After being abused by someone you thought you could trust, you might have difficulty trusting your judgement. I often hear people say, “How could I have been so stupid?” One reason people find it so difficult to trust their judgment after an abusive relationship is that they were groomed for the abuse.
Because of the past trauma from the abuse, it might feel unsafe to allow yourself to be vulnerable with a new romantic partner.
The anxiety you feel about being betrayed again might lead you to push away safe and secure people. Here are some tips on how to feel safe without pushing your new partner away.
1. Set boundaries
Boundaries keep you safe because you do not give more than you want to. Over giving results in resentment, and if someone is abusive, they take advantage of your lack of boundaries. A safe romantic partner respects your boundaries, while an abusive romantic partner gets angry when you set boundaries. Boundaries to an abusive person feel like a lack of control.
If you have decided that your partner is safe, communicate about your experience. Let them know what happened. For example, if you were cheated on or lied to, you might feel sensitive around betrayal. You might be looking for red flags that this will happen again. When you begin to feel anxious about this, tell your partner. If your partner is safe, they will be patient as long as you do not accuse or blame them for things that they have not done. Some people who have been abused might overcompensate out of fear and lash out. I have often heard people say I lash out to protect myself from being rejected or hurt again. This only poisons the relationship and hurts your partner.
3. Do not compare
Do not compare your current partner to your ex – our current partner will be insulted. It is not fair to assume that they will hurt because you were hurt in the past. It is also offensive to say things like my ex was more loving, affectionate, better looking or gave me more gifts.
4. Introduce them to your friends and family
Your friends and family want the best for you. If your friends and family are unsure about your new partner, listen to what they have to say. If your new romantic partner is abusive, he or she will not want you to have close relationships with other people. Notice how your new partner speaks about your friends and family. Is he or she trying to turn you against them?
5. A safe person builds you up and does not tear you down
Someone safe wants you to be happy and healthy. They will positively challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and encourage you to reach your goals. Someone who is not safe devalues you so that you believe that you are nothing without them to control you.
6. See-through your anxiety
If you feel anxious about your new partner, ask yourself if it is an experience creeping in or if the present experience gives you a red flag. Anxiety can tell us we are in danger, but sometimes it can be a false alarm. For example, your ex-partner withdrew; later, you found out that they were having an affair. Now you find your current partner withdrawing, so you feel anxious that they are cheating. Please communicate with your partner that you are anxious and see how they respond. If they tell you they are stressed and need some alone time, allow them that time. Most people value their own time and space.
7. Start trusting yourself again
Once you learn what the red flags of manipulation and control are, you will feel safer. Setting boundaries and asserting yourself in a non-aggressive or passive way empowers you. You might have been told that your feelings are not valid, recognise that they are, and effectively express them.
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Although I am a registered clinical psychologist with the Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology, I am not a licensed psychologist or any other type of licensed therapist in the United States. The information I am providing here is educational and informational. This social media page does not provide professional advice, nor does it create a professional-client relationship or any other type of relationship between us. You should always consult your own licensed mental health professional before making any changes regarding your mental health. My goal is to educate, guide, consult, and empower you regarding your mental health journey. Always consult your licensed mental healthcare provider(s) and never disregard or delay medical advice based on information posted on this page or post.