How To Date Someone Who Was In An Abusive Relationship (2022)

Being in an abusive relationship is one of the most traumatic experiences that anyone can go through in their life. Abuse is usually one of the following:

  • Verbal: A partner uses hurtful or offensive language, is extremely critical, snappy, moody and rude.
  • Emotional: Usually includes accusations, jealousy, possessiveness and trying to control the other person’s behavior, friendships, and thoughts. Emotional abuse can be hard to spot as it’s highly manipulative and often concealed as “caring so much for the other person”.
  • Gaslighting: A form pf psychological abuse where one partner makes the other question their entire sanity, memories, or even view of the world.
  • Sexual and physical: Includes bondage, assault, rape, and harm that isn’t consensual.

None of these forms of abuse are justifiable. Why would anyone do this to the person they are with…? Usually, the abuser would apologize or pretend nothing happened after abusing their partner. It might even be followed by periods of extreme care, love and intimacy – but these periods never last for long.

In order to date someone who was in an abusive relationship, you need to start by understanding what they went through and how it affected them. This can be really hard because victims of abuse often suffer from trauma, PTSD, and high levels of shame associated with their experience.

Show them that talking about it won’t change how you view them – and that it’s actually a really brave thing to do. If the details are too much for them to talk about, just show them you are there to listen when and if they are ready.

Table of Contents

What is an abuse survivor like in a romantic relationship?

How To Date Someone Who Was In An Abusive Relationship (1)

The main things you will need to deal with are extreme lack of self-confidence, fear of commitment and mistrust.

Their self-esteem has been damaged, they have been hurt time and time again and it will be a while until they feel like they can be safe around others. Your partner probably went through a combination of abuse, so they associate a romantic relationship with the feeling of being attacked, hurt and mistrusted.

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An abusive partner might have said any of these on a regular basis to them:

  • You deserve this. You’re nothing.
  • You made me hit you.”
  • See what you made me do?! It’s all your fault!
  • No one will ever love you like I do!”
  • I’m the only one you cares about you!”
  • Don’t you dare tell any of this to anybody…”
  • You can’t leave me!

This daily abuse is almost impossible to eradicate from one’s psyche. Talking through it will always help, but it won’t be an overnight cure.

An abuse victim might be mistrustful of your kindness. Any romantic gestures can be perceived as leading onto more abuse. How can they trust that you only mean well? After all, the last time they trusted someone, they were hurt over and over again.

You need to know that despite the mistrust they will still be grateful for your kind gestures, your time, support, and thoughtful gifts. They are going through a healing process, and showing that you are there for them is all that matters at this stage.

Why does an abuse victim startle easily?

How To Date Someone Who Was In An Abusive Relationship (2)

If you are dating someone who was in an abusive relationship, you may have spotted some unusual behavior including being easily startled. Your partner might flinch at rapid movements or even jump at a loud sound.

They will be associating certain settings, environments, sounds and noises with the abuse they went through (i.e.: certain physical movements like raising a hand or standing up too quickly). Make sure you are aware of their sensitivity and try to minimize these triggers as much as you can.

What about intimacy? How forward can you be?

How To Date Someone Who Was In An Abusive Relationship (3)

An abuse victim might find it difficult to get physical with you, because the memories are too strong. So, if they want to wait a while before sleeping with you, then understand that it has nothing to do with how they feel about you – it might just take them a while.

They want to trust you and show you their love, but being vulnerable again is a hard process.

(Video) Tips For Dating Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Why won’t they say, “I love you”?

How To Date Someone Who Was In An Abusive Relationship (4)

Someone with a difficult past won’t be too quick to open up about their feelings, especially early on. So, if you want them to say “I love you”, you might be anticipating a little too much.

Actions speak louder than words, so trust that if they are with you, then they care. If you feel ready to say that you love them, just do it. Life’s too short!

Why does it seem that they are constantly picking fights?

How To Date Someone Who Was In An Abusive Relationship (5)

An abuse victim might unintentionally try and sabotage the relationship out of fear. When you are driven by low self-esteem, fear of commitment, and fear of being hurt, a good relationship might just feel too good to be true.

They may pick up a fight often, or be difficult just for the sake of it, because they are afraid of being too attached or co-dependent. It’s important to reassure your partner that opening up to you and putting an effort into the relationship won’t scare you away, and won’t make you turn into an abusive possessive partner.

You will probably find yourself reminding them often that you aren’t their ex – that you are kind, supportive, loving, and wouldn’t hurt a fly. As hard as it may be for them to see, you need to put in the time to prove it day in and day out.

Woah! Now, they are suddenly way too attached. What should you do?

How To Date Someone Who Was In An Abusive Relationship (6)

One of the main hurdles when dating someone who was in an abusive relationship is getting them to trust you and see that you are nothing like the person who used to hurt them. But once they get to know you and realize that they have nothing to fear, the abuse victim might suddenly turn into the exact opposite – and get attached very quickly.

They may become a bit clingy and dependent on you because they know you are a safe person to be with. Someone who’s been hurt in the past will be desperate for stability, love, and constant positive affirmations. They might want to spend all their time with you, meet your family early on, and do a lot of things together.

It’s important not to lose yourself in the relationship or forget to look after yourself in the midst of it all. Try explaining that their pace might be a bit too fast for you, that there’s no rush, and that things will still be nice while moving at a slower pace.

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Show them stability.

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Having been hurt by someone you love, regardless of how long it was going on for, means that they will likely seek a lot more predictability and consistency in their current relationship. Make sure there are no unexpected surprises and no lies.

In order to show them you can be trusted you need to show up – literally! Stick to the plans you’ve made with them, and don’t overreact if something doesn’t quite work out. They want peace, calmness and care – so be sure to embody those qualities.

Be there, but avoid being their “caretaker”.

How To Date Someone Who Was In An Abusive Relationship (8)

While you may naturally feel like you need to do more to help your partner, acting like a caregiver could damage the relationship by making them feel completely helpless or dependent on you.

Nobody wants to feel pitied, and it’s literally a passion killer in relationships.

The best thing you can do for them is to help them rebuild their confidence, build their backbone, and find happiness again. Make sure you don’t overstep and take over their entire life.

It’s their healing and growth process; you are just along for the ride.

Therapy can help – if they are open to it.

How To Date Someone Who Was In An Abusive Relationship (9)

Encourage them to seek professional help if they don’t feel like they are getting better and it’s harming the relationship between the two of you. There are things therapists can say and do that you simply can’t, and that’s okay.

Learn their triggers.

How To Date Someone Who Was In An Abusive Relationship (10)

While you shouldn’t walk on eggshells around them, you should try to truly understand what triggers and upsets them. One of the best ways to help is by simply educating yourself on what it feels like to be an abuse survivor.

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Certain phrases, sounds and situations may always be a trigger, so it’s best to avoid them altogether. If they aren’t comfortable being at a loud party, don’t make them go just because you feel like it. And, whatever you do, avoid saying any of the following phrases to them:

  • It’s all in your head.”
  • You’re making things up.”
  • It’s really not that bad.”/”It can’t be that bad!”
  • You’ll be fine, you’ll see.

If you know their biggest triggers and still try to make them do things that you know will make them feel horrible, then get ready to be dumped. Nobody wants to be reminded of the trauma they’ve had to live with.

What can you do when they’re just not ready for a loving relationship?

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A person who suffered through abuse will likely feel completely unworthy of a loving relationship. They will be scarred by their previous partner, and might constantly feel like they have to look over their shoulder.

They will constantly search for signs that it isn’t going well, that they can’t trust their partner, or that they just don’t deserve to be happy which is why it’s essential to show them that it takes courage to love, open up, and be vulnerable.

Remind them how lovable they are and how much they mean to you by using reassuring language, including:

  • I love you and I’m here for you, no matter what.”
  • You didn’t deserve to be hurt.”
  • You cannot possibly do anything to deserve being hurt.”
  • I would never hurt you.”
  • You deserve to be happy.”
  • You deserve to be loved.

When it comes to dating someone, who was in an abusive relationship, there is no one size-fits-all. You could read tons or books or articles to try and understand what they went through, how it felt, and why it’s so damaging, but without having experienced abuse yourself there’s really no way to fully understand it.

Empathy is a big first step in getting closer to an abuse survivor. Just be there and listen, refrain from trying to switch to “fix it” mode, and avoid trying to make sense of why their abuser was the way they were. The last thing your partner wants to hear is you looking for excuses for their abuser or finding the fault in them.

Nobody deserves to be hurt – not ever. It doesn’t matter what they said or did, they are not responsible for the actions of another person. An abuser will make their victim believe that it was their fault, that they asked for it, and that if only they’d been X, Y and Z, it wouldn’t have happened. Those are all lies all abusers tell, and abusers don’t change.

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Do you love someone who’s been hurt before? Show them how wonderful and worthy of love they are in your eyes, remind them how beautiful life is, and make sure you are there for them when they just want you to listen.

Be compassionate and have a lot of patience. You might be building an amazing relationship – but you will need to do some hard work first.


How do you date an abused girl? ›

7 Tips For Dating A Survivor of Sexual Abuse or Assault
  1. Get Educated About Trauma. ...
  2. Let Survivors Tell Their Story on Their Schedule. ...
  3. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. ...
  4. Put Consent Front and Center. ...
  5. Respect Your Partner's Needs. ...
  6. Let the Relationship Move At Its Own Pace. ...
  7. Celebrate Recovery Together.
Aug 11, 2017

How does emotional abuse affect future relationships? ›

Effects on personal relationships. A person who is subjected to emotional abuse, either as a child or within a relationship, may be less likely to trust people in the future. For example, as they grow up, children might seek negative relationships that may continue to expose them to emotional abuse.

How do you date after a toxic relationship? ›

Here are the 5 steps you need to take if you want to know how to start dating after a toxic relationship.
  1. Get to know yourself again. People who have been in toxic relationships lose who they are. ...
  2. Take stock of what happened in your relationship. ...
  3. Believe in love. ...
  4. Choose differently. ...
  5. Go slow.
Oct 22, 2020

How do you love an abused man? ›

While the bulk of his daily abuse was physical, it took many forms.
How Child Abuse Survivors Can Still Build Healthy Adult Relationships
  1. Don't Try to “Fix” Things. ...
  2. Show Your Partner Empathy. ...
  3. Engage in Random Acts of Kindness. ...
  4. Let Them Be Emotional.
Aug 22, 2019

How do you date after a relationship with a narcissist? ›

How to Show Up as High Value When Dating After Narcissistic Abuse
  1. 1 – Don't start dating again unless you have put in some serious healing work. ...
  2. 2 – Don't “Imprint” onto the first person you go out with. ...
  3. 3 – Believe them when they say they're not ready for a relationship. ...
  4. 4 – Talking about your ex or past relationships.
Sep 1, 2019

How narcissistic abuse changes your brain? ›

As a narcissistic abuse survivor, you will likely have symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Your brain will be on high alert, looking out for danger. This is because the traumatic events triggered a fight or flight response within you. As a result, anything associated with those memories can trigger an anxiety attack.

What are the 5 signs of emotional abuse? ›

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse
  • They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You. ...
  • They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy. ...
  • They are Possessive and/or Controlling. ...
  • They are Manipulative. ...
  • They Often Dismiss You and Your Feelings.
May 23, 2017

What are the 5 cycles of emotional abuse? ›

The five cycles codified—enmeshment, extreme overprotection and overindulgence, complete neglect, rage, and rejection/abandon- ment—were first published in Annals, the journal of the American Psychotherapy Association, in the Fall of 2002.

How does emotional abuse change a person? ›

Emotional and psychological abuse can have severe short- and long-term effects. This type of abuse can affect both your physical and your mental health. You may experience feelings of confusion, anxiety, shame, guilt, frequent crying, over-compliance, powerlessness, and more.

Why is it so hard to date after a toxic relationship? ›

Toxic relationships are difficult because a lot of time they don't start out that way. They start off healthy and good and make you very happy. And the gradual shift isn't so much caused by the other person but sometimes two people together just stop being good for each other. And it's hard to step away from that.

What happens when you meet a good guy after a toxic relationship? ›

He'll see the pain in your heart trying so hard to love again when you've only known heartbreak. And he's going to constantly reassure you everything is okay. When a good guy loves someone who is broken who has only known toxic relationships, what he does is teach her she didn't deserve anything she got.

How do I be a good girlfriend after a toxic relationship? ›

Finding and being in a healthy relationship after a toxic one can be hard. Give yourself grace as you navigate the process; be gentle with yourself and try to stay patient and self-compassionate. Lean into people who love you well and can encourage you in hard times.

How can I help him heal his heart? ›

Helping Your Partner Heal from Relationship Abuse
  1. Validate your partner's feelings. ...
  2. Don't allow your partner to dismiss their experiences. ...
  3. Listen, listen, listen. ...
  4. Be patient. ...
  5. Rejoice in the baby steps.

How do you get over trauma in a relationship? ›

How to Heal From Relationship Trauma
  1. Cultivating an environment that feels emotionally and physically safe.
  2. Identifying and establishing boundaries.
  3. Building a support system with trusted individuals.
  4. Communicating your needs.
  5. Engaging in activities that help you feel calm and safe.
Jan 18, 2022

How do you get over Stockholm Syndrome? ›

If you feel you have Stockholm syndrome or know someone who might, you should speak to a therapist. Therapy can help you through recovery, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. A therapist can also help you learn coping mechanisms and help you process the way you feel.

Why is it hard to date after narcissistic abuse? ›

Not only are you reeling from the trauma of a toxic relationship, you're not even sure you ever want to date again. Any survivor of narcissistic abuse can tell you that it's exhausting to even think about being with another person after the mind games he or she has gone through.

How long will a narcissist rebound relationship last? ›

How long does a rebound relationship last? The average length of a rebound relationship is two to three years at maximum. Nearly 90% of such relationships are over within three years. Two to three months is the period, how long does infatuation last in a rebound relationship.

How do you trust someone after narcissistic abuse? ›

How to trust after narcissistic abuse - YouTube

What makes a narcissist panic? ›

Narcissists love to play the victim to gain sympathy and attention, so you can make them panic when you don't indulge this in them. If you don't give them the chance to play the victim role, they will find something else to take control of their life.

What dating a narcissist does to you? ›

Dating a narcissist may cause lowered self-esteem, a loss of identity, insecurity in your relationship, isolation, self-doubt, or anxiety. Not all consequences of dating a narcissist are bad—survivors of narcissistic abuse experience increased compassion for others and self-respect.

What does a trauma bond with a narcissist look like? ›

Signs of a Trauma Bond. You might be suffering from a trauma bond if you exhibit the following behaviors: You know they are abusive and manipulative, but you can't seem to let go. You ruminate over the incidents of abuse, engage in self-blame, and the abuser becomes the sole arbiter of your self-esteem and self-worth.

What are the signs of narcissistic abuse? ›

Symptoms of Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome
  • Always Walking On Egg Shells. As a human, you tend to avoid things that remind you of terrible things in the past. ...
  • Sense of Mistrust. ...
  • Self-Isolation. ...
  • Loss of Self Worth. ...
  • Feeling Lonely. ...
  • Freezing Up. ...
  • Trouble Making Decisions. ...
  • Feeling Like You've Done Something Wrong.
Dec 23, 2020

What does emotional abuse do to a woman? ›

Staying in an emotionally or verbally abusive relationship can have long-lasting effects on your physical and mental health, including leading to chronic pain, depression, or anxiety. Read more about the effects on your health. You may also: Question your memory of events: “Did that really happen?” (See Gaslighting.)

What does stonewalling mean in a relationship? ›

What does it mean to stonewall someone? In simple terms, stonewalling is when someone completely shuts down in a conversation or refuses to interact with another person.

What are the long term effects of emotional abuse? ›

Long-term effects of emotional abuse may include but aren't limited to PTSD, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, feelings of guilt and shame, and trouble trusting others or entering new relationships.

What's gaslighting someone mean? ›

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser attempts to sow self-doubt and confusion in their victim's mind. Typically, gaslighters are seeking to gain power and control over the other person, by distorting reality and forcing them to question their own judgment and intuition.

What is the cycle of narcissistic abuse? ›

The narcissistic abuse cycle is a pattern of highs and lows in which the narcissist confuses their partner through manipulation and calculated behaviors aimed at making their partner question themselves. The cycle has three specific phases: Idealization, devaluation, and rejection.

Can you get PTSD from emotional abuse? ›

Emotional abuse can lead to C-PTSD, a type of PTSD that involves ongoing trauma. C-PTSD shows many of the same symptoms as PTSD, although its symptoms and causes can differ. Treatment should be tailored to the situation to address the ongoing trauma the person experienced from emotional abuse.

What are 5 effects of abuse? ›

mental health disorders such as anxiety, attachment, post-traumatic stress and depression disorders. self-harming or suicidal thoughts. learning disorders, including poor language and cognitive development. developmental delay, eating disorders and physical ailments.

Why is emotional abuse so damaging? ›

They cause people to believe the lies that are unfairly or unjustly spoken to them. Emotional abuse is the intentional devaluing of one person by another in order to elevate themselves. Emotional abuse and its negative messages are false; they keep you from finding and understanding the truth of who you are.

Are toxic relationships real love? ›

Real love cannot happen in a toxic relationship.

You must first cleanse your relationship before you can even think of finding true love within it. But sometimes that isn't possible. Relationships are always difficult. Two people have to merge their lives and validate each other's decisions.

Why are toxic relationships so addictive? ›

If our caregiver fails to create a secure attachment, we will feel insecure (and anxious) in our attachments later in life. This has some biological underpinnings - our nervous system registers our initial attachments as “the norm” and we become biologically addicted to this type of attachment.

What makes a relationship toxic? ›

A toxic relationship is one that makes you feel unsupported, misunderstood, demeaned, or attacked. On a basic level, any relationship that makes you feel worse rather than better can become toxic over time. Toxic relationships can exist in just about any context, from the playground to the boardroom to the bedroom.

How do you find peace after a toxic relationship? ›

Here are four ways you can begin finding peace after a toxic relationship.
  1. Surround Yourself With Supportive People. Being in a positive atmosphere after going through toxicity is important. ...
  2. Allow Yourself Time for Grief. ...
  3. Show Yourself Forgiveness. ...
  4. Begin Future Relationships Slowly.
Jul 28, 2021

How can I meet a new man? ›

How to meet men: seven simple ways to find a connection
  1. Get your heart rate going at an exercise class. ...
  2. Get bonding on an activity holiday. ...
  3. Show off your skills at an evening class. ...
  4. Go on a foodventure. ...
  5. Pursue a passion. ...
  6. Get jiggy at a dance class. ...
  7. And last but not least...
Jul 15, 2021

Does space help a broken relationship? ›

Spending time apart can make your relationship a whole lot healthier, Erickson says, because it gives you both a chance to reconnect with your own values, desires. It'll be easier to connect in a genuine way after you've had some space, as well as a lot more exciting.

Can toxic relationships be healed? ›

Toxic relationships can be healed with patience, understanding, love, and care. You and your partner need to put time and effort into working on your relationship. It cannot happen overnight. It may take months or years to make things better.

Why do toxic relationships feel exciting? ›

Toxic relationships are addictive.

The frustration-attraction you feel is very real, and each time you have any interaction with this person, it strengthens your connection to them versus wanting you to leave them.

What are the signs of a broken heart? ›

What are the symptoms of broken heart syndrome?
  • Sudden, severe chest pain (angina) – a main symptom.
  • Shortness of breath – a main symptom.
  • Weakening of the left ventricle of your heart – a main sign.
  • Fluid in your lungs.
  • Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension).
Feb 10, 2021

How do you love someone who is emotionally damaged? ›

However, when it comes to helping others fight their inner battles, here are a few table manners to consider when handling someone who's been emotionally damaged.
  1. DON'T say “get over it.” ...
  2. DO say “you're better than this.” ...
  3. DO say “I can appreciate that.” ...
  4. DO offer a safe place. ...
  5. DON'T enable. ...
  6. DO encourage.
Jul 1, 2015

What does heartbreak feel like for a man? ›

What does heartbreak feel like for a man? To quote one of the researchers, “The man will likely feel the loss deeply and for a very long period of time as it 'sinks in' that he must 'start competing' all over again to replace what he has lost — or worse still, come to the realization that the loss is irreplaceable.”

What are the 5 stages of trauma? ›

There are 5 stages to this process:
  • Denial - this can't be happening.
  • Anger - why did this have to happen?
  • Bargaining - I promise I'll never ask for another thing if only you will
  • Depression - a gloom that comes from having to adjust to so much so quickly.
  • Acceptance.

Can you get PTSD from a toxic relationship? ›

An abusive relationship can absolutely lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Does the pain of betrayal ever go away? ›

After a betrayal in a romantic relationship, you might find yourself dealing with ongoing trust issues and self-doubt. Even if you choose to give your partner another chance, it might take months, even years, to successfully rebuild trust.

What are the long term effects of emotional abuse? ›

Long-term effects of emotional abuse may include but aren't limited to PTSD, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, feelings of guilt and shame, and trouble trusting others or entering new relationships.

What are other potential long term effects of abuse on a person? ›

Maltreatment can cause victims to feel isolation, fear, and distrust, which can translate into lifelong psychological consequences that can manifest as educational difficulties, low self-esteem, depression, and trouble forming and maintaining relationships.

Does emotional abuse get worse over time? ›

It tends to get worse over time, can turn physical at any moment – even years into the relationship – and, when coupled with progressively more controlling-isolating-coercive-threatening behavior, it can become a lethality risk.

Is it possible to have PTSD from emotional abuse? ›

PTSD is a reaction to psychological trauma which develops in response to actual or threatened extreme danger or personal injury. PTSD can originate from a variety of forms of abuse, ranging from physical abuse to sexual abuse to emotional abuse.


1. Dating and Loving a Sexual Assault Survivor
(Mary Jo Rapini)
2. Dating Tips : Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship
3. Dating after abuse. Dating after a narcissist
(Vivian McGrath)
4. WHEN to Tell a New Relationship About Trauma/Abuse/Assault
(Trauma Talk)
5. Getting Back into A Healthy Relationship After Narcissistic Abuse. Pointers.
6. Combativeness After Abusive Relationships - RELATIONSHIPS AFTER TRAUMA
(Trauma Talk)

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