It’s difficult to love again after abuse.
There may be compassionate and kind people who come into our life, but learning to trust them can seem nearly impossible. Or we settle for anything better than our past relationships—even if they aren’t great and we don’t truly feel a connection. They’re just someone less toxic than our abuser.
There are several things each one of us needs to face and do before we can truly feel in love. Of course, we can be messy and struggling during our healing. We can be loved by others even while imperfect. I don’t believe we need to fully love ourselves to be loved.
But, in order to feel love again after abuse, we need to work on these three things.
Learning to Love Again Requires Acceptance
I talk a bunch about acceptance all over my blog because it is truly one of the most important concepts we can learn. It’s freeing, empowering, and brings so much peace.
Healing from abuse requires a specific type of acceptance.
It’s not about being okay with what happened or forgiving your abuser. It’s about acknowledging the past cannot change and accepting the ways it still affects you today.
You should still take action to change and improve its impact, but also recognize—in the moment—this particular feeling is your reality and that is okay.
Acceptance is a key part of learning to love again. When we accept our past was traumatic (and acknowledge we can’t change that fact), it will be easier to find partners who also accept this.
Acceptance helps us boldly live our truth, meaning people who love us for our whole truth will come forward. Authenticity drives connection.
If you want to unlock the healing power of acceptance after abuse, come join the Prosperity Path program here too!
The Power You’re About to Unleash
Acceptance also helps you handle fear and stress when entering a new relationship. It’s about honoring your experience in each moment. So when fear comes up, you can simply choose to feel it.
This is healing because you’re no longer berating yourself or thinking something is wrong with you for feeling afraid in a new relationship. Past relationships were traumatic. It makes sense you feel this way.
Acceptance was critical to surviving the first few months after moving in with my fiancée. It was an exciting life change, but one I also felt terrified for. This was the first time I’d lived with anyone (platonic or romantic!) since experiencing domestic violence…so my PTSD was pretty active.
Naturally, because of these feelings, there were times I wanted nothing to do with my partner. I wanted space from her, I felt nervous falling asleep together.
I knew moving in together was safe and positive, so this reaction was purely coming from my past. Serena, my fiancée, is an amazing person and has always been super supportive, but I couldn’t really explain to her what I was feeling and why.
After all, who wants to hear their partner wants a ton of space from them…right after making the decision to move in together?
So I turned to acceptance. I let the feelings I felt—numbness, fear, repulsion—be a part of my experience. I didn’t try to fight them, but rather listened to them as best I could and let them pass on their own time.
Within about a month and a half, they barely appeared anymore. And it was easier to handle these feelings even after one day of practicing acceptance.
That’s the beauty of using this for difficult emotions. So, when you’re in a great relationship but love is masked by tough feelings arising from past trauma, practice acceptance.
How Self-Empowerment will Help You Love Again
Learning to love again is also about becoming strong in your relationships. Learning to assert your needs, set boundaries, and stand up for yourself.
This is naturally a long process and it’s okay to be imperfect at it. Try anyways. A supportive partner will give you space to be a little messy with this.
Often, communicating that you’re a survivor of abuse, as soon as you start to get serious, will help them better listen and respond to your boundaries. If they don’t respond well, leave. (While making space for them to make the occasional mistake, of course!)
Boundaries are a hugely important part of learning to love again—so be sure to read this blog on them here.
But, on this page, I want to focus on something else. How choices empower you.
The Power of Personal Choice
Basically, the foundation of empowerment is recognizing you have the ability to choose what you do with your life. Obviously, we can’t choose how things around us impact us (like a person choosing to abuse us or the manifestation of our PTSD symptoms). But, we can choose how to respond to this.
And simply acknowledging that we can make a choice is empowering.
When you’re in a new relationship, fear will come up. That’s normal. Your brain is telling you, “Hey, we’ve been in a relationship before and it didn’t end well.”
But, now you know this relationship has the potential to be wonderful—so you’ve chosen to seek it anyways.
Acknowledge this. Literally tell yourself, “I am choosing to seek love again, even when it feels scary.” You are choosing to face this fear for the long term benefit of companionship. Notice this and you’ll feel more empowered.
Decisions feel safer every time you acknowledge you were the one to make a choice. You’ll be more comfortable, even if the choice itself is overwhelming.
Try practicing this technique with small things too. Like “I am choosing to get out of bed, even though I’m tired.” Or “I’m choosing to go to work, even though I don’t want to.” Bonus if you list one positive reason why you’re making that choice. One way your choice helps you.
Want to see whether empowerment is something you struggle with? Take this quiz!
Why You Need to Envision Your Perfect Partner
Once you’ve begun practicing acceptance (of your past situations and present emotions) and empowerment, you’re ready to really start dreaming of the perfect relationship.
Now, I know there is a stigma (especially in survivors) about wanting a perfect partner. We know, firsthand, how imperfect people can be. We also want love in our lives and are, more often than not, willing to settle for someone who’s okay…but not great for us. I’ve been there and so have a lot of my clients.
But, having a clear idea of what is okay in a partner and what’s not okay for you, is critical towards learning to love again. And ensuring it will be a good experience.
Because if you see something that contradicts your dream, then you can walk away with a guilt-free heart. They weren’t the right person for you.
The key with this is noticing ways you settle for less than you deserve. Think of what your perfect partner would be like (at least in personality and how they treat you). Then ask, “What am I settling for now…but isn’t something I truly want?”
Like maybe you really want a partner who regularly texts and chats with you, but you’re settling for someone who just responds to your messages. Because that’s better than being ignored.
Or perhaps you want a partner who asks consent before any slightly intimate move, but you settle for someone who asks consent once. Because that’s better than not asking at all.
The clearer you are on what you truly want in a partner, the easier it will be to find this person.
You’ll Find Love Again—I’m Certain
It can be terrifying to begin dating or building any close relationships, even friendships, after abuse. And, often, when we try…we end up in relationships that aren’t good for us either. Not abusive, but not great either.
This is often due to not having done the steps described above first. Learn to set boundaries and know what you’re just settling for, so you can walk away from those relationships and towards the ones you really want.
It takes courage to do all this work. To face our past and how it impacts us, to set boundaries around it, and to give love a chance. But, if you do this work, you will find love again. I’m entirely certain of it.
There is someone waiting to show you how much they love you.
So, my friend, how would someone wonderful treat you? Comment below! I’d absolutely love to hear what your dream partner would be like.
And remember, if love is a big stressor right now, you can always get some support here in this Facebook group too! <3