How To Trust (Especially When You've Been Hurt)

Marriage and Family Therapist By Shelly Bullard, MFT
Marriage and Family Therapist
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to relationships. She has worked with thousands of clients on improving their relationships with others and themselves.

Most of us have felt like our trust has been compromised at some point in our lives. Needless to say, these experiences can be very painful. Perhaps we're still scared to trust again. We think to ourselves, "Who can I trust? And how do I know I can trust them?"

But trust is one of those things that we can't just skip over. It's a crucial ingredient in our relationships; some call it the foundation. Without it, it's really difficult to settle in and just love.

If we want to experience peace and happiness, then we must learn how to trust. And it's my intention to help you do that. In this article, I'm going to talk about what trust is, why it's a choice, and how to feel more of it in your relationships.

Let's start off with the undeniable truth: we all have reasons not to trust. What I mean by this is that we've all felt hurt, disappointed, rejected, scared, and abandoned. We have all suffered in some way (actually, we have all suffered in very similar ways), and we have all felt pain in relationships.

We're all in the same boat. I say this because it's comforting to realize that we're not alone. (We're in this together people!) We've all been hurt, and we're all trying to avoid that happening again.

Usually the way we try to avoid being hurt in relationships is by holding-off on trusting until we know we are safe. Trusting becomes a mechanism of protection — if the person "earns our trust" then we will gladly give it to them.

And this is the problem. Because there are never any guarantees.

Asking someone to "earn our trust" often means we are asking them not to make any mistakes and not to cause us to feel uncomfortable feelings. And this is an impossible task.

Unfortunately guarantees are not found in relationships (computers come with guarantees — not people). And guarantees are definitely not found in our love relationships. (We're way too complex for that). In fact (you're not going to like this), what you probably can guarantee is that you will feel hurt sometimes by the people you love.

I wish I could tell you otherwise but the truth is that disappointment, rejection, fear, and abandonment are all part of the deal in relationships. We feel these feelings regardless of who we are with. Not because we are with untrustworthy people, but because we are humans.

Trusting is a decision you must make knowing that there aren't any guarantees.

You have to realize that trust is not about finding the perfect, trustworthy person; it's about signing up to work through hurt when it arises.

If we relate to trust through this perspective then trusting becomes much easier. All of the sudden we shift from trying to avoid being hurt (which is impossible), to recognizing that we can move through anything that comes our way. This helps us feel empowered (aka a little more trusting and a little less fearful).

When we use past experiences as reasons not to trust again, then we are really only hurting ourselves. Again, we all have reasons not to trust. We all have a long list! But walling ourselves off from each other only perpetuates the problem—this does not keep us safe; it keeps us lonely.

So if you are scared to trust, what can you do?

Simple. You can make an informed decision and go for it.

That's right. Jump in and have faith.

When you decide to trust someone it means that you believe in that person's integrity. Trusting is knowing that ultimately this person's intentions are good. And it also means that you know that they are going to make mistakes.

When we're scared, we make mistakes (by mistakes I mean we hurt others, we don't act in our highest integrity). Fear makes us do some crazy s#*t. And if you're being honest with yourself, you know that you've done some crazy s#*t. It's unfortunate but true.

If we could collectively realize this and approach others with compassion when they are wigging out, rather than condemnation, this world would be a completely different place (and our relationships would definitely be filled with a lot more trust).

If we trust ourselves first and foremost, it allows us to deal with the mistakes of others with a little more grace and ease. If you know that no matter what — no matter what your partner does, no matter what challenges arise—you are going to be OK, then trusting is going to be easier to do.

You recognize that trust isn't about never feeling another negative emotion again; it's about knowing that you can handle anything that comes your way. This is real trust (it's commonly referred to as faith).

Trusting is not about choosing the right person. I mean, it is a choice, so try not to choose blindly. But remember, you are not signing up to be in relationship with a robot — you are signing up to be with another human being.

What you are saying when you choose to trust someone is, "I know that deep down you are a good person with good intentions. I know you are going to get scared and lose it from time to time, and I will try to support you and/or act with compassion when that happens. And I know that ultimately, my well-being is up to me."

This a big statement — a real commitment. It is also very doable.

I understand that sometimes you're scared; I get that you've been hurt. I've been there, too. But I want you to you that no matter what, you are going to be OK.

Trust that. Believe that. Know that.

When you do, you will be able to offer trust to others too, and it will serve as the foundation for many long-lasting, loving relationships to firmly build upon.

Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a holistic and spiritual approach to...
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Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT
Shelly Bullard, MFT, is a marriage and family therapist with a...
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