My last relationship was abusive, and now, I struggle to feel safe in my current relationship.

Published on August 7, 2019

After being abused by someone you thought you could trust, you might have a difficult time trusting your judgement.  I often hear people say, “How could I have been so stupid?” One of the reasons that people find it so difficult to trust their judgement after an abusive relationship is because 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 people who are safe and secure.  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 too.  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.   

2. Communicate

If you have decided that your partner is safe, communicate about your past experience.  Let them know what happened. For example, if you were cheated on or lied too, 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 of 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 so that I 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 – your 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 not sure 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 who is 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 for 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 are feeling anxious about your new partner, ask yourself if it is a past experience creeping in, or if the present experience is giving 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 used to withdraw; 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. 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. At one point you might have been told that you’re feelings are not valid, recognise that they are and effectively express them.  


Gain clarity about your situation and choices by talking to someone you can trust like a family member or a friend or a coach. To set up an appointment with Dr Borschel please contact +852 2521 4668 or email

Category(s):Abuse / Abuse Survivor Issues, Anxiety, Emotional Abuse, 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 therapy along with EMDR and brainspotting, 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 British Psychological Society (BPS), the Hong Kong Family Law Association (HKFLA) and EMDRIA certified therapist.

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