One of the hardest things about being an abuse survivor is starting a new relationship. I lucked out with my current boyfriend. He’s amazing, super patient, and extremely understanding. About 6 months into our relationship I thought I had screwed up and we’d be done. He was over at my house visiting. I was putting the clothes in the dryer and he was trying to be helpful. He saw me struggling for a minute and he just gave me a suggestion. A “why don’t you” which was completely harmless on his part. It wasn’t a bad suggestion and he was really just trying to be helpful. I snapped at him. It was a defense response. I was so used being told I was doing things wrong. I was used to being told exactly what I needed to do and how it needed to be done. He kind of just looked at me a minute and put his head down. I felt like such an asshole. He walked away and when I finished what I was doing I met up with him in the kitchen and apologized. I explained what happened and why I snapped. I explained that I knew he was just trying to help and then I apologized again. I really expected him to tell me I was crazy and that he didn’t want to date me anymore. Honestly, being told I’m crazy was what I was used to, I’m sure that’s why I expected it. What I didn’t expect was for him to smile at me and hug me. What I didn’t expect was for him to tell me it was ok and then tell me he loved me. It’s not what I expected, but that’s what he did.
Things like this happen far more often than I’d like. I haven’t snapped at him again since that day though, so that is a plus. I’m growing and learning. He certainly makes it easier because he so understanding, but not everyone is as understanding as he is. My ex* (A2) was not. Granted, my ex (A2) was also an abuser, so there’s that. I should have seen the signs ahead of time. The patterns were very similar when I look back. When he would say something that triggered me I tried to speak up. I would tell him sorry and why I acted like I did. His response was always the same. He’d get mad and tell me he’s not A1 and that I need to realize this and deal with my shit. I believed him for so long. I figured, he was right, it wasn’t HIS problem. Oh how wrong I was. We were in a relationship. It should have been OUR problem. HE should have helped me through. He should have listened and validated my feelings. Instead, he made me feel even more horrible.
Because of A2 I have to start over with starting over. I now have 2 sets of triggers. Some I deal with better than others, some I really struggle with. I was so afraid of being in another relationship. I even declined my current boyfriend’s offer of being official when he asked me. I realized, when he simply said that when and if I was ever ready to let him know, that I needed to take that chance. Starting over is hard, but when you have someone who actually does help you through, it makes it a bit easier to cope.
* NOTE: I’ve been in two abusive relationships. My ex husband and my last ex. They weren’t back to back and even though I left my ex husband over 10 years ago, certain things still trigger me. For the purpose of retellings, I’m going to refer to my ex husband as A1 and my last ex as A2 (for abuser 1 and abuser 2).