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How to Make Good Friends After an Abusive Relationship

January 19, 2013 Kellie Jo Holly

Are you having problems making friends since leaving your abusive relationship? You aren't alone in being alone. Abuse survivors make it out of their abusive relationships often to find they have no friends, or at least no one they can trust to be a friend. And after so much time in an abusive relationship, the effects of the emotional abuse can leaving you feeling like you're not worthy of a friend. Despite the problems, you can make good friends after an abusive relationship and create a life you want to live.

Making the Right Kind of Friends After Abuse

It is hard to trust yourself enough to make good friends after an abusive relationship. And it's difficult to learn how to open yourself up to others in a healthy way. After years of trying to trust your abuser, your trust meter may be a little out of whack. And, some people you already know and trust just can't be good friends to you.

freedom after abuseFor example, a therapist, your clergy, or a domestic violence advocate, no matter how close you feel to him or her, is not friend material. As much as you wish it were different, these helpful people cannot be your "friend" for professional reasons. Examples of other people who shouldn't be your friends include substance abusers, people who abused you in the past or went along quietly knowing your ex abused you, and possibly that "knight in shining armor" who helped you to escape your abuser. Unfortunately, some of our "knights" are really great manipulators looking for a willing, raw survivor to control.

In many ways, starting with a clean slate allows you to pick and choose your friends in a way that you've never experienced. Think about it: at what other point in your life were you armed with the understanding of abuse you now possess and ready to change your life? The clean slate can be a great blessing - when you're ready to take advantage of it.

The Disadvantage You're at When Making Friends After Abuse

You are up against some disadvantages, too. The experience of abuse can leave you not knowing yourself anymore. The hobbies and activities you once enjoyed may now hold no meaning. If you had not spent time in the abusive relationship, your interests would have evolved naturally over time. As it stands, your main interest for the duration of your abuse was your abuser. Your SELF got lost in the shuffle of abuse, and finding yourself without a life of your own after leaving an abusive relationship can be anxiety-provoking.

The feeling that you lost your Self leaves you floundering with questions like, "Who am I? What do I want to do now?" Leaving these questions unanswered opens you up to repeating behaviors and thoughts that attracted you to your abusive partner in the first place. If you pretend that you are the same person you were before meeting your abuser (denial), then you are doomed to repeat your mistakes.

Come on. You all know this. Otherwise you wouldn't have "trust issues" and doubt your ability to find healthy, wonderful friends. Remember, I am one of you! When I met my boyfriend, I was five months out of my marriage. I put Max through the wringer! I doubted that I was healed enough to find a friend who didn't want to hurt me, and Max endured several break-ups before I finally trusted myself enough to love him.

Max is one of the good guys. They're out there (good girls, too). But to find them, you must know yourself. "Like attracts like" and you need to be mentally healthy (or healthier) before you will find them. You have to be able to be a good friend before you can find a good friend.

How To Be Your First Best Friend After Abuse

Accept Yourself

There is a lot to be said for accepting yourself just the way you are, but you know a horrible person who deeply accepts themselves just the way they are, too (your abuser). I think accepting ourselves as we are now is very important because you can't heal from the place of blaming yourself. However, the saying, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference" can come in handy during your healing process.

You are great just the way you are, but we all have thoughts and behaviors that do not serve us well. Accepting our flaws with no blame is the first step. Not the last one. Bluelady Muse has this to say on acceptance:

When you are accepting,…

…you willingly face the people, situations or ideas which you cannot control instead of denying or fighting them,
…you work with what you have available now with all your body, mind and spirit,
…you focus on the unique abilities that you already have and find unique solutions through your gifts,
…you know that being accepting is not the same as being a doormat.

To that last point, add "You can accept that someone is a jerk from a distance much easier than up close".

Understand Your Coping Mechanisms

Your coping mechanisms underlie your behaviors, both healthy and unhealthy. Coping mechanisms are not "bad" - after all, they help you to cope with life! Even so, coping mechanisms gone wild can really interfere with your mental health. Recognizing them and choosing to change any hurtful behaviors related to them will go a long way toward turning yourself into a friend like the ones you want to attract. Although there are coping mechanisms that may be hurting your chances to make quality friends, there are others that you may want to adopt.

As a survivor of abuse, some of your coping mechanisms could be doing more harm than good. Here are a few to consider:

Denial

Survivors lived in denial for long periods of time. Now that you're free, denial could cause you to miss the signs that someone is a potential abuser. This is especially detrimental when you deny the signs that your best friend for years is abusive or that new guy or gal in your life practically waves red flags in your face but you don't want to see them.

Intellectualization

Your emotions didn't count one bit during your abuse (abuser believed it first, you believed it second). Freedom from abuse requires you to get back in touch with your emotions. Your emotions are the first entity your intuition calls out to when it needs to let you know something important is happening. Your thoughts about what your intuition says helps protect you. If you only think about your emotions (intellectualize them), then you ignore your intuition.

Fantasy

We've talked about the fantasy relationship before. Now that you're free, too much fantasy can lead you right back to your abuser or into the arms of another. Dreaming about and imagining a great relationship is healthy and helps you find it, but remember to put your feet back on the ground.

Being your own best friend is not about completely remodeling yourself. Despite what your abuser said, you are not that damaged. Think of the healing process as a "rebalancing" instead of an overhaul. As you come to know yourself better, you will like yourself more and more. In short order, you will attract the kind of person you're becoming instead of the victim you were.

APA Reference
Holly, K. (2013, January 19). How to Make Good Friends After an Abusive Relationship, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2013/01/how-to-make-good-friends-after-leaving-abuse



Author: Kellie Jo Holly

Danielle w.
says:
August, 23 2019 at 7:35 am
I left my abuser 5 months ago with my 5 year old daughter. She is handling things fairly well but i am feeling like i at war with myself. I am an outgoing fun girl to loves to hang out and go out and have people over for dinners and what not ,but this side of being cautious hesitant and a bit scared or mistrusting is in the way and im trying to break the chains. The stronger side of me says it wont defeat me and yet im still being pulled back by that part of myself that wants to hide away. I want to make friends and invite ppl over and introduce to my kid as well in time but cant seem to get there. I dont feel like friend or family understand fully and no way of talking to a theropist or counciler.How can i win this fight against myself?
Rachel
says:
November, 8 2013 at 4:29 am
I was in an abusive relationship for 9 years, been out of it for 4 years and I have re-married. I've come to the realization that I have residual effects of this abuse on my ability to make friends. Isolation was part of the abuse. I notice this problem more when my husband wants to go out with friends if he is out of town (he's military). If he goes out, I get very jealous of his sense of independence. I see it is something I still don't have. Even if I don't have anyone to hang out with, I have a problem being alone because I don't know what I enjoy anymore. I think one of my coping mechanisms has been my children. They still visit their father and when they visit and my husband is out of town, I have no idea what to do. It puts a strain on my current marriage because of the jealousy that comes about. My life is different now and I have freedom, but it sure does not feel like it. I feel I still have victim tendencies and I don't know why. My husband is supportive of me to go out, but I have a hard time making plans to get around other women. Does anything I say sound familiar? Can you offer any advice or refer me to any more info on this matter? I would really appreciate it!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
says:
November, 9 2013 at 1:38 pm
Dear Rachel, I practically wrote a book back in reply to you, so I decided to use my answer as a blog post instead. You aren't alone in your feelings, and I hope the post helps you in some way. You can view it here: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2013/11/tips-overcome-isolation-habit/
carol hatfield
says:
February, 4 2013 at 4:37 pm
help me...i have been in an abusive relationship before. i am now in one where i am manipulated to believe i am no good. where do i go for help. he tells me if i ever leave he will get half of all i own and that he will get full custody of my daughter and take her away. he hates my kids from my last marriage and i am tired of him saying mean things to them. i am so confused right now. i just lost my mom, my best friend and now i am alone in this world. all except for my children whom i love and am so close with. al three of them. i was a former alcoholic my exhusband was a petophile. i have told my new husband all kinds of things in the past and he throws them at me every chance he gets. i am recovering from alcoholism and as a matter of fact that's where i met him. only 5 months into the program and as you say my so called knight in shining armour for the first two years. i have almost 14 years of sobriety and want a drink so bad..the only thing holding me back right now is that i do not want to drink and upset the children and let them down...what do i do...where do i go. i am so down on myself. i am overweight and he knows i am self concious about it and throws it at me. he says he has never been attracted to fat women. i was about 130 lbs when i met him but went into a depression after our daughter was born and am now 200lbs. i am being treated for depression..,.social anxiety phobia and eating disorder. i hate myself. where did the happy me go??

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
says:
February, 5 2013 at 4:40 am
Carol, you KNOW you are being "manipulated to believe" you are no good. You clearly SEE the abuse. If you were a victim of abuse, you would just think that you were no good. You are NO victim. You are a survivor.

I recommend that you begin revealing his lies with solid facts. For example, consult an attorney. Is his claim that he would take half of what you own and your daughter possible? An attorney could tell you. Armed with that information, you could make decisions based on facts instead of threats.

Reconnect with AA if you stopped going. Share what you're experiencing. Your AA community will help. Don't let him wear you down to the point of picking up that drink. You deserve sobriety. You've worked hard for it. Be proud of it.

Call the National Domestic Violence Program for information about where to go for support in your community. Their website is http://thehotline.org.

Continue your treatments for depression, social anxiety and the eating disorder. If your treatment does not include therapy, ask your doctors for referrals to a therapist or find one who specializes in abuse and request a referral to that therapist.

The happy you is still inside of you. She didn't run away. She's in there encouraging you to get straight on what you face - to acknowledge what is happening so you can devise a plan to change it. Knowledge is power, Carol. Give yourself FACTS to work with. Do not rely on an abusive person to create your reality; he will overwhelm you with his false reality if you let him.

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