Dating a Victim of Domestic Violence? What You Should Know and How You Can Help
There is a big difference between a woman who calls herself a victim of domestic violence and one who calls herself a survivor. The survivor most likely has evolved from her experience and shows no signs of having ever been a victim. She has received the support she needed to move on and has taken the necessary changes to live her life to the fullest. However, a victim has not, will not, or doesn't know how to get pass the experience. She may even still call herself, "a victim." Somehow she continues to play the victim in her words and actions with every challenge that comes before her. She hasn't bothered to get the help she needs, and you may be her only counselor.
Women who have been abused don't necessarily get over everything they have gone through in the past. Some of the residue still remains. She may have some strange behaviors that tend to pop up every now and then. If he robbed her, she is possessive about her belongings. If he raped her, then she may have sexual problems. If he choked or smothered her, she may have problems sleeping at night or you touching, staring, or standing over her her while she sleeps. If he lied about his whereabouts a lot, then she will be bothered when you don't say where you are going and how long you will be gone. If he cheated, then she won't trust you when you say "...that woman is just a friend." If he kept her from seeing or talking to family or friends, then she now feels obligated to tell them everything and not pass up an opportunity to attend a family gathering. If he expected her to report to him about everything she does, then she may tell you more than you ever needed or wanted to know or do the complete opposite and appear secretive. If he beat her, then she may flinch if you playfully try to grab her. These are only a small list of some of the things that trigger her misunderstood behaviors.
She may also have some phobias as a result of being in such a life threatening relationship. She may be afraid to go to certain places, avoid certain people and discussions that remind her of her abuser. She may have trust issues because of the many times her abuser violated her. She may not be as affectionate as other women you may have been involved. She may also have problems with budgeting because her abuser may have been very controlling with the finances or she may be domineering about the finances herself. There will be those times that she will appear very strong-minded and other times where she will be extremely sensitive over the simplest of issues. However, despite all of these issues, many women who have been in abusive relationships do well in society. They find the strength to get over many personal obstacles and oftentimes help others see things in relationships that their relatives and friends may have otherwise overlooked.
Going back to the issue of trust, your partner isn't always mindful of her trust issues. You may think that she is deliberately making your life a living hell with all her questions, but some women do this without thinking. They may not have been "called out" on their insecurities prior to meeting you so how do you expect her to be self-aware? If she calls you too much to "check up on you" then say so and let her know you won't always be available to answer her call, if it makes her feel better, let her know when you will be available to talk. If that still doesn't help, and you just so happen to miss calling her, remind her that she should be treating you like how she wants to be treated. Disrespecting you will not be tolerated no matter how many times she tried to call you and you weren't available.
Too often men put themselves in situations that call their character into question such as going out with other women without telling the woman they have made their partner, hiding details of their whereabouts, not being available emotionally, making important decisions without their mate, lying when asked simple questions, etc. When you are with someone who has had an abusive background, she will be more sensitive to what you are doing than most women, because she most likely dealt with these issues with her abuser. You can be a big help to her emotionally by doing two simple things: keep promises and be honest. Let her know what your relationship boundaries are before you think about committing to her for the long-term. An example would be telling her that you don't want the kind of relationship where she acts like your mother rather than a girlfriend. Then list specific examples of the behaviors that are turning you off.
Communication is important in any relationship regardless of what type of experience someone has had prior to entering a new relationship. Without it, you will have trust issues, arguments, repeated break ups and so on. As soon as an issue comes up that bothers you, talk it over in a respectful manner. If she loves you, she will respect you and if you love her you will return the respect.
Being with someone who has been abused requires some degree of patience. You will have to allow her to get to know you through her making mistakes. She may have forgotten that you don't like a certain thing she does, forgive and forget. She may have checked up on something you said you had completed, don't be so easily offended. Be open to mistakes and allow her to learn from them. If you find that she is consistently doing something that is robbing you of feelings for her, then before you break up with her, talk to her about it. See if she can meet you half way, and then sit back and watch her behavior to see if anything changes, if not, then you will have to make the decision to end the relationship. Don't create a scene or do something to get her to break up with you, the last thing you need is a domestic violence situation yourself.
Some formerly abused women tend to be overbearing at times. This may be due to feeling powerless in their past abusive relationship. They want things to go their way, they expect others to do what they say when they say it, they yell instead of talk, and most of all they can be extremely demanding, because they are hard on themselves due to someone being hard on them. When you find your mate is acting this way, once again you will have to talk to them about how it makes you feel, ask them to stop certain mannerisms, and if you are not living with them at the time, don't. Until she understands how you feel about her behavior and have made some serious changes, you will not want to live under her rule. These women have not allowed themselves enough time to heal and they are better off living alone.
Another major concern about women who have not healed from their abusive past is that they may be hiding the fact that they may be equally abusive. Some women turn into abusers themselves. She may have cut herself, threatened to hurt you in some way. If she has children or a pet, you will be able to see signs of whether she is abusive to them. If the children and pet tend to act afraid of her, most likely she has been violent toward them. Look for recent bruises and scars on the children along their face, neck, arms, and legs. Watch how the animal walks, he may have been repeatedly kicked by her and the children. If you are in her home, look for damaged walls and furniture. Sometimes children are responsible for the mess in the home, and if so, then ask yourself the question, "Why would the children ruin the house?" They may be affected by the past or the past is still going on and she just hasn't said anything about it.
Not every woman who has been in an abusive relationship has gone through professional counseling. So be mindful of how she reacts when put under stress, the way she talks to you, and how she handles conflict. If you don't pay close attention to the warning signs, then you will be inheriting an abuser yourself along with her abusive children. Instead of being her lover, be a friend and direct her to some help and if you are spiritual, pray for her and invite her (and the children) to your church, but whatever you do, don't make her feel ashamed for what she has done, belittle, or disrespect her, she has already had enough of that kind of behavior from her abuser.
Nicholl McGuire maintains other blogs including: Laboring to Love an Abusive Mate and Tips Dating Older Men, Younger Women