in your relationships. Make sure they know what you want and how you like it. Speak up - often. It's easy to be a passive participant in a relationship. You may find that you morph into the other person. Please remember, you have a right to have your own opinions, likes and dislikes that are different from the other persons. You don't have to be the same as each other to have a good relationship. Be your own person, and enjoy learning about each other.
Be happy to say no and see how he or she responds, especially at the beginning. What happens if you say no? Does the other person respect your choice or 'nag' you until you give in? Do they get mad? If they do react this way, either address it or get out. If you address it and they don't listen then get out.
Don't be too quick to give him or her everything they want. E.g. You don't have to sleep with them on your first date. Let them work for your affections and attention, you don't have to say yes all the time to their every whim.
Take a step back and truly listen to what the other person is saying. Does what they say have an under-ling meaning, manipulation or is it derogatory in some way? Does it make you feel safe and secure or on edge? Sometimes you may not know why it upsets you, but it does. There may be something going on that you are picking up on, but you don't understand what it is so you ignore it. Again, learn to listen to your gut, if something feels off, it often is.
Find red flags and take notice of their behaviours. There are many red flags, I wrote one on coercive control recently, (here is the link). We all have funny quirks, but if there are things that really upset you or make you feel less of a person, demeaned or put down, then discuss them or find out if they lead to a deeper problem.
Listen to your friends. Your friends are a great indicator, ask a few of them what they think about your partner and listen to them. Find people you trust and who will give you an honest answer.
I hope you find this article helpful. Please feel free to share and write a comment below.
If you feel that you are in an abusive relationship, please feel free to contact me or find someone you trust to help you. Some organisations will support you, so google organisations near you.
Read my 'Great Safe Escape blog for more information on leaving an abusive relationship safely.
If you have found this helpful to understand trauma bonding, then please share and link this blog. If you would like to know more about my own personal story, you can buy my book 'Broken To Be Beautiful' here.
Author information: Xenia Schembri
Along with her husband, Simon, are the founders of the charity At the Ark based on the Gold Coast Queensland Australia. Since 2010 At The Ark have supported families whose children have been abused and families impacted by domestic violence.
Previously, Xenia was in a 15-year domestic violent marriage. Xenia has become a voice for the voiceless and has a passion to prove that the past does not have to negatively impact the future, but positively propel anyone to change to their future.
Xenia was Woman of the Year 2020 on the Gold Coast Australia and one of the Westfield's Local Heroes in 2020. She is an international speaker and author of 4 published books. The Brave Little Bear series that equips families with self-protective behaviours and her own story Broken To Be Beautiful.
Here are links to some of her other blogs that you may find interesting.