Make Abuse Part of Your History

Dear Dategirl,

I am a 30-year-old female who has been out of the game for a very long time. I was in an abusive relationship for four years and was not interested in anything with a penis for a long time after. Here I am, three years after getting out of that awful mess, and I'm starting to feel the urge to reconnect with men.

The thing is, I've forgotten what is acceptable in terms of hooking up. On top of that, I still feel awkward and insecure. Presently, I have someone to satisfy the urge, but I find myself overthinking whether or not to text him, to the point that I feel like my brain is going to explode.

I remember who I was before I met the abusive asshole, so young and carefree. If I wanted to fuck someone, I did it and I walked away with a smile. Now it's so torturous that by the time I get to the sex part, I've had to drink a lot to calm my nerves and I don't enjoy—or even remember—the experience.

Do you have any words to snap me out of this?

—Battered, but Not Busted

I wish there were some words to snap you out of this, but unfortunately there aren't. I've been where you are: Two-and-a-half years spent being beaten repeatedly, raped, stalked, terrorized—the whole nine. After I escaped, I proceeded to fuck my way through town—doing anything (and anyone) I could to avoid thinking about the horror. During this time I also developed a fondness for drugs (nothing heavy) and drank too much. Only rarely did I confide in anyone what I'd been through, because I felt stupid: How did I "let" this happen, etc.

A couple years later, I started seeing someone I really liked—a truly nice guy. I felt safe with him. I trusted him. I fell a little bit in love, which caused me to freak the fuck out. You see, only after I became certain that he wasn't going to turn around and clock me was my brain able to absorb the reality of what I'd been through. It disturbed him that I'd flinch if he made any sudden movements. I quickly became one of those embarrassing women who cries after sex. Letting myself be that vulnerable again was completely terrifying, so I pushed him away and he eventually left.

Ultimately, with the help of a therapist and supportive friends, I started to regain my sanity. I'm not holding myself up as some beacon of togetherness, because I'm not. But the beating my self-esteem took during that time was almost as bad as the black eyes and bleeding. It took a long time to convince myself that I deserved to be treated with respect and even longer to learn how to spot men who'd do so in the wild.

As painful and lonely as it might be, I think you should wait a little longer before you get involved with someone. You are obviously, and understandably, still angry. You don't need to get over this anger, but you need to know where to put it in your life, if that makes any sense. You need to regain the confidence this motherfucker stole from you. If you don't have that before you go out there, you become a psycho magnet, and run the risk of hooking up with another abusive dirtbag.

I would urge you to chill out on the drinking and get some mental-health help. Not because there's anything wrong with you, but to help process what you've been through. Make it a part of your history so it's never again a part of your present.

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