Getting girlfriend to move on from past

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

The girl I’m going out with had an abusive ex. She found out he was cheating on her, and broke up with him. He came to her work and tried to talk to her, but she didn’t want to talk to him. He slammed her up against the wall and smacked her, he came back the next week and called her every name in the book. She told me this when we first started going out, and we’ve come to a point in our relationship where we say “I love you”. We’ve been going out for about three months, I knew from the beginning about her past and that it would be difficult for us to be boyfriend/girlfriend because of what happened. She has been trying to get past it since it happened a year ago but she just can’t. She has done therapy and such but the thing is that she is afraid that anyone can have such anger and is scared that I might do this. She can’t put it out of her mind for a day. I have been nothing but loving, honest, and open with her; I love this girl and I could never do something as horrendous as her ex did. She wants so badly to be with me and to be able to trust me, but she can’t bring herself to do it. What can I do to help her get past it and realize what I’m trying to give her, aside from giving her time?

A: Your girlfriend was traumatized by the violence of her ex. This isn’t something someone can get over and done with even in a year. Giving her time is exactly what you need to do. The last time it was September, she was just out of the relationship. This time of year may therefore be particularly tough for her. But with each passing month, she will be putting more distance between herself and the events that frightened her so badly. Be supportive. Be patient. Hang in there. Trust is something that builds over time. She says she loves you and wants to be with you. That needs to be enough for now.

One thing I can think of that might move things along is for you to attend some of her therapy sessions with her. If her individual therapist isn’t comfortable doing couples work, ask for a referral. A few mutual sessions with a therapist might help you become more effective in helping your girlfriend heal.

You are lucky to have found each other. With patience and some good guidance, you two can get the former boyfriend out of your relationship.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Oct 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Getting girlfriend to move on from past. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/10/09/getting-girlfriend-to-move-on-from-past/