Break the Cycle
A standard residual of to childhood abuse is shame, and its companion feature is a deep sense of unworthiness. At one point in life, my sense of unworthiness was so deep that I could not hear "I love you"; I just did not trust the concept.
I was well into adulthood before I could even approach hearing, "I love you" and believe that someone said it sincerely. Perhaps it is like living in the dark for so long that sunlight hurts your eyes or being so close to frostbite that warming by a fire hurts your skin. Three years into college, I finally made an attempt at being in a relationship, but I hurt that person by mistrusting her affections, pushing her away, and then feeling abandoned.
I needed a much easier transition. After leaving college for a couple of years to regroup, I ran into a friend who had left college at the same time to regroup after a family tragedy. We became study partners. She helped me by repeatedly saying something that was transformational. She kept finding opportunities in our conversations to say, "I value you, and I value our friendship." To a lot of guys being in the friend zone with a woman would be frustrating. However, it was a relationship of real respect and sincere appreciation that went beyond my ability to explain chemical kinetics.
From that experience I learned something. Someone from a traumatic background first needs to know that they have value, that they are worthy of love before they can hear, "I love you" and trust that it is real, especially if the last time they remember hearing that in childhood was manipulation or grooming behavior. Saying "I love you" to someone from a traumatic background can be like a sudden torrential rainfall upon drought-parched, sunbaked hard clay ground; it just runs off causing floods and mudslides instead of being absorbed. I needed a lot of hearing, "I value you" before I could hear "I love you."
The sad thing is that it is difficult to give what you have not received. It is only through a process of rainfall over time that the ground becomes a reservoir of water, such that you can dig a well and get back some of what has been poured into it. You can't plant a crop in dry ground and expect to get a harvest without a lot of watering and that has to start off little-by-little until the ground is conditioned to receive moisture. If you come upon someone whose heart is hardened clay perhaps you can let them know their value. From that they may come to understand that they are worthy to be loved, and from that they may become empowered to love in return.