How can I help my partner overcome past abuse?

Published on August 17, 2019

If you are in a relationship with someone who has been abused, it can be confusing and sometimes frustrating.  If the person has not been able to resolve the abuse in their mind, they might act in ways that push you away. They might lash out when they are feeling anxious, accuse you of things that you have not done, be hypervigilant, and have a fear of intimacy.  At times this can feel like you are being punished for things that past people have done. It can feel quite unfair at times. Patience is required, but it is also essential to maintain your mental health. Here are some pointers to keep yourself safe and communicate with your loved one 

Recognise the signs of abuse and manipulation

Recognise the signs of abuse and manipulation – sometimes people claim to have been abused so that they can play the victim and play on your sympathies.  People who play the victim might be the actual abuser.

Set boundaries 

Let your loved one know when they have crossed the line.  If they have been lashing out, let them know that is hurtful and inappropriate. Communicate how that makes you feel in a non-violent way.  

Don’t take it personally

If your partner withdraws from time to time out of fear, don’t take it personally.  They might be afraid that you will hurt them again. Allow them their space, communicate that you still support and love them.  Ask them why they are withdrawing. Communicate how withdrawing makes you feel in a way that is not blaming. For example, I feel like I am not a priority, that I am being punished or that I don’t matter when you withdraw.

Be a role model

Model how you want to be treated.  Be consistent in acts of love and patience.  Speak kindly and assertively without aggression.  Be the safe person they are looking for.  

Encourage intimacy

Encourage intimacy – If you are confident that your partner is safe, open up about yourself.  Allow yourself to feel vulnerable. Ask your partner questions about them self, allow them to feel safe with being vulnerable.  Shared vulnerability encourages intimacy and strengthens the bond.  

Take care of yourself

Maintain your friendships and hobbies as an outlet.  Make sure your own mental and physical health is taken care of.  People who have been abused might become anxious or depressed, and this might affect your mood.  Be patient and empathetic with your partner, but also with yourself.  

Be patient with their insecurities

People who have been abused might have a low sense of self-worth.  Telling them to get over it, or getting angry will only deepen the insecurity because they will feel unheard. Listen to your partner’s insecurity and acknowledge that they feel that way. You do not need to fix them, but you can offer support.  You can ask them when they started feeling this way, is it related to their childhood, their past partner, or bullying. Talking through the insecurities with a safe person might help to resolve some of the pain. If you feel that your partner’s insecurities are hurting your relationship, ask them to seek therapy or go to couple’s counselling.


Communication is always the first step to resolving pain and insecurities. If you need to set up an appointment with Dr Borschel please contact +852 2521 4668 or email

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Category(s):Abuse / Abuse Survivor Issues, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) / Trauma / Complex PTSD, Relationships & Marriage

Written by:

Dr Monica Borschel

Dr Borschel specialises in Attachment and Loss. She is experienced in helping adults, teens, children, and families adjust to anxiety, trauma, abuse, divorce, separation, or loss of a loved one.

Dr. Borschel’s attachment-based psychodynamic therapy along with EMDR, enables her clients to find healing within themselves. In so doing, she can help adults, teens, and children to overcome grief, anxiety, trauma, neglect, emotional, verbal, physical abuse, and child abuse.

Furthermore, as an attachment specialist, she also helps individuals understand relationship patterns which prevent them from developing or maintaining healthy relationships. She is able to help reduce anxiety, insomnia, depression and promote confidence and self-esteem. This may include deciding what is in the best interest of the children during custody disputes, strengthening the relationship and communication between the parents and the children.

Dr. Borschel is originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. She graduated with her Masters in Clinical Psychology from Columbia University in New York City. She later moved to Hong Kong to pursue her doctorate at the University of Hong Kong in Social Work and Social Administration.

Registered Clinical Psychologist with The Hong Kong Society of Counseling and Psychology. Member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Counseling Association (ACA), The British Psychological Society (BPS), and the Hong Kong Family Law Association (HKFLA).

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