Re-learning to enjoy simple, often taken-for-granted pleasures
October 10, 2014 1:23 PM   Subscribe

There have been threads about simple pleasures before, but I'm asking as a person fresh-out of an abusive relationship. I feel like I've been missing a lot of the little things that I used to enjoy and even took for granted, and I'm at a loss. I need be aware of simple pleasures in order to recharge myself while I do all of the emotional/psychically/mentally draining work of recovering from all this. Examples after the jump.

Examples: Go somewhere (anywhere) without having to tell anyone or make specific plans. Various creative endeavours (which I need alone-time to get into, and I haven't had much of that without feelings of guilt for quite a while). Meet new people. Plan a trip (even a day trip)-- Something I've avoided even thinking about because when you travel with someone else you're kind of "trapped" with them. Lay in bed and read a book uninterrupted and without being questioned "are you mad at me? what's wrong?" etc. etc. because I must just be reading to avoid you (which, fair enough, has often been the case).

I'm definitely not averse to hearing more general enjoyable activities or small pleasures to recharge and get into the habit of looking after my own needs more.

Thanks! Also.. Yay me! I'm giving myself credit for having the courage and resolve to get this person out of my life. It feels good.
posted by mingo_clambake to Human Relations (19 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine has been doing a project where she photographs something she's grateful for every day. I really like the idea a lot. On a bad day, you can flip back through dozens of photos of things in your life that you love.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:26 PM on October 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

Also, is there a food, color, place, song, anything like that which you like but this person just hated? Eat/wear/visit/listen to all of those things!

When I got out of a roommate relationship that probably at least bordered on abusive, I enjoyed just hanging out and reading in the living room, because he had made the living room in our old apartment together feel like His Space which I was basically tolerated in. I also enjoyed just leaving a dish in the sink if I damn well wanted to; cooking bacon whenever I wanted to (he was a vegan); listening to my weird podcasts in common spaces; and hanging my own art on all of my walls.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:28 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like to sit in nature and just gaze out into my surroundings and let my mind go blank. Very relaxing!
posted by harrietthespy at 1:41 PM on October 10, 2014

Buying nice, comfortable things for yourself (bed sheets, bathrobes, toiletries, food items you like, etc.) without having to justify or explain the expense?
posted by bleep at 1:41 PM on October 10, 2014

Cook yourself a meal made entirely of things you love (love to cook + love to eat) and not have to answer to anybody else's preferences, criticism, or requirements. (And/or get your favorite takeout, all for you.)

Re-claim your intimate personal space. Re-org the bathroom so things are where you want them. Get new hand towels and a different scent of hand soap.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:41 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Listen to Joni Mitchell's song Hejira, including the lyrics:

In our possessive coupling, so much could not be expressed
So now I am returning to myself these things that you and I suppressed.

I sang that over and over to myself after my divorce.
posted by janey47 at 1:41 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh - and YAY YOU! Seriously!!!
posted by harrietthespy at 1:41 PM on October 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Find some song that you absolutely loved as a teenager (or any time) and BLAST it in an enclosed space, like a car or room.
posted by Melismata at 1:43 PM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

First, congratulations. This is amazing! I'm proud of you.

I've found that learning who I am and what I like has been an evolving process. I'm two years out and I am still learning about things I like and what brings me peace and happiness. At first, I defined all of those things in relation to my abuser, even though we were no longer together. "I'm going to go out for dinner with friends on a Tuesday because he would never have allowed that," or "I'm joining a book club because he said that fiction reading was a waste of my time." Those kinds of things - very reactionary. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, at all, because I think I was so used to defining myself in his terms that it was very natural to keep doing that, just in the opposite direction.

It is only recently, maybe the past six months or so, that I've been able to do things that I like simply because I like and enjoy them without relating them to my abuser in some way. To that end, I would suggest keeping a journal, first and foremost, because journaling has been an excellent way for me to track how I feel about things on my own, without even thinking of that man that controlled me and my time so fully.

I did get a cat right after I left my abuser and that was huge for me and my recovery. You might consider getting a little creature to take care of it that is up your alley.

Things that I personally like? Sitting outside watching the birds. Sitting on the couch with my cat and petting her until she's a jellyfishing mass of bliss. Reading interesting fiction. Taking hot baths. Making elaborate, high-calorie meals and eating them by myself. Baking. Knitting. Going to yoga class. Playing video games. Riding my bike around town. One thing that I know about myself now that I did not realize when I was with my abuser is that I am introverted and I like doing things on my own. So I do push myself to do some non-solitary activities at least once a week. Right now, that is yoga class and going to a cooking class, but sometimes it can just be walking to the nearby coffee shop and sitting outside with my laptop and getting some work done while I am in the presence of others.

Think of this as a lovely, unfolding learning process. You are now in a relationship with yourself, so get to know your own life's little pleasures. Have fun. And congrats again.
posted by sockermom at 2:07 PM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


When I got out of a bad relationship, I slowly started doing things that I missed or had done with my partner but I added a little twist to make them mine again. Have a bar you used to go to, find a new bar. Have a meal you love, cook it and throw in a special ingredient you hadn't tried before.

I found that I had to distract my brain a lot. So I switched from the dry nonfiction books had I read to tawdry spy novels. I found new music and enjoyed it without shame—even having one person dance parties. I found new podcasts that entertained me and walked around my neighborhood. I took more baths with fun additions (bubbles or bath bombs or even just a candle).

Could you have a goal for each week for how many things you're doing for yourself? There may be lots of little things (smaller than trips or enjoying lounging/reading) that you're probably already doing. Maybe it's a tiny delight in adding as much pepper you want or simply smiling when you wake up. Do what you can now. Start by really trying to notice the small things and build up from that.

You're awesome. You can so do this.
posted by JackBurden at 2:07 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Good for you!!
You can even read things that might reflect poorly on them, please feel free to do so (romances, self help, whatever).
Get a nice swim suit and go swimming or even just hang out in the hot tub if you don't like swimming.
Get a massage, choose an opposite sex massage therapist if you want to.
And when their ghosts creep into your head and comment on your actions have a list of appropriate phrases to ward them off with... Fuck off; Bite me; If I give you a straw will you go stuck all the joy out of someone else's day?.
Enjoy yourself!
Oh! And cut your hair or grow it long or wear it up or down or whatever they wouldn't approve of.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:17 PM on October 10, 2014

Yes, good for you!

Not relevant to abusive relationships necessarily, but things I do when I'm single/miss a lot when I'm dating:

1) Getting whatever hair cut/color I want, without worrying if it's a boner-killer
2) Sitting in a cafe sipping coffee and eating from the menu while reading a book... no worries where hypothetical BF is, when he's getting off work, if we're spending "quality time," &c.
3) Spending TONS of time with my family
4) Making the decor in my apartment truly mine
posted by stoneandstar at 2:52 PM on October 10, 2014

Get a bicycle, and/or if you already have one, ride it every day the weather allows. At first, shorter rides; but make sure you always have a portion that's down-hill riding. Coasting down a hill's when I feel the most free, hope you will too.
posted by Rash at 2:55 PM on October 10, 2014


When I got out of an abusive relationship a while back, one of the things I really enjoyed was going out to eat at a nice restuarant with a book for company. It was just delightful to me that I could sit, eat a meal, order whatever I wanted, enjoy the time between courses, people-watch, and not have to talk to a single. goddamn. human besides the wait staff.

I also enjoyed taking naps whenever I damn well felt like it.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:42 PM on October 10, 2014

Earlier this evening a neighbor of mine told me she swims 2 or 3 times a week in the pool at the gym for an hour with some kind of waterproof headphones and music. It sounds very appealing.

Me, I go for a walk every morning in a beautiful park.
posted by mareli at 6:34 PM on October 10, 2014

My simple pleasures:

The taste of chocolate almond biscotti dipped in expensive earl grey tea
Eating microwaved P.F. Chang's leftovers for breakfast
Roaming the halls of the local contemporary art museum on a weekday and buying a kitschy souvenir
Dancing my heart out at some club on 80s night
Scribbling poetry on a restaurant paper napkin
Re-reading my favorite novel (The Master and Margarita) and discovering something new and magical
Giving myself permission to buy something absolutely, delightfully extravagant for me

I wish you well in this wonderful new chapter of your life.
posted by tackypink at 9:03 PM on October 10, 2014

Yes! Go you!

And this one is definitely your mileage may vary depending on what kinds of things you like to do, but I LOVE spending all day going down a long research rabbit hole. I start with something obscure and interesting on Wikipedia (demoscene, Mongolian Death Worm, the history of Spiritualism, lost gold mines in the Southwest, Gordian knots, whatever) and follow it as far and deep and I can and want to. Sometimes I look up and it's six o'clock and I've learned all about a thing and no one's interrupted me all day.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:07 AM on October 11, 2014

Eat whatever you want. Fill your shopping basket with things only you like. Have ice cream for breakfast and goats cheese on apples (or PopTarts!) for dinner.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:51 AM on October 12, 2014

Thanks for the ideas and encouragement (I've been pretty damn isolated, so the support from people who are basically strangers means a lot to me).

soccermom's advice about eventually just do things for myself, not in reference of what I was or wasn't allowed to do, is well-heeded...Though I think I am definitely going to go through that phase. One thing I came up with is snuggling with my 2 cats under the covers (he was weird about the sheets being completely free of pet hair, and initially didn't even want them to let them into our bedroom, knowing how important that was to me).

Anyways, here's my list so far, including general things and things specifically I didn't do because I had lost myself in the relationship (even a lot of the "general things" have been been associated with the bad relationship, and I want to consciously take them back-- the barriers to fully enjoying them again are in parentheses, also to illustrate just just how narrow one's life can become in an abusive relationship)

-leisurely drink my coffee while solving a crossword or two every morning, even if it means waking up well before dawn (usually associated with guilt-trips that I didn't snuggle him enough upon waking in the morning)
-take an aimless walk (something I often did just to avoid him or leave the house when I felt unsafe being there)
-Draw (no "alone time" and if he was in the other room I still felt inhibited because I fundamentally felt like I couldn't be myself) including re-starting my index-a-day thingy. The attention I got for that would be a welcome ego-boost.
-Play music (which I also need to reclaim as my own because busking has been a means of supporting myself in transitional times- although it's enjoyable, some times it's just so tiring to have to hustle)
-Dress up nicely (later in the relationship I stopped wearing nicer things because there was a significant amount of sexual coercion and me wearing anything remotely sexy just made that worse)
-hiking or going out into nature and birdwatching or just sitting and taking it in (he supposedly also enjoys this, so would feel left-out and resentful if I did that by myself-- he would never admit that, but it's the plain truth, and he'd take it out on me one way or another)
-exercising (was always awkward, he'd try to give me unsolicited advice despite being really out of shape himself and doing nothing about it, or making sexual comments "I know of another way you could exercise those muscles.."
-treat myself to something, however small (I've always been bad about this, has nothing to do with him, really)
-Listen to music out loud (I don't have specific things I know he hates, because I knew anything could annoy him if he wasn't in the mood for it. And also, when I took to listening things on headphones, he would badger me and try to make me feel bad about not sharing my interests in him)
-LEARN; listen to teaching company lectures or informative podcasts or read non-fiction books (without then feeling obligated to become a sudden teacher on the subject, again because I'm "not sharing my interests" and excluding him)
-Play with my cats! and snuggles! And putting my ear on their bellies to listen to them purr! (he would get jealous of my cats if I fell asleep cuddling them instead of him, for instance)
-Watch a movie or go to a concert (without feeling obliged to invite him, despite knowing it wouldn't be something he'd enjoy-- again, "excluding him")
-Wildcrafting or practising primitive skills (again things he is supposedly interested in and would feel upset about me doing it without him)
-TMI maybe, but I have no shame about it: Masturbate! Without guilt! Without secrecy! (He would take note of the position of the bedspread, sheets, whether or not my vibrator was plugged in or not and it's exact location, and if it was a couple inches askew he would barrage me with questions like "am i not good enough?" "I understand why you don't feel close to me, but don't you ever just want to fuck?" eventually spiralling into "you don't love me, I'm unlovable, I should just kill myself" ARRRGH SO INFURIATING!)
-Make something to decorate the house & make it mine (I've already done that a lot, but specifically I want to make my sleeping-area more fort-like by building a geodesic dome out of cardboard in the bedroom-- I think that counts as "reclaiming intimate spaces" Lyn Never!)
-Enjoy cooking & eating a meal, whatever I want, and revel in not sharing it with anyone (I'm a pretty damn good cook, so I can't think of anything I make that he doesn't like and which I miss but just not having to check if he's hungry, what he feels like, or if I just want to make a half-assed snack for myself or fulfill one of my random cravings like eating a pound of frozen blueberries while lounging in a way-too-hot bath)
-Garden/plan a garden (another thing he is interested in but would over-think everything to the point of actually doing nothing. ever.)
-Go to the library (another thing I associate with avoiding him & trying to find a safe, public space)
-BoscosMom, I AM readiing books, openly, that would reflect bad on him without having to hide it from anyone, just checked out "getting free" and have read "why does he do that" (which I highly recommend!" and other books by lundy, which have helped me mentally prepare for all of this-- though those I had to hide in the relationship)
-Riding my bicycle more is definitely on the agenda, Rash.
-Go grocery shopping, taking as much time as I goddamn want (He would always take his time when he wanted, but always rushed me when I wanted to do it more leisurely. Actually, wait, he never really did grocery shopping besides buying junk food for himself-- He did before I became intimate with him, and I know he would take forever)
-not having my room/house smell like weed!!! (he agreed not to do it around me, but ended up doing it constantly, literally every 2 hours at least, all day, every day, eventually not even bothering to go outside)
-baking myself some nice treats to savor occasionally (I would sometimes eat stuff like that faster than I normally would, lest he eat way more than his share and consequently feel frustrated that he ate it so fast he couldn't have possibly appreciated the work that went into it)
-take more photos - just generally, and also as showbiz_liz suggested
-start a fire and sit by it, doing nothing
-do more woodworking projects
-write music (i've always felt inhibited doing this while others are watching/listening, probably always will)

Thanks for all the ideas and support, everyone!
posted by mingo_clambake at 3:13 PM on October 13, 2014 [5 favorites]

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