Why can’t I trust anymore?

I remember a young woman in her late 20s I’ll call Jenny. Jenny came to see me one day to see if I could help her sort out her reaction to the aftermath of her divorce. She had been referred by a mutual divorced friend. She told me her marriage had unraveled after about two and a half years. She had been startled during their bitter divorce process to discover that her former husband had been harboring several deep resentments that he had not been able to bring up during their marriage. Suddenly, he had announced that he had had it! He claimed that he had no need for the marriage counseling she suggested that they enter before ending their marriage. Jenny said the betrayal she felt in her divorce had shaken her to her roots. And then, when she had somewhat come to terms her grief and anger resulting from the divorce itself, she discovered that she had emerged from that whole personal train wreck with a conviction (and fear) that she might never again be able to trust anyone deeply. This side effect of her divorce had left her withdrawn and slow to reach out to anyone about anything. Previous to her divorce, she had often been complimented on her outgoing and friendly personality. She had had a number of good friends with whom she now lacked the energy to keep connected.

First of all, trust is a decision rather than a feeling such as one’s feeling safe and secure in a relationship. Contrary to many people’s impression, we cannot directly either cause or eliminate our (or someone else’s) feelings. In fact, we can cause ourselves and others distress when we try. In the end, we can only discover our feelings. One’s feelings seem to have a life of their own independent of one’s will. Trust, it turns out, is a decision one can make in spite of possible feelings of fear, anxiety, or even doubt. That being said, one should be cautious about how much trust one ought to place in another person. (It goes without saying that if a person has betrayed one’s trust in the past through serious lying, abuse, or marital infidelity, one rushes back into that relationship at one’s peril. The key word is “rushes”. Time for trust to rebuild may be offered if one chooses, but a series of serious betrayals is always a red flag in any relationship.) That is because trust is the fundamental basis for any authentic relationship, whether of close friends, lovers, or spouses.

One’s decision too trust another person requires a certain amount of inner psychic and emotional energy. It naturally happens that, in the aftermath of any experience of personal devastation, one’s level of psychic and emotional energy sinks. In time, this state of low energy most often slowly rebounds back to its usual level, unless some additional personal upset occurs. Otherwise, the natural process of human healing usually includes the ability to eventually again form human relationships based on trust.

I asked Jenny if she might be open to attending a series of weekly group meetings hosted by a divorce recovery group. The meetings are aimed at newly-divorced persons learning how to cope (or better cope) with the tragic effects of divorce. She said she would seriously consider it because she did not want to live the rest of her life in a shell like a hermit crab.