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Asking for a friend: ‘I was in an abusive relationship for two years and I’m afraid of getting hurt again. How can I ever trust another man?’

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'Healing isn’t a linear, smooth process, but we do learn all the time'

'Healing isn’t a linear, smooth process, but we do learn all the time'

'Healing isn’t a linear, smooth process, but we do learn all the time'

I was in a relationship for almost two years. I now recognise that this relationship was an abusive one on many levels. There was emotional abuse, and it destroyed my confidence. This man manipulated me, and I struggled to make sense of what was going on. I eventually broke up with him, but it has taken a long time to get over what he did to me. I feel like I cannot trust anyone ever again, and I feel like I will never have a relationship again as I don’t know how I could trust another man. It’s been nearly two years and I haven’t gotten out there again or given anyone a chance. I reached out to support services after everything happened, which was a huge help at the time. So, I guess my question is, how can I learn to give love a chance again and to stop letting the fear of being hurt again get in the way of it?

Dr West replies: It’s no surprise you feel like this. Emotional abuse is a devastating thing to experience, and something that is very difficult to wrap our heads around. In a relationship, we think that we should be with someone who loves us, cherishes us, and holds us in the highest regard. When someone treats us in a callous, abusive way, it is so hard to make sense of. Hindsight helps us see patterns, but it is extremely difficult to understand what is happening when we are in the middle of it. We often struggle to name abuse, even if it is the most ‘obvious’ type of physical abuse. Our brains try to protect us from harm, so to consciously name what is happening to us as abuse is really difficult. The fear that you feel is you trying to protect yourself from further harm, and it is totally natural.


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