Struggling To Open Up After A Heartbreak? It Might Not Be For The Reason You Think
You were brave. You let yourself love fully. You were vulnerable. And you were crushed when the person you gave your heart to abused your love or moved on. Now, even though you want a healthy new relationship, it's hard to trust again.
Does this sound familiar? It's not just you. I'm a therapist as well as a dating coach. As such, I'm well aware that many people re-entering the dating field after a bad experience are understandably cautious. They have seen the darkness and felt the pain of losing love.
For most this isn't just an intellectual decision. It's a feeling. You might genuinely want to date, but find it hard to feel excited about anyone you meet. Or you lose any emerging feelings of attraction for them over the slightest thing. Or you just feel flat and exhausted when you think about dating.
On some level, you know you're protecting yourself from being hurt again, but you can’t control the way you feel. It's like knowing you should eat a healthy meal but having absolutely no appetite. What to do?
How do you trust again?
Here's how. Recognize that you don't have to trust another person. You have to trust yourself.
When you are confident in your good judgment, in your ability to protect yourself, and in your clarity about your needs, you have nothing to fear from other people. When you feel safe, when you feel strong, your excitement about possibilities naturally increases. You're free to feel attraction and even hope.
Many of my clients who have been traumatized by past relationships feel that the primary betrayal they experienced was their betrayal of themselves. They accepted things they shouldn't have. They tolerated mistreatment for too long. They dismissed their inner wisdom and suffered the consequences.
Now they don't trust themselves not to make the same mistakes again.
Daring to trust again requires radical honesty.
Have you learned from the past? Have you done an inventory of the relationship that broke your heart? Do you sincerely believe that you are worthy of love and respect? Do you know how to keep yourself safe from people who can't or won't love you well? Do you know how to tell the difference between healthy people and unhealthy people? Do you know what a healthy relationship is?
These are all big, complicated questions. However, when the answer to those questions is yes, you have nothing to fear in meeting new people. When you trust yourself to tell the difference between a keeper and a loser, dating becomes fun again. When you are able to quickly identify and cut loose the ones who are not worthy of your love, you will stay safe.
If you're finding it hard to put yourself back out there, it could mean that you haven't restored trust in yourself yet.
Here's how to start repairing your confidence in your own judgment.
Do an inventory of your past relationship by answering these questions:
- What did you learn about what you must have in a healthy partnership?
- What were early warning signs that you see now, looking back, that you overlooked at the time?
- Did your strong feelings for your ex lead you to compromise your values? What are those values?
- What was your quiet, "wise voice" inside of you telling you about the relationship that you chose to not listen to?
- If you had a time machine and knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently in order to protect yourself?
Daring to trust again, like all things, is an invitation to growth. You have the power to create the life and the love that you want. Consider that your heartbreak, as awful as it was, is an invitation for you to learn, grow, and become stronger and wiser.
The courage to trust again requires trusting yourself. You have the power to go slowly and choose not to let your feelings overwhelm your inner wisdom. Remind yourself that it takes a long time to get to know people, and that character is revealed over time. Stay true to your values and yourself.
You will feel stronger and more empowered when you remind yourself of these truths:
You don't need to immediately trust other people when you trust yourself to make good decisions. You are worthy of love and respect.
With those intentions firmly in mind, you're going to date with confidence—and find a new partner who is worthy of your love and respect, too.
Lisa Marie Bobby, Ph.D., LMFT, has a master's degree in counseling psychology from the University of Colorado and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. She is a psychologist specializing in marriage and relationship counseling and individual therapy. She founded Growing Self Counseling and Coaching in Denver, Colorado, authored the book "Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love," and hosts The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.