The queer community is so small. We often share space with people we don’t like or are not safe for us to be around. We may have friends in common with and may run into people who have harmed us. I’ve seen a lot of people isolate themselves in response. Do you have any advice for navigating social relationships after leaving an abusive relationship? This is probably applicable to divisive and destructive relationships of all kinds.
Divided in Delaware
If a good friend of mine had just returned to planet Earth from an all-encompassing abusive relationship, this is what I would tell them.
1. Limit Internet Connectivity & Stalking
Block the ex on Instagram and Facebook so you are not able to keep abreast of their goings-on and scrutinize where they are and when (and vice versa).
Do not go digging in other people’s social media for clues about your ex.
If you’re receiving shitty messages from them via phone or text, block them.
2. Locate your long-time friends.
True supporters, number one fans, and people you can trust/cry in front of. Friends who can hold a confidence. Some of these people may be in your tight queer circle, but some of them might be people who are not at all involved in your social scene. It’s better, in fact, to remember your friends outside of your queer circles, because they can give you some valuable perspective and remind you that the world is a lot bigger than the 25 homosexuals of a certain age in your exact neighborhood. The world is very large and there are a lot of people who will be kind to you.
3. Make Your Own Plans
Make one-on-one and small group plans with these true blue people. Tell them the truth of what’s going on with you.
This is how you keep from isolation. It’s valuable.
Host a party, invite them to karaoke, have a sewing circle, go volunteer with queer seniors, go out for donuts.
Queer people like to do all sorts of things together besides attend the four parties you know about.
4. Accept the Love Your Friends Can Give
Some of your friends may continue to be friendly acquaintances with people you perceive as harmful.
They may have an entirely different experience with that person, and their own set of boundaries with them.
It may sting a little, but you can’t control your friends.
You *can* control what you’re willing to have in your immediate surroundings and mental space.
You can make a safety plan with friends, so they know how and when to step in and help you.
5. Skip Some Parties
If your nemesis is invited to a party or a queer night that you’d like to attend, I would personally take the Path of Least Drama and stay home that night/make plans with my friends for another time. *
6. Make a Great Plan B
If you must go to a party, go with a very strong backup plan. Make it almost better than the party itself.
“If I see so-and-so and I can’t keep away from them, or it becomes upsetting, I’m going to walk out the door, take a car home, and sing the Golden Girls theme song remix to my dog while we watch the show and eat a pizza together.”
Note: Have a friend who is willing to bounce, or who will hear you and not protest if you need to turn on your heel and get a cab home.
*There will be many, many queer nights and social gatherings in your lifetime, so don’t force yourself into an uncomfortable situation out of FOMO, obligation or feelings of scarcity. You still exist, you’re still a gaylord, and when you show up in a couple of months, feeling abundant and (hopefully) less tearful, it will be a higher quality experience.
The sting of being hurt will ease. In your lifetime, there will be people who tug at your heartstrings or make you feel jarred whenever you see them, but the immediate feeling of being wounded can be calmed, put into perspective, and crowded out by supportive, emotionally corrective experiences that you are personally in control of.
Caveat: this advice is in regards to social relationships. If you feel in danger or need to talk to someone about an abusive relationship, please reach out for professional support.