I hear, time and time again, that we should trust people until they give us a reason not to. That makes logical sense; if someone hasn’t severed our trust, why wouldn’t we extend it to them?
But logic doesn’t always prevail when it comes to human emotions; even less so when it comes to trauma.
I can’t give my new partners my full trust. I can barely shell out half-trust.
And that’s not because of the person my new partner is, it’s because of what I’ve been through with other lovers.
The hurt in my past has caused me to be wary. I think, “Can I really trust my boyfriend? Will he just hurt me as others did?”
But I can’t give in to this way of thinking. Trust is a key part of any relationship. And even in my new one, I hear the slight irritation in my boyfriend’s voice when I question, for the fifth time, why it is he’s so nice to me; when I point my finger and proclaim, “what’s your angle?” — a kidding tone covering up my very serious question.
I don’t think trust is simply given when it comes to love, at least not those wearing scars from our past. It’s a sad reality, but when you’ve been hurt, a new partner will have to take on the task of showing you can trust them, no matter how much you want to inherently give that trust.
And you take on the task of deciding to trust again.
Trust is a decision, like anything else, that only you can commit to. It’s not easy work, but it’s one that will bring you happiness and peace in your relationship.
So let’s talk about how you get there. How do you trust someone when it feels impossible?
Begin by accepting everyone has reasons not to trust.
If you find it hard to trust your partner, it’s because you’ve experienced betrayal. The first time someone promised they’d love you forever and then changed their mind. A lover that swore themselves only to you, but went ahead and cheated anyways.
That pain is as real as it gets. It embeds itself in the very essence of who you are. The pages of your manual for how love works is filled with your experiences, but luckily, you have a chance to write new pages and learn from the old.
Your pain is not baggage; it’s lessons.
I want you to let go of the idea you’re “broken.” Quit thinking you’re undatable; that you come with some kind of burden dragged behind you.
Every person has their own pain that shaped who they are today. But what defines you as a person is how you move forward with that pain.
The betrayal of a lover can either weigh you down or help you identify your values. Choosing the later helps you move forward in relationships with boundaries and effectively communicate your expectations for a relationship with your new partner.
Recognize patterns in your past relationships.
If you’re worried about being duped in a new relationship, identify the common themes from your exes.
Were they constantly belittling you? Did they jump in quickly and then later withdraw?
Often, people seek out what’s familiar in life. If you’re not careful, you could subconsciously get into new relationships that are just like your past ones. Maybe because you feel like things aren’t complete, you want a happy ending you never got.
But recognizing red flags from your past will help you identify them in current partners. If those pop up, then it’s worth considering dating someone else.
Take things at a slow pace.
I think it’s unreasonable to trust someone from the get-go.
If you’re wary of new partners, take things slowly. Get a good feel for whether or not you think the person is worthy of trust. Ask your friends and family for their opinion on the person if you’re hesitant. Trust your instincts if things don’t feel right.
When I first dated my boyfriend, I implemented a new process of dating, where I checked-in with myself throughout the beginning. I shifted my thinking from worrying if I am datable to deciding if my new partner is datable. I went at my own pace, even though I knew my boyfriend for years before.
But this pace allowed me to feel more at ease with things; I never felt in over my head.
Look at things from a data standpoint.
It’s hard not to be caught up in all the feelings; I understand because I lived for all those feelings when it came to love.
But if you feel like it’s hard to trust your partner, look at the data.
What kind of person are they?
Do they lie to their friends? Are they close to their family? Have they cheated in the past (that you know of)? How is their relationship with their mom/sisters? Do they seem like a genuinely good person?
The answers to these questions will end up being more telling than any feelings you instinctively have.
Communicate how you’re feeling.
People are too conservative when it comes to talking about their past. If you’re having difficulty trusting your partner, maybe it’s time to have a conversation with them about how you’ve been hurt before.
An understanding between two partners makes for a beautiful relationship. It explains to your partner why you have some peculiar behaviors and why certain things trigger you.
Deciding to date someone isn’t only about committing to who you see in the present, it’s committing to their past as well. Your past loves shape your current love.
An open conversation about why you find it hard to trust could clear the air for your partner. Just be loving, open, and allow your partner to talk about their pains, too.
Trust you can make better decisions.
It may be hard to trust other people, but sometimes it’s even harder to admit that you can’t trust yourself.
I still struggle with this concept. Thinking about my past and how I was abused, both physically and emotionally, makes me upset with myself. I think, “how did I let myself be used the way I did? Why didn’t I stand up for myself?”
But that kind of regret does me no good. I know what the red flags are to avoid the type of men I used to date. All I can do is trust that I’ll be more vigilant this time. All I can do is forgive myself for my less-than-stellar decisions in the past.
Checking in with yourself and going back to your values and boundaries will help you feel more secure in the decisions you make today.
Find a therapist.
If your past feels too difficult to move through on your own, go to therapy.
About two years ago, I started seeing a new therapist with the sole purpose of figuring out why I dated men that mistreated me. It took a lot of talking, a lot of drudging up painful memories, but I came to so many beautiful realizations I couldn’t have come to on my own.
Therapy is excellent in that it helps you realize how your past affects you today. A therapist can also develop strategies and tools for you to form healthy, new relationships.
It’s natural to want to protect your heart when it’s been broken in the past. It’s scary to trust a new person again; I know, I’ve been there too.
But while it’s scary to trust again, I think it’s scarier to lose out on something amazing because you guarded your heart too diligently. There’s a chance you’ll be hurt again, but know you’ll be OK if that does happen.
But also know there’s a chance you’ll find a love that would never hurt you. There’s a chance to rebuild your trust when it comes to love.
But it all begins with a decision that only you can make.