How To Heal From An Abusive Relationship

Written by Sandy Weiner
Sandy Weiner is the chief love officer at Last First Date, devoted to helping women over 40 achieve healthy, off-the-charts love. A TEDx speaker, dating coach, retreat leader, and online course creator, she LOVES helping women communicate effectively, set clear boundaries in relationships, and value themselves.

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I recently received this email from a prospective client:

I was verbally abused in my marriage and want to do better this time around. I've done some healing and am now ready to find Mr. Right. I'm only interested in dating men who are serious and commitment-minded—not players or those who are just looking for a fling. How do I quickly screen the wrong men without being too judgmental and possibly overlooking the right ones? And how do I stop obsessing about whether he's the "one" on every date?

As I wrote my response to this woman, I realized how common her plight is. With that in mind, I wanted to share my advice for how to stop attracting partners who don't treat you well and, instead, to attract the ones who will cherish you with every fiber of their being. Here's what I said to Janet.

I'm sorry to hear about the verbal abuse you suffered during your marriage. It can be challenging to rebuild your self-worth and learn to trust men again. I'm glad to learn that you've done some healing and that you're open and ready to find your right-fit partner.

The problem is, if you're obsessed with finding the "one," you will bring a sense of anxiety and suspicion with you on every date. You'll have a wall up, as you evaluate each man and see if he's worthy of being Mr. Right. That could turn off the very man you're seeking.

After spending years with a man who treated you poorly, it's natural to distrust any man you meet. You're waiting for each guy to prove that he's another emotionally abusive man. I cannot overestimate the importance of this:

You attract what you believe. If you believe you'll meet emotionally abusive men, you will be a magnet for abusers.

The first step is to date yourself. In this step, you can work through past dating patterns and uncover your blind spots and limiting beliefs. Once you name those beliefs, you can work through them with powerful exercises like the one below. In this step, you also reclaim the parts of yourself that may have been lost in your marriage. You'll learn how to express yourself with men—powerfully, with ease and grace. You become the woman of value who can set clear boundaries and walk away from the wrong men with your head held high.

Once you heal from your past, you can date with an open heart. You'll let your guard down as you realize every man is not a clone of your ex-husband. As my client's new boyfriend once said to her, "I'm not the man who hurt you."

How to heal from Mr. Wrong:

1. Begin your healing process by letting go of negative beliefs about men and relationships.

Each time you have a negative thought about men, ask yourself, "Where does this belief come from? Where did it start? Why is this familiar to me?" For example, "I believe that men cheat." This came from my experience with my father cheating on my mother, my husband cheating on me, and my last boyfriend doing the same thing."

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2. Ask yourself if your belief is really true.

Do you know without a doubt that this is true? Is it possible that it's not true of all men? Perhaps this has been true of only a few men. Once you realize that you've been blaming all men for the actions of a few, you can now say to yourself, "No, I don't know this to be 100 percent true of all men. In fact, I know several women who are happily married to wonderful men who have never cheated."

3. Create your new story—a new belief about men.

Turn that negative statement into a positive one. Example: "All men don't cheat. Only unfaithful men cheat. The man I'm looking for has good character and won't cheat. I'll look for signs of a man who tells the truth, whose actions and words align. I'll stop assuming that every man is a potential cheater and look for the good instead."

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4. Repeat your new story as your mantra every day for a week.

Example: "There are good men." Or "I will attract a man who doesn't cheat."

You will begin to attract positive energy all around you. You'll soon see men through a more positive lens. And before you know it, you'll find a fabulous, faithful man.

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