How to enjoy a healthy relationship after experiencing abuse

Here’s the thing, I never thought I would ever be in a healthy relationship, in all honesty I had no idea what that even meant. From 18, I was in and out of abusive relationships for 11 years. Ranging from physical abuse, sexual coercion, rape and emotional abuse and all through out this time watching my friends and people I knew having stable, healthy, normal relationships. The friends and couples that would go on vacations together, spend weekends enjoying each others company, going on dates, and arguments that would pale in significance. The friends I would go out for dinner with and catch up about life with, and have to make up how 'normal' my relationship was and sugar coat my life to fit in. All the while having crippling anxiety and a feeling of fear I was going to eternally be unhappy. If anyone relates to this, and you know what I am talking about- I feel you sister! (it's one hell of a crappy feeling)

I would constantly look at myself in the mirror and question why me? I would look long and hard at myself and just feel perplexed as to why my life felt so dysfunctional. Why was I so incapable of having the ‘normal’?

This was all made worse by constantly striving to have that normal (which I didn’t even know how to get.. the irony is not lost on me here!) trying to date in between the abusive relationships- (drinking through many dates, as a way of escapism, as I didn’t want to be on any of them) in the hope I would find the man who would finally love me (I mean… no comment here) and not hurt me (not asking for much..) Did my flaunt on multiple dating apps in between abusive relationships find me the man of my dreams? Did it F*&$! and of course I wouldn’t. Each man that abused me, I didn’t want them to leave me- I would only jump on tinder and the likes to try and distract myself, all the while hoping my abusing ex would message me and come back to me. Worst of all, I would look through dating apps trying to find someone who looked like the men that abused me. Looking for the one that actually looked like he would be the ‘bad boy’ …. Why? Because I knew nothing else. It was what I recognised and what was comfortable to me. So all those times I felt I was attracting the wrong time and told I had no luck with men... ye no shit Sherlock... but its not your fault and that's my first piece of advice.

1. Don't blame yourself for not 'attracting' the right men and don't compare yourself to others having the perceived 'norm'. If you have been abused, experienced trauma of any kind, you have been scared and are vulnerable to people taking advantage of you. You deserve to be loved, you are precious. you are wonderful. Please remember that, the next time you feel alone and not normal... we've got you.

So, the above sounds doom and gloom (I promise I am going on to happier times in the next posts…) but I was miserable in my 20s, It wasn’t a happy time for me. However, I don’t regret one moment of it. I am resilient as f*^&, I am not sheltered and I have truly experienced emotions that mean I have an appreciation for life that only those who almost lost their life can have. Finally, the reason for I am Arla is to impart that learning to others so they can learn a bit faster than me and cushion their lessons a little. This is where this series comes in, real life ⁠confessions of a once single, hopeless romantic, trauma survivor navigating the world to meet mr right (and all the faux pas of dating apps that came along with it)' ⁠

I hope you can relate and learn and take what you can from this and together we can master the next phase of your life together, as friends and survivors.

Love always angels, Devika xx

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