Today we’re going to talk about learning to trust again. I think that if we were to break down what you want more than anything in your life, trust probably would be the thing.
People often say, “I want to be happy. I want to be loved. I want to have enough money.”
But at the end of the day, those are all about trust.
Trust equals security and security equals survival.
So, the thing we want is to learn to trust again after divorce. But that word right now – trust – it probably brings up inside of you either anger or sadness. And when those feelings come up at the level that they would, based on what you’re experiencing, we want to turn away.
A lot of brilliant people have said a lot of amazing things about trust, and I am going to tell you about some of those people today. But I don’t want you to walk away from this feeling so overwhelmed that you shut down or say, “I don’t know what to do next.”
So I’m not going to cover all the brilliant things all of the brilliant people have said.
I am going to give you something you can run with that is easy to remember that can get you on the path or help keep you on the path to building trust in your life after divorce.
Dr. Brene Brown: The Anatomy of Trust
Brené Brown is a Ph.D. researcher and social worker from Texas. If you have not consumed any of her content, I highly encourage you to check it out. Specifically, she has done a lot of research on trust, which was inspired by an interaction she had with her daughter.
Her daughter came home from school one day having had a horrible experience and said, “I’m never going to trust anyone again.” (And I have to tell you, I hear divorced women say that a lot: “I’m never going trust anyone again because this is too painful. Betrayal is too painful.”)
So after that experience with her daughter, she really dove into researching trust and came up with behaviors that she calls The Anatomy of Trust. So that we can understand what’s behind the notion of trust. So that we can put words to the idea and give them meaning.
We say things like, “I’m never going to trust her,” or “I don’t trust you,” or “Why don’t you trust me?” We say these things, but what do they actually mean? What are we actually looking for in our relationships when we want trust?
Be Wary Of the Naked Man Offering You a Shirt
But the thing that stuck out to me most when I first listened to The Anatomy of Trust is an African proverb that Maya Angelou has quoted:
“Be wary of the naked man offering you a shirt.”
Now, can we just take a moment to get that visual in your mind!? And a naked man could be a naked woman, right?
Imagine a naked man or a naked woman. Offering you a shirt. It sounds kind of silly but think about that – a naked man offering you a shirt. Something doesn’t quite feel right about it, but it might be hard to say no to the shirt if you needed it.
So what happens if you receive a shirt from someone who is not in a position to give it, and then down the road, they end up resenting you or betraying you somehow? Then it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy where you start thinking, “I can’t trust anyone.”
I love this really oversimplified version of how to start spotting and building trust. This proverb makes it easy to remember.
Now think about this in your current life.
Imagine that you are the naked (man) woman. Offering someone a shirt. What does that feel like in your body? I know you know that moment. Where you just don’t have it, but you’re offering it. For whatever reason.
Brené Brown talks about a lot of ways that this ends up playing out in relationships.
When we’re attempting to connect with someone, but it’s coming from a place that is not secure. And we end up not being able to show up for ourselves consistently or show up for other people consistently because we overdrew our personal bank account.
We gave away something we didn’t have. And then we’re too tired to process our feelings. We’re too tired to deal with our own lives and situations.
Learning to Trust Again Starts With Trusting Yourself and Your Feelings
“It’s easier to help someone else than it is to help ourselves.”
But I want to know how I can help you overcome the obstacle of how overwhelming it all feels. Because this journey is never-ending. And I want to help make it easier for you so that you can stay committed.
But the truth is, this isn’t like you can set a goal weight and work toward that goal weight and reach it and be done. I know this because, loves, I’m still working on trust too!
And as I was listening to Brené Brown’s Anatomy of Trust, I spotted a lot of things in there that made me say, “Alright, I can take a closer look at that.”
So I’m coming to you now saying I am on this journey with you. I don’t know how to shortcut the journey for you, ’cause I don’t think that’s a thing. But I want to help you discover what happens next. Because we can want the thing, but wanting the thing and committing to the journey that it takes to have the thing are very different.
The Choice to Connect
If you want to trust again in order to have security, there’s no backing away from the work involved in understanding trust.
In being wary of the man who is naked and offering you a shirt. Brené Brown said a couple of really interesting things in addition to this proverb. And one of them is about the choice to connect and the choice to not connect or to avoid connection. And she explores the idea of how turning away from connection when the opportunity is there is a betrayal. She talks a lot about how trust happens in small moments and how betrayals happen in small moments. John Gottman, also a longtime relationship researcher, says the same thing.
Betrayals From Others and Yourself
Your marriage didn’t end because of one or two or five massive betrayals, right? It was a series of mutual betrayals. Yes, there were betrayals on their part, but there were also betrayals on your part.
How many times did you turn away from connecting with the truth that you were feeling? Because you were like, “Oh man this feels like this person, my partner, is offering me a shirt and he’s naked! Something here does not feel right, but I’m going to turn away from that sensation because I don’t want to accept it.”
What is probably unfolding here is: I don’t want loss. I don’t want rejection. I don’t want judgment. I want this to not be happening.
So I’m turning away from this opportunity to connect with reality. But in doing so, you betrayed yourself. And so it’s a process of unwinding all of that. And you cannot do it alone.
Healing After Divorce: Learning Through Experience
And I know that that’s why you’re here. You know that’s why you’re here. But sometimes I do this too: I want to consume all of the self-help material. But we can’t just consume all the self-help material and then say, “Ok, now I know everything! So I am well.”
We actually have to learn through experience, by doing. Through relationships, through connection.
I know you’re here because you know you need help. But just like I learned the hard way, consuming all the content is not enough to actually heal the wound.
Asking For Help Builds Trust
We have to ask for help. And Brené Brown talks about this in The Anatomy of Trust.
Learning to trust again starts with asking for help. Most of us try to build trust by being the helper. But asking for help is what actually builds trust.
Vulnerability is the thing that makes us most trustworthy.
Noodle on that for a minute. Asking for help builds trust. But not with just anyone, right? We have to be sure that the people we’re asking for help from are not naked giving out shirts. So how does this feel to you?
- How does it feel in your body?
- Do you feel overwhelmed and wanting to shut down?
- Do you feel sadness welling up?
- Do you feel anger welling up?
I want you to honor whatever it is. If you feel yourself shutting down, then consider this a call to ask for help. Because the shutting down, that feeling of being overwhelmed, means that you need someone to put it into more bite-sized pieces. There’s something inside of you that is just not able to process all of this, and that is OK. It just means you need someone to pour some love on it for you. To guide you even more closely.
If you feel anger or sadness welling up, let it roll. Let it come. Because that means that you’re in the process of healing after divorce. You’re in the process of purging. And then from that space, you have created, by letting out all out of the emotion, you will have more space to tackle these topics. To be more aware. More discerning. More catching yourself in the moment when that naked man offering a shirt thing happens. Whether it happens with yourself or with someone else.
Heal Yourself to Heal Your Relationships
I love that you are here. I love you so much. When you heal, you are helping yourself. You are helping your family and you are helping the world be a better place.
It is a big deal that you are here. And I know how complicated the topic of learning to trust again is, and I know how heartbroken you are. And if you are someone who’s ready to dig deeper into this topic, watch the Brené Brown video on The Anatomy of Trust. It will give you the words.
Sometimes we say these broad things like: “I don’t trust you.” And that person may say, “But why? I do all these things blah blah blah.” Brené Brown breaks it down. She uses this acronym BRAVING. And she breaks down each letter into what the behavior of trust is. So that you can put words to what it is that is not working in the relationship. I love it when we have words. When we can put words to a problem and a solution. And then it’s not just, “This is how I feel. I can’t trust you.”
But we can actually point something out and say, “This is the behavior that is not working for me.” That is so freeing.
Learning to trust again starts with taking action. So if you’re ready to dig deeper, definitely check it out. But if this image of this naked man is working for you today, just start there because it’s so useful. And in the meantime, if you feel like you need more support, send me a message. That’s what I’m here for. Maybe think about joining the membership community that I have for women who are going through this exact thing. Women who are working on being able to trust again, themselves and others, because it’s so much easier to navigate as a team in a safe place. With people you can trust. So if you need something, I’m here and in the meantime, I’m sending you a warm hug.