Ask Margot-I’ve Got Trust Issues

After infidelity and divorce, how can a person learn to trust again? Listen to this wise advice.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I have been divorced for over a year and the thing that keeps happening over and over in my new relationships is lack of trust. I can't seem to shake the feeling that the person I'm with will cheat, emotionally or physically. I know I should trust someone until they give me a reason not to, but it just doesn't sink in for me. I'm no saint, I
For years after my divorce, I had serious trust issues.
have cheated once in the past and I'm not proud of it and vowed never to allow it again. Do you have any advice?
– No-Angel Angela

Dear Angela,
I know just how you feel. For years after my divorce, I had serious trust issues. I could date a guy sweet as honeydew vine water and I'd be convinced he was getting an extra slice of melon on the side. Worse yet, once in a while I'd be right. Bad dating decisions notwithstanding, I know that some of what I got came about because I thought that's what I was getting. It was sort of a takes-one-to-know-one thing, I guess. The more I mistrusted, the more likely a guy was to live down to my low expectations.

When it comes to trust — just as it is with love, honesty, and all the other foundations of good relationships — we tend to get back what we put out. So I'm not surprised that a black cloud of potential infidelity has cast a yearlong shadow over your relationships. It took me a lot longer than that to let the sunshine in.

But I don't think you'll need to carry an umbrella quite as long as I did. First of all, I've got some great advice for you. And second, you already gave it to yourself. As you quite rightly state, the key to having trusting relationships is to trust others first. Trust begets trust, pure and simple. But since you know that, and you still wrote me this letter, I'm thinking maybe there's something else I need to remind you about.

Trust is all about faith. To build trust in
Maybe you haven't quite come to terms with your own breach of trust.
relationships, you have to offer it first. You have to have faith in what you're doing and in the person you're doing it with. I'm not saying you should throw all caution to the wind. You have to trust your gut, too. But if it seems to you that someone is the kind of person you want to get to know, then trust that feeling and give yourself a chance to get to know him—for who he is, not for who you're afraid he might be.

I wonder if your trust problem might have more to do with your own infidelity issues. Maybe you haven't quite come to terms with your own breach of trust. A lot of this might flow more from your not trusting yourself than not trusting others.

If the reason you don't trust others is because you don't trust yourself, let's get that taken care of. The first step in rebuilding your ability to trust (in anyone, including yourself) is to separate fact from fiction. You cheated once. That's a fact. So naturally it follows that every guy you date will cheat, right? That's pure fiction. Still, you'll be out with him and that little soap opera will start to play on the TV set in your brain sure as the six o'clock news. When it does, switch the channel. Tune into something fun like "Gee, I Really Like This Guy" starring... Angela!

Let the negative feelings go. Ask for forgiveness from the powers that be, and then grant forgiveness to yourself for whatever you may have done in the past and whatever choices you may make in the future. You may have to repeat this process a few times before you change your mind. But we know from the Bible that acceptance and forgiveness are on the path to healing. It's time to start living those beliefs.

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to
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