Divorce can shake a person’s ability to trust someone else to the core. Yet, in order for any relationship to thrive, trust is a necessity. In this Part 2 of The 8 Keys to Trust in a Post-Divorce Relationship, I’ll share keys 5-8 on what characteristics must be present for a deep and abiding trust in another person to exist.
As a quick reminder, the first 4 keys were clarity, compassion, character and competency. (You can read the detailed discussion about these keys here.)
The last 4 keys to trust in a post-divorce relationship are
5. Contribution – What’s important about contribution in a relationship is recognizing how you each contribute to the richness of each other’s lives. The contribution should be overall positive, yet not necessarily positive all the time. The rough patches are where growth can occur and the opportunity for growth is where you can begin to evaluate the presence of the next key – commitment.
6. Commitment – Commitment is more than just a declaration. The kind of commitment that makes relationships work is action-based. It takes action to display commitment – a willingness on both parts to roll-up your sleeves and do what needs to be done to maintain the relationship if that’s what’s in each of your best interests.
7. Connection – Connection is all about relating to each other. It requires being able to communicate clearly with each other. It’s also the unspoken communication that develops that sense about what each other is thinking or needing.
8. Consistency – Dictionary.com gives some great definitions of consistency that are all necessary to developing and maintaining trust in a relationship. Consistency is about agreement, harmony, or compatibility. It also refers to the condition of cohering or holding together and retaining form. All of these are necessary to build trust in a relationship. There must be a consistent agreement to maintain the relationship and there needs to be compatibility and harmony so it can thrive in an environment of trust.
When you take a look at this week’s keys and the ones from last week, there’s quite a bit that goes into building trust in a relationship. Isn’t there?
It’s funny how sometimes looking ahead at what you want in a relationship can sometimes cause us to do a little examination of past relationships and look at them in a different way. If this has happened for you, then you’ve got a really great indication of what you might need to make sure happens in your next relationship to be able to again place your trust in a relationship.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Get clear about what you want in your post-divorce relationships. Yes, this is the same first step as in last week’s Your Functional Divorce Assignment, but my guess is that after learning what the rest of the keys are you might want to adjust your idea of what you want in your post-divorce relationships just a bit.
How might you determine if you and the other person are contributing positively to each other? What positive contributions would you like the other person to make to your life? What contributions are they willing to make to your life? How do these answers match?
What are the contributions they want you to make to their life? What positive contributions are you willing to make in their life? How do these answers match?
It’s important that the answers be fairly similar in order for the contribution key to be present in your post-divorce relationship.
What kind of consistency is present in your relationship? Do you both have the same vision and interpretation of the relationship? Without the same vision, there’s no way there can be consistency within the relationship. That’s why I believe it’s important to check in periodically and make sure you’re both in the same relationship.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.
You’ve probably heard recommendations from other experts about how long you need to wait after divorce before you start dating. These other experts recommend that you wait anywhere from just 1 year to 1 year for every 4 years you were married.
I disagree with these one-size-fits-all recommendations. I believe that the only requirement for you to be able to successfully date after divorce is that you’ve finished your time in the Divorce Pits. The Divorce Pits are where you experience the most painful feelings of divorce – grief, anger, guilt and rejection.
I hope you can agree with me that you wouldn’t want to date someone consumed with the Divorce Pits. So, if you’re consumed with them, you’re probably not going to find someone who wants to date you either. (You can find out if you’re still in the Divorce Pits by taking the assessment here.)
Once you’re out of the Pits, you’re cleared to date. There are all kinds of ways you can meet people to date and I’ll save a discussion of that for some other time. The point I want to get to here is that your dating should be helping you to determine what you do and don’t like about yourself and others in a relationship. There are all kinds of things that people do and don’t want in a relationship, but the one thing that EVERYONE WANTS is to be able to trust their partner.
Take It Slowly When You’re Re-Learning How To Trust After Divorce
For many of us post-divorce, our ability to trust another isn’t quite working ideally. That’s why I recommend you build your trust in yourself first (read more here), then build your trust in friendships (read more here), before trusting someone in a committed relationship. The question I always get from my clients about this is how do I know if I can trust someone?
You can feel pretty confident about trusting someone in a committed relationship by using 8 different keys. These keys are things that you need to examine both in the other person and in your ability to give to them.
We’ll start with the first four keys today and save the other four for next week’s article. (Read part 2.)
The first 4 keys to trust in a post-divorce relationship are
- Clarity – Clarity refers to the ability you and your partner have communicating with each other AND in the clarity you each have individually about being in the relationship. Are you both open and clear about what you want from the relationship? Are you both clear about what needs you’d like to have the other meet? Are you both clear about what you are and are not willing to do in the relationship? The important point about each of these questions is that you’re clear individually without any pressure from the other person or fear of losing the relationship and that you’re able to clearly communicate this to each other. (You should also be aware that after divorce we all change a lot, so just because you’re clear about what you want today, next month, next quarter, next year, your needs of the relationship may change and you both need to be willing to continue being clear for the duration of the relationship.)
- Compassion – Compassion refers to the ability you’ve each got to care for the other. Compassion in a healthy relationship MUST be two-way. There are times when one partner may need more compassion than another, but if the flow of compassion is only one-way, the relationship isn’t conducive to building the level of trust necessary for a long-term committed relationship.
- Character – Character is who you each are as individuals and in the relationship. It’s not unusual for people to behave one way in front of others and another way in the privacy of their relationship. If you find that you’re not behaving like yourself in a relationship, that’s not a healthy relationship for you. If you find that you don’t care for the way the person you’re dating regularly behaves, then they’re not the right person for you.
- Competency – Competency can sound like a funny criterion for trust in a dating or love relationship, but it’s really important. Would you want to be in a relationship with someone who is simply incapable of meeting your needs of the relationship? I doubt it. That’s why I believe it’s critical that you get some clarity on what you want in a relationship and what you’re willing to give to a relationship. Once you know that, you’ll have an idea of whether or not you’ve both got the competency to be in a relationship together.
I know that this is only half of the list, but it’s a lot of information! These aren’t necessarily simple keys. They require careful thought and a deep awareness of your feelings. But armed with these first keys, you’ve got a great starting point for figuring out if the person or people you’re dating are right for you to enter into a deeper relationship with.
Your Assignment For Learning How To Trust Someone Again:
Get clear about what you want in your post-divorce relationships. You might be looking for your next great love or you might be looking for someone to hang out with and just have fun. It’s important that you get clear about what you want so you’ll be able to know if dating someone is in your best interest or not. AND so that you’ll be able to have clarity telling the other person what you want.
How might you determine if the other person is compassionate? In my experience, this is one of those keys that takes time to evaluate. You might be able to tell enough about someone’s lack of compassion quickly. However, if it’s not glaringly obvious that the other person isn’t compassionate, then seeing how you both act in stressful situations is probably the quickest way to determine your level of compassion for yourselves and each other.
If you’re in a relationship with someone, do you like who you are when you’re with them? For most of us who divorced, when we take an honest look back at our marriage we can usually find something about ourselves in the marriage that we’ve since changed or are in the process of changing. There was something about what our marriage had become that caused us to be less than ourselves. It’s so very important that you not enter into another relationship that might cause you to not appreciate yourself 100%. So, if you don’t like whom you are when you’re with someone, it’s time to end that relationship. If you do like who you are when you’re with someone, the relationship just might be working and you might be closer to building trust.
Is the person you’re in relationship with capable of meeting your needs? Are you capable of meeting theirs? If your answer is “yes” to both questions, you’ve got another key for building trust in this relationship. If not, then this relationship probably isn’t in your best interest to continue for long.
Don’t worry; you don’t have to go through this alone. I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor. I’ve been divorced and I know what you’re going through. My specialty is helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress, pain and uncertainty of divorce. You can join my anonymous newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
If you’re looking for more help with putting together your post-divorce life, you’ll want to read more at Life After Divorce.
To heal from divorce, you must learn to trust again.
Divorce is the result of a betrayal of a trust. A trust we place in another to love, support and care about us. It’s also a trust we encourage our partner to place in us – to trust us to love them, to support them and to care about them. Trust of this magnitude is amazing when you really think about it. It’s an wondrous thing when two people decide to blend their lives and live together in partnership. And when a trust like that is broken, it can be a terrible, ugly thing which causes many people to not want to trust anyone else for any reason.
“When you trust someone to be who you want them to be instead of who they are, you get hurt.”
I know it was true in my case, and I suspect it is true in yours also. When I got divorced I realized I had trusted my ex-husband to be someone I wanted him to be instead of who he was. Because he didn’t meet my expectations I got hurt. I got hurt a lot because I had deceived myself for years by expecting him to be who I trusted him to be and not who he was.
“…if you don’t feel like you can trust anybody to talk to anybody, you feel like you’re really alone.”
With all my mis-spent trust in my marriage, I wasn’t sure if I could trust anyone as I started on my divorce journey. I was suspicious of just about everyone and as a result, I felt really lonely. And the more lonely I felt, the more depressed and fearful I became.
“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.”
One of the things I did as I was building my trust in myself again was I reached out and asked for help. When I moved into a new home during the course of my divorce, the previous owner mentioned that the neighbors across the street wanted to meet me when I was ready.
“We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxiacally, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy.”
One day, shortly after I was mostly settled in my new home, I screwed up my courage and walked across the street to meet the neighbors. It was scary walking across the street. But I did it. And you know, the rewards have been immeasurable.
The family who lived there was generous and kind and recognized how scared I was to be facing my new life on my own. They turned out to be my family away from my family. I felt loved and cared for in a way that I hadn’t since I lived at home as a kid. (I’ve lived across the country from my family since I was 18 years old)
“Do not trust all men, but trust men of worth; the former course is silly, the latter a mark of prudence.”
Screwing up my courage and walking across the street that spring morning was a real turning point for me in my divorce journey. It was the first time in a long time that I had trusted myself to be able to discern if it was OK for me to trust someone.
That’s exactly what I want for you. I want you to know that it’s OK to trust yourself, that it’s OK to trust yourself to meet new people and that you’ll know if they’re worthy of your trust. And if they are worthy of your trust you just might find another family to support and love you like I did.
Divorce for most of us is scary and learning to trust yourself so you can trust others can take some time, but when you start down that road of trust the rewards of joy and love can be yours again.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Reread the 5 quotes in today’s article. I used the quotes to tell a story of how I learned to trust again as I was going through my divorce. How do these quotes apply to you?
What actions do these quotes inspire you to take? You might need to screw up your courage like I did before you take action. Or, the action you choose to take might come easily to you. Whatever you’re inspired to do to test your ability to trust, trust yourself enough to know when the right time is to do it.
Do it and evaluate the results. The thing about any new experience is that you need to evaluate the results. Check in with yourself after you take action and see how you feel about it. You may be pleased and feel empowered to trust more. You may be displeased and choose to choose differently next time. You might feel something in between these two extremes. The key here is to be truthful with yourself and adjust so you can continue to build your trust in yourself and in others.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
© 2013 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.
Divorce is one of those life events that can cause you to question EVERYTHING.
At least that’s what happened for me. Somehow my change of marital status caused me to wonder if anything about my life was what I thought it was– was any of it real? How could I know what was real and what wasn’t? After all, I had thought I’d be married to my ex-husband for the rest of my life and that wasn’t true so what really was true about the rest of my life? I felt hopelessly lost.
Slowly, though, I began to understand that the only path out of a life of being hopelessly lost was to begin to trust myself again. I needed to believe that I could trust myself and that I was the only one who would know what was and wasn’t true for me. Knowing which path to take is different from actually walking down the path. The walk, for me, took a while because I was walking blind-folded.
When I look back at that time in my life, I know that it took me longer to walk the path to self-trust than it might have. I didn’t know where the path was headed or what was required of me to successfully walk it. But I know it now. I know the path now because of my own journey and because of the journeys I’ve been honored to watch my clients make too.
I’m going to share my knowledge with you so you will be able to walk your own path back to self-trust without a blindfold.
Before I start with the how-to’s of building self-trust, it’s important to define the term. Self-trust is the ability to make decisions, to know that your emotions and feelings are real, and to take care of yourself. It’s a fairly lengthy definition, isn’t it? Basically, self-trust involves trusting yourself on EVERY level – cognitively, emotionally, logically, intuitively and physically.
I’ll bet you’re wondering, “With a concept this big, where do I start?” You start with a decision to build your self-trust and then you roll up your sleeves and begin to work. It won’t be (at least not for most of us) a magical process that once you make the decision you’ll automatically have a wonderful sense of self-trust, but with consistent work you’ll definitely make significant progress in a fairly short period of time.
Here are 6 steps you can use to build your self-trust:
1. Eliminate victim mentality. Victim mentality is living in the belief that things happen to you and you have zero impact, influence or control over what happens to you. I’m not suggesting that you can’t be a victim. What I’m suggesting is that you don’t want to let that be your entire story. Yes, bad things do happen and you can choose how you move on from those things.
As an example, suppose you are divorcing because your spouse cheated on you. You can either live the rest of your life feeling like a victim of your spouse’s choice or you can come to accept that your spouse’s choice was hurtful and you can still move on with the rest of your life regardless of what your spouse has done.
2. Eliminate negative thoughts about yourself. Regardless of whether or not you’re going through divorce, most of us have negative self-talk – you know, those voices in your head that are constantly criticizing you in some way. A friend of mine calls them the shitty committee. Learning to quiet those voices and recognize them for what they are is an incredibly powerful skill.
Most of the time, those hyper-critical voices are that way because they’re trying to protect you from something. For years, my negative self-talk revolved around not liking myself. It took a while for me understand what was behind those messages, but I finally realized that it was because I wasn’t trusting myself to know what was best for me. I would often defer what I wanted to what my ex-husband wanted. Once I came to this realization, it was much easier for me to quiet those negative thoughts and pay more attention to what I wanted.
3. Recognize your strengths and successes. This has a lot to do with self-esteem and knowing that you are capable because you have innate strengths and because you’ve been successful in the past.
I’ve written a previous blog post about how to do this and instead of re-writing it here, I’ll just direct you to that post: https://drkarenfinn.com/divorce-blog/dealing-with-grief/118-a-quick-and-simple-way-to-dump-divorce-depression
4. Become aware of what you’re thinking and feeling. Now that you’ve eliminated a bunch of the stinking thinking in the first 3 steps, you’re ready to start being pro-active with building your self-trust and it all begins with paying attention to what you’re thinking and feeling (both physically and emotionally).
There are a couple of different ways to do this. The first is to ask yourself at least 3 times during each day just what you’re thinking and feeling at that particular moment. Once you have that answer you can then decide what if anything you want to do to improve how you’re thinking and feeling. The second way is to journal about your thoughts and feelings. Most people are more aware of their thoughts than their feelings. If this is you, you might want to journal by using the phrase “I feel…” as many times as you need to so you can get everything out.
5. Keep your word to yourself. Believe it or not we all make promises to ourselves every day: “I won’t eat any more sweets”, “I will start a daily exercise routine today”, “As soon as I finish this report, I’ll take a break to clear my head before starting my next task.” The thing is that despite our promises we wind up eating a fresh-baked cookie a friend brought over to share, we skip a day of exercise and soon we’ve stopped exercising all together, and we skip taking a break because we talk ourselves into believing we didn’t really need it after all. Breaking promises we make to ourselves, sets us up to have a poor level of self-trust.
I used to be especially bad at keeping my promises to myself involving rest, relaxation and fun. I’d usually feel guilty if I wasn’t working and pushing myself all the time and yet I’d hate myself for not taking care of me. It was really a vicious cycle. What I discovered by allowing myself to keep my word to myself about rest, relaxation and fun was that I had LOTS more energy for getting my work and workouts done.
6. Learn from your mistakes. This is the biggie when it comes to divorce. It takes two for a marriage to not work. (I know that might be an offensive statement to some, but it’s what I believe and if you’d like to discuss it with me, please do! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Learning what your part in the divorce was will go a long way toward helping you build your sense of self-trust because you’ll know that you can take care of yourself.
It took me a while to recognize that I played an active part in my divorce, that I wasn’t a victim, and that there were things I could learn from my failed marriage.
Yes, this is really the master’s level of self-trust. Being able to realize that you are going to make mistakes at times and still trust yourself because you are willing to learn from your mistakes will allow you to take appropriate risks and live a wonderful life.
Once you’ve conquered these 6 steps, you’ll be well on your way to trusting yourself again. So, the next time something happens in your life that changes everything, your ability to trust yourself will help prevent you from feeling hopelessly lost again. Even if you do wind up questioning EVERYTHING, you’ll be able to trust your answers because you’ve learned to trust yourself.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Make the decision that you can trust yourself even if you aren’t sure you do right now. Making the decision is always the first step in making a change. Learning to trust yourself is critical to having a wonderful life. Emerson said “Self-trust is the first secret to success” and I agree completely!
Take the checklist above one step at a time. Start at the top of the list and work your way through each step. Some may be easier for you to do than others and you may want to re-do some steps along the way, but if you work through them in this order it will be easier for you to master each of them.
Know your limits. This is one of those extra bonus things about trusting yourself. As you trust yourself more you’ll know exactly when you need to ask for help and what kind of help you need.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or schedule a confidential consultation with me.