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If trust was broken by a previous partner
What am I up against?


If someone put your heart in a blender during your last relationship by either cheating on you or breaking your trust, it can be hard to trust someone else with your (now-liquefied) heart. If that’s you, you’re not alone – betrayal tends to have this effect. A betrayal teaches you to be cautious and reminds you that your trust is breakable. When dating or starting a new relationship, try to bear in mind that any potential partner deserves a clean slate and a fresh chance to earn your trust.

How can I deal with it?

Try not to test them

A very important element of any relationship is the demonstration of commitment [1]. But seeing as you’re just dating (which is considered by most as a BETA test for a relationship), you can’t expect them to provide those signs of commitment yet. If they haven’t made any promises to you or committed themselves to you, then you’re not yet in a position to expect loyalty or faithfulness.

Be aware of your own vulnerability and emotions

When people feel betrayed, they’re often left with a sense of vulnerability and weakness – sometimes long after the thing happens. But, by coming to terms with how that betrayal has affected you, you’ll be in a much better place to start dating. You’re that much more aware of things like your own self-esteem, your sensitivities, the affirmation you need, the need for exclusivity, etc. For example, you may recognise that moving slowly is good for you, or you may decide that you’re not ready to date at this time.

Consider letting your date know

If you decide to tell your date that you’ve been hurt in a previous relationship, try not to place any expectation on them to heal you. Rather, tell them that you’re working on it. If they choose to be supportive, then great. This becomes you two against the trust issue, rather than one person on their own dealing with an issue that affects both parties. Couples who refer to themselves as “we” more than “I” or “you” are better equipped to deal with conflict resolution and positive problem solving solutions [2]. 

Give yourself some time

It’s natural to want to push forward into the new and leave the old behind. Past might be past, but (to quote The Lion King) the past can hurt. So allow some healing space, and take it slow with anyone new. If they don’t take the time to understand and be supportive of your choice of pace in the early days, this could be a warning sign about the future prospects of the relationship.

References


[1] Gabb, Klett-Davies, Fink, & Thomae, 2013; Reynolds, Houlston, & Coleman, 2014

[2] Simmons, Gordon, & Chambless, 2005

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