Relationships (new & old)



"It's really hard getting back together with people I knew from before. And you know what's really frustrating? How everyone except me knew it was a cult. And keeps pointing that out."




You might have married during the cult, formed essential relationships, had kids during that time, or before, or after. You might reconnect with relatives. It's messy. It's life. All families are dysfunctional in their own way. What you experienced in the cult, where everyone just gets along, no questions asked, can only happen with threats and pressure. When people can choose to give and receive love, based on a million different factors, according to their experience, gut feeling, and perhaps the weather that day, the possibilities are endless. For hurt and for love. 


"What helped me, was to openly express to people that I wanted to connect. However, I also had to learn about space. Giving people time and realizing they have their own baggage." cult survivor


All relationships formed during the cult will change after you leave. Sometimes you can work it out with the people involved, sometimes you can't. Perhaps you married one person, and then realize that you don't know them at all. Or you get to a point, where you need freedom more than anything else. Or you recognize that you have been through hell together, and you want to get through the next phase of you life together as well. 



Romantic partner:


Finding someone that you can trust and that respects your boundaries? There is so much to say here, but everyone needs to find out what works for them. It's a fine balance between trusting everybody and trusting nobody. It's normal to be unsure about relationships after you've been hurt. Here are warning signs of controlling behavior in one-on-one relationships.


On the other hand, if you find yourself with someone that you love and that loves you back (and respects you), you're still going to have to deal with your past. It helps to find someone outside of your relationship (a good counselor). If you unload all the misery on your partner, he/she might be unable to deal with that. Which doesn't mean that they won't be there for you when you have a break down or need a hug. It just means that they cannot handle all of the evil that you experienced - all the time. If you think about it, would you want them to? Only somebody else, who has seen an equal amount of abuse will understand. But then they're most likely very caught up in their own healing process.


On psychopaths: If you share too much with them, they can use it as ammunition against you. In a cult you're taught to share everything, all the the time. In the real world you don't have to. But it does help to open up about your past, to feel like you don't have to hide anything. Again, a fine balance.




The same goes for friendships. Some friends will be great at listening, others will not know how to respond. 


"The very best response I ever got from a new friend, when I started sharing about my cult involvement, was: I don't want you to think that I'm not interested. I really am. But I also respect your privacy and don't want to ask too many questions at once." Katharina Sengfelder


If a friend makes you feel used in any way, step back. If a friend needs much more than you can give (and takers usually don't set boundaries, so you have to) you might have to decide if you really can save anyone but yourself at that moment.


Trust issues? Take a number. Just google trust after abuse and see what speaks to you (and send us an article if you find something really good).


Here's an excerpt from Post Cult Problems by Lorna Goldberg, MSW


"Furthermore, when former cultists leave the highly orchestrated environment of the cult, they often appear to be passive. All this direction takes a toll on their cognitive abilities, particularly on decision-making and sense of agency, as well as on their post-cult relationships. Unanimity of opinion is hard to capture outside of the cult and former cultists often long for that peak experience of being joined with a group in a common cause. However, euphoric experience is fleeting and cultic friendships usually are conditional, based on the individual's loyalty to the group. After the cult, it might be difficult to disagree with others, fearing abandonment; or, for some, it might be difficult to agree, fearing that they will be controlled. It is hard to trust new people who enter their lives. Some might have been attracted to the cult because they could escape from a sense of loneliness that developed in childhood, adolescence, or during a vulnerable period prior to their cult involvement. In any case, a support group for former cult members is a helpful way to lessen the feeling of being lonely and different from others in their world. Some turn to new relationships to fill the void that is created after cult departure."



Gender Issues:


Gender is usually very rigid in cults. Women are supposed to be subservient. Men powerful. Sex is used to manipulate. Some ex-members do not like their body or specific gender stereotypes after they get out.


"Janine also feared that she had become an “oddball.” Not only did she speak differently from others, but she feared that she often missed social cues, that she appeared more childish than her contemporaries. She was unsure of how to act with men after having cult proscribed relationships which would appear strange to men (that is, too subservient) in her outside world. (After many years of celibacy, sexual manipulation, or abuse in the cult, relationships can create anxiety for former cultists.)" Post Cult Problems by Lorna Goldberg, MSW