Once you are free from an abusive relationship, how do you find safe people to develop meaningful relationships with? You know what you don't like—abuse. But you also have a history of being attracted to abusers. You are probably skilled in hypervigilance but it hasn't kept you out of harm's way. So what do you do?
1. Be patient with yourself as you learn. Accept that having been abused changes you and it will take time to learn to avoid abusers and find nice people. Pray asking God to help you identify people that you can trust. Be willing to let go of relationships with people who use &/or abuse you or drag you down or restrict your freedom.
2. Remember that things like charm, sense of humor, and being interesting are not traits that reveal what type of character the other has. They can be attractive, but they tell you nothing about the others behavior that will make a relationship positive or negative, safe or unsafe.
3. Observe how a potential friend treats others—restaurant staff, grocery clerks, co-workers, former spouse, his or her children, pets, etc.
4. Pay attention to your gut—rather than dismissing its warnings. If you feel internal alarms going off, then pay attention to them. There are tons of people out there, you don't have to try to force yourself to be comfortable with someone who continually worries or stresses you.
5. Pay attention to how the other treats you. This doesn't mean whether they give great gifts or they show up frequently. How does this person interact with you? Do their words and their actions match? Ask God to help you clearly see the other person's character.
6. Evaluate how you feel after spending time with this person. Do you feel uplifted or down? Do you feel better or worse about yourself? Do you feel drained? Are you confused? Do things seem like they are moving too fast?
7. Don't dismiss the reputation of the potential friend. When someone doesn't have a very good reputation, there is normally a valid reason. If people give you warnings about this person, you need to listen and check things out more carefully.
8. Focus on finding out about character traits that have a huge impact on relationships. Does he handle stress well? Does she say unkind things about others? Does he behave arrogantly or humbly? Does she manage her anger in a mature way? Does he keep his promises? Is she responsible with money? Is he honest and real? Is she above-average in selfishness? Is he inconsiderate? Is she demanding? Is he judgemental? Is she dishonest? Is he always in crisis?
9. Would you be concerned if your sister or your child became friends with this person?
10. Does everyone keep saying that you are such a positive influence on this person? (This might be code for this person is usually obnoxious, or dangerous, or irresponsible.)
11. How does your potential friend respond to your feelings? Thoughts? Beliefs? Do you feel heard? Respected? Supported? Is he or she there for emotional support or are you always the one who is giving extra?
12. When you state that you don't want to do something, does he listen or does he dismiss your objections? Does she respect your boundaries?