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Building a Healthy Relationship After Leaving a Toxic One

Written By: Stephanie Rambharos and Gabriel Lorenzo

Some of you may remember me from THIS blog post back in 2020. I’m here to report that there IS in fact life after being in an abusive relationship, even though to so many of my Indo-Caribbean sisters out there, it may feel like the opposite.

I’m not by any means saying healing and moving on is an easy process, but I can say that all of the heartache and uncomfortable growth was worth it.

Like many of you, after my breakup I was plagued with that feeling of uncertainty. I was supposed to be with this person for the rest of my life, the way my parents and many of yours are. My reality however was that I was single and truly alone for the first time in four years. I had no idea how to be vulnerable with another person and it definitely showed once I started dating again. I picked up bad habits from my previous partner and became sort of cold and spoke in this “matter-of-fact” way that showed that I was devoid of emotion over situations that were meaningful to others.

Two people in particular stood out during my rebuilding phase who bore the brunt of those bad habits, but also served as tests to my growth. The first was extremely kind and sweet, but it almost felt TOO sweet. It sounds insane, but it was almost repulsive to be with someone who was so nice to me.

It felt both boring and artificial after being with a partner that treated me like garbage and kept me on a never ending rollercoaster.

I felt CRAZY for not being grateful. That ultimately ended. The second person was almost identical to my previous partner. He was unpredictable, exciting, and a complete jerk. We had fun but I could see all the signs that it would be no more than repeating what I already did with my ex, and that is the literal definition of insanity. I liked him, but this experience tested whether I could notice the signs and make the right decision for myself. So again, it ultimately ended.

I was left thinking that this was all a giant disappointment. Most of my cousins had found their picture perfect partners, started marrying, and settled down with kids. Meanwhile, I could not figure out why I felt so disconnected.

In comes a brand new man who opened a brand new chapter in my life.

I met him for the first time in the Jamaica Van Wyck subway station in New York City (I just couldn’t resist the accent). I thought it would just be a passing conversation, maybe a date or two before whatever we had for that brief moment would fade into oblivion like everybody else did— but I was completely wrong. Almost two years later, here we are in a fully committed, long distance relationship (something I said I’d NEVER do), and we couldn’t be happier.

I can honestly say I have never seen a man try as hard as he has. Even though he’s far away, he organizes virtual dates, sends me dinner when I have exhausting days, builds relationships with the people that matter the most to me in life, and visits as often as he can. Let me tell you, those visits have been no walk in the park. He’s travelled through a hurricane, endured almost 24 hour bus rides (Greyhound. If you know, you know.), and walked across borders just to see me. It reminded me of the stories I’ve heard some of the elders in this community speak about during their migration to the west.

I finally realized that when I was faced with a big scary dating world, my disconnect wasn’t a sign of me being emotionally stunted from my past, the people I was meeting just weren’t right for me.

The sense of relief and excitement I felt for the first time in years knowing I wasn’t broken was incredible.

My current partner has seen me as I really am. A vulnerable, messy, discombobulated human who is still healing from her past. I am by no means a perfect partner, at times I still get anxious and wrongfully misplace my emotional baggage on him, but he always forgives and loves me.

He had this to say about dating a person healing from an abusive relationship:

“For anyone that considers themselves an individual recovering from an abusive relationship, I need you to understand that having a partner is not meant to be difficult.

Your past partner may have made you believe that tough times were natural parts of relationships, but there is a difference between tough times and abuse. Difficult times are not the same thing as abuse. Disagreements are not the same thing as abuse.

There are things that I need to do differently with a partner who came out of this unique situation. I need to listen to her. Listen to what the issues were, how they impacted her, and most importantly, how she felt.

As annoying as it can be, I need to be patient. There are times where I feel I am questioned, judged, and/or sometimes called out for certain actions that I know don’t warrant any skepticism. In those moments, although I may feel angered, she has expressed that her past partner abused her trust. I always remind her, and myself, that neither of us did anything wrong. I remind her that I love her and my actions have, and always will reflect that.

As her partner, I’m doing my part to show her what a relationship is meant to be, while tearing down the false beliefs of the past created by her former partner. This takes time and effort. It’s a constant learning process.”

My restorative journey was a giant mess that led to my finding someone who is perfect for me. His support means everything in what can feel like the never ending process of recovery. Like a puzzle, his edges fit with mine to create something beautiful. I wish all of you out there on your path to healing the best and rest assured; your Prince Charming, perfect man, or Shahrukh Khan for all the bollywood lovers out there, exists, he just may not be who you think he is.

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