Trusting People After Getting Out of an Abusive Relationship

April 20, 2012 Kellie Jo Holly

Is it possible to trust after an abusive relationship? I wonder sometimes if I'll ever be able to trust the people who deserve it. I want to trust, but will I?

Trust eludes victims of abuse during their abusive relationship. As much as I wanted to trust my ex-abuser--and told others that I could trust him--it just wasn't so (Trust Issues and Abusive Relationships). I thought if I was trustworthy and expected to be able to trust him, then he would magically become trustworthy and our relationship would spring to life. That never happened because you cannot ever trust an abuser with your heart. But you can learn to trust after your abusive relationship.

I could trust him to go to work and provide financial support (because he believed men were providers, and he needed to keep that front for the outside world). I could trust him to fix our cars (because he believed real men should be blue-collar) and to protect our home (because he believed men should do that, too).

But I couldn't trust him to treat our children well, and I couldn't trust him to be good to me - good to my heart. When a relationship lacks emotional trust, there may as well be no trust at all.

Ready to Trust Other People, I But Don't

When I left my abuser, I was excited to be the same girl I'd been before I met him. Of course, that was impossible. I needed to protect myself from abusers (as often we victims walk right into a new abusive relationship), so I wanted to slightly adjust my trust meter. Although wiser, I can't help but remember that there were only four people in the 40 years I've been alive who hurt me terribly. Only four people. I feel pretty good about those odds.

Here's the rub: I find it very difficult to trust the people closest to me. Strangers get the benefit of the doubt, but those who stayed with me through thick and thin do not. I don't get it.

I know my sister and mother and lover are trustworthy, yet in my darkest hours, I doubt if even they would support me if I needed them. This makes no sense. All the evidence proves they would have my back no matter what happened. I can list examples, remember their actions, ... and yet, the feeling that I am truly alone in this world has not left me yet. It's like I'm waiting for the next shoe to drop; it's as if my loved ones plot and plan the best way to hurt me. Just like my abuser seemed to do.

Have I transferred the distrust earned by my ex onto those who do not deserve it at all? Why?

The Transfer of Distrust

I suppose the transfer of distrust from my abuser to my family could be a natural extension of an old habit. My abuser maneuvered out from under negative labels by redirecting my attention to myself or those I loved. His sins became mine, my mother's, or any other convenient person who he could think to blame.

I allowed it because I wanted him to be the good man I imagined. I allowed him to blame me because it justified my reasons to stay in the relationship. When he told me I was "just like my mother", I defended my mother (and myself) instead of focusing on the characteristics he exhibited but denied.

Confusing? You bet. Because I conditioned myself to trust my untrustworthy abuser for 18 years, I'm confused as to how trust in a relationship is supposed to work. Distrusting the people I "should" be able to trust has become a more natural dynamic to me than placing distrust where it should lie: directly on my ex-abuser.

Distrust In Relationships

It must be so confusing and hurtful for my loved ones to hear me say, "I trust you" and then behave like I don't. The conflict of knowing I can trust them--versus feeling as if I can't--causes me to cry, and up to this point of clarity, added to the overwhelming depression I sometimes feel.

If I don't get a handle on proper trust, all of my best and most desired relationships may go to hell in a hand-basket because of me and my still-affected-by-my-abuser mind.

Sometimes I feel so completely warped that I wonder if I'll ever see my way clear. And then sometimes, like today, issues become so clear that I know I'll be okay.

I will be okay if I continue disentangling myself from the past mind-sets and turmoil of emotion that was my life. All of us past victims can be okay if we just forge a new path instead of following the old one drawn for us by abuse. That's why they call us survivors.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2012, April 20). Trusting People After Getting Out of an Abusive Relationship, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

July, 21 2018 at 8:35 pm

Just left an emotional abusive situation 3 days ago. It was subtle. He seemed kind, funny and caring. But it turned into him criticizing me, judging and absurd accusations. He was also controlling. I feel lucky because it never turned into physical abuse. But feeling so small and worthless took its toll. I am healing now, but feeling angry and depressed. I blame myself for letting someone treat me so poorly, but know in my heart I didn't deserve it, I never did anything to this person to warrant his behavior. So now, I am free from him, and remind myself of that everyday.

June, 17 2015 at 6:24 am

Hi Kelly and everyone,
Having experienced a couple of horrible abusive relationships myself, I think the reason you trust Strangers more than those who love you, is because you don't trust or fully love yourself yet, because deep down you still feel you somehow deserved all these horrible evil experiences (you didn't).
Strangers are a clean slate that we can project our own goodness onto, whereas anyone you've been in a long time relationship with will at some point have naturally disappointed you or let you down.
It comes from 'black and white' thinking, that people are either all good or all bad, whereas actually even the most evil abuser can show moments of what appears to be kindness, which can confuse the hell out of you. Most of us need Trauma healing after abuse, Google it.
We need to work on ourselves, click on my name above for my website for more help, and please feel free to email me there too for support!
We need to listen to our small voice within and honour ourselves, nurture ourselves and protect ourselves in a healthy way.
Big hugs to everyone, we are SO much better than this! Xxx

April, 25 2015 at 4:30 am

I am dating a narcissist sadist who abuses me in ways I can not print. I do not live with him.i left him a couple times but I keep going back to him.i don't know why.i feel sorry for him and I cant dislike or hate him as much as I would like to.he reminds me so much like the man I was with last who was the only man I ever loved.he died . everything about this sadist reminds me of him from the looks,way he walks,everything. could it be possible that im staying with him because he is like the other man who I loved. please help me figure this out.

April, 21 2015 at 5:56 pm

I have been out of my relationship for 3 years, I make trouble for the ones I date now because of my distrust in my ex. But one thing I am learning is I am not the victim anymore. It's time to let all the bad things go in my life, I can't control the past. But I sure can control my future.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
April, 22 2015 at 2:04 am

Beautiful, Tasha <3 On my good days, I feel the same way. And there are way more good days than bad without my ex!

October, 16 2014 at 10:49 am

Thanks for that it really helps to know I'm not alone,
I know I've only just turned 16 but I've just got out of a verbal abusive relationship last week it's so hard not to cry and get emotional .
I mean I can't even trust my best friends anymore;its that bad.
I was in this relationship for a year ,I think I really need to get over him but the question I ask myself and everyone I can is how ?

September, 18 2014 at 3:23 pm

I am with an abuser who forces me to stay because I am financially dependent and don't have a job. He is a [deleted bad word beginning with a c]. Cannot wait to leave him I am so sick of him.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
September, 22 2014 at 9:41 am

You can leave without having a job. It may not be as pleasant as leaving with a job in place, but many of us did it. Don't let him convince you otherwise.

August, 22 2014 at 1:17 pm

I am so grateful for your sharings.
I have been actively trying to dis-engage from my beautiful soulful rock n roller drug addict ex recently. We broke up almost 1 year ago, however I have been unable to not call him, to not fall back on what I believe to be solid ground. My perception in lonely moments is highly skewed. I am now working towards letting go, and letting in those that truly love me.
I nearly stopped breathing when I read, " I find it very difficult to trust the people closest to me. Strangers get the benefit of the doubt, but those who stayed with me through thick and thin do not."
This is exactly what I've been struggling with. It's horrible! I feel more at ease talking to strangers about their life, the weather, my life than I do hanging out with close friends, who knew me before my abusive relationship (sadly, I cannot say that they knew me during- there weren't very many friends of my own around during the dark ages!)
It's like this weird paranoid filter is placed over my eyes, my mouth, my face. I can only see through this lens that shows everything as not-quite-true. That behind the smiling faces of my friends, they really are judging me, or setting me up, or saying things just to say it, that they couldn't possibly mean.
And then I start to realize that it's all in my head, and I hate myself for being so egocentric. It's twisted. I've been trying to breathe deeply, to write when I can, to not obsess, and not over indulge in sluggishness/oversleep/mild depression. To instead, try and seek CLARITY.
I have to remind myself that this life truly is a gift. I am thankful for stumbling across your website this evening, it really has a lot of the affirmations I've been looking for.
We are blessed, despite the information we might be hearing from a man who says otherwise. We are free to choose, despite the chains that have been placed on us, and that we have allowed to entangle us. We are free to choose our future, and this moment. Love to all, and many thanks.

March, 20 2014 at 4:14 pm

It's been a little over a year since I finally successfully got out of my absive relationship. Like you said the feeling of being myself again not fearing everyone, looking people in the face when speaking with them and making it through most nights without shouting in my sleep is great. It makes me feel as if I'm starting to heal but the lingering trust issues I can't seem to conquer and they continue to cause problems in my close relationships. The anxiety creeps and I either retreat and cut off the relationship or lash out at people who have already been so patient with me. I feel better knowing I'm not the only one.

March, 29 2013 at 3:49 am

Could not have said it better myself. Thank you for sharing.

January, 18 2013 at 4:25 pm

I've been raped twice at 12 by a neighbor and 15 by a step-brother whom my Grandparents wouldn't support me in turning in, because my Dad said it was my fault, and then I've been sexually harassed "8" times, the 8th guy my therapist says he molested me, because he was a mental health case worker who lost his job over "helping" me being over at my house dring his lunch break everyday, with me dragging him across the floor trying to get away, which eventually led into us having a son (and on the adoption papers, he put that his goal was to get me pregnant)-he was then 76, now he's 80 (I just turned 35 mid december),
and I've realized from this site that it's not just emotional co-dependency, but in all aspects of getting me around town to shop and just out of the house in general help along with my social phobia (I don't socialize or go outside my door unless he's with me other than to get my mail due to fear of being seen or someone talking to me).

Kyle Dinenno-Barone
April, 20 2012 at 5:34 pm

I believe I saw your blurp on facebook, etc. I am so glad to read what I feel. It will be (2) yrs in August that I left the sociopath that I lived with and I still feel exactly as you describe. I thank you for making me realize that I am not alone.
Take Care,

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