When I am working with my clients that have recently left an abusive relationship with a narcissist there is something that they have in common.
They either want to jump right back into the dating pool as if nothing happened or they fear that they will never trust someone again. There doesn’t seem to be any in-between, it’s one or the other.
At first, this surprised me because when I left my narcissistic abusive relationship I never wanted to date again for the first few months. But, I also can completely see why you would want to distract yourself with a new relationship after being in such a toxic one.
Here are some things you should know about dating right after a narcissistic abusive relationship.
#1. You are going to struggle to trust
In the aftermath of my relationship with a narcissist, I felt like I would never believe that intentions could be pure without manipulation behind them.
After seeing how truly dark someone’s heart could be it opened my eyes to the reality that not all people are good. As someone who had been taught to believe the best in everyone, it was a harsh awakening.
Yet after some time and extensive therapy I was able to accept that everyone wasn’t out to hurt me and slowly start letting them in. Some good that came from this is that I now vet the people in my life instead of just letting anyone walk through my doors.
#2. You may project your past experiences
About a year after things ending with the narcissist I began dating again. At first, things were fine, but the moment I started getting close to someone I would absolutely freak out.
One date ended in me saying things that didn’t apply to the man at all. Thoughtful and kind, he was baffled as I told him things that would have only applied to my narcissistic ex.
When you go through trauma you can start reliving the past and projecting the past on people who had nothing to do with what happened. The reality is that my words were not a reflection of my date, they were all things I was projecting from my past relationship.
#3. There may be waves of anger that come and go
When I am working with my clients, anger is always something that always comes up in our sessions.
Anger because they allowed themselves to spend years loving someone who abused them. Anger because they feel like they were, “fooled” by the narcissist’s mask. Anger because they can’t seem to move on and let go of what happened.
This is completely normal and on some weeks/days you will feel it more than others. It is okay to be angry but eventually, you have to begin letting go of that anger. Holding on to it only leaves the power in the narcissist’s hand as it allows them to still have a hold on your emotions.
#4. You may feel like you are detached in certain moments
When you are in traumatic moments dissociation can happen. At times it’s our body's way of protecting ourselves so that we can feel like the abuse didn’t even happen.
This doesn’t just go away when you are out of an abusive relationship. As much as we can want to feel “normal” again our emotional beings just went through absolute hell.
There were moments when I should have been, “happy” but instead, I felt like I was just watching myself from afar. From the outside things looked normal but inside, I didn’t feel anything. That was one of the most terrifying things after the abuse. I wondered if I would ever feel… anything again.
#5. You are going to be fully capable of loving again
For three years now I have been in a wonderful relationship with the most amazing man I have ever met. Every day I am astounded by how much he brings to the table.
Months into our relationship we told each other that we loved each other. Although I meant it at that time, part of me was holding back. Because… how did I know if he was any different? If he was different, could I even fully love anyone again after what I had gone through?
I’m happy to report that I love even more whole-heartedly than I ever did in the past. No one is going to be able to take away your capacity to love unless you let them. That is a power that no one deserves to have.
Dating after narcissistic abuse is very possible. My final advice is this… take all the time you need. Don’t feel like you need to jump into a new relationship and take the time to heal and focus on yourself.
If I hadn’t done those things, I truly do not believe that I would have been able to have a healthy relationship and that I would have fallen into old patterns.