Can You Ever Trust Again?

When you’ve been betrayed, it can be hard to open your heart again. Here’s expert advice on how to get past the pain and move on.

By Rachel Greenwald

lright, so your ex lied, cheated, and broke your heart. Yes, you have every right to feel sad, angry and betrayed. And from coaching people just like you, I can guess that you’ve got a bad case of the all-men-stink (or all-women-stink) blues. But you can’t stay this way forever—believe it or not, there are people worthy of your trust in this world. As you’ve probably been told many times over since “it” happened, you’ve got to get over it and get back out there to find your real Mr. or Mrs. Right. And here’s how:

Give yourself time to mourn. Something bad happened, and you need to allow yourself to feel sad about it. Everyone has a different style and pace for mourning a loss, but usually there is both an emotional and physical recharging process that needs to occur.
In order for history not to repeat itself, you’ve got to analyze what went wrong.
For your emotional health, you might see a therapist, consult with wise friends and family, rent a sad movie to prompt more crying (it’s good to get it all out!), or go into your closet, close the door, and scream obscenities as loud as you can. You could also buy a good self-help book on the topic (I recommend How to Heal a Broken Heart in 30 Days by Howard Bronson and Mike Riley). Physically, you can recharge by getting a massage, running five miles, taking a day off work and sleeping late, planning a vacation, gardening, baking, whatever works. If you deal with it now, your heartache won’t stall your future.

Look back for clues. In order for history not to repeat itself, you’ve got to look back on what unraveled in your last relationship, and understand what telltale signs you may have missed. This is not to beat yourself up about the past and point fingers at what you “should have known,” but to be prepared for the next relationship. A wise therapist once told a client of mine that people reveal everything you need to know about them on the first date, but most people aren’t listening. Did your ex say anything early on such as, “My last girlfriend broke up with me when she found me in bed with another woman,” but you heard, “So, he’s single now!”? If yes, have the courage next time to cut your losses before you’re buried too deep.

Steer clear of the cynicism trap. Of course you’re cynical after what happened, but you can’t wear it on your sleeve out there in the dating world. Trust me: Bitterness and skepticism are not exactly aphrodisiacs. The one complaint I hear more often than anything else after a first date is, “She was burned before and doesn’t trust men. I’m looking for someone more positive.” Or “His ex hurt him so badly; I don’t know if I’m up for the challenge of proving myself worthy.” And online dating
Spend time with a married couple you admire—it will remind you that there is great love out there.
profiles abound with headlines like “Are there any good men left?” (Who would respond to that?) Don’t fall into the cynicism trap where your negative attitude acts as barbed wire for the good souls trying to connect with you. Try spending time with a married couple whom you admire—it will remind you that there is great love out there and help you stay positive.

Dive back in. At some point you need to exit your fortress of solitude and get back out there. While you may not believe someone can earn your trust again, I have an arsenal of stories to contradict you. One of my clients swore off men for two years after her husband left her for her (former) best friend. She thought she’d never be able to open her heart again, but eventually she met a wonderful man on (after she had kissed more than her share of frogs!) and they were married last spring. I see happy endings like that all the time. When your mourning period is over, call your single friends and let them know you are ready to meet someone. (You may not know if you’re ready yet, but there’s only one way to find out: by circulating and trying again.) Ink social plans onto your calendar. Create an online dating profile. Throw yourself a party. And where exactly are these fabulous people worthy of your trust? I can’t tell you exactly where they are, but I do know there’s only one place for sure they are not: in your home. So turn off your TV and get outside.

Rachel Greenwald is the author of the New York Times best-selling book Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School. She is also a dating coach and matchmaker. She is a frequent guest on “The Today Show” and has been featured in dozens of magazines from Oprah to People.
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