Young couple overlooking sunset on lake

Learning To Love After Abuse: It’s A Process

In this new journey of mine, my metanoia, I was so incredibly determined that I wasn’t going to get into another relationship for a very long time. I needed time to evaluate myself, my life, and FIND MYSELF again. I just needed… time. I knew that learning to love after abuse was going to be hard, I just didn’t know how hard.

Young Couple on railroad tracks in woods

When I moved to North Dakota, I had set up to move in with my brother and his family for a while until I found something. It’s a small town, so there’s not a ton of availability all of the time. It’s also a college town, so it also depends on what time of year it is.

The very first full day I was here, I met my soon to be boyfriend. Of course at the time I had no idea that was the direction we were headed. Chris (my current bf) had been really close friends with my brother and his (now) wife for several years. My brother called him over to pick up my Uhaul trailer and bring it back to work, which is the local towing company and the only Uhaul dealer for miles. (What a sweet coincidence!)

It started off very slow, as friends. We talked a bit, and hung out a bit. He knew I was on edge, and only knew a teeny bit of my story. It wasn’t until we went out one night with my brother and his wife that we really got the chance to connect.  When we got back to my brothers house after bar hopping, we started talking a lot. I told him what had happened back in IL, and why we made the decision to move here. Of course I cried – a lot. We all know that alcohol and overly emotional women don’t mix. It was okay though. When I was done crying he didn’t judge me.

I think ultimately it was what I needed. I needed someone to just sit there and listen to me that wasn’t too close or bias in any way. I also needed someone to listen without judgement. It was as if a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.

We started talking more, hanging out more. Within a couple months we were dating. By then, we already knew a lot about each other. He had met my son of course, and I met his kids. When I found a house, it wasn’t in the plans for him to live there full time. It did end up happening that way, though. Before we knew it the room that was going to be my office / creative space was his daughters room. So she had to share a room with my desks, printer and other arts and crafts. You know what? It all worked out, and none of us had any complaints.

Young couple overlooking sunset on lake

Fast forward to now, we have been together for over a year and a half. We just moved into a bigger house, and we have a HEALTHY relationship! I don’t think I fully knew what it meant to be in a healthy relationship until now. Of course we argue, and have our stand offs, but that is normal!!

He doesn’t belittle me, he doesn’t call me names, he doesn’t throw things at me. I am not going to bed crying five nights a week. Since being in this relationship with him, I have not cried myself to sleep once because of him or his actions. I have cried myself to sleep, when my mom passed away, and when I was reminded of my previous abuse. Chris and I do call each other names a lot though! In a playful way!! We are always trying to make one another laugh, and I cherish it.

couples feet bed of pickup over fields at sunset
We are always trying to make one another laugh, and I cherish it.

I do want to point out that even though I am in a new and healthy relationship, that doesn’t mean I am magically fixed. I have my moments where something he might say will trigger an emotion, or sometimes my walls are up a little bit higher. Sometimes it is because of an uncomfortable conversation (that wouldn’t otherwise be uncomfortable to anyone else), and other times I have no idea why. Some days, I am also a bit more emotional than others. By emotional, I don’t only mean tears and tissues. This also means my anxiety is higher, or I’m a bit more on edge or more jumpy than normal. I understand that is all of us from time to time, but this is different.

When this happens, I usually take a step back and breathe. I try to be aware of when it is happening, but it’s not always that easy. Chris has been extremely patient with me in this regard. And when he notices I’m a bit edgy he will usually do his best to try and make me laugh to ease my tension.

I don’t think I will ever “get over” what happened to me and my son, but I have somebody to help me through it! All of my hurt and feelings of  betrayal I have to face myself, but I am not alone. He has been through a lot as well, and I think that helps. I’m not by any means saying that I am happy that he has had his pain. I just think that because we have both been through a lot, it’s easier for us to help one another.

So I guess you could say, that love found me when I decided not to look anymore.

Just like I had zero intention of getting into a relationship at the time, I definitely never thought I would be a stepmom. Not only do I have a wonderful relationship with Chris, but he has three amazing kids that I truly love and adore. Each of which I have a very different, but wonderful, relationship with. Kids are such powerful little beings, and they have no idea.

Who knew that after everything I have gone through, that I would be given the opportunity to love and be loved in such a way that I never knew was possible outside of my own son and other family.

I know love in general is a lot of work. You have to constantly work on your relationships. Nurture them, water them, care for them. It’s just so much more work when you’re also trying to put yourself back together again after you’ve been broken. I am still learning how to love after abuse, but I know one thing to be true. I will never stop working on myself or my relationship(s), with Chris or my kids and closest family members.

If my mom’s unexpected passing this year taught me anything, it would be that you should nurture your relationships while you still can. I hate sounding cliche, but it’s true.

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