How Can I Rebuild Trust?

Learning to trust is one of the biggest challenges for women who have endured the divorce experience. As a child, your parents’ breakup taught you that relationships are fragile and doomed to fail. Because of your past experience, you might approach relationships warily and you have come to expect the worst. Emily, for instance, is a pretty, outgoing thirty-two year old teacher who watched her family unravel when she was six years old. “I remember a vacation that never happened, helping my dad pack, and him driving off in his red Renault,” she says. For many years, Emily was estranged from her father and had a stormy relationship with her mother who relied on her too much after her dad left. For almost a decade, Emily settled for a relationship with Brian, who cheated on her and brought her constant heartache.

Emily’s parents’ divorce left her with a deep seated sense of anxiety about relationships and fears that haunt her to this day. Even when she meets a man who seems trustworthy, she freezes out the option of love for fear of being hurt. Self-doubt can be particularly strong for women like Emily who have buried their feelings of anger and fear over many years. Leaning her head to one side, she ponders, “Am I going to make the right decision about who I am going to let into my life?”

Like Emily, you may be unable to trust others, even if you find yourself in a reasonably healthy relationship. Think about it: do you find yourself being suspicious of potential or current partners even when they demonstrate trustworthiness? You might be hesitant or fearful when it comes to trusting others because you believe, deep down, that others can’t be trusted, or because you’ve been burnt in the past. Trust issues go beyond trusting that a partner will be unfaithful. You may mistrust that your partner has your best interests at heart.

Likewise, women who have survived infidelity or sudden ruptures in relationships without warning can be mistrustful and fearful of being hurt again. It has taken several years for Katrina, age forty-two, to recover from her husband of sixteen years leaving suddenly – only to find out that he soon remarried a woman who he had known for less than a year. For good reason Katrina asks: “how can I learn to trust again?” Mistrust can come in many forms, from suspecting your partner of infidelity, to fearing that he will abandon you emotionally or physically.

Extending trust to others can rekindle your inner spirit and can bring happiness to you and others. The truth is that there are smart ways to rebuild trust and gain self-respect:

  • Get in touch with the root of your trust issue. Do you sometimes feel that love is easily broken and fear that it will disappear despite everything you do?

  • Extend trust to yourself – trust your instincts and intuition. This involves moving on from the past, forgiving others, and accepting yourself as you are today.

  • Extend trust to others. Don’t automatically assume that a failure of competence is a failure of character. Many mistakes aren’t intentional so don’t make them into something they are not.

  • Make sure the words you use to express your feelings are consistent with your goal of building a loving and trusting relationship. It’s important not to blame or criticize your partner when you confront him. Listen to his side of the story.

  • Challenge mistrustful thoughts. Are they based in reality or related to your past experience? 

  • Keep in mind that restoring trust is a slow process. You were born with a propensity to trust but through your life experience you may have become less trusting as a way of protecting yourself.

  • Face your trust issues with optimism and make a conscious choice to trust others who demonstrate consistent behavior and are deserving of your trust.

Let’s close with the words of Neal Maxwell, writer and educator:  “It’s better to trust and sometimes be disappointed than to be forever mistrusting and be right occasionally.”

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW

Do you find yourself freezing out the option of finding love for fear of being hurt, or mistrusting your partner without evidence that he is untrustworthy? In either case, we’d love to hear from you.

 

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5 Responses to “How Can I Rebuild Trust?”

  1. Stanley says:

    I have been married 3 times and started at a very young age, all 3 marriages were short in nature as well as shared shockingly similar characteristics of anger and aggression. All 3 women were in dire need of “saving” and I entered into each union begrudgingly although I was not in touch with those emotions at the time nor of my tendency to rescue although much of the issue stemmed from sexual abuse upon me as a child from which I have sought counseling and healing.

    I have spent the last 7 years healing, focusing on myself and ensuring my emotional and relational health. I have learned to love life, myself and my Lord and Savior. I am very pleased of the place that I am now finding myself in my life and I am looking forward to a much better 2nd half of my life with a satisfying and healthy relationship with the right woman and in my successful career as a businessman.

    I have worked with a single woman for the last 5 years and we have developed a strong friendship and a semi-strong romantic relationship over the last 8 months. I am as pleased of whom this wonderful is…. as I am as pleased of whom she is not…. a reflection or similarity to previous marriages. She is kind and trustworthy and faithful. I have known her for such a long period of time and I know that she is not being deceptive about her character.

    However, I am finding that due to the fact that my last marriage ended so dramatically and with so much excessive drama, that I am struggling to trust my new relationship due to the fact that I am untrusting from my previous ones. This is no reflection upon her nor upon her actions or any major decisions that are influencing this emotion.

    I have tried to find books and internet searches on this healing process and have found little resource to help me with this issue. Can anyone be of assistance to me or steer me towards a solution that would be beneficial?

    • Terry says:

      Your situation is complicated and I can’t give you a complete answer over the internet without getting more information. However, you can email me at terry@movingpastdivorce.com for a free 30 minute phone consultation and you can decide if phone consultations will work for you. If you check out my website, you’ll see that I am a licensed therapist, divorce expert, and a survivor of divorce myself. I look forward to hearing from you. Terry

  2. Stanley, there is another resource you might look into. It is called “Chained No More…A Journey of Healing for the Adult Children of Divorce.” You can find it at http://www.robynbministries.com or on any booksellers website. Your story is very common in our participants around the country and there is great healing through this study. I will stop and pray for you right now. Robyn Besemann

  3. Samantha says:

    I’ve been married once, and it wasn’t even techincally a full year of marriage. But he ended up not being faithful so we ended things. It was at a very young age (20-21) now I’m somewhat older (24) and from reading some articles it says that trust is one issue that’s hidden until later on. Now I’m in a committed relationship and we’ve been together almost two years. We got into a fight the other night and he pointed out that I have trust issues, I’ve been thinking about it lately and he’s right. I’m having a hard time trusting him and I have no idea why, he’s never shown weird behavior that makes me think he’s being unfaithful, he’s always there for me, he’s treated me a million times better than me ex. I really want to fix this because it’s starting to drive us apart. Could anyone please give me some advice on this?

    • Terry says:

      Hi Samantha, It’s not uncommon to have trust issues and our website has many blogs that can help you including the one you read.If you are so inclined, counseling or coaching can help. I will be providing telephone coaching starting in early September again or you can check out our resources page on our website. My email address is terry@movingpastdivorce.com. Please let me know if I can assist you. There are many good books on our resources list that can also help you. We are hoping that our book will be published soon and we have a chapter on trust.Tracy also wrote a blog on Huffington Post Divorce entitled Rebuilding Trust in Relationships. If you google Huffington Post Divorce and Tracy E. Clifford, it should come up. Best, Terry

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