How can I build trust in my boyfriend when I’ve been mentally abused in the past?

Q: “I was previously in a very emotionally/mentally abusive relationship. My current boyfriend and I are very serious and are working on preparing for marriage. He loves the Lord and me very much, what more could I ask for … but yet I still fear he’s going to abuse me like my previous boyfriend. He’s very patient with me and loving and kind through my trust issues, which I thank God for … other than prayer, are there any exercises we can do to build trust?”

A: It’s rather normal that when you’ve been in an abusive relationship you tend to carry that distrust into the next relationship. In a sense, it’s unfair to the other person because they are a different person. But it’s normal because when you’re hurt emotionally by someone, you anticipate when they are going to let loose and be abusive. I think this is not so much something the two of you can do together, though, I think you can be open and talk about it together.

One of the things you can do is get up every morning and say, “I am not dating so and so, I am now dating so and so.” Consciously remind yourself that the man you are dating is a different person and it’s that reminder that builds in your mind a pattern of anticipating different things from the new person.

You can also try telling yourself, “I have these feelings and emotions that come sometimes but I’m not going to let those control me; I’m going to accept the kind and loving response I am receiving from the person I’m now dating.”


Gary Chapman, PhD, is the author of the bestselling 5 Love Languages® series, which has sold more than 8 million worldwide and has been translated into over 40 languages. Dr. Chapman travels the world presenting seminars on marriage, family, and relationships, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Karolyn. For more information visit

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