Trusting again after divorce is an ongoing process and sometimes that process will feel like an uphill battle.
When my husband – VERY – unexpectedly left me for another woman, my trust was completely and utterly annihilated. I had never before been through a break-up of that magnitude, and there were many many nights I found myself wondering how I would ever learn to love or trust after divorce. Suffice to say it was not a pleasant place to be – such is the shock, grief, and torment of a jilted wife.
Sometime later, I quite unexpectedly (as in – I most certainly was NOT looking for a partner) found myself in a new relationship. The early stages of the relationship were lovely and rosy as we went on dates and tentatively got to know each other. During this stage, neither of us really knew what we wanted from the other – it was summer and we were just enjoying the company and the exciting levels of endorphins coursing through our systems.
Besides the odd twinge of uncertainty on my part, I wasn’t too concerned with the idea of trust. It was just too early on in the piece to give much headspace to. Then the relationship progressed, and before I knew it I had been seeing this man for twelve months. As talk progressed from ‘Where shall we eat tonight?’ to ‘Where will we be living in five years’ time?’ I began to notice my ‘trust radar’ quite persistently AND quite rudely demanding my attention:
‘What if he leaves me too?’
‘I may as well just be on my own. It’s not worth the risk’
‘All men leave eventually’
And today, it’s somewhat of an ongoing issue – just as I’m sure it is for anyone who has so suddenly and so unexpectedly had their heart shattered. But I’m pleased to report that I’m on the winning stretch. One thing I have come to understand is that my baggage (i.e. trust issues) is something that will absolutely have to be managed, by me, in order that I don’t sabotage the beautiful situation I’m currently in.
Here is what I know about learning to trust after divorce:
You need to go easy on yourself
When you have had your trust betrayed, it’s important to understand that the issue you are facing is not just with trusting other people – it is also about trusting your own ability to make good choices … especially after the choice you made previously seemed to end in disaster.
To really open ourselves up to the idea of trusting someone new, we first need to learn to trust ourselves. To do this, we need to give ourselves the love that we quite possibly, up until now, have been relying on another to give us.
Love YOURSELF first. Love yourself with the type of love that will never end or fade. Love yourself enough that you know you will be OK regardless of what the future holds. And if there is a day or days when you’re feeling particularly low or crappy or distrustful, know that this is perfectly OK! Know that we are all human and that we ALL have bad days. A bad day, or even a bad week, does NOT mean that we are terrible people, or that our relationship is destined for failure, or that we will NEVER be able to feel trust again.
Choose not to dwell on the hurts and mistakes of the past – allow your wounds to heal rather than constantly dissecting them. TRUST that with time and a little effort, you will be fine.
You need to be upfront about what you’re feeling
Be honest with your new partner about your trust issues. Let him or her know what has happened in the past, and what now triggers your feelings of distrust and uncertainty.
Have an honest discussion about what each of you finds acceptable, and not, in your relationship. There need not be definitive rights or wrongs – if the two of you agree that something is acceptable (or not), then ride with that. If there is something that you are not comfortable with, tell your partner, and work to reach a compromise.
We need to be clear here – your trust issues and previous hurts are not the responsibility of your new partner. Your partner should, however, be mindful of what you’ve been through, what makes you tick and what your personal triggers are. All of us have at least a little baggage, and as long as we are committed to working on this and ourselves, our partners should have little issue in supporting us as we move forward and heal.
You need to give it TIME
There will unlikely be a definitive point in time when you will feel completely able to trust again. It is an ongoing process and sometimes that process will feel like an uphill battle. There will be good and bad days, just as there are with all things in life.
Learn to work with your hurt and triggers, rather than reacting each time something sets you off or reminds you of a past hurt. If your partner is consistently showing you that he can be trusted, allow yourself to lower your guard, little by little. Remind yourself regularly that your partner thus far has not given you a reason not to trust. With time and effort, you should absolutely see positive rewards in your trust-building efforts.