I was reminded recently by another user of just how hard I found relationships after abuse. I was the victim of "puppet master abuse" over some months, forced to do things with my girlfriend by a truly disguising man.
In the years that followed this left me believing some of his most destructive lies. Many of them took years to work through; a process that involved experiencing life and seeing the truth with my own eyes. Every area of my life had been tainted. I had to completely relationships with my family. College and work life was messed up. Making friendships was hard as I was no-longer certain what a friendship looked like. And all of this was happening in my teenage years when I was supposed to be building new friendships and discovering who I was. I had a lot of catching up to do.
The lies he used lingered in my life for a very long time. The most destructive one was this: He told me and my girlfriend that our love for each other was dangerous without his help. That we would hurt each other without him. I can't give any excuse for believing him. But we did. We begged him to help us.
Fifteen years after the abuse I still hadn't exposed and rejected this lie. I needed to fall in love and let myself feel in love long enough, experience love in a safe environment. Every relationship I'd had for that fifteen years had been an utter disaster. I'd fall in love but then the fear and dread of the danger I would bring would take hold. I'd be trying to build trust and a loving relationship while at the same time my subconscious was searching for ways to scream "Run away from me!". No relationship lasted long enough to teach my subconscious that love was safe.
One way in was to spend time with my sister's family, playing with my little niece and nephew. Love is a strange thing, there's many different types. It was helpful to spend time in that safety. Learning that I wasn't going to hurt them. Simply playing silly games with them and laughing. Children are easy to get along with and slowly the fear got less.
I had a great shock when one day I fell in love and didn't feel scared. I don't know, maybe the circumstances of how I met my wife were too bizarre to set off any trigger. The whole thing seemed like particularly surreal dream. But I spent a couple of days with a girl before she jetted back to her home country. The long distance relationship that followed either didn't trigger me or my subconscious wasn't able to make itself heard over text. Who knows.
Well she's coming to live with me soon. I'm scared but happy that she's coming. I'm looking forward to letting myself feel love without any fear.
Healing has been long and hard, but I got here in the end.