Anger after violence?
March 30, 2018 11:29 PM   Subscribe

After a violent relationship, I'm finally ready to date again, but have noticed that I'm afraid of conflict. How can I fix this?

That's basically the entire question, but I should probably add more context (since this is anonymous.) A while back, I was in a terrible relationship that made me take myself out of the dating pool for a while in order to regroup. I'm back, and in a situation that I very much like, but I'm upset to find that I'm not quite over the past situation.

In general, I'm someone that doesn't shy away from conflict. I think that it's necessary, and often a way to understand someone better. But I'm very frustrated to report that the combination of conflict and romance is something that continues to set off some deep defensive response. Basically, I cower, and become very, very small, and hope that it will pass, even though my current partner is not violent or a threat.

It's pretty clear to me why this is happening. I'd like to get over it. Do any of you have reading recommendations to help me do so? I'm not therapy adverse, but I like processing things through reading and writing. If therapy is the best answer, I can make an appointment with the one I have on hold.

Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you trust your partner? Have they shown that they’re patient, affirming, able to cope constructively with perceived criticism, and that they’re not going to attack you for having expectations (requests, “demands”)? (Put another way, have they shown that they’re impatient, hot tempered, conflict-seeking, defensive, stubborn, unwilling to accept influence? WRT relationships with friends and family, too.)

If there’s trust, enlist them in this project. Let them know about your background and tell them that you want to be free to be honest about your feelings, and not worry that you’ll get a hostile response. (They should want this too, because the alternative means having a resentful, miserable partner.) So maybe you could ask that if you are struggling for words - maybe you could agree on some sign - they could encourage you along with some gentle questions, and perhaps make an effort to communicate to you that they’re not a threat, and reassure you that they care for and respect you.

(You really need to feel safe to do this. If you’re not sure, give yourself time to see how they are in many different situations.)

Writing is great, but I really think it helps to be able to practice this stuff in real time/life. (Someone might say that’s putting it on the other person... I guess it is a bit, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing necessarily. We heal through relationships, interdependence is the point of them, I’m sure it’ll go back to them some other way in time, and it’s a small kindness. Not a lot to ask of a partner.)

Gottman’s books have practical tips on approaching communication and conflict.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:44 AM on March 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hey if you already have a therapist lined up, go talk to them. Helping people with stuff like this is right in their wheelhouse. It's probably not the whole answer, but if "get therapy" is actually pretty easy for you, you should definitely do it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:36 AM on March 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've been there; I'm still there. Conflict in a romantic relationship makes me literally start shaking like a leaf and also make myself small. Honestly, for me, the only thing that has helped was therapy: talking it out and processing it. I did not ever find that enlisting a partner worked for me as suggested above, but ymmv.

Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 7:20 AM on March 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Take courses or read books about non-violent communication - this exists - get the skills you need to operate in relationship to others in emotionally healthy ways. Then use your skills. Dump potential relationship partners that don't share your skills, have a sincere desire to acquire these skills, or put them to practical use in relationship with you.
posted by jbenben at 11:17 AM on March 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

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