Trusting Yourself After an Abusive Relationship

March 15, 2013 Kellie Jo Holly

I felt like I couldn't trust anyone after leaving my abusive husband. I wondered to myself, "Will he abuse me?" whenever I met someone who stirred up my sexual feelings. I shied away from him (or made it impossible to create a true bond) because after living with a monster, the thought of being fooled again made me sick to my stomach. It took about five months of freedom to even consider opening myself to a relationship. When I finally did open up, the butterflies in my stomach opened and closed their wings - like steel traps. I was aflutter about a new romantic interest, but when those butterflies snapped their wings shut hard and fast, I withdrew from him. More than once. I initially thought I didn't trust other people at all, but I learned that trusting myself after that abusive relationship was the thing I needed help to relearn.

learn to trust yourselfThe last time I called to explain to my love interest that I couldn't see him anymore, I tearfully told him that I couldn't guarantee I wouldn't hurt him and I didn't know if he would hurt me. I felt scared and alone. I felt like I would always be scared and alone.

He didn't like what I said. He told me I was a beautiful person who deserved happiness and he would do whatever I asked him to do so I could find it. And he did. He backed away. I worked with him at a furniture refinishing store at that time, and he treated me no differently than before - he spoke kindly, remained patient with my newbie refinishing skills, and didn't pressure me or even look at me funny.

His reaction gave me space to think. I realized that I could trust people (How to Decide Who to Trust After Abuse). I just didn't trust myself to judge the ones deserving of trust from the others. So I cried again because I didn't trust myself. (Don't worry about the tears! Crying was one of my newly found freedoms. My ex couldn't stand tears - ranted about how weak I was for crying when I was upset or angry. Now that I was free, I let it all out!)

How I Learned To Trust Myself After the Abusive Relationship

how to trust yourselfFor a long time, I trusted everyone until they gave me a reason not to trust them. My abusive ex gave me crap about that trusting world-view, but in hindsight, he's the one who benefited most from it. When I realized that I could not trust my husband, my world-view shattered. My home, the place I should have felt the safest, was actually a war zone, and his family members who I once thought of as friends were his co-conspirators.

Trusting first, without holding anything back, can lead to disaster (see aforementioned marriage). But that didn't mean I had to retreat into a hardened shell and refuse to trust others. It only meant I needed to relearn how to trust myself. After years of my husband brainwashing me into believing I couldn't trust my own eyes let alone my thoughts, relearning to trust myself was easier said than done.

Appreciate the Times You Were Right

First I looked through old journals and blog posts and discovered that I knew more than I gave myself credit for knowing. I'd recorded predictions about the abuse I endured that came to pass. I'd guessed why my husband feigned anger and time proved me correct (How Abusers Gain Control by Appearing to Lose It). More than once I'd sent the kids to their friend's homes because I guessed correctly he would come home wanting to fight. Instead of paying attention to how I'd been wrong (as he directed), I paid attention to how often I'd been right.

Turns out, my intuition is dead on (End Your Abusive Relationship By Trusting Your Intuition).

Decide What Qualities You Want in Friends and Relationship Partners

Next thing I did was make a list of qualities I wanted in new friends and partners. I wanted honest, strong, independent men and women in my life who love me for who I am, flaws and all. I wanted to know people who treated me respectfully, even if they were upset with me, and to be appreciated for the skills I have instead of denigrated for the skills I don't.

Today, I don't have anyone in my life who doesn't love me (How to Make Good Friends After Leaving Abuse).

Observe Those Qualities in People Before Opening Yourself Up

After I figured out the qualities I wanted in friends, I listed what their behaviors would be if they had those qualities. For example, an honest person will admit to a mistake without passing the buck. I will never hear a respectful person gossip about another. An angry person will approach me calmly and want to work out the problem.

Today, even my son who seemed to have a dangerous anger problem a few years ago, approaches me with respect when we have conflicts.

Learn When to Hold Back Personal Information

Finally, I came to learn to hold back some information about myself when I meet a new person. Living with my husband trained me to be ready to explain everything I did in three different ways at least (because I thought he didn't understand me). At first, I gave away too much personal information, which could allow a person to undermine or hurt me in some other way. To protect myself from trusting too soon, I learned to keep private things private until my intuition and observations gave me the go-ahead.

Trusting yourself after an abusive relationship is easier said than done. Expect to make some mistakes, but trust that you will catch them in time. You learned how to detach from your abuser, so detach yourself from that inner abusive voice that tells you "You will always feel scared and alone." That voice lies.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2013, March 15). Trusting Yourself After an Abusive Relationship, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

April, 21 2017 at 2:35 am

I'm sorry to read what you have gone through but thank you for speaking up and writing this article because there are a lot of points that have clicked with myself . I mean the constant second guessing of your own perceptions and trust for yourself you feel confused crazy on edge and anxious about your women perceptions . It goes further to the police by you forget who you are and actually believe like you deserve it which I don't think anyone does. Emotional and physical abuse can reck and destroy people it can really break them and you do feel like your alone that no one goes through it , it's weird you get into this head space where you think that your the only person and that your all alone and like the one who's crazy , there is like anxiety , being on edge , fear of attack and abuse , getting attack emotionally , it really does hit the core but for the most part you are right about trusting yourself , it really effects you own trust towards self when you think hang on I thought that they weren't like this I should have known better but what I am coming to terms is that you were not the one who attacked them or made her make you et to that point it was them , ownership needs to go to them . I send my respect and condolences and hope whoever is going through this can see Cleary for what it really is with the courage they have and get th help they deserve . Everyone deserves to be loved and cared for and respected .

July, 19 2016 at 3:56 am

This has been the most helpful article on learning to trust yourself after abuse I've read thus far. Thank you for the wise words written from your own experience.

November, 11 2015 at 5:26 am

This was some good insight into my girlfriend I've been dating. She exhibits some mentioned habits of still not fully trusting. It's a tuff struggle not feeling like I am fully trusted after a 1 1/2 years. All I can do is hope and pray that with each passing season, being a good listener, understanding and most importantly, patient, that she'll come to realize that there are some good, honest and trustworthy men who want nothing more than to be someone they can count on.

March, 16 2015 at 5:26 am

I am so happy that I read this! My soon to be ex husband hated tears too and told me that I was weak if I cried. But I couldn't figure out why I have been crying so much since I left. Reading your article helped me put it together! I am just letting 5 years of emotion out!!

November, 3 2013 at 9:57 am

I hope you all tune in as Huffington Post Writer and Author goes into detail about Dating Again After an Abusive Relationship.. November 5, 2013 @ 12 pm EST... Or subscribe to our podcast. To listen in visit
Hope you'll be listening!!

June, 30 2013 at 6:46 am

I loved your final lines. We need to get some confidence by thinking that we have get rid of abuse already. The next step to get rid of the inner abusive voice that keeps on telling us to not trust anyone again.

March, 20 2013 at 3:09 pm

Hi Kellie, thank you for writing this article. Maybe you're right, maybe I don't trust myself to stay away from abusive men. But I also do not trust men anymore either. Every man I have ever known in my life, family included has seriously let me down in one way or another. I was married to my ex-husband for almost 8yrs and that was the most harrowing, awful time of my life. He severely abused me in so many different ways. Its been 3yrs since he kicked me out and I left him. I am utterly terrifed to get with another man. Just entertaining that idea makes me very nervous. I had a panic attack when I was talking to someone online and they totally reminded me of my ex. The panic attack was so severe I actually blacked out for a second. I have no idea how I can ever trust a man again, it's not like 'abuser' is tattooed on anyone's head. I'm to the point where I'd rather be alone the rest of my life than chance getting with another abuser.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Holly
March, 21 2013 at 8:49 pm

Krystal, I can understand how you feel because so many have expressed the same sentiment. You're right that you cannot tell an abuser from the first few meetings and sometimes you don't have a CLUE until you give your heart. Of course that is the moment they're waiting for, isn't it? When you give yourself to them. You have one life and you get to choose how you live it; I would not encourage otherwise. I do hope that you find peace of mind and heart wherever your journey takes you! With a man, without a long as you are happy! For the panic attack and the triggers that created it, I hope you do attend some sort of counseling. IF you have general anxiety, PTSD, depression or the like, a counselor can help you calm the symptoms.

March, 19 2013 at 10:27 pm

This article really helped me personally. Thank you.

March, 20 2013 at 3:05 am

Thank you so much for this!!! For so long I thought I was just not good enough to keep my ex happy and reading about how similar so many women's experiences are help me to heal!! I've only been out for five months so trusting myself is a major issue!

March, 15 2013 at 6:07 pm

Great article. I love your point if view especially no 3 about observing other people.

March, 15 2013 at 10:58 am

This was very helpful for me *as usual* ...thank you so much! :)

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