I have a 6 year old daughter from a previous relationship and a 10 month old son from a marriage that has come to an end. Messy, eh. I am 36 years old. I am successful professionally, have great friends, and can financially support my little family. For some reason relationships have always been my downfall. I left both relationships because they became abusive. The reason I'm posting is because I am worried my daughter will go through the same things I have. I am traditional and want her to have the love and support of a lifelong partner. It scares me that I thought we met Prince Charming with my stbx, and she bought into it too, she was our ring girl at the wedding, and instead I let an unstable person into our lives. Although both relationships ended, at least I'm not teaching her to accept abusive and controlling behavior I hope. I guess what's on my mind is what now? What can I do to create the conditions to help my children to have successful marriages (if that is what they want), after I have been such a disaster? Thank you for any advice, especially from those who have gone through it.
I'm pretty sure there are books and such about raising children, especially daughters, to teach them not to be victims of abuse. I would look into those.
-Look up warning signs of abuse, why people keep getting into abusive relationships, etc. Try to teach your daughter how to recognize it, and hopefully this will help you recognize it in the future as well. Often times abusers are very manipulative and it can be nearly impossible to recognize before you've gotten in deep, though.
-Respect her autonomy and boundaries as much as possible so that she learns from a young age that her boundaries deserve to be respected.
-Learn about rape culture, how it effects people, and how to counteract the effects on your daughter as well as yourself and your son.
-Have open conversations quite often about appropriate and inappropriate behavior in a relationship, specifically addressing abusive behavior. If you watch or read something together that has a bad relationship, talk about it (Frozen has a really good example of this, if you're into Disney), talk about what makes a good relationship good. Tell her that she deserves to be treated well and be respected by her partner (and everyone), that a good partner won't make her feel bad about herself all the time or mistreat her.
-Don't leave it at "no means no", have a serious discussion about what she should do if she says "no" and a person doesn't respect that. Consider getting her self-defense or martial arts courses, starting now, so that she has the confidence and knowledge to defend herself if someone tries to overpower her physically.
-Know that, no matter what you do, there's simply no guarantee and it's not your fault if your daughter falls into the same traps. Teach your daughter that you will always love her, that if she's abused it isn't her fault, and that you will be there if she ever needs help getting out of an abusive relationship.
-Teach these things to your son as well, because men can also be abused. Teach both of your children how to respect others and the importance of treating partners with respect so that they don't become abusers themselves. Show them love and respect, so that they see how to love and respect others.
-If you have friends who treat you with respect, especially friends with healthy relationships, try to have your children around them from time to time. Comment on what they do that makes them good friends to you, comment on what makes their relationship healthy. You can still give them examples of healthy adult relationships (romantic and friendly) even though you aren't in one yourself.
I'm very sorry that you've had this experience, abusive relationships are so hard and it's good that you've been able to get out both times. You've shown huge strength by doing this. This is a great way to teach your daughter on its own. By leaving a relationship that had become bad, you are showing her that she shouldn't accept mistreatment and that she can and should leave if a relationship goes bad. You're showing her that just because a man seems to be Prince Charming, he may turn out to be a bad person and that she shouldn't stay with him if this turns out to be the case.
Once you've been abused, unfortunately it's often easier to get into another bad relationship afterwards. Abusers groom their victims, and the grooming lingers even after the relationship, it's very hard to fully identify it as well because so much of it is subtle. If you haven't yet, you should definitely find some books about moving on after abuse and even consider finding a therapist who specializes in helping survivors of domestic abuse.
I'm glad that I could help. I'm also a survivor of an abusive relationship and although it was relatively "mild" compared to some, it was still incredibly difficult to get over. It's been over 8 years and I'm still processing it. I completely understand wanting to protect your children from the same fate, it's a priority of mine as well.