How to discuss my past abusive relationship?
October 28, 2013 1:49 PM Subscribe
About five months ago, I left a verbal abuser and moved back to my hometown. I've managed to recover from most of the issues I posted about in my last AskMes. I'm seriously looking for work and have made some healthy friendships. If I'm pretty close to someone, I feel that disclosing my relationship history is part of getting to know them. Especially since my relationship and recovery have led me on a markedly different life path.
posted by Rainflower to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The other night I went out to dinner with a guy that I am getting to be good friends with. I've known him for about three months and we hang out all the time, alone and with other people. He brought up a couple of issues I had told him I was insecure about. These issues would be considered minor by most people, but the reason I'm insecure is that these were two things my abusive ex raged at me for, creating PTSD. When other people notice them, I become triggered. I'm really aware of it and have been working on it with EMDR, and I've gotten a lot better.
The reason my friend brought this up was because he wanted to tell me that I shouldn't be feeling insecure about these things. He was trying to bolster my confidence, and I appreciated that. I tried to explain to him that even though those two things were kind of trivial and not really something I should feel bad about, I did because of the torture my ex had put me through over them.
But during the conversation, it became apparent to me that my friend didn't understand the phenomenon of "triggering." My impression was that he thought I had been so in love with my ex that I didn't have a mind of my own during the relationship, and bought into the things my ex told me because of how important he was to me. This wasn't the case. I felt trapped in the relationship and tried to fight all my ex's negativity, but abuse is abuse, and it affected me anyway.
Part of this conversation involved my friend nearly demanding to know whether or not I would ever want to be in a relationship like that again. I was surprised that he would think that was even a remote possibility, and I assured him that I'd never be with a guy like my ex again. I was kind of hurt because I thought I'd made that obvious all along and I felt like maybe my friend hadn't been listening.
I also felt bad that he seemed to think of me as spineless and I tried to explain what abuse, PTSD, and triggering were all about. He apologized profusely for making me feel bad and told me he didn't think of me that way. I didn't hold it against him at all. It seems like it might not be that unusual for people like me to be misunderstood that way by those who have never gone through it.
This led me to realize that I have to learn to talk about the abuse I experienced, and its aftermath, in a way that doesn't make me look like a mindless sycophant who was blinded by love to believe the most ridiculous things about herself. But how? If you've never experienced this yourself, is there a way someone could explain it where you would still respect them even though they had been in that kind of relationship?
Also, do you think that this is something I should bring up again and try to explain to my friend, or just leave it alone and hope one attempt was enough?