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After escaping abuse, finding a person who makes you feel safe can be like a breath of fresh air. Of course, coming to the point where you may be ready to even consider dating again varies from person to person. In a recent poll on DomesticShelters.org asking readers how long it took them to start dating again after leaving an abusive partner, roughly 40 percent of the 500 people who responded said they hadn’t dated since.
It’s normal to feel hesitant to want to get back out there and attempt to forge new connections. You may even be reluctant to trust your own instincts—how do you know you won’t be attracted to someone with abusive behaviors again?
When you feel ready, the most important thing to note is that erring on the side of caution and taking your time to get to truly know someone, and also not being afraid to reject someone from being in your life, are all keys to finding a safe person.
In the book Safe People, authors and therapists Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend say three qualities embody safe people:
This refers to someone’s ability to connect with you in a way that makes you know they’re present. If you find yourself saying something about a potential partner like, “They just don’t seem to be with me,” it could mean that they’re disconnected. In other words, they’re not making you and your feelings a priority.
The authors say this simply means that a person is on our side, that they are for you, rather than against you. Think of a safe person as someone who you know will be your ultimate cheerleader in life, supporting you no matter what, without judgment or condemnation. “Grace says that you are accepted just like you are and that you will not be shamed … for whatever you are experiencing,” say the authors.
Finally, safe people should be honest people. While someone who is always complimentary certainly seems nice at first, never being 100 percent honest can turn destructive down the road. Someone who can speak honestly to you, and likewise, hear honesty back without becoming upset or getting confrontational, is a good sign.
In any relationship—new or old—setting your own personal boundaries is another way to help ensure your safety and well-being, and to protect your dreams, goals, family, values, time, autonomy, self-worth and to lead the life you want.
Setting and communicating boundaries simply means that you are making clear what you will stand for and what you won’t. They can help you determine when a relationship is veering off course. Breaking boundaries should have consequences, such as you stepping away from that relationship. While this may feel aggressive at first, keep in mind that your decisions and actions can hold the boundaries in place and help you to be strong, accomplish your goals and stay safe.
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In the book Boundaries, the following are offered as examples of personal boundaries you may set.
You have the right to...
- your needs and feelings and to have them be as important as anyone else’s
- experience your feelings and express them, if you want
- decide your priorities
- be independent
- decide how you spend my time
- choose how you spend my life
- change your mind
- make mistakes
- develop and express your talents
- choose who you spend time with
- choose who you share my body with
- be treated with dignity and respect
- be listened to respectfully
- say no
- ask for what you want
- have your boundaries respected.
Learn more about the types and traits of unsafe people in “Recognizing Unsafe People.”
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