Most people who’ve been in an abusive relationship before are already aware of the fact that they’re more likely than others to enter into another one. A lot of times we chalk it up to poor decision making skills, a lack of example-relationships (whether our own or our parents’), or a desire for the comfort of familiarity, even if that familiarity is toxic. But did you know that your experience as a victim of abuse also makes you more attractive to other abusers?
“For individuals with unresolved traumas, the mate-selection process often carries a double risk,” explains Dr. Shauna H Springer in Psychology Today. “That is, unhealed wounds of past trauma in your life lead to a higher likelihood that unsafe people will pick you, and if you actively pick a partner, it is much more likely that you will end up with an unsafe person.”
Abusers can pick up on an array of habits and body language that identify you as a vulnerable person.
In other words, Dr. Springer says, “If you have experienced trauma, it is often true that you will unintentionally emit certain signals and behaviors that chum the water for the psychopathic sharks in the dating pool.”
And just what are these signals? There’s a multitude, and you might not even be aware that you’re sending them.
Anti-social, dominating, power-abusing individuals have a strong radar for those who are impulsive, those who do not respect themselves, those who are desperate to find love at any cost — basically anyone who will play opposite them in a submissive role — Dr. Shauna H. Springer
Consider the following dating scenarios and how your past experience in an abusive relationship would affect your behavior regarding a new romantic interest.
1. They flake on plans. You keep seeing them anyway.
People cancel plans, such is life. But an abuser might flake on a date at the last possible moment and provide no reasonable excuse just to gauge your reaction. If you’re willing to tolerate that sort of disrespect, they may guess that you’d put up with more.
2. You’re talking online and haven’t met in person yet. They want you to come for a weekend.
A lot of people complain that their partners aren’t spontaneous enough. But there’s a difference between spontaneous and impulsive, and if you’re willing to make an impulse decision to spend prolonged time with someone you haven’t yet met in person, they may take it as a sign that you’re desperate or have low self-esteem, both of which would make you a perfect victim for an abuser.
3. They want to get physical. Fast.
Physical intimacy shouldn’t occur until trust and safety have been well established, generally over a extended period of time. Testing these boundaries can be a way to assess a lot about a person, such as their level of self-respect, desperation for love, or again, impulsiveness.
When you respond to dating scenarios like these by putting yourself second to the wishes or demands of another person (especially one that you’ve only just met or recently begun to date), you send signals that you’re the type of person who would play submissive to a dominant aggressor. Inversely, when you put your foot down and demand respect, you let a potential abuser know that you’re no easy prey.
“In relationships, if you ignore your history, you will tend to repeat it,” Dr. Singer says. “So if you have not addressed and achieved healing from your trauma experience, doing so in a safe relationship with a treating professional is recommended as a first priority.”