In this article you will find
Coming up next are seven frequently asked questions about trusting again after betrayal.
If you’re having trouble trusting again after infidelity… then chances are pretty good that many (if not all) of these have run through your mind.
As you read the answers, my hope for you is that you’re able to get some insights that will help you make it safe to trust again.
Dear Suzie, Until my fiancé cheated on me, I had no idea how important trust is in a relationship. I guess I just took it for granted. Why does it hurt so much now that I can’t trust him like I did before?
That’s a very good question and one that I often get. This is because in many ways, trust is like a pulse. When it’s working, you never notice it, but once it’s gone, nothing else matters. To answer your question, let’s take a look at the three biggest reasons why I believe the loss of trust is so painful.
The loss of trust is a boundary buster.
Trust is held in place by expectations that certain boundaries and limits will be honored in a relationship, so when those expectations aren’t met, it can be a very painful experience. However, it’s important to keep in mind: it’s always the person’s expectations that are shattered… never the person.
The loss of trust leads to a loss of connection.
Trust is like a valve that regulates the intimacy and closeness in a relationship. The higher the amount of trust, the more open we are. The more open we are, the more connected we feel to each other. And the more connected we feel, the more vulnerable we are. The opposite is also true. The lower the amount of trust we feel, the more closed off we are. The more closed off we are, the more disconnected we feel. And the more disconnected we feel, the more isolation and loneliness we experience. And it’s this disconnection (loss of connection) that causes so much of the hurt we feel after we’ve been betrayed.
The loss of trust leads to mistrust.
Probably the biggest reason why the loss of trust is so painful is that once trust is gone, like a foreign army invading a once peaceful nation, the laws of mistrust take over.
Think about it…
What is the opposite of trust? If you said mistrust, you’d be right. The laws of mistrust turn everything upside down, because they operate in an exact opposite way to the laws of trust.
Under the Laws of Mistrust:
- Peace becomes War.
- Connection becomes Disconnection.
- Love becomes Fear.
- Desire becomes Rejection.
- Affection becomes Hostility.
- Confidence becomes Insecurity.
What does it all add up to?
Since it’s human nature to want to trust, to want to connect, to want peace over pain, and to want love more than fear… when we mistrust, we’re actually opposing our own natural instincts, which is a hard and painful way to live.
Now that you’ve discovered how painful living in mistrust is, let me suggest that you shift back to that place of trust because while life has no guarantees, when we’re living with trust, it’s a much happier place to be.
Dear Suzie, It’s been more than four years since I caught my husband cheating. We’ve since divorced and he’s moved on. However, I seem to still have problems trusting. Will I ever be able to trust again?
The question is not IF you’ll be able to trust again; the question is… what stops you from trusting right now? Think about it this way. Trust is your natural inclination; therefore, mistrust must be a learned response. Makes sense? Here’s another question for you to consider:
What blocks trust?
- The memory of past pain
- The anticipation of future pain
Reason this one out with me…
The memory of being hurt causes many to shutdown, to put up walls, and to disconnect from trust permanently. Why? Because they’re afraid of being hurt again.
But is this a good solution?
Since the hurt is in the past and the past is over, how does disconnecting in the present help relieve the pain from the past?
It doesn’t. In fact, it does the opposite. It keeps the past pain alive. This tells you that holding on to the memory of a past pain is the same as holding on to the pain itself. It’s like getting stung by one bee last month, and then allowing yourself to get stung over and over by the same bee in hopes that it will prevent you from being stung by other bees. Now that wouldn’t make much sense, would it?
What about the anticipation of future pain?
Many people mistakenly assume that if they anticipate pain, it will help them prevent pain.
Once again, I must ask you to check your own intuition and discover if this is really true. Can you really prevent pain by anticipating it? I’m not convinced that you can. In fact, I suspect the very act of anticipating pain is what causes a lot of pain to begin with! So in many ways, the prevention is actually creating the disease. Not good, right?
May I offer you another option?
Instead of holding on to the memory of your past pain… you let it go via True Forgiveness. This will allow you to become free of what’s dead and gone, so you can live in the here and now (a much safer place to live, by the way).
And may I also suggest you stop anticipating future pain (a.k.a. worrying) by learning how to trust again? Not trusting others (in this case) but trusting in yourself that whatever the future brings, you’ll be able to handle it.
Dear Suzie, I feel like it’s a dog-eat-dog world where it’s every man for himself. I feel like I can’t trust anybody because I’ve been let down so many times. Why should I risk being let down again?
Anybody can be mistrustful. It doesn’t take much intelligence to live under a cloud of fear, with defenses high and guards up. Why is mistrusting so easy? Because it requires no effort. You make mistrust your default setting in every situation and give yourself the illusion of being safe. But are those who are mistrusting really safer than those who are trusting? I’m not convinced they are.
Let me explain.
A popular women’s magazine recently polled readers who had been cheated on in a previous relationship about trusting again after the discovery of the affair. Seventy percent of respondents said they were unable to trust again as a result of the betrayal, and 30% said they were able to trust again.
What is the difference between these two groups?
Why were some able to move on and trust again after being betrayed while others had not? Was it because the 30% are naive Pollyanna types who run around seeing the best in everyone and everything? I don’t think so.
I have another theory. I believe they simply have different ways of looking at trust than the majority of people.
The bottom line?
Trust is about worthiness, and mistrust is about unworthiness. The seduction is to believe that unworthiness is only applicable to other people. However, here’s the beautiful truth: life is like an echo… what you send out is what returns to you. That’s why only the trusting are trustworthy.
Look around and observe this for yourself.
Those who inspire trust do so because they already trust themselves.
People don’t give you what you want; they give you what you feel you deserve. If you feel you don’t deserve trust, you won’t receive it. If you feel you can’t trust, you won’t be able to give trust.
May I suggest a different approach?
Instead of seeing everyone as guilty until proven innocent, why don’t you try seeing everyone as innocent until proven otherwise? Will some people prove otherwise?
But that’s not the point.
The point is that the majority of people will not.
Remember, in this life, perfection isn’t a goal… it’s a disease. On your journey, you’ll meet two kinds of people: those who will prove to be trustworthy and those who will prove not to be trustworthy. The secret is to hang around with the trustworthy group more than the untrustworthy group. But here’s the kicker. The price for admission to either group is to be one of them.
So, which group do you plan on hanging around with?
The choice is up to you. I trust you to make the right call.
Dear Suzie, My wife recently confessed to having an affair. I truly believe she is sorry for what she did, and we have reconciled; however, I am having trouble with trust. How will I know it’s safe to trust again?
This question is all about the fear of taking the risk to trust and get hurt again. So let’s talk about what that risk of trusting again really entails. Let’s begin by answering a basic question: what is risk? Risk refers to the probability that an action or event will have a negative or positive impact on your ability to achieve your objectives. In mathematical terms, risk is defined as the probability of an event occurring. To evaluate risk, we must look at two things: probability and impact. I’ll talk a little bit more about these later.
For now, let’s look at the risk of trusting in relationships.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind: every day you’re alive, you must risk. When you get behind the wheel of your car, you take a risk. When you fly on an airplane, you risk.
When you order food at a restaurant, you risk.
When you tell a friend a secret, you risk.
When you sit in a chair, you risk.
Every moment of your life carries with it an element of risk. Therefore, the ability to take risks is natural for any functioning human being. However, we all have very different levels of risk tolerance.
Those who are extremely risk-averse can end up developing certain anti-social tendencies. The opposite is also true. Those who have high risk appetites can become reckless or manic daredevils. So a good way to function well in our society is to find a middle ground — somewhere between not being extremely risk-averse and not having too high of a risk appetite on the other end. So, if you want to answer your question of when it’s safe for you to trust again, I suggest you take a look at your own attitude towards risk. To do this, two things are needed: rational thinking and self-awareness.
Here’s why these two things are important.
Remember I said that when evaluating risk, you need to look at both the probability of a thing happening and also at its potential negative impact? In order for you to evaluate the probability of being hurt by her again, you need to look at your situation rationally and not emotionally. In other words, you must evaluate based on facts and not feelings. Do you think you can do that?
Let me walk you through an example.
Let’s say you are a man whose fiancée cheated with his best friend. It’s four years later, and even though that relationship ended years ago, you’re still having trouble trusting women in general. Now you’ve paid the price for carrying around this mistrust with anger, jealousy, and insecurities, all of which have driven away a number of potentially good women. At this point, you’ve gotten tired of living behind the wall of mistrust. You want to feel connected again. You want to feel free again. You long for that all-in feeling once more. And you know the only way to have what you long for… is to trust again. But with trust also comes the risk of being hurt again.
Using this scenario…
Let’s evaluate the probability of being hurt again.
If you use emotional thinking to evaluate, it might cause you to visualize hurt, pain, betrayal, lies, deceit, and feeling like a fool all over again. In other words, your emotions might cause you to magnify the painful possibilities, and those feelings will cloud the facts. However, if you evaluate using rational thinking, you’ll ask yourself questions like these: What are the odds this will happen again? What are the odds I would miss the signs of it happening even if it did happen again? And probably the most important question: If I continue to be afraid to trust, what are the odds I will have the relationship of my dreams?
Here’s the bottom line with rational thinking:
It must be grounded in honesty. The truth is, what the guy in that example had been doing (mistrusting) was actually taking him away from what he wants. So, how rational is it to continue to move in the direction opposite from where you want to go? It would be like driving south when you really want to be headed north.
Now let’s take a look at the second thing the guy from our example would need to evaluate: the potential impact.
What would happen IF his worst-case scenario were to occur? In his case, what if he were to trust another woman enough to put a ring on her finger, only to discover she was sleeping around on him? How would he react to that?
Once again, rational thinking plays a vital role here.
If he looks at this possibility using emotional thinking, then he’s likely to visualize himself being even more devastated the second time than he was the first time. However, a more intelligent question to ask would be this: are we really more devastated the second time we encounter an unpleasant experience?
Research shows that’s not the case.
Experts have interviewed people who’ve been in more than one car wreck, people who’ve divorced a second time, and women who’ve had second miscarriages. And what the overwhelming majority reported was that the second encounter was never as painful as the first.
Because having gone through the first experience, these people emerged with coping skills they didn’t have before. And most importantly, they realized that if they had survived once, they would be able to survive again. That knowledge added a level of confidence that just wasn’t there before. So while calculating the potential impact of another violation of your trust, keep in mind that you’ve already faced the worst and survived. It taught you. It made you stronger. It gave you gifts and resources that you haven’t factored in yet.
There’s no doubt about it.
Trusting again is about taking risks, and no risk should be taken with a blindfold on. When you trust, you do so because it’s rewarding to YOU first and the person you trust second. You do it because it’s a better option than not trusting. You do it because the upsides of trusting far exceeds the downsides of trusting.
But don’t be fooled.
Not everyone will appreciate your gift of trust. You must be aware of that going in. Not everyone is going to respect this gift, and above all… not everyone will feel like they deserve this gift. Yet none of that is reason enough to hold it back. Why? Because when you withhold trust, it’s you who suffers, it’s you who feels the disconnection, and it’s your life that feels small. And I know that’s not what you want.
May I suggest…
Instead of staying in your comfort zone (safe but unhappy), take a leap of faith and discover what life is like beyond the walls. Maybe you get some bumps and bruises along the way, but at least you’re IN the game of life, rather than sitting on your hands on the sideline or hiding out in the back row.
Remember… to risk is to live.
To fail to risk is to die inside while you’re still alive. I know that’s not what you want. So rather than ask, “how do you know when it’s safe to trust again,” ask yourself this:
When will you realize how unsafe it is to mistrust?
I call this the “One versus 3.3 billion” theory.
Here’s what I mean:
There are approximately 3.3 billion males on the planet. At best, your experience will only ever be with a handful of them. To make the statistical assumption that ALL 3.3 billion are liars and cheats based on your experience with two or three, just isn’t logical. Alas, we know that our beliefs aren’t always logical, are they? In fact, a lot of the things we believe and hold in our mind as facts don’t really have objective proof to back them up, but we believe them to be true because our personal experience backs them up.
Let me give you a personal example.
I have a high degree of trust for the Mercedes Benz brand of cars. Why? Because I’ve owned them and have had good experiences with them. From my point of view, they are reliable, well-made, and hold up for a long time. But I understand that trust is often a personal choice. I have a high degree of trust because I’ve had a history of reliable Mercedes Benzes, but I also recognize that this doesn’t mean that ALL Mercedes Benz vehicles are reliable. In fact, I met a guy just the other day who was telling me that he would never purchase a Mercedes Benz again as long as he lived.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because my wife has had so much trouble with hers. From the second we drove it off the showroom floor, we’ve been having problems.”
“Was it under warranty?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied. “But that’s not the point. When you buy a luxury car, you don’t expect it to break down and overheat like a second-hand piece of junk. That’s why I will never buy another Mercedes. They are rip-offs, overpriced and poorly made.”
I was silent for a moment, debating, do I share my perspective? Should I share my positive experiences of owning two second-hand Mercedes? Should I talk about my affection for the brand based on my personal experience? Better not, I thought. So I asked him this instead, “If you wouldn’t buy a Mercedes again, what type of car would you buy?”
Without a moment’s hesitation he said, “A Lexus! Now those are good cars. I’ve had mine for more than two years and apart from regular maintenance, it runs like a dream. I would recommend them to anyone.”
The interesting thing is…
Both my aunt and cousins have had horrible experiences with Lexus. Again, I said nothing, but as I drove away, I thought, “Isn’t it interesting how the mind works? How we trust the things that we have positive experiences with and distrust the things we have negative experiences with?”
So let me ask you this question. Who is right? Am I right for trusting Mercedes based on my good experiences, or is he right for mistrusting Mercedes based on his bad experiences? If you said that we were both right, you’d be right… to a point. The next question I must ask is this: would it be fair for either of us to make decisions about ALL Mercedes Benz cars based on our good or bad experiences with two or three?
I don’t think so.
Chances are just as good for him to have a good experience with the brand as for me to have a bad experience because all brands (like the human beings that make the cars) have a range of inconsistencies and errors. There’s no such thing as a mistake-free person.
There’s no such thing as a perfect man, and there’s no such thing as a perfect woman.
The reality is that we all have a certain degree of error in our thinking. We all have more to learn. We’re all in the process of growing and becoming.
Just as it would be a bad idea to write off every Mercedes Benz (or any car brand for that matter) based on one or two bad experiences, I believe it would also be illogical for you to write off all men based on personal experiences with one or two of them.
May I suggest…
You evaluate men individually and not as a group. Look at the person in front of you, not the one in your mind. Please give a man the chance to surprise you, rather than condemning him before he even knocks on the door.
Statistically, it may surprise you to learn that the majority of men are faithful.
This means the group of good guys is larger than the group of immature ones. However, you must keep this in mind as well: the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him. I’m not telling you that you have to trust. I’m simply telling you that trust works. And since you already know that mistrust doesn’t work, why not go for something different?
You’ll be surprised how life rewards your trust.
Dear Suzie, In my heart, I really want to put this all behind us and trust my husband again, but I don’t know where to begin. How exactly does one learn to trust again?
“One foot in front of the other… right foot, then left foot, right foot…” This is how Michael Rodman, an engineer who was virtually paralyzed in a motorcycle accident, learned to walk again. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” he said.
Doctors had told him he would never walk again.
And yet, one year later, he defied the odds and walked on his own. When asked how he was able to do the impossible, he said the memory of walking told him that he could learn how to do it again. This is good news because we can take a page from Michael’s book. In fact, we will take many pages because the same process Michael Rodman used to learn to walk again can be applied to learning to trust again.
How is trust relearned?
To learn to trust again, you’ll need first and foremost to keep in mind the memory of having trusted before. That memory will be your light in the dark hours.
Is it easy?
Not at first. It’s hard to go through the process of putting one foot in front of the other. It will take patience and practice to help you go from fear to trusting again. But in the end, you’ll trust again because you have trusted before, and the memory of trusting will guide you toward learning how to trust again. Let’s go over what you’ll need to embrace and what you’ll need to avoid in the process of relearning trust.
The Journey Back to Trust After Infidelity
On your journey back to trust, you’ll need to reconnect to trust on three levels:
- Reconnect to trusting in divine order: This is the ability to feel that life is reasonably safe and that you have the inner resources to cope with the parts that are risky.
- Reconnect to trusting in yourself: This trust is founded on the belief that you have the tools and skills needed to competently deal with all the obstacles, problems, and situations you meet in life.
- Reconnect to trusting in others: This means having the willingness to see human beings as “safe” on a whole, and viewing all individuals as innocent while staying open to re-evaluating that assumption based on individual behavior.
You’ll need to avoid these four mistakes:
- Waiting for a sign to tell you it’s OK. DON’T. THERE WILL BE NONE. No one is handing out permission slips that will tell you when it’s safe to trust again. You must make that choice on your own and the sooner, the better.
- Waiting for time to repair trust. Time heals all wounds, but it doesn’t restore trust. Why? Because trust is a choice. It must be invited and welcomed by you. The willingness to trust can’t be forced on you. It must be voluntary. This means trust waits for your permission and not for time.
- Substituting control for trust. Rather than actually trusting, many people seek substitutes that give the illusion of trust. They often try to do that by attempting to control, so they don’t have to actually trust. Unfortunately, this is a useless exercise of frustrating proportions. It doesn’t work, and it will never work. Control can’t replace trust because nothing can substitute for trust. (Read that again: Nothing.)
- Navigating by what you fear. By convincing you it will protect you, fear is like the “mob boss” of the mind. Many fall for its guile and lies and make it their default navigation tool. Alas, like any mob boss, rather than solving a problem, fear itself IS the problem. Therefore, when you navigate through life based on what you fear, your result will be exactly what you have feared. The opposite of navigating by fear is navigating by trust. The real question that everyone must answer in their lives is this: What do you trust? If you trust fear, then your life will be fearful. If you trust love, then your life will be loving.
You’ll need to embrace these four key ingredients:
Why do you need courage?
Above all, trust is a choice. Therefore, relearning how to trust is really all about becoming willing to make that choice again. What blocks the willingness to trust? Well, one word comes to mind: fear. Most people want to trust but are afraid to trust again. How do you overcome fear? With courage. Like antivenin is the antidote to a snakebite, courage is the antidote to fear. So when fearful thoughts come up, remember to reach for courage, and it will immediately give you the relief you need.
Why do you need faith?
Faith is the ultimate chemist. It’s an emotion that — when mixed with other positive emotions like love or courage — can literally move mountains. What’s the biggest mountain standing in your way right now? You probably already guessed it. It’s the mountain of doubt.
Faith is the answer to doubt. Keep in mind that faith isn’t just a religious concept; it’s a practical tool, and it comes naturally to all. You have faith the sun will rise and that the earth will continue to spin on its axis. Faith isn’t something new; it’s something you’ve been using all along. So when doubts arise, let your faith drive them out like a bunch of unwanted tenants.
Why do you need patience?
It’s been said that the ego’s primary disease is impatience. Because it lacks patience, the ego is easily lured by quick fixes, magic bullets, shortcuts, and get-rich-quick schemes. And because the ego is forever unwilling to delay gratification, it’s compulsive, impulsive, indulgent, and anxious.
Patience is the answer to anxiety.
When things get tough, when times are trying, when a challenge feels overwhelming, when it feels like you’re not making progress fast enough, just know that impatience is the culprit and patience is the answer.
When anxiety strikes, remind yourself that patience is Mother Nature’s secret. Patience is what outlasts every obstacle. Patience wins every battle. Patience is the essential ingredient in genius. Don’t be anxious; be patient… and all that is good will find you.
Why do you need practice?
Trust is both a noun and a verb. It’s not just an experience; it’s also an activity. To relearn trust is an active process, because you can’t relearn how to trust in your head. You must practice trusting in order to experience trust.
Practice is the answer to relearning habits.
Think about it this way: practice is what allows trust to become your default position once again. The more opportunities you take to practice trusting, the stronger your confidence in other people will become. This is why re-learning how to trust (like re-learning how to walk) comes down to this: practice.
Thank you! This is a great question. The thing to keep in mind is that trying to trust is part of learning how to trust again. None of our efforts are in vain. With this in mind, here are some more tips to keep you motivated on your journey back to trust.
Key Insights On Learning How To Trust Again
Mistrust is based on wrong thinking. Trust is based on right thinking. To correct mistrust means you must correct your thinking.
- Get back on the horse immediately. Falling off the “trust wagon” isn’t a valid excuse to stay off. If you fall off, just get right back on.
- Relearning trust takes effort. The definition of laziness is yielding to actions that require the least effort. Is it easier to live with mistrust than it is to put in the effort to relearn trust? At first glance it might seem so, but don’t be fooled by appearances. The reality is that learning to trust again is well worth the effort.
- Let go of perfection. Perfection isn’t a goal. It’s a trap, because it can’t be achieved. Rather than seeking perfection, look for progress.
- Let go of battles you aren’t having. The past can’t follow you unless you get up every day and mentally recheck your old baggage. Why not let the past be over? (Because it is.) Why not let go of the battles you aren’t having? Why not let sleeping dogs lie?
- Release the addiction to being right. Without the addiction to being right, there can be no conflicts, no arguments, and no war. If you don’t need to be right, then you’re free to be yourself. You can trust and be wrong. You can trust and be right. Either way, you are free. Isn’t being free of greater value than being right? (I think so.)
- Nothing is difficult that is truly desired. Trust is lost by your desire not to trust and it is restored by your desire to trust. So if you truly desire to trust again, you will trust again.
- You already know how to do it. Trust is something you already know how to do. In fact, you’re doing it right now. If you’re sitting on a chair, then you know how to trust. If you drive a car, you know how to trust. If you shop in a supermarket, you know how to trust. If you eat in a restaurant, you know how to trust. So let the memory of trust be your guide.
- Think like a team player, not a victim. Victims have a secret wish to be given special immunity from things like pain, disappointments, frustrations, and loss. Because of this wish, when pain comes calling, they often feel singled out as they think to themselves, “why me?” But thinking like a victim isn’t helpful because the laws of life (like the laws of gravity) are immutable and without exception. And one of the great laws of life is that pain falls into everyone’s life. So the question when faced with difficulties and unpleasantness isn’t “why me?”… it’s “why not me?”
Putting it all together…
When it’s all said and done, everybody eventually arrives at the place where they realize… living in mistrust is more painful than living in trust. I hope the fact that you’re reading an article like this means you’ve gotten to that place.
This is very good news.
Because as I’ve said, the willingness to trust can’t be forced on you. It must be welcomed and invited by you. This means trusting again is a decision only YOU can make.
It helps to keep in mind:
When you sign up for life on this planet, you get mystery, love, drama, ups, downs, turnarounds, missteps, hard knocks, romance, seduction, abandonment, abruptness, secrets, deception, companionship, family ties, loss, aloneness, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It’s all part of the human experience.
Since you only have a short time here on earth, why waste it in fear?
Why not learn to enjoy the variety of experiences? Some will be good, some will be not so good… but all of it is temporary. In this you can trust.
Until we speak again…
Remember… Love Wins!