November 17, 2017

10 Tips + Insights on How To Deal With a Man Who Has Been Hurt in the Past

How To Deal With a Man Who Has Been Hurt in the Past

“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves."

~ Victor Hugo

# Follow the below steps
Ivy Griffin

We all carry our past experiences into our current relationships.

Even if we’ve never been in a relationship before, that too plays a part in how we interact with our partner. As human beings, we’re not blank slates. We’re this beautiful and messy compilation of our culture, personality, family background, personal experience, biology, a myriad of other factors PLUS the learning that we take from each of those.

Yep, this means we enter dating relationships with “baggage.” Instead of feeling cringe-y about the word “baggage,” what if we re-imagined this as our essential “carry-on”?

So, you’re in a new relationship, and you’re super into this guy, but you know he’s been hurt before. You want to help, but you’re not sure what to do. You’re worried that he might assume that this relationship will go wrong too or that he won’t feel like he can trust you.

First of all, sloooow down.

Take a couple deep breaths. Remind yourself not to start predicting the future. Also, remind yourself that you bring your own past experiences—good, bad and in-between—to this new relationship too. That’s ok. It’s normal.

As you and your new guy get to know each other better, you can ask about his past experiences and really, genuinely listen.

Ask what he really enjoyed in his past relationships. Ask what didn’t work for him. Ask what he’d like this relationship to be like. (If you feel any of your own jealousy pop up as you talk, that can be natural. Just acknowledge to yourself “I’m feeling some jealousy right now” and let the feeling pass.) Also, share your own experience of what you really do and don’t appreciate in relationships and what you’re hoping for now.

This kind of open, honest, genuine communication builds trust, and building trust is going to help your new guy know you for who YOU are and not for what he’s carrying from his past.  

If concerns and confusion or disagreements pop up (as they’re bound to do), talk with each other about them.

Don’t let them fester and grow into something ugly. Do your best to stay away from blaming statements like, “You do _____, and it’s so annoying!” Focus on simply explaining your concern using “I” statements like “I notice . . .” “I feel ______ when _______. Instead, I’d appreciate________. ” “I’m wondering if . . .”

Then, make problem-solving a collaborative effort.

“What’s this like for you?” “What can we do about this?” Or, if you see your guy struggling, ask, “How can I help?” But remember not to push or to try to “fix” him, just as you wouldn’t want him to “fix” you. You’re not responsible for his feelings, and he’s not responsible for yours. It’s up to him to work through his past hurt.

You can be kind and supportive, but his past isn’t your problem to fix.

It’s his “carry-on” to sort through and decide what to toss, what to tweak and what to add in fresh, and it’s up to you both to decide what works for you on this journey.

Ivy Griffin, MA., LMFT –

# Awareness is key
Kelly Montgomery

As a Couples Therapist and an Intimacy & Relationship Expert, I know for sure, that Awareness is key

Key for the both of you to start something brand new and realize it might be a little different this time because he’s been hurt by someone else.  Which different is good, as long as we are aware and learn from the things we have been through right? That’s called growth!

First of all your awareness:  If you hear his story and understand it then learn to be sensitive to that. If he’s been hurt by being cheated on, make a bit more room for this: talk it out when he might get triggered (or even better before he gets triggered).  Share your phone and be open and vulnerable with him, build the trust. 

Come in with understanding and as long as you are not being punished for the other  woman’s  behavior, don’t take it personally, and  realize you might need to take more time with him and be a bit more understanding.  As time goes on through action and talk, he’ll know he can let his guard down.

His awareness: Check in with him, see if he knows he’s guarded or mistrustful and perhaps taking thing out on you? Remind him that if you eat a one restaurant and it’s a bad experience you don’t treat all waiters poorly after that do you?   Help him understand its ok to need more time, but to build his awareness and have him know when he’s been triggered.  He can then share this with you and you both can work this out together as a team. You and him against the trigger, not the other way around.  

You as the partner can even get his permission to bring his awareness up if you notice he’s taking anything out on you, or shutting down, to give him a gentle reminder that you think this might be about his past and wonder if he might want to choose his reaction again or talk it out. “What did that remind you of?” is a good starter question.

Kelly Montgomery, MA., LMFT –

# Follow the 3 tips below
​Emyrald Sinclaire

We’ve all been hurt. You. Me. The guy down the street. And in this case, your man.

So, what’s the best way to communicate with this hurt soul? With honesty, compassion and patience.

First things first, if you man is unwilling to communicate about past pains and is unwilling to move beyond the hurt (i.e. he’s stuck in victim mode) then I would suggest you RUN the other way! This man is not emotionally available to be in a new relationship.

However, if your man is open and willing to talk about his hurt and open to welcoming a new woman into his life, then you’ve got a good one! As I said before, we’ve all been hurt. But it’s how you deal with your pain and move on after a traumatic event that makes all the difference.

A couple of communication tips that can really help when having a talk about sensitive topics.

Ask Permission

And I don’t mean you ask permission to speak. Instead, when you know something is going to be a sensitive topic, you ask permission to bring it up. Would you like it if you partner bombarded you with a we need to talk and we need to talk right now? No, you would not. And you would most likely be defensive and upset and not open to having a honest and loving conversation.

Woman: Honey, I want to talk to you about something sensitive but important to our relationship. Is now a good time or perhaps later before we go to bed?

This gives the man time to prepare mentally and emotionally for a sensitive and potentially triggering topic. Phrase it however you want, but make it known that you want to talk about something that’s hard to talk about but important to the relationship.

If he’s a good man who cares about your feelings, he’ll be open to chatting. And at the same time, it shows you respect him by offering him the opportunity to say “Not now/today/tonight sweetie. How about tomorrow over dinner?”

2. Put Yourself in the Hot Seat

As women, we like to think we have all the answers and that we know when our partner is upset.

And to be honest, we usually do know when he’s pissed off or angry. But when you ask your man “what’s wrong,” what does he say?


Men are not as able to talk about their feelings as we are.

So, take responsibility for how you think he feels.

Woman: Honey, I sense that you are upset/something is bothering you/ you still have anger towards your ex/ you’re scared of getting hurt again. Am I right?

This puts the responsibility on you for how you perceive him to feel. Trust me, he will be much more open to a conversation starting that way than a woman saying “I know you’re upset, now tell me why!”

If he doesn’t feel like talking about it, simply say: Ok, well you know you can talk to me about these things whenever you do feel angry/pissed/sad/upset, right?

3. Listen. Don’t try to Fix. Ask what you can DO.

When he does finally open up about his feelings, listen. Don’t interrupt. Don’t try to fix him or solve things until you ask him one very important question.

Woman: Is there anything I can DO to help you?

Men are action oriented. Most likely he’s not going to enjoy talking too much about his feelings. So, when you switch gears and talk about solutions and actions, it gets his rational side going and into solution-mode.

Other questions you can ask that always helps when talking about sensitive subjects are along these lines:

How can I help? Do you want me to listen without answering? Do you want my opinion? Do you want a solution to your problem? Do you just need a shoulder to cry on?

You’d be amazed at how often people just need to vent without needing a solution to their problems. (Ladies, am I right?) Sometimes just asking someone what they need and how you can support them best is exactly the right step to take.

Remember, offer you man space to open up about his past and don’t judge him for it. How you respond NOW will set the stage for the rest of your relationship. And you want it to be a long one, right?

Emyrald Sinclaire, Love and Relationship Coach -

# The key is to not let him reenact his painful past with you
Erica Komisar

If your boyfriend has suffered a bad breakup or has a history of loss it can impact his ability to be intimate with you or to sustain the intimacy

That might exhibit itself in him pulling away intermittently, having mood swings and seeming depressed at times.  It may also result in him pushing you away or trying to sabotage the relationship in any number of ways.

Fear of loss or abandonment can cause your fellow to behave in a way which prevents connection so there is nothing to lose, or to sabotage the connection so he can control the loss and is not dependent upon you.

Open communication is the key to success in all relationships, empathy, insight and reflection are critical if you are going to survive and succeed with a traumatized guy.  

Too many losses, particularly early ones such as being the child of a divorce, abandonment by one or both parents, neglect or abuse by a parent or narcissism in a one or both parents is a very painful experience for a man.  Research shows that boys are even more sensitive to stress, loss, neglect and trauma than girls.  

This means that they can become even more depressed, anxious and disconnected from attachment disorders early on.  This carries over into adolescence and adulthood and is more difficult to deal with when it has existed for so many years untreated.  Neurotic repetition means that we seek similar situations to the ones that caused us pain early on in life.  We literally repeat the pain to try to find a different ending and because the pain is familiar.  Your guy who has suffered many losses may try to recreate that loss with you.  

The key is to not let him reenact his painful past with you.  

That doesn’t mean you will necessarily stay with him if it is untenable, but to give it a fair shot at negotiating his challenges.

Acknowledge the fears your guy faces and show empathy for his feelings even if it is difficult because you are also scared. 

Take one day at a time rather than project too far into the future and try to get him to do the same.  

Fears of loss are often fears of a far off time in your relationship which hasn’t happened.  So as much as possible stay in the present together while acknowledging both of your fears of the future.

Reassure him of your intentions and your feelings for him often.  If you want a committed relationship don’t be afraid to say it but as I said earlier don’t linger there.

Be preventative by talking to him about what you see with him before he gets too deeply into a depression.  Don’t be afraid of being in conflict.  You have nothing to lose by confronting him about his fears because if you don’t you will surely lose him.

If his fears take the form of needing more space, give him the space and find that emotionally secure place in yourself which allows you to do so.  But if he disappears for too long a period of time or it is too chronic then confront him or follow him to reassure him and hear how he is feeling.

Most importantly take it slow.  

When a human or animal has been hurt they will be shy of attachment and commitment and even slow to attach.  But when they do attach it is usually for the long haul.

Erica Komisar, LCSW -

# Take it slow, give him space and practice self-care
Lisa Angelini

Most of us have been hurt to varying degrees in our past relationships.

This is certainly no different when it comes to men. Depending on the level of trauma and his emotional skills, he may or may not be over his past. This is applicable to anyone. However, men generally process and communicate differently than women. Most men need time to think things through, in order to get in touch with the emotions that are underneath, while most women are more in touch with their emotions. 

If he is not resolved with his past, he may have issues with self- esteem, trusting others, and trusting his own perceptions.

He may at times seem detached and not as committed as you are. This may or may not be true. The only way to find out is to ask, but you must have patience in your approach. For most women, this is very difficult, especially if you are being emotionally triggered by his withdrawal. You may want to know the answers right away, and appear clingy and insistent. 

Give him space- Women tend to want to help and fix. He needs space to work out his feelings and emotions. 

Take it slow- Trust is built over time.  Instantaneous trust may be indicative of a problem with boundaries for both of you, so give it time. Don’t date if he or you are just out of a relationship. It is necessary to have healing time and not fill the void with someone else. 

Do express your concern- Observe the behavior without being emotionally attached.  “I notice you seem to be in a faraway place tonight.  Would you like to talk about it?”

Don’t push- If he is not willing to talk, give him space and come back to the subject another time. 

It is important to not change yourself- Do not walk on eggshells or change your behavior in attempt to make him feel better or effect a more desirable outcome. If you do this, you will begin to lose pieces of yourself and ultimately become unhappy with him, yourself and the relationship.

Be careful, you are not his therapist or his mother- As much as you want to help and fix things for him, you can’t.  You must be an equal partner and both of your needs must be met in a healthy way.

Self-care- Be sure you are taking care of yourself and have your own friends, hobbies and interests. You cannot be each other’s “only”. This is not only unhealthy but puts unnecessary stress on the relationship.

Professional help- He may need professional help to resolve the past trauma if he is consistently in a place of withdrawal and avoidance. Eventually, this will kill the relationship and you deserve to be with a partner who can fully engage with you. If he is unwilling to get help, you have some decisions to make. 

Lisa Angelini, MAPC, LPC -

# Follow the below tips

Be supportive.

Let him know that you are there for him. Allow him space to talk about his past relationship and the insecurities that may have created now. It can be tempting to just say “move on from the past,” and “I am not your ex.” However, this can be very invalidating and lead to him wanting to shut down. It is definitely frustrating to hear about an ex and the fears that he now has being in a new relationship. However, it is important to be patient and allow him to express these things.

Express your feelings to him.

At the same time, it is important that you don’t support him at the risk of your own needs. Make sure to communicate your feelings, needs, and insecurities with him as well. This can be difficult out of fear of triggering his insecurities or causing conflict. A formula that can help for most effective communication is:

Describe the facts of the situation from an objective viewpoint.

Describe the facts without your perspective and feelings, that part comes later. Example: You said you would be home for dinner by 7 but then did not come home until midnight.

Express what YOU feel.

Now you add your feelings and how the situation and actions of the other person impacted you. Use I statements so that it does not seem as if you are attacking the other person. “I want or don’t want” vs. “you should or shouldn’t.” Stick to your feelings rather than judging the other person. “I feel hurt,” vs. “you are a bad boyfriend.” Example: When you come home much later than you said, I feel hurt and disrespected.

Assert what outcome you would like, whether it's an apology, a specific action, or a change.

Example: I would appreciate it if, in the future, you will call me to let me know that you will be late.

Negotiate and be willing to compromise.

Think back on your needs and priorities, and let go of smaller things for the sake of the ultimate goal. Offer other solutions.

For example, if your request is for the person to call you when they are going to be late, they might say something like “I am busy working and don’t have time to call you.” In that case, you may suggest “how about you send me a text instead?” If the other person is not agreeing to any of the options, turn the tables, ask them what they think a good middle ground would be.

Compliment Him.  

Being hurt in a past relationship often leads to insecurities in future relationships. That fear of being hurt can take over. In order to help your partner move past this, let him know the things you like about it on a regular basis.

Ask him what he needs.

At the end of the day, every man is different and no-one is a mind reader. Let him know that you understand he has been hurt and that you are there for him. Then ask what you can do and how you can help. Check in with him on this every so often. Make sure to listen to what he tells you he needs from you.

A common occurrence in these situations is that one assumes they know better. They think things like “my partner is too emotional to think clearly” and “that is not really what would help.” Giving into that line of thinking will most likely push your partner away. They have to come to terms with things at their own time, the best thing you can do is support that and give him that time.

Alyssa Mairanz, LMHC -

# See your partner for who he is

Most, if not all, of us, have been hurt in the past, and no more so than in a past relationship.

The experience of losing love, and the pain that goes with it, comes knowledge and a more in-depth understanding of others who are going through a similar situation.

If your partner is currently experiencing grief and loss over his past relationship, you no doubt, will have some understanding of how he feels. Your partner's feelings can stir up issues for you because when we connect with another on an intimate level, we can suffer triggers and emotions from our unresolved issues and baggage from the past.

The more profound your connection and intimacy with another, the more likely they’re going to trigger anything in you that has not healed.

If you have unresolved issues from a previous relationship and still ‘carry a torch’ for an ex, this can cause you to become jealous, amongst other feelings, and question how much you trust your partner; this is 'projection'- you’re projecting your unresolved issues and feelings on to your partner.

When you don’t trust your partner, and they appear to have difficulties letting you in emotionally because of their past wounds, this is a recipe for disaster. Just imagine it “he’s struggling to open up his heart because of his past relationship” and “you’re not letting him in because you don’t trust him;” it’s just not going to work!

If you are 'triggered' by your partner, it's because you have something to resolve and heal within you. Take this opportunity to reflect on your unresolved issues.

On the other hand, if:

  • You are ‘baggage free’ – okay, not quite ‘baggage FREE’ but you have some ‘luggage,’ and this situation with your partner is not triggering you in this instance.
  • You have feelings for your partner.
  • You see the potential in the relationship.

You can come from a place that is: 

  • Supportive. 
  • Judgment-free. 
  • Without attachment to the outcome.

When you are ‘judgment’ FREE and can come from a loving and supportive space for your partner, you are giving him the opportunity to release his pain and insecurities about being hurt again.

See your partner for who he is.

The more you can love and appreciate your partner, without passing judgment on his feelings, thoughts, and behavior, the more loving energy your partner will receive from you to see the truth of his current situation; he has a loyal partner in you, and he can release his past relationship.

We all have different ways of dealing with issues and feelings. Just because you might want to talk about how you feel and tell 20 different people the same story over and over again does not mean that your partner is the same.

Your partner may, in fact, be the total opposite of you, which can be the case - 'Opposites Attract,' - he might want to withdraw to process his feelings and go into his 'Man Cave.'

Do not see your partner retreating (if he does) as a sign of 'rejection' and take it personally.

Continue to hold a loving and supportive space, that has no attachment to the outcome, and as a result, your connection with your partner will be completely different from a co-dependent relationship, and possibly any relationship you’ve experienced in the past.

Sharon Craig, Relationship Coach –
# This will depend on what has happened to him and the extent to which he has worked on healing his own wounds
Nancy Harris

If the guy you are dating has been in the dating game for a while, you can probably assume he has been hurt somewhere along the way.

Let’s be honest, dating is no walk in the park. Broken hearts, disappointments and betrayals are everyday occurrences when looking for love.

So, how do you deal with it if the guy you are dating has been hurt in the past?

This will depend on what has happened to him and the extent to which he has worked on healing his own wounds. One of the unfortunate things I have seen as a therapist and life coach, is that women tend to reach out and get help when they are hurting much more than men. This actually places an unfair burden on women to do much of the work in relationships while men often suppress and hide their pain.

If you suspect some past pain is still haunting him, you may want to gently inquire about his dating history.

You can encourage this conversation by honestly sharing some of your own vulnerable experiences and see if that opens him to do the same.

Be gentle and inquisitive.

Ask questions and allow him to talk. Respect his thoughts and feelings and recognize that he may not have shared them with anyone before. Be careful not to offer advice and solutions. This will often shut a person down. If you want someone to open up, take a stance of curiosity and non-judgment. Validate his feelings and offer empathy where appropriate.

I would be careful to not try and be his therapist.

While it may be helpful for him to share his feelings, he needs to do his own healing work and take responsibility for his own unfinished business. If he is not willing to do this, he may not be the best candidate for a relationship. His unresolved pain will surface at some point and become part of the present relationship.

While past baggage resurfaces for us all to a certain extent in relationships, it is important to choose a partner who is willing to consciously grow and heal.

This will also give you some indication if he would be willing to work on his relationship with you when the going gets tough or if he will simply sweep things under the rug or walk away.

If you eventually feel that his past pain is becoming too burdensome, you may need to reconsider if you want to remain in the relationship. Unhealed wounds can create toxic feelings and behaviors that become sabotaging and destructive.

This would be true in the case of a man who has addictive behaviors such as alcohol or drug abuse, gambling, porn addiction, work addiction, etc. Any addiction is an escape from painful feelings that are deeply buried. Being in a relationship with a man who is not dealing with his unhealed pain in this way can waste years of your life.

It can be tricky to find the balance between compassion and acceptance for a man with unhealed pain and staying in a dead end relationship with a toxic partner. Tread this terrain consciously and get the help of a therapist or coach if you feel you cannot be objective.

Nancy Harris, LCSW, LICSW -

# Follow the 5 tips below

Men who’ve been hurt and who are a bit gun shy of romance can make great dates or mates. They are often sensitive, sweet and caring.

Here’s how you can foster a great relationship.

#1. Get to know them slowly

Don’t try to rush into romance with men who’ve been seriously hurt in a relationship.

Take time to get to know them, including what happened to them. Let them talk about their dating or mating experiences at their own pace. Ask them questions, but be sensitive to the fact that it may be painful talking about it. If they seem highly uncomfortable sharing, respect that and back off. In the long run, though, you’ll want to hear the whole story.

#2. Don’t try to fix their hurt

If they’ve been hurt, they will need to come to terms with that on their own. You’re not their therapist, so don’t act like one. Maybe they were a victim or maybe there were things they did that caused someone to reject or abandon them. Listen for the entire story before thinking that you really understand what happened. Don’t judge them or their ex (or exes). Simply listen with curiosity and see what they learned from the experience.

#3. Share your experiences

Rather than take a passive stance or act as a feelings’ fixer, share your experiences of being hurt romantically. They don’t need to have been similar situations to those of the man you’re dating. The goal is to let him know that you understand being emotionally wounded. But, be careful not to go overboard and make the discussion all about you. You have your stories and he has his. Note their similarities and differences.

#4. Be sensitive but honest

Check in often with how he thinks the relationship is going. If you like him a great deal, tell and show him. Be reassuring. However, your tendency might be to avoid confrontation, suppress your needs, or not tell him when things aren’t going well between you. Try not to give in to these behaviors.

A relationship based on dishonesty will never work. When you do express your needs or want to say something confrontive, do it gently and check back with him afterwards about how the discussion went and how he’s feeling.

#5. Watch out for the victim mindset

Yes, guys who’ve been hurt can make great partners, but not when they have a victim mentality. We’ve all been wounded at some point in romantic relationships and maybe even have been victimized. However, if someone has a victim mindset and doesn’t take responsibility for, say, having stayed with someone who continually hurt him, this person will not make a great partner.

If he complains that he always gets hurt by people—or women in particular—he’s not exhibiting terrific emotional health. It is very difficult and often impossible to change this kind of mindset (even for a therapist!), so don’t even try. If you sense that this is what you’re dealing with, I would recommend proceeding with caution.

Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. –

# Follow the 6 tips below
Nada Hogan

When a man has been hurt in a past relationship, he will tend to do the same thing that a would woman do...protect himself

Being vulnerable is a scary place to be, so the first thing that humans opt for, is to protect themselves from potential pain, humiliation, shame, rejection.  Unfortunately, choosing protection over trusting in your partner can cause further pain and disrupt a relationship's growth.

I asked a few men what they felt the best advice for women is, regarding their experience of being hurt in the past and what worked best for them to heal from the pain.  What I found sounds very similar to what we as women do when we have been hurt.

So my advice is quite simple on this topic.

1.  Remember how vulnerable you felt when you were hurt and how you tried to hide your pain in the new relationship.  

Just being heard helped you to build trust again.  He didn't need to say anything, really.  You just needed to be heard and when he could understand why a certain issue in the relationship was hard on you, he was more understanding to your reaction.  

The men I spoke to said the same thing, that they want to heard and not to be given advice, not being judged, not being made to feel stupid, just heard.  

Women, this is a good time to really sharpen your skills in listening and echoing back what you heard, so you are both on the same page and so he can hear his own words from another voice.  Many times when we hear what our pain is, from a different voice, it opens up more blocked emotions and a person can see a bigger picture.

2.  When you know what causes him pain, you can anticipate it coming at times.

Be sensitive and ask him how this situation makes him feel, that he is safe to share those feelings with you and together, you can build a deeper relationship by helping him to heal.

3.  Truly treasure what he does share with you.  

It may seem that he is sharing so little with you, but remember he is building up his trust with you and you don't want to thwart that effort from him with being frustrated with a slow go of it at the beginning.  This process is laying new foundation for him, that he can firmly stand on and build again.

4.  Never, ever, ever use anything that he has shared with you against him.  

It is not fair and the inner turmoil of you turning his words on him could be devastating and quite cruel.

5.  Be patient.  

It doesn't mean he gets to use his past hurt as an excuse to refuse to deal with the issues, but he may need a little more time to process and feel safe with you. Reminders that you are there to help support him and heal this wound are very helpful.

6.  Write down, for yourself, the positive changes you see him making.  

His subtle changes and healing, in the absence of writing them down, can easily go undetected.  When you are watching for them and noting them, you can really see progress.  Have a special date night and share with him all of the advancements he has made.  It will be a very special surprise.

Nada Hogan L.Ac, Dipl.Om, M.Om -

# Ask yourself the below questions
Margalis Fjelstad

If you’ve had any kind of relationships, you’ll have hurts from the past

Relationships are never perfect, so there will inevitably be some hurts and disappointments. And, of course, if a person is coming out of an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, there is bound to be quite a lot of unresolved pain.

It’s how deep the hurt goes and what the person does about that hurt that makes a difference in how they move forward into future relationships.

If you’re involved with someone who still has unresolved pain from parental abuse or a past relationship, you are likely to end up feeling the impact of that pain in your current relationship. How intensely and how often that pain affects you and your interactions will have a big effect on the quality of your relationship with him. You’ll have to decide how much and in what way you want to deal with these old issues when they come up.

How aware is he?

It really helps if he knows he has these old hurts and is aware of when they affect him. Can he talk about his feelings—not just act them out? Does he tend to act toward you like he did with the person who hurt him? Can he see when he’s acting from his old pain, and is he willing to apologize for hurting you because of his behavior?

What’s he doing to heal?

Does he just SAY he’s working on it, or do you see him actively doing things that are helping him heal? Is he using alcohol or drugs to deaden the pain instead? Not a good direction. Notice if he’s just “trying to forget” all about it. This never works because in the long run, the pain will fester and eventually do harm to your relationship.

Does he blame you or does he take responsibility?

Does he get angry at you for things someone in a past relationship did? Does he expect you to treat him, the way he was hurt in the past? Does he avoid getting close because he could be hurt again? These are all signs that he’s not healing and taking it out on you.

What is your reaction?

How much do you join in and also feel his old hurts with him? Are you blaming yourself for his feelings? Do you jump in and try to FIX his feelings? If you are taking on a caretaking or “therapist” role in the relationship, that will make the relationship unbalanced and turn it into a “rehab” relationship, rather than a love relationship. Also, if you feel responsible for his feelings, you can end up feeling really resentful or getting into fights, which can taint your future together.

How much time is he spending on dealing with these old hurts?

If it takes up more than 10% of your relationship time, it’s likely he needs to do more healing before your relationship can prosper. Are the same dysfunctional behaviors happening over and over, or can he see what he’s doing and take charge of changing his demeanor?

 How will this affect your future together if he doesn’t change?

If his past hurts are taking a toll on your relationship now, it is likely they will continue to do so unless he takes some serious steps to heal. If these old feelings have been around for a long time already, don’t expect that they will ever go away. Instead, assess whether the rest of the relationship is good enough to put up with his difficult feelings on occasion.

You have a right to decide.

How much of your time and energy are being used in dealing with his old issues? Healing an old relationship while in a new one can take a lot of time and energy from the new one. Just because you love him, doesn’t mean that this relationship is the right one to pin the rest of your life on. Only you can decide if his problems are too much for you. Your love doesn’t heal all things in someone else, so decide if his old baggage is acceptable, or a deal breaker.

Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., LMFT –

# You need to have awareness, flexibility, great communication skills and the ability to understand your partner’s perspective to make a relationship successful.

All relationships have many components, which make them wonderful and fulfilling. But things don't always go smoothly. What can you do to deal with a guy who’s been hurt before so that he doesn’t sabotage your present relationship and mess up what could potentially be a lasting partnership?

The answer is simply this: You need to have awareness, flexibility, great communication skills and the ability to understand your partner’s perspective to make a relationship successful.

How do you do this? How do you know if your guy is harboring resentments that need to be cleared and cleaned up from his past?  You will be experiencing his strong negative feelings that are expressed subtly or even aggressively towards you.  Unless he faces what his feelings are, you will be living with the insecurity and anxiety of an unstable relationship. 

He can’t fix what he doesn’t first acknowledge.

So, suggest he seek help from a therapist, relationship coach, therapy-group, clergy, workshops, CDs, books and the myriad of other resources available on the internet to give him some guidance and direction on the steps he can take to improve things.

With awareness he can face his fears and enhance your relationship.  With your support, encouragement, understanding and acceptance, your relationship can move in a positive, more rewarding direction, but it may take time and patience. If he’s worth it, you’ll be glad you waited!

Also remember that you may be harboring relationship baggage from your past, too.  

By doing your inner work, you also become aware of any unfinished business and resentments. These are the things you want to take care of so you can pave the way for a healthier, more fulfilling relationship ahead.

If you both don’t handle the issues that affect you, your choices, behaviors, thoughts and actions will likely be inappropriate, creating animosity, toxicity, maybe even an abusive environment in the home.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC –

# He owes it to you (and to himself) to be honest about his ability to fully participate in a relationship

Unless this is his first relationship, he has probably experienced some hurt in the past.  Probably you have too

Relationships are not safe in the sense that you can’t always protect yourself from pain.  Relationships are messy.  Two unrelated people are trying to figure out how to be together.  By definition, there will be differences between people.  Figuring out how to come together as a couple takes maturity and compromise and sometimes involves pain.

Sometimes people behave badly in relationships

Some people lie and cheat and do any number of things that are really very hurtful.  The best defense against this type of behavior is to be honest with yourself about what you are seeing in another person.  Don’t pretend something is ok when it isn’t, and don’t make excuses for bad behavior. Learning to be on your own also makes it more likely that you won’t allow the wrong somebody into your life just because you are unable to be alone.

No matter how careful you are, you are likely to make some errors in judgment and end up hurt

Even with people who are honest with you, its hurtful if they don’t return your affections.  I don’t think there is a lot you can do about somebody else’s hurt. You can promise that you won’t hurt them but that may not be possible.  About the best you can promise is that you won’t lie to them, that you’ll be honest so they’ll always know where things stand between you.  Honesty allows people to take better care of themselves because they are aware of what’s going on.

At the end of the day, people need to know for themselves when they are ready to jump into the dating/relationship arena again.  

They have to have healed sufficiently from past hurts to be able to hold up to the uncertainty that all relationships present.  They have to be able to be open and non-defensive to be able to get anything out of a new relationship.  You can’t make it better for them.  If you are seeing someone who seems to be holding back, ask him if he is ready to move forward.  He owes it to you (and to himself) to be honest about his ability to fully participate in a relationship.  If the timing is off, let him go and move on.

Sally LeBoy, MFT –

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