You were brave. You let yourself love fully. You were vulnerable and open. And you were crushed when the person you gave your heart to abused your love.
Now, even though you want a healthy new relationship, it’s hard to trust that you won’t be hurt again.
It’s not just you
Does this sound familiar? It’s not just you. I’m a therapist as well as a dating coach, and as such, I’m well aware that many people re-entering the dating field after a bad experience are understandably cautious. They have seen the darkness and felt the risk of loving.
More most this isn’t just an intellectual decision, it’s a feeling. You might genuinely want to date, but find it hard to feel excited about anyone you meet. Or you lose any emerging feelings of attraction for them over the slightest thing. Our you just feel flat, and exhausted when you think about dating.
On some level, you know you’re protecting yourself from being hurt again, but you can’t control the way you feel. It’s like knowing you should eat a healthy meal, but having absolutely no appetite. What to do?
How to trust again
Here’s how: You don’t have to trust another person. You have to trust yourself.
When you are confident in your good judgment, in your ability to protect yourself, and in your clarity about your needs, you have nothing to fear from other people. When you feel safe, when you feel strong, your excitement about possibilities naturally increases. You’re free to feel attraction, and even hope.
Many of the clients I work with who have been traumatized by past relationships feel that the primary betrayal they experienced was their betrayal of themselves. They accepted things they shouldn’t have. They tolerated mistreatment for too long. They dismissed their inner wisdom, and suffered the consequences.
Now they don’t trust themselves not to make the same mistakes again.
Daring to trust again requires radical honesty
Have you learned from the past? Have you done an inventory of the relationship that broke your heart? Do you sincerely believe that you are worthy of love and respect? Do you know how to keep yourself safe from people who can’t or won’t love you well? Do you know how to tell the difference between healthy people and unhealthy people? Do you know what a healthy relationship is?
These are all big, complicated questions. However, when the answer to those questions is “Yes” you have nothing to fear in meeting new people. When you trust yourself to tell the difference between a keeper and a throwback, dating becomes fun again. When you are able to quickly identify and cut loose the ones who are not worthy of your love you will always be safe.
If you’re finding it hard to put yourself back out there, it could mean that you haven’t restored trust yourself yet.
Repairing your confidence
Here’s how to start repairing your confidence in your own judgment — do an inventory of your past relationship by answering these questions:
- What did you learn about what you must have in a healthy partnership?
- What were early warning signs that you see now, looking back, that you overlooked at the time?
- Did your strong feelings for your ex lead you to compromise your values? What are those values?
- What was your quiet, “wise voice” inside of you telling you about the relationship that you chose to not listen to?
- If you had a time machine and knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently in order to protect yourself?
Daring to trust someone again
Daring to trust again, like all things, is an invitation to growth. You have the power to create the life and the love that you want. Consider that your heartbreak, as awful as it was, is an invitation for you to learn, grow, and become stronger and wiser.
The courage to trust again requires trusting yourself. You have the power to go slow, and choose not to let your feelings overwhelm your inner wisdom. Remind yourself that it takes a long time to get to know people, and that character is revealed over time. Stay true to your values, and yourself.
You will feel stronger and more empowered when you remind yourself of these truths:
You don’t need to immediately trust other people when you trust yourself to make good decisions. And you are worthy of love and respect.
With those intentions firmly in mind, you’re going to date with confidence — and find a new partner who is worthy of your love and respect, too.