Life After Divorce: How to Trust Again
No matter which side of the table you’re sitting on, getting over a divorce is not exactly a day at the beach. But, with time, the crappy stuff starts to subside and the gold nuggets begin to emerge.
Navigating divorce is very much like peeling an onion: there are a lot of layers that have to come off to get to the good stuff (ok, so the center of an onion isn't any different than the exterior layers, but just go with here, okay?). As the outer layers slough off, the inevitable tears make it harder to see what's happening. But, you eventually get there, the tears subside, and things start to look (and smell!) a lot better.
But, I won’t lie. It’s not always a smooth ride and just when you think you’ve got this life-after-divorce thing figured out, something else comes along and smacks you on your butt.
It’s natural to question yourself and doubt your judgment (how could you trust yourself after getting it so wrong with the person you chose to marry!), or to trust others (you trusted that person, and they broke your heart, so how can you trust someone else with it!).
So today, let’s talk about how to trust yourself, trust others, and make life-after-divorce a little bit brighter.
Before I dive into how to trust again, let me start by telling you my divorce story...
MY DIVORCE STORY
When my ex-husband cheated on me with an old high school girlfriend, I was devastated. At that point, I was a wife of less than two years (seriously...the ink on the marriage certificate was barely dry!).
Initially, as with most cheaters, he lied about what was going on, even though my gut was telling me otherwise. I’m not usually a jealous person, and what I was feeling was different than anything I’d ever felt before. But, he made me feel like I was crazy for suggesting anything was going on with his "friend."
After confirming my suspicions, he swore he’d end it and despite my long-held belief that I’d leave anyone that ever dared to cheat on me, I went against my gut, stayed, and planned to “work it out”.
As we bought a new house to “start over”, my gut was still telling me things were still very much alive between them (spoiler alert: my instinct was right).
Long story short, in addition to the lies and the cheating around the affair, he also revealed that he’d changed his mind on wanting on the marriage before the wedding had even happened, but he went along with it anyway.
That was almost worse than the cheating because it made the entire, short-lived, marriage a lie. I didn’t know he felt that way (although looking back now, I see the signs clearly, but at the time, my newlywed heart wouldn’t allow me to see a glimpse of the reality I’d landed myself in).
As I went through the divorce process, my trust in myself and others took a significant hit. I didn’t date for a long time after my divorce. Partly to heal and get to know me again, but there was also a hefty dose of fear coursing through my veins.
Eventually, I did date and even had a 4+ relationship with a good man that was not the cheating type. I would love to say that relationship allowed me to restore faith and trust in men and myself, but to be honest, it was the work I did before I met him that allowed me the ability to trust him from day one.
Once I had my divorce certificate in hand, and the dust settled, I began to heal and see life through a new lens. I realized my gut wasn’t wrong during all of that craziness. It was right all along and screamed at me to warn me something was off...but I ignored it.
Realizing that allowed me to see that I didn’t need to doubt my judgment or myself. My gut instinct was sound; I had just been young, inexperienced, and naive. I didn't recognize the power and insight that underlies my gut instinct. I didn't know to trust it implicitly, and it took going through my divorce to learn that lesson (which, side note, is why I will always be grateful for my failed marriage).
My greatest lesson from my marriage and divorce was that I have a strong internal instinct and when I feel that same sensation, I now know not to fight it and just trust it.
HOW TO TRUST AGAIN
Learning to trust again - both yourself and others - is a hard process. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
My best advice is to...
Be patient: Learning to trust yourself again isn’t something that happens overnight, so don't rush the process. It takes time to heal the wounds and with that comes the ability to see everything from a fresh perspective.
Be compassionate: As you heal and start to wonder how everything happened, don’t judge yourself or beat yourself up. Life isn’t about perfection and full-time happiness. Sh*tty things happen, and you survived. Pat yourself on the back...you’ve got this.
Be curious: While you’re going through this healing process, get curious. Be a detective in your own life. Look back over what happened and look for clues as to where your gut was sending you signs. Reflect on the times where you made a wrong choice, or your partner let you down, and explore a different way to respond so you can see an alternative and have new options at the ready.
Remind yourself of when your gut was spot-on: As with my story, I eventually saw that accuracy of my gut instinct. While I could’ve gone down the self-torture path of reminding myself that I didn’t listen to it, I chose to see the beauty in it: my gut was right, so how could I not trust myself again?
Learn your physical cues: Our bodies have the amazing ability to tell us when something isn’t right. It will physically provide signals to walk away or not believe what appears to be true. Get to know your body and how it tries to get your attention. For some, it’s a physical reaction (a feeling in the pit of the stomach), for others it’s a thought (that voice of reason in your head), and for others, it may come in the form of a dream. Whatever the signal your body sends to you, start to pay attention and listen for those signs, then...trust them.
Practice: As with anything, repetition strengthens the muscle, so it takes putting yourself out there to relearn how to trust yourself and others. By engaging in situations to test your judgment, you get prime opportunities to learn those physical cues and to get a few wins under your belt to build your confidence.
Talk to someone: If your trust issues have taken such a hit that you’re finding it difficult to make any progress, then release the pressure on yourself and talk to someone. Be it a coach, or a therapist, or a trusted friend/family member, reach out and get some guidance.
Here’s the thing, life isn’t perfect, and there are assholes out there (men and women). People will try to take advantage of you and sometimes, they’ll succeed, but that’s not a reflection on you.
Trust is fragile - once it’s broken, it’s hard to re-establish, but it IS possible.
You have a stronger gut instinct than you realize. Take a leap of faith and start trusting yourself to get back into the game of life and thrive in your life-after-divorce reality.