How can you trust someone after they've abused you?

Message: How can you love someone if they've been so mean to you? I am trying to begin a new relationship with my dad yet growing up he was abusive, now because of counseling and maybe other things he is no longer abusive but now we are trying to knit a bond between us that was torn during those years. I love him but it’s so hard to trust him. I am afraid to do something wrong because I am afraid he'll hurt me again. How can I form and mend the bond between us?

 

Love can feel hard sometimes, can’t it? Especially after you’ve been hurt by someone. It’s pretty cool that your dad is trying to change his ways and have a better relationship with you. But it’s also understandable that you’ll struggle to trust him. He’s hurt you. He’s been abusive. He has not been a safe person for you. Just because he’s changed and wants to do better with you, doesn’t mean that things can (or should) be instantly great. Trust takes time to rebuild. That’s okay. You’re taking the steps to rebuild that trust by being willing to have a relationship with him again. So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t immediately trust him or if the old fears pop up in your thinking. That’s normal. And it can be good, too, creating a few good boundaries to keep you safe from abuse. Your dad is changing, but he, too, may sometimes struggle to get it right all the time.

Know that loving someone and trusting them are not necessarily the same thing. You can love your dad—and you do—but still struggle to trust him because of the past.

Be okay with it taking time to rebuild trust. Don’t get frustrated with yourself. It’s normal. As you and your dad spend time together and talk and you see that he has changed and responds differently, trust will naturally grow.

Forgive your dad. I know you probably already have, but forgiveness sometimes has to happen often. He may have moments when he’s going to need forgiveness. Or something will happen that reminds you of the past abuse. Sometimes it helps to say it aloud, “I forgive my dad.”

Remember that the abuse wasn’t your fault. You didn’t deserve it. Don’t feel guilty or think that you caused it to happen. Don’t believe that if only you had done this or that or had been better at this or good at that, it wouldn’t have happened. The abuse didn’t happen because of you—it happened to you. You are not to blame. None of us are perfect, but you do not deserve abuse just because you’ve done something wrong. So when you start feeling afraid that if you do something wrong, he’ll abuse you again, remind yourself that it’s not your fault.

And of course, pray. God loves you. God loves your dad. He wants to help you have a healthy relationship. He’s proud of you for being willing and trying—and proud of your dad for doing the hard work of changing. He will give you strength and help you learn to trust. Talk to Him about it. Tell Him your fears and struggles. Pray for your dad and for your relationship. Believe that God IS working and will help you build a strong relationship in time.

Erica Jones