Building Trust After Divorce For Women

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Hey love. If you found me today, it’s because you are finding struggle in building trust again after a divorce. And girlfriend, you are not alone! In this FAQ, I’m going to share with you so many tidbits of information that you have questions about. How to rebuild trust in yourself, in other people, and in a new relationship. You are in the right place! And I cannot wait to dig into all of your questions.

What does building trust mean?

“In simple terms, to trust someone is to be able to feel at ease with them. That you are safe with them.”

But here’s the key. Not suppressing a bunch of red flags, right?

Sometimes women are so desperate to trust someone because we want to be close or because we feel lonely after divorce. Then we shove away a bunch of those red flags in exchange for fake trust, right?

“To really trust someone means that you can feel safe with them. That they’re going to consistently show up for you when you need them, and if they don’t, they’re going to humbly apologize for it, and they’re going to try to make it right.”

We’re not all going to be perfect all the time. But if they get it wrong, they’re going to apologize. They’re not going to get super defensive. They’re going to own it. They’re going to make it right so that it feels like y’all are collaborating to feel safe in the relationship.

What are trust issues in general?

This is a good one.

“So, trust issues, in general, are when you don’t feel safe in a relationship.”

The thing is, there are a lot of reasons why you may not feel safe in the relationship.

  1. The relationship may not be safe, meaning the person isn’t trustworthy.
  2. You may have grown up or come from other environments that were maybe: dismissive, controlling, critical or neglectful; things that kind of primed you to have trust issues.

So when a person has trust issues, it means that they really struggle to feel safe or secure in a relationship. It means that they’re hypervigilant about being rejected or getting it wrong, or that somebody is going to leave them, abandon them or betray them.

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Do I have trust issues?

Folks with trust issues tend to, in addition to being hypervigilant, really overthink their interactions with people. And they overthink thoughts like:

  • Did I get it wrong?
  • Did I say it wrong?

Does this person really mean what they said?

  • Can I really believe what they’re telling me?

“Most people with trust issues tend to be people pleasers.”

Because women want to make sure someone is not going to abandon them. And if you keep them really happy, then they won’t leave. Or maybe they won’t betray you.

Then this leads to playing detective.

  • Maybe you find yourself often asking, “Is that thing true?”
  • Or checking someone’s phone.
  • Verifying information or maybe even doing a drive-by.

I know those sound like extreme circumstances, but these are the types of behaviors that are really common when there are trust issues involved.

What does it mean to trust someone?

“To trust someone in general but especially after divorce means that you can feel safe inside the relationship, that someone has your back and you have their back. Not only inside of your relationship, but you also notice that this person acts congruently with other people as well.”

If someone has your back but they don’t have their friends’ backs, or they don’t have their families’ backs, then they will also eventually behave the same with you.

“To really build trust with someone, you’ll identify consistent behavior over time that is rooted in integrity. That shows follow-through. What they say, what they do, what they think, and what they feel; is consistent over time and you know where they stand. There’s no hiding it from you.”

What are the signs that you have trust issues?

The signs that you have trust issues can be a feeling of deep insecurity in a relationship, feeling anxious, feeling like you’re going to be rejected, overthinking, overanalyzing, playing detective, and/or struggling to trust your own judgment.

“Trust issues are born out of a difficulty in trusting ourselves. And that comes often as a result of having been in some of those environments that are either dismissive or controlling.”

An environment where women can’t feel safe getting to know themselves and trusting their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the world.

two bottles of milk in a bowl of ice cubs, Building Trust After Divorce For Women - Divorce Recovery

How to deal with trust issues and insecurities

Dealing with trust issues and insecurities is a multi-part process.

  • First of all, women have to start organizing the people who they are in relationships with into different buckets.
  • Some people are going to fall into the not trustworthy bucket.

To deal with trust issues and insecurities in those relationships, especially after a divorce, it means renegotiating and setting new boundaries in that relationship. And not continuing to go to the hardware store trying to buy milk, right? That’s like pretending I can trust someone, treating them like I can trust them, putting my faith in them, and then getting burned over and over again.

“Because when women keep going to the hardware store, trying to buy a gallon of milk, then that reinforces the idea that they can’t trust their own decisions and their own judgment.”

Sorting People Into Trust Buckets

Then, there’s sorting other people into a bucket of: they weren’t trustworthy at first, but they’ve given me the indication that they want to become trustworthy.

And they’re willing to go to great lengths to earn my trust.
Those people are really working through:

  • What was the betrayal?
  • What is the plan to not repeat that betrayal?
  • What are the underlying issues that got us here and what commitments are we both willing to make?

“This means the person who was betrayed is working through their resentment.”

And the person who did the betraying is working through their own issues: renegotiating a relationship through active problem solving, collaboration, and taking responsibility.

And then there are the people who: demonstrated consistent integrity. They’re trustworthy, right? But maybe you’ve been too guarded with them. Or maybe you’ve been overthinking how you interact in those relationships, the ones that are really emotionally safe.

“It’s learning how to let your guard down. It’s learning how to not overthink. It’s retraining your brain that there are some places that are safe.”

And sorting people into buckets helps your brain realize, “Oh, I see. Maybe I’ve been doing it the same with all three groups of people. And it’s time to adjust my approach depending on who I’m working with.”

Retraining Your Relationship With Yourself – Trusting Yourself and Your Gut

“And then it’s retraining your relationship with yourself.”

Being in an environment where you can retrain your brain to get to know yourself. To explore what you think, what you feel, what you believe, what you like, what you don’t like, and to reestablish a way of thinking and feeling that honors that.

“Because oftentimes, when we’ve been abandoned or betrayed, our habit is to abandon and betray ourselves.”

Like, “Why did I say I would do that thing when I really didn’t want to?”

That’s a small version of abandoning or betraying our own wants or needs.

There’s this layered process to dealing with trust issues and insecurities. And that last one that I talked about with self, is really building up that sense of self-worth.

“That you’re worth having your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.”

And getting at those underlying insecurities and retraining the brain to know that you are worthy of having your own opinions, your own needs.

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Why is building trust important for women?

Building trust. Building. Girlfriend, let’s talk about that building part. It’s important for women to build trust because when we build something, it’s not all or nothing, right?

It’s not like yesterday we didn’t have a house and today we have a house. We had to start from the ground floor and work our way up, brick by brick.

“Similarly, trust, it’s something that’s built over time. And in the places where we have built trust over time, are the places where the relationship feels so good and so safe. This is what we would call our ride-or-dies!”

Where you can completely be yourself and feel at ease. Those are the relationships that feel soul replenishing.

Building trust takes time

Building trust is not something that can happen in a snap. And even though we might feel very lonely and want closeness right away, we have to build trust, especially after divorce, so that we can really have that secure, safe, delicious feeling inside of a relationship. Where it’s like, “This is the person that helps me feel rejuvenated!”

How long does it take to build trust?

What a fascinating question. OK, if you are Googling how long it takes to build trust, I really want to get to know you.

There isn’t a specific length of time it takes to build trust. However, I think that this question is probably related to, “Have I done my due diligence?” Or, “Can I go ahead and trust this person now?”

And it’s probably born out of a sense of feeling loneliness:

“I want to hurry this part up,” a sense of guardedness, or “I don’t want to feel pressured into committing yet.”

Trust exists on a spectrum

Again, it’s not black or white; on or off. There’s “Can I trust you to tell me whether or not I look fat in these jeans?” And then there’s “Can I trust you with my deep dark secrets?” And, “Can I trust that you’re not going to betray me?”

“There are layers to trust, and they come with observing consistency over time by doing life together and walking through the challenges of life together.”

I may call you once and say, “Can you pick my kid up from school?” And you say, “Yes.” And then I find out you didn’t show! Well, now I know, right.

“Building trust comes with vulnerability and taking risks. And it’s not a clear process. It’s a messy process and it takes a while.”

How to trust yourself

The core of all trust issues starts with self. How to trust yourself is to really get in there and start to understand why you don’t trust yourself.

What environments have you been in that have been probably

  • dismissive,
  • neglectful,
  • confusing, or
  • controlling?

And it’s possible that it’s just been romantic relationships or could have been early childhood relationships.

For women to build a healing and healthy divorce recovery, it is really important to get in there and understand how these environments shaped your difficulty developing a relationship with yourself, via exploring yourself and really understanding the world around you.

My daughter, as I’ve watched her grow, learns to trust herself by exploring her environment. Trying new things. Falling down, getting it wrong. Looking at me saying, “Am I OK?” And me saying, “You’re OK, falling down and making mistakes is a part of it.”

A lot of times in life after divorce when we’re trying things, especially with love and relationships, the falling down hurts so freaking bad that we’re like, “This is not safe. It hurts too much.” And so then the process of self-exploration, the process of sharing ourselves, gets interrupted.

Trusting Yourself After Divorce

We have to get to those hurts. We have to retrain the brain. And we have to really dig back into being able to take emotional risks, to be vulnerable, and to keep exploring and keep expressing your thoughts, your feelings, and your needs as part of your divorce recovery.

Even though, yes, sometimes that’s going to lead to rejection. Even though, yes, that means that some people aren’t going to like you.

“Women must reconnect those wires, just like when you were learning to walk. You didn’t let the fact that you fell on your butt a bajillion times stop you from learning to walk. You walked! And you’ve not stopped.”

So we need to get back to that place where there’s enough confidence that you can keep trying. Keep putting yourself out there.

There are a lot of divorce recovery methods that I like to use to learn how to trust yourself again, and some of those things are guided journaling, EFT tapping, EMDR therapy, and so, so many more.

three stickers in different colors, spelling the three words Believe in yourself, Building Trust After Divorce For Women - Divorce Recovery

How to trust your instincts?

This is a great follow-up to the last question. Trusting your instincts as a woman is something that is always available to you. Our instincts are in there, they’re inborn. You can’t turn them off. The thing is that they get covered up with those layers of hurt and the behaviors we do to protect against hurt.

So, deep inside we have our instincts. Then we have these series of hurts and these behaviors we started doing to protect ourselves from hurting.

“The overthinking, the overanalyzing, the anxiety, the avoiding, the suppressing red flags, and the saying, “My needs don’t matter.” And a lot of this happens subconsciously, not just consciously.”

Trust your gut

Trusting your instincts is a process of clearing away those behaviors that you’ve been doing to protect you from hurt, healing those hurts after divorce that have been driving those behaviors, and then getting in touch with those instincts.

“And getting in touch with those instincts for women usually has to come from a place of being grounded inside of yourself and having a quieter mind.”

A lot of women who try to quiet their minds and get grounded without healing the hurts and without addressing the protective behaviors struggle after divorce by saying,

“I can’t get my mind quiet, it keeps going.”

No kidding! Girlfriend, you’ve got all this unaddressed stuff that’s blocking you!

In Brene Brown’s new book, Atlas of the Heart, she talks about how when we’re overwhelmed, we misread emotional cues. And that’s a lot of what blocks us from being in touch with our instincts.

“When we’re overwhelmed by a lot of what’s going on in here or out there, we struggle to trust the internal, deep down instinctual cues.”

So, heal the hurts. Change the behaviors that are blocking you from being able to get grounded. Quiet your mind and you will hear those instincts.

What are typical trust issues in a relationship?

There can be many typical trust issues in a relationship for women.

There are the big ones like:

  • Infidelity
  • Addiction
  • Inappropriate priorities with family
  • Having secrets
  • Mismanaging money

Trust issues that especially women experience

There is also just the every day not following through with what you said you were going to do kinds of trust issues.

And then there’s also this really common trust issue that I see with women in my coaching practice and that is,

“Ok, I am a woman who knows I have trust issues. And I tend to project those on the people that I love. And I can’t quite tell if this is my trust issue or is this person actually not trustworthy?”

And that gets confusing. And it tends to start arguments in the relationship. It is the assumption that, “You’re going to do all these things to me.” And they can’t quite tell if it is true that the person is going to do those things or is it some old baggage that hasn’t been healed yet?

How to build trust in a relationship?

“It is that process of one brick at a time. Consistently having each other’s backs, following through with what you say and what you do. And what you say and what you do with people outside of the relationship should also line up.”

Because remember, if people act one way in one area of their life, that behavior is fully transferable to other areas of their life. We often say, “Well, they wouldn’t do that to me. I’m different.”

Who we are is who we are and in the end, we end up treating everyone that way, including ourselves.

trust mind map on green background, showing the words commitment, integrity, sincerity, consistency, and reliability, Building Trust After Divorce For Women - Divorce Recovery

Building Trust Brick by Brick

So how to build trust is that brick by brick, consistently having each other’s backs, being humble and owning our mistakes with each other, and continually showing up as vulnerable and taking risks in the relationship.

“Because I can’t build trust with you if I’m not willing to be vulnerable in building trust within myself.”

Also, showing up consistently, giving myself the space to have my own thoughts and feelings and needs, and expressing those in a relationship.

How to build trust in a relationship again?

How to build trust in a relationship again once it’s been broken is a little bit trickier, right?

So if there’s been a betrayal in the relationship, then the person who did the betraying needs to have humbly owned their shortcomings.

And there needs to be a plan for how to change directions.

If there was an act of betrayal,

  • What triggered that act of betrayal?
  • What underlying issues are going on for that person that needs to be healed and addressed?
  • And what plan is in place so that that behavior doesn’t repeat?

Everybody makes mistakes, right? But then we need an action plan.

And then for the person who was betrayed, there has to be a willingness to work through the resentment and the insecurities that come with being betrayed.

The person who did the betraying can’t remove those insecurities or that resentment for you.

That’s work women have to do to heal those wounds after divorce. And there are a lot of really great ways to do that healing work.

“Remind yourself that the person who hurt you can’t do the healing for you.”

They can take responsibility for their behavior to help create a safer environment, but at the end of the day, your healing after divorce is your work.

How to rebuild trust in a relationship after cheating and lying?

Rebuilding trust in a relationship after cheating and lying is especially tricky, and that’s largely because cheating and lying creates a trauma.

It’s a level of betrayal, much like an addiction, that is pretty tough stuff.

“Trauma doesn’t exist in the conscious mind. It gets stuck in the brainstem, and it never gets to move up the cortex in order to be processed. And so it keeps the person who’s been betrayed on high alert.”

Really hypervigilant that it’s going to happen again. So after cheating and lying, there has to be a healing of that trauma in order for the relationship to even stand a chance.

And much like I’ve mentioned earlier, there also has to be a willingness not only to heal that trauma but to heal the resentment and the underlying insecurity. Because again, even though what that other person did caused you so much pain and it is not your fault, they still can’t heal the resentment for you. That’s work that you have to do.

And so that’s something to ask yourself up front: “Am I willing to do what it takes to heal this resentment? Because even though this isn’t my fault, it is my responsibility.”

One of the mistakes I often see people make when they’re in a relationship where there’s been cheating and lying is that:

“When a man cheats. And a woman finds out. And the man finally admits to it and says, “I am so sorry. I have really messed up.” Maybe they cry. Maybe they’re being completely authentic. Maybe they are desperate not to lose the woman. And at that moment the woman feels so close to that man because he’s vulnerable.”

It’s like my fear of loss, grief, of being alone, or of having to be responsible for all of the things just disappears. Because the fact that you’re being vulnerable with me in this moment allows me to say, “OK. Let’s give it another chance.” But all of that stuff still exists and it gets shoved way down and we move on like it didn’t happen, and we just pretend to trust again without actually doing the work to rebuild the trust.

That is the most common mistake I see made.

“Not fully unpacking it, and neither party doing the hard work of healing and repairing the relationship to prevent a divorce.”

One of my favorite therapists, who has created a lot of healing content on infidelity is Esther Perel. She’s a New York-based therapist who has done so much great work in this area. I highly recommend checking her out.

How to rebuild trust and respect in a relationship?

“I love this question about rebuilding trust and respect in a relationship because when women have been betrayed and have built up resentment, it’s hard to respect the person who betrayed them. And the key here is how to reduce the resentment.”

Because when you get the resentment out of the way, then you can see more clearly the person that you love and that you want to trust.

But when that resentment is in the way, you think,

“How could they do this to me? They don’t deserve me. They don’t deserve this. They don’t get another shot at this. This isn’t fair. I shouldn’t have to.”

It’s really a victim mindset.

Victim Mindset

When that resentment victim mindset stuff is in the way, we can’t see the person who is worth loving. And so to really be able to respect someone, we have to not resent them and we have to be able to see them through the eyes of love.

So I definitely recommend working through those resentment issues, using some tools that are going to help get at that subconscious mind where traumas are stored.

Guided journaling, EFT tapping, EMDR therapy, getting into nature, a support group where there are other women who are working through similar resentments and really coming to understand how to transition from that place of woundedness to a place of empowerment after divorce.

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How to trust someone again after they hurt you

Trusting someone after they hurt you doesn’t have to be too hard. Remember those trust buckets I talked about earlier where a person either falls into a bucket of simply not trustworthy, or they fall into a bucket of they’ve hurt you but they’re willing to work on it, which means they’ve acknowledged how they hurt you. They really understand it, and they’re truly sorry. And they’re willing to work on it.

And then there are people who have just kind of always been there for you and they’ve been really consistent.

“So if someone has owned their betrayal and they have humbly said “I’m sorry” and they mean it, and they have taken efforts to change their behavior, that should be somebody where it’s pretty easy to move forward.”

It’s with those people who have not humbly asked for forgiveness and who’ve not demonstrated a willingness to change that it’s pretty hard to move on and forgive after they have hurt you.

So I think once women have sorted people out into the trust buckets and renegotiated the boundaries in those relationships, it becomes a lot easier for them.

“It’s important for women who have been betrayed but are giving the relationship another chance to learn how to let go of the way they thought the relationship was and accept the relationship for how it actually is.”

How to forgive and trust someone again after cheating and lying?

Forgiving and trusting someone after cheating and lying is no small task for women, and it typically takes years to truly unpack and rebuild the relationship and to get to forgiveness.

There’s a lot of hype out there about forgiveness. And I often talk about how I think the step before forgiveness is acceptance.

Acceptance Comes Before Forgiveness

Acceptance is: “OK, we’re gonna unpack this whole thing, and we’re going to tackle this together. And I’m going to find some level of acceptance that this happened.”

“This means I’m no longer cycling around: “This isn’t fair. This shouldn’t have happened. It should be different from how it is.”

That’s not acceptance. That’s all resisting reality.

  • So first is, let’s get to a place of willingness to unpack it and work on it together and not just shove it down and pretend it’s not there.
  • Then it’s let’s get to a place of acceptance that this happened and I’m no longer going to beat you up over it. And I’m no longer going to insist that it shouldn’t have happened and you should have done it right.
  • Let’s get to a place of, “This happened for a reason and I’m going to find a way to grow through this. I’m going to find a way to make this pain serve a purpose, and I’m going to find a way to be at peace with its existence.”

Then we work on forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a whole other level.

“Because forgiveness is letting go and releasing that person and yourself.”

So many of the women I’ve worked with in divorce recovery coaching struggle with forgiveness because they are afraid to give that gift to the person who hurt them.

That is a stuck place that many of the women who come to me for coaching need help to get past. And if that resonates with you, you’re my people. Let’s chat.

As you can tell, trust is a tricky subject that involves a lot of work with self, and it’s interesting because women often think that building trust after divorce has a lot to do with the other person.

“But more often than not, building trusting relationships has a lot more to do with our own self-sense of security and with our own self-awareness. And our own healthy boundaries, our own healing of resentments and wounds, and our own releasing of the past.”

And if this is something that you need help with, I would love to be that person for you. Thank you for being a part of my community. If you haven’t already listened to and subscribed to my podcast, check that out in this link.

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