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What to Know About Finding Trust Again After Toxic Relationships

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Trust is a key component in any relationship. It helps create and establish vulnerability, honesty and loyalty between family members, friends and lovers. However, trust is easier to break than it is to build. Hence, the process of finding or rebuilding trust after a betrayal or hurt is able to be difficult; but, it is able to be rewarding with the right people.

The loss of trust in a relationship is hard to experience. Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D., from Psychology Today, notes that betrayal and hurt in relationships are able to cut us at our emotional core. You feel exposed because you poured your heart out to the individual(s) who hurt you. You feel like you wasted your time and energy. You feel as if you’re not able to trust without getting hurt again. Fortunately, trust is able to be regained or rebuilt, even though the process may take time.

Recently, I read another book in the “Boundaries” series called “Beyond Boundaries: Learning to Trust Again in Relationships.” The book discusses ways one is able to rebuild trust in an old relationship or build trust in a new relationship after enduring hurt and betrayal. The book also offers tips for evaluating whether or not someone who has hurt you is deserving of your trust again, such as the person’s full or lack of commitment to changing for the better; the person being more aware of and intentional toward your feelings; and the person learning from and implementing relational lessons to not repeat the same past mistakes.

Rebuilding trust is doable if the person is willing to change and is remorseful toward the one they hurt. The author of the book, Dr. John Townsend, writes that authentic transformation in a person is visible when they confess what they did was wrong and how that wrong negatively affected you; own up to their negative behavior and the actions it caused; experiences genuine remorse for how they treated you and affected you; and changes their behavior to be more adaptive and healthy in their character with others, themselves and you.

Another aspect of the book I thought was interesting was that the person with whom you’re reconnecting or connecting should have other healthy and adaptive interpersonal relationships outside of you: relationships that are uplifting, accountable, encouraging, mature and positive. Dr. Townsend writes that those who interact with toxic, enabling and unhealthy people are going to embody those personality traits, creating even more negative and maladaptive relationships in their lives. Hence, he emphasizes the importance of being connected to others who have healthy connections outside of you.

As someone who’s dealt with a lot of relational wounds, I found this book beyond helpful and humbling. Reading it gave me perspective on what to look out for in relationships of which I may give another chance and to build intimate trust, honesty and vulnerability in new relationships.

The book reminded me of the importance of being in relationships with those who have other healthy relationships around them. If they’re surrounded by toxic and unhealthy people, chances are I’m going to be affected by those enabling and draining influences they carry with them.

I also began to reflect on ways I’m able to improve in interpersonal interactions, such as being more patient and understanding with others, being more objective when things could go right or wrong, and being more willing to address my own issues if I was the one in the wrong.

However, before trust is able to be rebuilt or gained, the meaning of trust needs to be understood, according to Crystal Raypole on Healthline. Trust in a relationship — platonic or romantic — involves commitment, good communication, vulnerability, safety, honesty, respect, support and good listening. Raypole also notes that trust is a choice. If two people in a healthy relationship are serious about the relationship, they are able to choose to trust one another with their secrets, their fears, and their desires. If trust is not established with one or both parties, then the relationship will fall apart.

Rebuilding or gaining trust requires some steps. Melissa Ricker from A Conscious Rethink lists some ways trust is able to be restored or created through forgiveness, caution and openness. In order to trust, we have to forgive others and ourselves for poor and inappropriate words and actions that were said and done, or we’re going to constantly be stuck in a cycle of bitterness and fear.

Ricker writes that we are justified in trusting our gut instinct when someone doesn’t seem like they’ve changed or don’t seem like a person worth getting to know; we also have the right to be vulnerable and open about our experiences without allowing our past to define our present and future relationships and our own character. We also are validated in having time to grieve our losses and hurt; we just shouldn’t remain in a constant state of victimization.

Rebuilding or cultivating trust is likely to be difficult. But, with the right people, it’s worth the time and energy.

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

Originally published: March 2, 2020
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