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Avoiding Dating Disasters

There is no scientific basis for what I share, and this commentary is intended almost exclusively for women, as I believe that a woman’s profoundly unique inclinations to operate as nurturers and helpmates also tend to make us prime abuser-bait. So as you consider re-entering this realm, these are a few things I would urge you to remember.

  • Remember that you need time to heal. You may never heal completely, but you need to be sufficiently healthy and emotionally strong enough to recognize unsafe or unhealthy men and walk away from them without blinking. There is no specific timeline for testing those waters; however, if you are dangerously fragile and are torn between jumping in or waiting a while longer, please wait. Time for healing and a balanced measure of wholeness are important pursuits and should not be rushed. Furthermore, loneliness is a poor motivation and could leave you vulnerable. You need to be okay by yourself before you can be okay with someone else.
  • Remember the needs of your children. Make sure your home base is well-covered and that your children feel secure and are able to handle any additional time you are away from them. Consider whether they are okay with the idea of you dating. Keep their needs first in this process even if that means waiting.

With children in mind, I personally recommend meeting new people at a neutral, public location rather than your home, at least until you feel like the relationship may have some long-term potential, so that men are not going in and out of your children’s lives. You don’t want them to get the impression that relationships are inherently temporary, nor do you want them to grow too attached to someone who may or may not remain in their lives.

  • Remember that you have already been through hell. If you don’t want to walk that road again, avoid the kind of man who will be more than happy to take you there. Even if you know what kind of relationship you want, you may be attracted to something else, something familiar – and unsafe. This is not a call to paranoia, but rather to caution, a reminder to be willing to see legitimate issues, as we – as recovering abuse victims – have been trained to rationalize away those waving red and yellow flags.
  • Remember to be patient. This is not a race, and you are not looking for any man’s attention, you are waiting for the right man’s attention. Whether you choose to wait for an acquaintance to ask you out to lunch or you decide to join a dating website, try not to panic, push or rush things, and listen, listen, listen to your instincts. Don’t feel any obligation to “make it work.” If that is your attitude, you are likely headed down a very familiar and unhealthy path.
  • Remember that you want a protector not a project. Any man with whom you decide to spend some time should be emotionally and spiritually balanced and healthy. He should be a gentleman, not a show-boater, someone who sees you and hears what you have to say. He should be someone who would clearly look out for your needs rather than merely seeking to meet his own.
  • Remember to set your standards high and hold to them. Just because a guy notices you does not necessarily make him worthy of your attention. You are under no obligation whatsoever to “give a guy a chance.” If there is something in his manner or attitude that makes you uncomfortable, don’t waste your time or his. You’re better off saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”