Righting Yourself – Dating After Domestic Abuse 101

Cats land on their feet. Almost all of the time.

I grew up around cats and can even assure you that when misdirected, mischievous and unsupervised boys I knew tried to experiment to find out if they could get a cat to not right herself during a fall, the experiment failed. Every time.

What do falling cats have to do with Domestic Violence?

Actually, the feline introduction to this post points more in the direction of Dating After Domestic Abuse 101.

I have talked to several victims and survivors who say that they were drawn into their abuser’s charms while they first began dating. I have also heard about how, in the beginning, there were no signs that this person who appeared charming in the beginning would become controlling, sadistic and cruel.

But the signs were there. They always are. The problem is that the victims weren’t tuned into their righting mechanism.

If you actually watched the video of the cat being dropped, you would have noticed that the cat had moments of “Uh oh . . . . I’m in trouble.” And then, as soon as she had the opportunity, she began to right herself. Then she got out of there!

In dating, when confronted with a potentially abusive partner, the “Uh oh!” moments also exist, except instead of paying attention, victims talk themselves out of paying attention enough to make the decision which would prevent a future wrought with pain and suffering at the hands of someone who professes to love them.

They have moments of confusion (the “Uh oh” moments) and they ignore their “inner righting mechanism” in favor of their hopes for a bright future. All the while, they never really see the man standing there in front of them. Instead, he is being “dressed up” by the woman’s fantasies about how she wants her life in love to be.

dating confusion


Okay. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s talk about what it actually looks like when you get a warning sign that you ignore and what you should do about it.

Here’s the scenario: You start talking with a charming man who seems like an easy friend. He is attentive, communicative and completely focused on your needs. He seems to be everything you are looking for. But then, one day you realize that something isn’t right. You sense it, but can’t quite put your finger on it.

You decide that since he’s so attentive and communicative and caring, this is a safe situation for you to talk to him about what could be going on for you in the friendship.

You do so and he tells you not to worry. Nothing is wrong. Everything is fine. He tells you all of the good between you and why you should keep moving forward with your friendship, even though you are feeling hesitation.

See any warning signs here?

Most victims and former victims don’t.

But let me tell you the response of a healthy, non-controlling man.

He says something like this: “Have I done or said something that is bothering you? No? Well, take some time to figure out what is going on and if you want to, we can talk about it.”

Then, he gives you the time and space you need to right yourself.

A healthy, secure man doesn’t want to be with a woman who is unsure whether or not she wants to be with him. And he will give her the time she needs to figure that out.

Feelings of pressure, confusion and fear in the early stages of relationship indicate something might be wrong. After you communicate your doubts, any pressure exerted on you to ignore them is a sign that something is definitely wrong.

Right yourself.

To learn more about how you can connect to your righting reflex, click here.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2014 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.





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