Center for Shared Insight, PC

How can I trust again after a painful break-up?

June 21, 2018
Posted By: Kristen Hick, Psy.D.

If you are reading this post, you’ve most likely recently been through a breakup or experienced some level of heartache. It’s inevitable that everyone will go through this experience in their life, so remember that you are not alone. Once you’ve worked through the break-up and recognized the lessons, you might be thinking about dating again. And, as you start to meet new people, it’s probably apparent that being vulnerable and willing to trust after a challenging relationship might be harder than you think. In this post, we’ll discuss the stages of grief and letting go, and recommend some ways to rebuild trust and tune into red flags as you begin to date again.

Stages of grief

“Getting over a relationship” will happen on it’s own timeline. There is no way to speed the process of grief and trying might actually set you back further in your recovery. The five stages of grief you’ll most likely experience as you let go of a relationship are:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

It’s possible that you might go through these stages in a slightly different order, over and over again, and some will take a lot longer to move through than others. Let’s look more closely at what these stages entail.

Denial is the initial reaction you might have to any sense of loss. This looks like holding onto hope or reading into signs that your ex-partner might be changing his or her mind. This is a coping and defense mechanism that numbs the immediate emotional pain. When anger sets in next, it can build toward your ex-partner or even manifest itself as anger toward your friends and family. You might feel the need to lash out at your former partner via text or email. Sometimes, you might even feel angry with yourself for failing the relationship and start to overanalyze the past. As anger passes, bargaining emerges and you might try and reach out to your ex promising to change, suggesting therapy, or even reaching out to mutual friends asking them to “talk sense” into your ex. Soon after, depression likely sets in which may manifest as fatigue, isolation, or a change in eating, sleep, or social patterns. Finally, acceptance begins as a sense of peace, gratitude, and balance resumes in your life. In this stage, you are prepared to let go and ready to move forward with your life. Knowing what to expect along the process of relationship recovery can help remind you that you are not alone and normalize the emotions and feelings you are experiencing along your path to healing.

Rebuilding Trust

Ask yourself whether your experience of mistrust goes beyond your most recent relationship. When did you first learn to trust in a relationship? What are the origins of the feeling of trust in your life? How many relationships in your past ended painfully? Examine how trust has showed up for you in the past to gain additional insights into your hesitation to trust again following your most recent breakup.

Throughout the stages of grief, you have the opportunity to build up a sense of trust again. You might feel abandoned and heart-broken, and therefore unsure how you can even trust your own perceptions in dating. However, building trust starts with self-trust. Can you keep your own promises to yourself when setting boundaries, making commitments, and outlining goals for your life? These practices start to build self-trust. If you commit to running three miles before work every day and follow through on that commitment, you’ll start to cultivate a sense of trust that will spill into other parts of your life. Learning how to set boundaries and building trust between friends, co-workers, siblings, and others will help you start to regain trust in humanity. Spend your time with people who truly care about your happiness.

Tuning into Intuition

So often, relationships have red flags all along the way. You most likely felt them on some level but didn’t want to admit the potential challenges to yourself, or you were unwilling to really see them. Tuning into your intuition is a powerful practice in dating. Notice how you feel immediately after spending time with someone. Is it energizing or draining? Do you feel anxious, withdrawn, or balanced? Becoming acutely aware of these feelings helps tap into your intuition in dating, which is important in re-patterning the way you might show up in partnership.

The team at Center for Shared Insight specializes in relationship therapy, and helping you understand your origins of trust and how you might cultivate a strong sense of it in your life. We work to understand your unique history, experiences, needs, and desires so we can help you make decisions that lead to more fulfilling relationships. Contact our team to learn more about how we can support your relationship journey.

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