Learning to Trust Again

by eHarmony Staff

Learning to Trust Again

You thought this relationship was going somewhere. You thought this was the real deal. Perhaps, you were even falling in love.

And then it fell apart. You parted ways.  Now you are left picking up the pieces.

Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. When our hearts have been broken, it can seem unfathomable that we’ll ever reach out again. We don’t want to risk our hearts again. We are reluctant to take that leap of faith again with someone new.

But that’s exactly what happens. Taking that leap of faith is what we have to do if we want to keep our hearts open and our spirits alive. Read on for some vital perspective on moving forward and practical tips for loving again.

Consider the Alternative
Stop right now and think for a moment about what it would be like to live a life without love and companionship. This isn’t what you want, is it? Perhaps the best reason to be willing to love again is because doing so is obviously better than not.

Think about people you know (or even fictional characters) who have made the choice to live like a self-protected island, giving up love because of their fear. Fear of making themselves vulnerable. Fear of being hurt. Would a life like that be truly satisfying to you? Even if you could remain relatively content, would it be the most fulfilling, meaningful life you could lead? Most likely, it would be, at best, a muted existence.

The point is that you could protect yourself from future heartbreak-but at what cost? By choosing not to love again, you can avoid the acute pain you’re feeling right now; but you’ll be left with the ongoing pain of disconnection and isolation.

Consider the Possibilities
You may have thought that the last person was your destiny, but clearly destiny has different and better plans for you. It may be hard to imagine right now but there’s someone out there who’s even better for you. 

Focus on the fact that perhaps this relationship ended so that another one can begin.  One that will lead you to an exciting and fulfilling future you couldn’t have had without experiencing this end. And if you close yourself off and refuse to risk again, you may end up missing out on someone great. As with so much in life, you will likely look back some day and feel that there was a reason this happened.

Consider your Growth
Don’t discount how much you’ve learned and grown as a result of the painful moments you’ve been through in your life. You’re now a wiser and ultimately stronger person than you were before you experienced this difficult time. And that means that you now have more to contribute to a new relationship, and that you can be an even better partner to the right person.

How to Trust Again
So clearly, there are plenty of good reasons to be willing to love and trust again. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do. For many people who have been hurt in a past relationship, the question is not why it’s good to be open to love again, but how to get themselves to do so.

If this is where you are, then here are some suggestions that might make it less scary as you think about putting yourself back out there.

1. Give yourself time to Heal.
Before immediately jumping back into another serious relationship, give yourself time to deal with what you’ve been through. It takes hard work to come through a painful breakup in an honest and authentic way, and the last thing you want to do is to short-circuit that growth process by instantly entering another serious romance. Instead, give yourself permission to date casually, enjoying your time with new and different people and learning to just have fun with people you find interesting.

2. Let your trust be Earned.
Then, once you do find someone you might be interested in going deeper with, be patient with yourself in terms of how quickly you open up to this new person in your life. There’s no reason you have to go from zero to sixty in a new relationship.

Take your time and offer yourself slowly, watching for how the person responds. Show a few smaller parts of yourself in the beginning; then, if this new person responds in a way that makes you feel safe, try offering a bit more. Over time, then, if you continue to feel that you’re being honored and respected as you make yourself increasingly vulnerable, you can begin to open up more and more, showing the larger and deeper parts of who you are.

3. Tell your Story.
Once you’ve found someone you’re interested in opening yourself up to, then make sure you two communicate about your fears and concerns. It can be very healthy to openly discuss your reluctance to make yourself vulnerable again. It can also create a sense of connectedness between two people, which can of course lead to more trust and caring. You might even find that the person you are sharing your experiences with has a similar story.

In addition, keep in mind that it’s not fair to the new person to bring the baggage from your earlier relationship into the new one. Perhaps we can’t avoid doing this to at least some extent, but as much as possible, keep reminding yourself that this is a completely different person. Do your best to see with "now" eyes, rather than viewing everything through lenses colored by your past experiences.

Remember, we’re not saying that any of this is easy. Love can lead to some of the most intense pain that any of us ever experience. But as you know, it can also be the greatest thing in the world. We are resilient and adaptable and hopeful. We know that with dating as with life there are going to be endings that bring new beginnings.

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