“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” – Brene Brown
Many of the college students I see in my practice are negotiating the nuances of the dating world, sometimes for the first time. Developing a sense of confidence in their ability to discern healthy dating partners is often the subject of counseling sessions. For those who have been impacted by psychological abuse in a romantic relationship, often a survivor experiences cognitive dissonance as a result of gaslighting, silent treatment, projection, and other emotional abuse tactics (Schneider, 2018). It takes some time for a survivor to reclaim their trust in themselves to select healthy dating partners because of the very nature of deception and manipulation that is a part of an abusive relationship (see my article on coercive control). These concepts are no different at any life cycle development stage.
The following are 5 tips for survivors of intimate partner violence (which can include narcissistic abuse and psychological abuse):
- Look for the following qualities that are essential ingredients in healthy connection: empathy, honesty, integrity, authenticity, reciprocity, compromise, accountability, trust and respect. Evidence of sustained and maintained high emotional IQ is vital to the health of the relationship.
- Pacing of dating is key. If someone rushes you into a relationship or is trying to love-bomb you, that’s a huge red flag. Slow it down. You control the pacing. If a potential dating partner is trying to rush you into a relationship, they have an ulterior motive, and it’s not in your best interests (Saeed, 2018). Life coach and author Kim Saeed further illuminates this concept in her article which addresses cycles of idealize, devalue , discard.
- Listen to your gut instinct. If something feels off, then it is. Always meet a new potential dating partner in a public place where there are other people and witnesses, and be sure to end the date quickly if you feel uncomfortable in any way in which your boundaries are not being respected. It’s always a good idea to meet for coffee, lunch or an early dinner, so there is no expectation of a longer duration. Meeting for the first time is really to determine if there is any common ground and compatability. You are not making promises for any additional contact.
- Expand beyond dating websites. People do find love connections on high quality dating sites after a long vetting process. However, some websites are forums where predators are hiding in sheep’s clothing (especially those that are free). Be on guard when meeting a person after connecting online. Again, see number 3 above. And you are taking your time to see if this person’s words and actions line up. The only way you are going to see evidence of authenticity and integrity is over a sustained and maintained time, not instantaneously. Cast your net wider and meet new friends in groups that share your same interests (hiking, art, writing, travel, etc).
- Date with friendship in mind first. At the foundation of any friendship is trust and respect and all the qualities mentioned in number 1 tip above. At the foundation of any romantic relationship is friendship. Friendship takes time to evolve. If the elements of a healthy friendship are in place and there is also some attraction beyond the friendship, then slowly and with mutual consent, take it to the next level to determine if compatibility and chemistry are components of this friendship that may blossom to a healthy romantic relationship.
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Retrieved from March 7, 2019: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/liberation/2017/10/love-bombing-is-the-gateway-drug-to-love-addiction/
Retrieved from March 7, 2019: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/savvy-shrink/2017/12/dizzy-on-the-merry-go-round-cognitive-dissonance-after-narcissistic-abuse/
Retrieved from March 7, 2019: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/savvy-shrink/2019/03/understanding-coercive-control-in-intimate-relationships/