1. Select a discrete app icon.
Ask Amanda: I Don't Want Another Relationship
Some survivors make the conscious choice to be single for life after surviving domestic violence
- Oct 03, 2022
Q: I’m just not going back out there. I guess that’s not a question but rather a statement. After an abuser wrecked my life for several years, I decided I was done. Everyone I tell this to seems to think I’m sad, but actually, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m free and I don’t need anyone else. Why is that hard for my family to accept? - Anonymous
We’re culturally ingrained to believe that at a certain point in our lives we need to partner up, marry and have children in order for our lives to feel complete. And if that first union doesn’t work out, the questions that often arise from seemingly caring friends and family are often, who’s next? Are you ready to do it again? You might even be treated to the zinger, If you fall off the horse, just get back in the saddle. I mean, I don’t know about you, but that sounds painful. If I fell off a horse, I might just call it a day and go get a massage instead.
But that’s the thing—some people assume choosing to be single means you’re giving up. But I would challenge, why do so many of us still think we need a partner to be complete? Especially when there’s a chance that partner could be another abuser.
For the record, survivors don’t “choose” abusers. Abusers target survivors. And far too frequently, abusers will target someone who’s been abused before in the past. Why? Because survivors are often vulnerable. They’re looking for the opposite of what they just survived, and a cunning abuser knows that. Hence the love-bombing. An instant feeling of safety, protection and a fairytale romance to boot might be an abuser’s initial M.O. For a survivor, this could feel like a dream. And as soon as that survivor lets their guard down and the relationship is established to some degree, the abuser’s true self comes out—the controlling and potentially violent self.
That’s why victim-blaming is so misguided. Why would you pick someone who’s so mean to you? The survivor didn’t. They picked the knight in shining armor who appeared first. Far too often, survivors rationalize staying in a relationship with an abuser because they believe that kind person they met a long time ago, or who still shows up once in a while, will come back.
Kristen is a 32-year-old who’s been single by choice for the last three years after divorcing her abusive husband. She tells me she feels like some people must think of her as some type of jaded, bitter spinster. But she’s not.
“I really don’t miss having a romantic partner. I just don’t want to go through opening myself up again and making myself vulnerable.”
She calls her ex a chameleon who morphed into everything she wanted him to be when the two first met. She was smitten and happily said yes when he popped the question.
“After we were engaged, he became more explosive and reactive to things. And then when I got pregnant, I definitely started seeing another side of him.”
It started with verbal tirades, and then he began breaking things around the house when he was upset. He escalated into physical abuse soon after.
“In one instance, when we were arguing, he grabbed me and dragged me to the bathroom and shoved me in the shower and doused me with cold water.”
He wouldn’t let her sleep, a common abuser tactic. “He’d wake me up in the middle of the night. He’d pull all the blankets off the bed.”
He escalated to the point where Kristen was afraid for her life. She was able to escape when her son was an infant and thankfully, is safe today.
“I really believe if I would have stayed in that marriage, I wouldn’t be alive today.”
But as soon as she separated from her husband, friends tried to set her up with a new partner.
“I was really put off. I’m really not interested in the initial flirtatious conversation. I felt myself shutting it down.”
She’s been called a man-hater, but she doesn’t care. One might say she’s laughing all the way to her quiet and peaceful home.
“I enjoy being able to not share my space with someone, not share decisions with someone. I really enjoy having that freedom in how I choose to parent my son and in all aspects of my life.”
I asked her if she wanted to be single for the rest of her life.
“I do, I really do. I guess you could say …it’s more of an unconventional life. I plan on taking some time off with my son and travel.”
Kristen says she feels empowered being single by choice, and I hope you do, too, Anon. You might not be able to change your family’s minds but, then again, that’s not really your job anyhow. If I were to play armchair therapist here, sometimes people project onto us what they’re insecure about. You being happy might be an affront to the unhappily coupled-up person. You taking control of your future might shine a spotlight on someone who doesn’t feel like they have much control in their own life. Keep that in mind as people try to make you feel a certain way about your life choices.
Donate and change a life
Your support gives hope and help to victims of domestic violence every day.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is you feeling safe, especially while healing from trauma (which may be a lifetime endeavor). Whatever that looks like is what you should do, regardless of public opinion. And if you do choose to ever change your mind, that’s OK, too. There are steps we can take to spot safe people—check out this Guide to Healthy Relationships (the guidelines of which can apply to friend and family relationships, not just romantic ones).
Have a question for Ask Amanda? Message us on Facebook, Twitter or email AskAmanda@DomesticShelters.org.
Ask Amanda is meant to offer helpful resources and information about domestic violence. If in crisis, please reach out to your nearest domestic violence shelter for the guidance of a trained advocate.
Looking for someone to speak with? Enter your location to find phone numbers for domestic violence experts in your area.
Have a question about domestic violence? Type your question below to find answers.