Your partner’s behavior can be a consequence of a previous traumatic or abusive relationship.
It is to be expected that following months or years in a toxic relationship, one can find it difficult to have a normal and healthy relationship. According to Dr. Jamie Long, a licensed clinical psychologist at The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale, ‘The ultimate fear of someone who has been hurt in the past is that it will happen again […] so they may struggle with insecurities, jealousy, or being overly guarded’. At the start of a relationship, it may be difficult to understand why your partner is behaving the way that they are; for this reason, you might find yourself often feeling hurt and confused.
Here are seven signs that your partner has been the victim of abuse and toxicity in their previous relationship(s):
1. They struggle opening-up
Someone who has experienced tremendous pain in the past is likely to feel cautious and wary about new relationships. They might be slow to open up as before they do so, they want to make sure that they will not end up getting hurt the way they did before. What is more, if they have faced judgment from their partner in the past, they may be afraid that they will be judged again. All of this makes it extremely difficult for them to let people in and open up again.
2. They get angry quickly
If your partner has constantly faced invalidation in the past, they may now be quick to anger and incapable of dealing with stress. Dr. Long explains that: “When a person is frequently invalidated it can lead to them feeling like they’re going crazy […] It’s an incredibly frustrating experience, which could understandably lead to poor emotion regulation.” While they are not to blame for feeling this way, their outbursts are not excusable. In order to have a healthy relationship, your partner would need to find where their anger comes from and learn how to manage it.
3. They need constant validation
While everybody wants some reassurance from time to time, someone who has experienced infidelity, abuse, and toxicity might need extra validation. That is, one of their top love languages could be words of affirmation as they need to constantly hear or read loving and caring words that prove your love. Needing validation is normal; however, if your partner requires validation 24/7, calls you when they know that you are busy, and begins to intrude on time which you have carved out for yourself, you need to gently set healthy boundaries.
4. They have difficulties trusting you
If your partner has difficulties trusting you, they might jump to conclusions and assume things that are not true. For example, if you were to come back home an hour later from work, they might immediately accuse you of cheating on them; this could be extremely difficult to deal with as you will often feel wrongly accused and hurt. According to Amber Trueblood, MFT, MBA, a marriage and family therapist, this is a desperate need for control, and ‘both control and boundary problems result from insecurity and fear’. Furthermore, Trueblood explains that in order to stop their inability to trust from ruining your relationship, you have to let your partner know how their fears and insecurities are hurting you.
5. They’re secretive
Although this point seems ironic considering their inability to trust, it is perfectly logical. If their partner has previously been controlling, they might try to purposely hide things from you – even if they are completely innocent. This, Trueblood claims, could be a way of overcompensating for their past relationship as they now become ‘excessively protective of their individuality and space’.
6. They don’t own up to their mistakes
Not being able to admit that they are wrong might have more to do with abuse than ego. Fiona Eckersley, an author, confidence coach, and divorce recovery expert, spoke to Bustle: ‘A partner who is on the defensive all the time has probably been in a relationship where they were controlled and blamed for everything […] They will have a much harder time communicating, and may even be overly aggressive with their opinion in an effort to correct the way they had been treated in the past’.
7. They take ages to commit
A fear of commitment can be a sign of a toxic past. If even when things are going great, your partner still struggles to take – or even talk about taking – the next step, they might be scared of the past repeating itself. Eckersley explains that you can help them overcome their fear of commitment by having open, honest, and reassuring conversations.
Being aware of these seven signs might make you more tolerant and understanding of your partner’s behavior. More importantly, it can allow you to help them overcome their fears and insecurities so that you can begin to grow a happier, healthier relationship.