As much as I wanted my marriage to be saved and for my ex-husband and I to reconcile, I couldn’t shake the nagging doubt at the back of my head. How will I ever trust him again? To reconcile would mean I’d need to choose to believe everything he said, that he was where he said he was, with who he’d said, doing exactly what he’d described. It was a question that cropped up in my mind as I prayed to reconcile, and that I squished down. That, I decided, was something to consider once being together again and needing to trust him was a viable prospect. Now I never got the opportunity to put this to the test. Yet even in that long year living separately, sharing a car and being in contact, did I ever fully believe what he said and trust he was telling the truth? There was always doubt.
When we trust someone and they betray that, we can feel like we ourselves have failed. After all, we trusted them. We should’ve know better. We should have seen the signs. But when someone breaks our trust, it’s exactly that – them doing the breaking. If you had a precious piece of crockery – maybe you inherited it from a long-since-passed, much-loved relative – and someone deliberately threw it on the floor after asking if they could hold it, would you blame yourself? Probably not, especially if past experience had taught you how careful they were. And they didn’t even accidentally drop it, they chucked it! However you’d react, it’s unlikely you’d blame yourself. It was their choice to do throw it – and it’s the same with trust. They choose to break our trust, it wasn’t a bad choice to place it with them. We often phrase it as ‘I (can’t believe I) trusted them.’, yet there was no reason not to! When we rephrase to ‘They broke my trust.’, we begin to see where the damage was caused, and by whom.
You may or may not be a trusting person, but based on experience, gut instinct, and knowledge of that particular soul you chose to believe they were who they said and that their word was true. When that person then goes against this, we second guess our gut instinct. It must be wrong. But we forget that our trust was proven right many many times and accurately placed, until this time. We blame ourselves for the breakage because we should’ve seen it coming. Yet how could we, when we had evidence to the contrary? Trusting someone is a gift to them and they have rejected it.
This may feel different if you have been let down by the same person numerous times. They broke your trust, you let them back in, they broke it again. It’s on repeat and you feel guilty. However we want to trust, and choosing to trust doesn’t make you a failure. If they have, nine times out of ten, proven trustworthy in the small things, why would you not trust them with bigger? There does come a time when their inability to prove trustworthy will mean we call time on the relationship. Does that mean you shouldn’t give them another chance? Not at all, it’s up to you. But as the experiences begin to add up, we see their trustworthiness for what it is – not very worthy at all.
Even now I can ask myself, is my ex inherently trustworthy? Yes I think so. Did he prove untrustworthy? Still yes. Do I imagine he could look after my car or money and me still get it back in the same nick? Yes I do. But I wouldn’t trust him with my heart again, nor do I want to.
So what does trust look like in new relationships? Or even just post divorce?
Initially, I was suspicious of everyone. My trust had been so damaged that everywhere I looked was potential lying, particularly in relationships. I didn’t trust that people were innocently playing games on their phone, or were ‘just good friends’ with a colleague, it was all – as far as my mind could piece it together – somehow untrue. I doubted everyone. How did I get over it? I think gradually, I began to see that people weren’t lying. I had to rebuild my ability to believe the good, rather than the ugly. They proved that they could be trusted, and I began to believe them. The people I knew to be trustworthy before, I began to continue to believe. But because my suspicions has been roused, they were on high alert to any potential perceived threat to happiness.
By choosing to trust others I began to feel more generally trusting again. But there was still the question of a new relationship – how would I trust they weren’t cheating on me? For me, I wanted the safety net of meeting someone I already knew, or a friend of a friend, if I was to date again. I wanted to have their trustworthiness vouched for, rather than this be unknown to me. That’s not true for everyone! But for me that’s why internet dating was tricky and I bailed early on that one. Happily for me, that’s what happened – after two years of knowing him I started dating a friend, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In a new relationship I have found two mantras help me hugely to keep trusting when I am fearful. The first is that I believe what I know to be true. It’s easy for the mind to run away with worry of a situation happening to you again. I try to remain grounded by writing down the worry, and then what I know to be true of the situation. It helps me to see where my mind is building a picture through shattered fragments of the past and to not unfairly place someone else’s lack of truth onto another. Sometimes it helps to ask friends what they see to be true too. Obviously no one can know the ins and outs of another’s relationship entirely, but the obvious love on someone’s face or evident proof that they are in this for the long haul help to prove our point that they can be trusted. I believe he loves me, I see evidence of it, I have no reason not to trust him, and so I continue to do so and grow in confidence in that.
The second truth is that I have no choice over their breaking of the trust. I trust them and believe them – that is all I can do. I choose to do this because I fully believe they are trustworthy. I recall this to mind when past fear consumes me. And gradually, the fears lessen as the trustworthiness and love for me is evidenced time and time again. We cannot decide if someone breaks our trust. That is their call. We can only choose to be trusting and believe people, because we know that for the most part people are good and able to be trusted.
But it’s still a big ask. To trust is to be vulnerable, exposed and open to pain. And that’s hard, especially when you’ve been hurt before. Yet the rewards are worth it. If we open ourselves up to trusting others again, we build deep relationships with those around us, and often see the proof that people can be trusted, even after divorce.