Learning how to trust someone after divorce is tough, but these 7 tips will make it easier for you.
One of the most frequent casualties of divorce is the ability to trust someone again in the same way you trusted your ex. It’s as if you’ve blocked off the most tender and precious part of yourself to avoid being hurt at that deep a level ever again. You want to make sure you never ever leave yourself open to a repeat of that much pain.
And yet learning how to trust someone again is at the core of being able to live a full life after divorce.
That’s because true connection is critical to a fully lived and vibrant life. I’m not talking about the surface kind of connection where you keep your truest thoughts and emotions and even ugly cries to yourself. I’m talking about the kind of connection where you can be 100% unapologetically you with someone and they can be that way with you too.
Learning how to trust someone again after suffering through divorce is challenging to say the least. But luckily some work that Brené Brown published in her book Daring Greatly provides a wonderful starting point for discussing and understanding what trust is between two people. She captures her seven points in the acronym BRAVING.
Boundaries – you and the other each have and respect boundaries
Reliability – you and the other both do what you say you will do when you say you will do it
Accountability – you each own your mistakes, apologize and make amends
Vault – neither of you share what’s not yours to share
Integrity – both of you choose to do what’s right based on your values instead of what is fun, fast or easy
Nonjudgment – both of you can express what’s important to you and ask for what you want without fear of judgment
Generosity – you’re both generous with interpreting the intentions, words and actions of the other
I’ll guess that when you read this list 1 or 2 (or even more) of the items made you cringe. They touched a nerve that still feels a bit raw from your divorce. But they also point you in the direction of where your challenges in trusting someone again are or will be, so you can begin addressing them.
Although everyone has challenges with trusting others in an intimate relationship post-divorce, one group of people who have a lot to overcome are those whose ex cheated on them.
The two most challenging points from Brené’s list for these people to address are integrity and generosity. Learning how to trust someone after being betrayed is fraught with fears of another betrayal. So, suspicion is the attitude most of these folks adopt when they enter a new relationship.
But if they’re courageous enough to understand what’s driving their suspicions and do the work they need to do to work through their challenges, they can build trust in and with a new partner.
Even if your ex didn’t betray you, creating trust within a new relationship post-divorce is a process. It’s not something that’s deep and abiding the moment you meet someone – no matter how much connection you may initially feel.
Taking the time to explore your concerns and fears in learning how to trust someone – someone new – will take work. But having someone in your life who holds a safe place for you to openly and freely share the most precious and tender part of you and for whom you do the same is one of the most wonderful gifts you can ever give and allow yourself to receive – no matter how difficult your divorce was and how scary it is to trust again.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are ready to learn how to trust someone again and put their divorce firmly behind them. 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.
Looking for more help moving on from your divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.
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.