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I’ve never been in an abusive relationship of any kind; I know, I’ve been incredibly lucky. But tragically, many women can’t make that claim: One out of three will be victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. And 20 percent of women report being sexually assaulted or abused as a child. And this abuse takes its toll in unique and terrifying ways.

This week, Amanda writes in with a question about how to get past the abuse she’s suffered to form a lasting relationship with a man. I consult Arlington-based counselor, Patricia Ramsey, to give Amanda some advice on how to start healing so she can begin forming healthy relationships and find lasting love.

Amanda writes:

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I’m stuck in a dating rut and hope you can help.

As a thirty-something woman (no children) I’m looking forward to settling down soon. Like most girls, it has been my lifelong dream to get married! I have suffered from abuse all my life, but need to learn how to trust. I want to love!

But every time I consider a relationship the same thing happens. The man changes, becoming secretive, distant, promiscuous, and mean towards me, while remaining interested in me. I lose trust and want to walk away, but I feel pressured and expected to “chase” them. They treat me mean to keep me keen, not realizing it totally destroys me. I lose out every time.

I think somehow my aunt (and relatives) meddle…she holds a strong longstanding grudge against me finding love and somehow I think she influences suitors to change their behavior…to deprive me of their trust and love.

When this happens, it breaks the intimacy and makes me hate them. But I feel forced to accept it, or lest be single. That way my abuse history never gets told as well, so I never feel special to anyone. 

I want to be loved, but I’m not sure how to break free of this rut. I’m scared I never will.

Developing trust is no easy task. Even for those of us who have never suffered from abuse, we have our own set of issues and insecurities that keep us from being able to open our hearts and minds completely.

Ramsey says that the first thing Amanda has to do is develop trust in herself, and she needs to do that before she considers getting into another relationship; she needs to heal her past wounds.

“Until she does that, the next relationship will just be version number 17 of the first one,” said Ramsey. “That’s really where she has to begin. And she has to honor who she has become. Who she has become is a result of all that she’s experienced.”

This is an opportunity, explains Ramsey, to rewrite her story, and make Amanda the heroine and not the victim. “Because as it stands, she keeps repeating that victim role.”

So, step one: Amanda has to go back to the original source of the abuse and work through that trauma with a counselor, says Ramsey.

“Abuse is all about losing trust, losing trust in the ones who were supposed to care for you, and losing trust in yourself for not defending yourself or feeling worthy. First, Amanda has to learn how to trust herself — she has to learn how to love herself before anyone else will love her in the way the she deserves to be loved.”

Ramsey says that when abuse victims begin to heal from their past, the rest of their life falls into place. Only then, do they develop self-love and self-care, which are essential to forming lasting, healthy relationships.

A good place to start the journey is with professional counseling. Lena Pope and The Women’s Center of Tarrant County both offer affordable counseling options in Fort Worth.

Amanda, I know it’s hard (and so very scary) to get started, but you’re absolutely worth it. Because we’ve only got one life to live, and in that big beautiful adventure, you deserve love that doesn’t wilt or waiver. And most importantly, you need to love the incredible person you are — from head to toe — with all your imperfections and past history, because she is going to be a great mother, wife, and advocate for other women who have been victims of abuse and won the war. And don’t forget my dear, you’re not alone in the journey.

As always, please write to me with your questions on love, relationships, and life at: xsandoscolumn@gmail.com.

XOXO

Sarah

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