How These Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence Are Healing Through New Relationships

My therapist taught me, though, that the only way you can learn to trust and love is to be in community with others. You need to learn how to ask for your needs to be met, and how to have healthy conflicts and resolve them. You can’t do that by yourself. You can’t just go home and meditate and all of a sudden become a really social person. That’s not how that works.” —Stephanie Foo, author of What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma

“I try to cultivate relationships with people as committed to healing as I am.”

“In healing from abuse, I’ve learned to take note of who is actively and enthusiastically committed to healthy communication, unlearning harmful beliefs, and interrogating their own thoughts and behaviors. We all make mistakes, but who’s willing to admit that and do better? I try to cultivate relationships with people as committed to healing as I am.

That commitment may look different depending on a person’s own mental health struggles and journey, so patience is key with some people. But I don’t stop myself from distancing myself from others who are not actively trying to build safe, healthy, secure relationships. It can be a form of self-preservation to limit certain people’s access to you.” —J

“I’ve learned that I can ask for help and not feel guilty.”

“Once I started getting to know new people better, I felt confident in telling some of them more details of my abusive relationship. This was helpful because I could then explain that I may need support from them, which sometimes looked like a friend pointing out that I was being very self-protective.

For a long time, I believed that it was normal not to trust people, to think everyone is out for your resources or that people will not help you when you are in need. Since surviving abuse, I’ve learned that I can ask for help and not feel guilty, and that I don’t just exist to benefit and entertain others—I exist to love and be loved.” —K

“I know now that I deserve to have my needs met.”

“One of the most important things for me to feel safe in my relationships is being honest and straightforward. Especially as a neurodivergent person, it’s really jarring when I get the impression someone isn’t saying what they mean. So recognizing emotions and responding honestly is something I now hold my loved ones accountable for, and I encourage them to do the same with me.

Another thing I’ve learned through relationships is that if I’m upset during physical intimacy, I don’t have to keep going. I can stop. I used to have panic attacks mid-sex and hide it from my partner because I was embarrassed—they were often related to flashbacks from my abuse. Now I feel empowered with my partners to say, ‘Hey, I need a break,’ or, ‘I need to stop,’ and if that’s a problem then they don’t deserve my time or vulnerability. I know now that I deserve to have my needs met.” —E

“In healthy relationships, there is two-way open communication.”

“Boundary-setting has been absolutely vital for me. With my current partners, I try to set boundaries for things that might cause me harm, yes, but also proactively set expectations for how I might feel supported and cared for.

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