Relationship Trust - How Do You Regain
Trust in the Context of an Abusive Relationship?

Dr. King



by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.


People in abusive relationships ask how do you regain trust after he/she has hurt me, hit me, cursed me... Many of these people genuinely long to rebuild trust in their compromised relationships. Yet, they claim that they are stuck. They simply don’t know how to trust their partner, again.

Domestic Abuse and Interpersonal Trust

It makes perfect sense that you see a person who hurt you as they show themselves to be with you, rather than expecting them to be, as you desire them to be. This is what is advised when one recognizes the obvious signs of domestic violence the first time in a new relationship.

In established relationships, issues of trust and history emerge. Couples wanting to recover from domestic abuse hold mixed memories of history and stumble on basic trust.

Why do they stumble? My sense is that the way they “try” to rebuild trust supports their lack of trust. And most importantly, they fail to master accountability after trust is violated. For example, take a look at Robert and Fran.

Violation of Trust in an Abusive Relationship

Robert has a history of vicious name calling toward his partner Fran. They have had their fair share of physical altercations, as well. The straw that broke the camel’s back for Fran was the day she found herself arrested for domestic violence…all while she being the victimized party.

Fran remains perplexed at how she could ever trust this man again. Robert expects to regain Fran’s trust by her extending herself...and merely expecting him to be trust worthy. Fran fears he will continue abusing her AND have her arrested again.

Fran is “gun shy.” Her belief is that Robert has already shown his “true” colors. She doesn’t want to chance exposing herself to further abuse. Yet, she longs to know how she can grow to trust him again.

Accountability and Trust in Abusive Relationships

What’s missing for Fran is “accountability.” All she wants to hear from him is that he realizes what he did and recognizes the wrongdoing toward her and implications to her.

As a start, she wants his empathy and genuine ownership. She wants him to be responsible for his actions. With that accountability from Robert, Fran can consider extending herself. Without it, she is stuck...and unwilling to rebuild trust by furthering her vulnerability.

If you are in a relationship in which your trust has been violated, ask yourself what you need to move beyond the violation. What do you long for and require as a platform to rebuild trust? Or, has a line been crossed beyond which you can ever dare to trust again?

For more information about domestic abuse relationship healing, visit Psychologist Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps individuals nationwide end and heal from domestic abuse.

© Jeanne King, Ph.D. — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.