Newly divorced people often say, “I’ll never trust my ex again,” or even “I’ll never trust a man/woman again.” That sentiment is not surprising given the pain and hurt that comes with many divorces but trust is a cornerstone of healthy relationships and a vital part of connecting with others. Learning how to rebuild trust after divorce is a critical part of healing and recovery.
In this episode of Conservations About Divorce, I am joined by therapist, college instructor and author Terry Gaspard. Join us as we discuss
- What is trust and what mistrust looks like
- The root causes of mistrust – they’re not what you think
- How learning to trust is similar to getting fit, and
- Some exercises you can do to build your trust strength.
Here are Terry’s six strategies for rebuilding trust:
Be Aware of Your Mistrust
The first strategy is to be aware of when you are mistrusting someone. With time you’ll come to recognize these thoughts and as you do, ask yourself if the mistrust is due to the actions of the other person or your own past experiences that don’t involve them.
Trust Your Instincts
Learning to trust again is not just about believing that someone is acting with your best interests in mind but also recognizing when that isn’t the case. It means learning to recognize when a situation doesn’t feel right such as when a partner says or does something that makes you suddenly tense up or pull back. It’s about paying attention to the actions that make you second-guess yourself and exploring those more. Trusting your instincts will help you learn better judgment about who you trust and that can lead to fewer breaches of trust.
Are Your Actions Destructive?
Being overly mistrustful of someone, especially an intimate partner can lead to behaviors that stress and strain the relationship. For example if your partner is late home from work and says they stopped for a drink with some coworkers, how do react to that? Demanding too many details and making accusations about why they went for drinks or the nature of their relationship with a coworker could become destructive. The questioning, interrogation and doubting can make the relationship too claustrophobic for your partner.
People Make Mistakes
We are all human and we do all make mistakes. Be careful not to assume that the actions of another were intentional and deliberate. They may have been a spur of the moment reaction, a decision made without thinking through all the consequences. You’ll know the difference by having a discussion with the person and being attentive to their responses.
Are Actions And Words Consistent
Keep in mind the axiom, “Actions speak louder than words” and look for consistency between what your partner says and what they do. When the two are not aligned it means that you do need to explore their behaviors deeper and challenge the contradictions. Trust your instincts.
Trust is something that comes instinctively to us – look how trusting babies are. Our life experiences however often make it easy to become mistrustful and that can become a habit that erodes your ability to trust. To overcome this you need to override an inclination to doubt and make a conscious decision to trust. Do this often enough and you’ll become a trusting person with the skills to discern situations that warrant being less trusting.
“We are never so vulnerable than when we trust someone but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find joy.” ~ Walter Anderson, German writer.
Terry Gaspard’s interest in studying divorce began with her own experience growing up as one of four sisters in a divorced family. She also experienced the breakup of her own marriage over two decades ago and has been happily remarried for eighteen years. She is a sought after speaker who frequently offers her commentary on marriage, divorce, and her research on daughters of divorce.
Terry and her daughter Tracy’s book “Daughters of Divorce:Overcome The Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship” will be published by Sourcebooks in January of 2016. In this powerful, uplifting guide, mother-daughter team Terry and Tracy draw on more than thirty years of clinical practice and interviews of over 320 daughters of divorce to help readers recognize and overcome the unique emotional challenges that parental separation creates so they can build successful, long-lasting relationships.
Terry and Tracy offer a healing community for adults dealing with divorce, parenting, and blended family issues on their website movingpastdivorce.com where you can pre-order their book.