6 Best Ways To Repair Trust After Divorce
Today’s post was written by my friend and colleague, Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW. Terry has been a guest on my radio show, Beat the Odds: Successful Second Marriages. I think you’ll enjoy her well-thought out comprehensive article on how to repair trust after divorce.
Rebuilding trust is one of the biggest challenges that individuals face after divorce. Experiencing the breakup of your marriage can intensify trust issues. Because of your past experience, you might approach relationships warily and come to expect the worst. It may seem at times as if you’re wired to recreate the past. However, with courage and persistence, you can learn to trust again and restore your faith in love.
Trust is more of an acquired ability than a feeling. Many people have become jaded because their trust has been betrayed and they have adapted by putting up a wall. However, intimate relationships afford us the opportunity to rebuild trust. Ultimately, extending trust to a new partner can lead to a more satisfying relationship because trust is the foundation of deep, enduring love.
One of the hardest things about trusting someone is learning to have confidence in your own judgment. Trust is about much more than catching your partner in a truth or lie. It’s about believing that he or she has your best interests at heart. Every person is born with the propensity to trust others but through life experiences, you may have become less trusting as a form of self-protection.
The breakup of a marriage can set the stage for feelings of mistrust – even if you’ve never had trust issues previously. After a marriage ends, especially if you’ve endured infidelity, it’s normal to doubt your ability to trust yourself and others. Meeting someone new and dating again can be invigorating but scary at the same time. An inability to trust a new partner may take on several forms – ranging from feeling they are dishonest or secretive; or doubting they are going to keep their promises or be dependable.
You may enter a relationship with fractured trust for a variety of reasons. Divorce is not always the root cause. But as you become more aware of your tendency to mistrust your partner, you can stop yourself and ask: “Is my mistrust coming from something that is actually happening in the present, or is it related to my past?”
Fortunately, you can turn the hurts from past betrayals into lessons. When you deal with your fears head on, you can learn to trust your instincts and your judgment. Author Ian Lawton advises us: “Give trust mindfully; aware that there are no guarantees and there is always the chance you will be hurt again. In your calmest of moments, you know that the risk to keep your heart closed is nothing in comparison to the joy of sharing love.”
Do you sometimes feel that love is easily broken and fear that it will disappear despite everything you do? Mistrust is a lingering feeling in the back of your mind that your partner does not truly love you, or might abandon you. So much about trust is walking the talk. Your ex-spouse may have told you that he or she loved you, but did their actions support that?
For instance, Carolyn, a forty-something married administrative assistant has difficulty trusting Kevin because her first marriage ended due to infidelity and broken promises. She married Kevin after a brief courtship and often reacts with fear and suspicion when he works late or there’s even the slightest inconsistency in his story. Carolyn has a tendency to blow things out of proportion when she says “You’re always working and you don’t make me a priority.” In the past, Kevin became angry at Carolyn’s accusations, but he has learned to pause and be empathetic. He’s also developed a new habit of calling when he’s delayed at work.
Rather than blame Carolyn and accuse her of being insecure, Kevin is showing Carolyn through consistency in his words and actions that he is there for her. Likewise, Carolyn must learn to examine her thought processes. Is her self-doubt and mistrust grounded in reality or a fragment of her past? She must be willing to let go of self-defeating thoughts – to free herself from the blueprints of her past.
Many relationships are sabotaged by self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe your partner will hurt you, you can unconsciously encourage hurts to emerge in your relationship. But day by day, if you learn to operate from a viewpoint that your partner loves you and wants the best for you, you can enjoy trust in your life.
6 smart ways to repair trust after divorce:
1. Gather information and challenge mistrustful thoughts. Ask yourself: is your lack of trust due to your partner’s actions or your own issues, or both. Be willing to take a leap of faith if you don’t have all the information and don’t assume the worst of your partner.
2. Trust you intuition and instincts. Have confidence in your own perceptions and pay attention to red flags such as inconsistencies between your partner’s words and behavior.
3. Take responsibility for your own reactions and focus on changing your mistrustful mindset.
4. Listen to your partner’s side of the story. Make sure your words and tone of voice are consistent with your goal of rebuilding trust.
5. Believe in your partner. If your partner lets you down, don’t always assume that a failure in competence is intentional – sometimes people simply make a mistake.
6. Practice being more trusting in small steps. Learning to trust is a skill that can be nurtured over time. With courage and persistence, you can turn hurts from past betrayals into lessons.
What I’ve come to realize is that trust is an act of courage. When you sustain the loss of a relationship due to broken trust, it makes you smarter and more keenly able to extend trust to those who are deserving of it. You can learn to trust your instincts and judgment when you honestly deal with your fears. If you are able to come to a place of self-awareness and understand the decisions that were made that led up to trust being severed, you can start to approach others with faith and optimism.
How have you built trust after divorce? Please share your comments below.