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Tiny Wisdom: Rebuilding Trust After Being Hurt

“When mistrust comes in, love goes out.” ~Irish saying

An old friend of mine felt betrayed by her boyfriend, but chose not to leave him. Instead, she made him pay for it over and over again.

Through subtle digs and less subtle slights, she repeatedly expressed that she felt contempt for him. But instead of forgiving or walking away, she stayed behind a wall of resentment.

Soon he started responding in kind, until their relationship became a container for mutual silent bitterness. It was two people sharing a suffocating space, overwhelmed by the weight of everything they didn’t say.

I suspect many of us can relate to that feeling of clinging to a grievance. In at least one of our relationships, we’ve felt angry and indignant, and despite wanting to forgive, we just couldn’t.

I know I’ve been there before.

It’s not easy to forget when someone breaks your trust, especially if you fear it might be broken again, but holding onto doubt is a surefire way to suffer.

Little hurts worse than the suspicion that someone else might hurt you.

This isn’t the kind of thing you can just brush off through positive thinking. You can’t make yourself feel trusting by telling yourself you should be, or rationalizing away your feelings.

The reality is it takes time and effort to trust again. It takes the courage to acknowledge how you feel and willingness from the other person to hear and honor it. It takes a mutual commitment to move beyond what happened instead of reliving and rehashing.

But most importantly, it requires you to believe in the goodness and positive intentions of the person who hurt you.

You have to believe someone can treat you with respect and consideration—even if it takes you a while to get there—or else you’ll never let your guard down. That’s a painful place to be.

The thing about being defensive is that everything becomes a battle, and no one ever wins.

Of course this doesn’t mean we can ever know for certain that someone won’t hurt us again. The only way we can know if we’re able to trust someone is by first giving them trust.

That means we need to ask ourselves: Is this relationship worth that risk?

Is it worth feeling vulnerable?

Is it worth forgiving?

Is it worth letting go of the story?

And if it’s worth it, what would it look like to give trust, starting right now?

Photo by Carlos Varela

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook series (which includes one free eBook) & co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you get unstuck & change your life. She's now seeking stories to include in her next book, 365 Tiny Love Challenges by Tiny Buddha. Click here to share your story! For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • Angel Evelyn

    I think it really comes down to trusting yourself. What you project and what you think? manifest. So if someone has hurt you really badly, you either have to make a decision to totally trust them again or move on. The one person that you really need to love is yourself. You have to love yourself more than anyone else and nothing is more important that your happiness and inner peace. I have to say all  of our lives are just a story though and even the worst pain won’t matter eventually. It’s all in the moment..the pain.The pain is just a thought… I went through what I thought was a terrible betrayal at the time..but it was a gift in reality because it made me wake up to myself and realize I had never in my life trusted anyone or myself for that matter. I realized I needed to trust myself. I forgave the person and that person is now my best friend. You will always have yourself..everyone else is a projection of you. If you see the world as beautiful, bright and friendly that is the way it will be. If you see it as dark, cloudy and unfriendly that is the way it will be. Life is too short to be unhappy or feeling resentful for even for a minute. This life is truly a gift.

  • syk1004

    Although I believe in the laws of attraction that what you project you’ll receive back…sometimes the true moment of clarity is realizing that what you feel for someone is not exactly what they feel for you. And figuring out somewhat-exactly how that person loves you and the depth of that is the deciding factor to leave or stay. However, ‘love’ isn’t always enough as when trust is broken, something fundamental is lost forever, and attaining it back can be a battle with scars and heartbreak that may not be worth the jaded bruises it leaves behind. For instance, long ago, I’ve stayed with a (repeatedly) cheating boyfriend believing that the vows of reformation would hold validity, hope and promise…but I know that at the end of the day, I should’ve walked away much earlier than I have.

  • Gram11612

    Trust has always been a problem for me. I always wait for the other shoe to drop. I always felt that “this is to good to be true”. I am a person that can be trusted to his dying breath, but the significant others in my life couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain. They both strayed on me and the betrayal shattered me. I expected loyalty in return. I have to create a story of my life, that it is what I am and will continue to be so. I am loyal to myself and that is all that matters. Really.

  • syk1004

    I know what you mean about the “too good to be true”. I guess when all is said and done we can only change ourselves and honor the promises we keep to one another.~

  • smerk

    Love is unconditional.  Trust is not.  Yes, we need to trust, but we also need to be cautious in giving our trust.  Cautious is not the same as being suspicious.  Not everyone holds the intent of our highest good.

  • http://rodgomes.com/ Rod Gomes

    Hi Lori,

    I don’t know if I got it right, but it looks like your friend’s boyfriend didn’t really care. He wasn’t looking for forgiveness, IMO. In such cases I believe the best thing is to move on.

    “Instead, she made him pay for it over and over again.”

    This is a mistake, I bet in the end she was the one who paid double “over and over again”.

    I believe trust is earned, and if you can’t trust someone you’re in a relationship with… that’s not a relationship to begin with.

    Great post as always! 

  • Dana Stough

    this is what i was looking for today. thanks :)

  • Tracy

    Seriously are you living my life this week?? Often posts seem to come at appropriate times but this week it is downright eerie. I finally had to comment because it’s like you are in my head and know precisely what issues I need addressed. For which I am extremely grateful!For my situation, in my head and deep down in my heart I know letting go is the right course of action because there is no “willingness to hear and honor” from the other person, only defensiveness and denial. But still I feel sad and guilty about giving up on someone who I once believed in and a friendship I valued. 

  • http://ponder-the-pre.posterous.com Kate Britt

    Ya, “they” say that holding on to resentment and anger and lack of trust and all that stuff does more harm to ourselves than to anybody else. Still, some days I don’t want to be grown up about it at all; some days the memory of the betrayal comes up and wants to be heard. It’s tough to let it all go forever, but…. one day at a time, maybe that will work. So I say to myself, maybe if I can’t truly let stuff go yet (I add “yet” to encourage myself to move on… as IF that works ;), maybe I can at least focus on the lessons learned from what happened. Yes, the lessons. That focus distracts me a little from the betrayal. A little more each time it comes up. I said “I forgive” but some days I doubt if that’s true because it doesn’t feel that way. Rebuilding trust seems a hard road, but it’s probably worth it.

  • http://twitter.com/tamouse Tamara Temple

    What if it’s yourself you mistrust because it’s you who hurt yourself?

  • http://www.sweetandsage.com Sage

    I really like the questions for ourselves at the end of this post, especially “Is this relationship worth that risk?” It can be hard to put ourselves out there, be trusting, and possibly get hurt again. With some relationships/friendships, the risk for me has been worth it…and sometimes it hasn’t. There’s a fine line between being trusting and protecting yourself.

  • PositiveRealist

     This is so true! Love unconditionally yes, treat everyone fairly and with respect as you would want to be treated but do not hand over your heart, your money or your trust to just anyone as I have learned the hard way that there are plenty of those out there who, whether they do it intentionally or not (they may have a mental disorder or something), do not reciprocate and perhaps pretend for a time, such as con-men, and opening yourself up to just anyone can be downright dangerous.  My biggest life believe is that we should be grateful for others’ love and strengtts and encourage and help them with their weaknesses.  Sadly, manipulators and certain others do nothing but take advantage of our strengths and manipulate and guilt-trip us over our weaknesses exploiting both to their own advantage which can leave you very disillusioned with mankind.  Guess when this happens we just have to remember it is not our fault and keep loving and forgiving ourselves and others but what can be our fault is being blind to the signs and setting not setting reasonable boundaries whilst being a fair and loving human being.

  • http://www.facebook.com/martha.claudio Martha ClaudioBerríos

    I have been in that position before and yes it is a hard situation to deal with but not imposible to handle. it is worth stepping out of, once you have accepted the facts, you can understand, to later forgive and be able to forget…  awesome feeling when letting go, with the mind and heart opened to new posibilities!!!!

  • trudy

    i know exactly what you are saying and feeling. somedays I can’t get it out of my head and other days flow by with nary of twinge.  it gets better. but i don’t think it goes away.

  • Erin

    Considering this feels scary. And good.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I agree with you regarding the law of attraction. I think our thoughts/actions *influence* what we receive and experience, but there are other factors that come into play. Knowing when to walk away is one of the hardest things to do, but sometimes it’s the best way to take care of ourselves. It took me a long time to learn this lesson!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad this came at a good time for you Tracy! I’m sorry to hear about your relationship. I know how hard it can be to walk away. I’m sending good thoughts your way!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Same for me, Sage…sometimes it’s been worth it, and sometimes it has not. I feel like somewhere inside, I’ve always known when it’s been time to walk away…I just haven’t always listened to my inner voice. I think I’ve improved over time though!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I know what you mean about letting it all go forever. The other day someone told me forgiveness isn’t something you give over and over again, but I disagreed. I’ve found that for some of the greatest betrayals in my life, I’ve had to forgive on many different occasions. Some days I’ve felt healed, and on others, wounds have reopened (by memories, or little things that triggered me). If I take it one day at a time, forgiveness (and consequently, trust) feels much easier.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks so much Rod!

    I think he wanted forgiveness and cared at first, and he didn’t want to walk away; but over time, because of all the hostility, he started developing resentment. 
    I know this far more easily said than done, but I think we need to either stay and forgive, or walk away–it never works to stay, and stay angry.

    Well said, about trust being earned. I feel that was about respect, as well!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Do you know why you hurt yourself Tamara? I formerly hurt myself a great deal, and I didn’t trust myself. It took me a lot of therapy to get to the root of my issues. If you’re able to see a therapist, I’d highly recommend it!

  • Kiasunray

    I too, am going through the same transition this week. It’s a very painful experience. I’m accepting the lessons learned from this relationship and applying then in real time.

    I hope the other part was able to gain positive reflection from this experience as well.

  • http://halinagoldstein.com/blog Halina Goldstein

    Thanks Lori. And haven’t we been there, all of us… what a challenge!

    Personally, I have never been able to make an emotional situaiton about a situation like this. Meaning, I could try to decide (to forgive or to walk away, or even both) but it would never bring the inner peace I was hoping for. What has been helpful, again and again, was to allow time to do its work. Because what would typically happen, eventually, was that I would be taken into a situation where I really was able to understand the person that has hurt me — because I found myself in her/his shoes. “Ah, so this is how she/he felt back then… now I understand. I could have done the same thing……” .From there, forgiveness was instantaneous and lasting  And from there again, trust in life as such.

  • http://halinagoldstein.com/blog Halina Goldstein

    Thank you for sharin that Smerk.

    It’s my impression that when we think we trust someone it’s not real trust. Rather, it is an expectation that they act in a certain way, or not to. In other words, we have convinced ourselves that we really know what the highest good would be at any time, and then we “trust” that the other person will do what we expect them to.

    I do believe there is such thing like unconditional trust — and that is based in our trust in life. In trusting that whatever life brings – including things that we do not want or wish for from others – comes to us for a reason and will become a gift along the way.

    This does not in any way contradict what you say – just an additional perspective.

  • lissa

    I’m exactly the same way….waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because of things in my past it’s really hard for me to trust. I eventually do trust only to realize that I should not have let my walls down….then I’m mad at myself. I too could never lie or cheat…if you truely love someone you don’t do those things. People who can do that to another person should be honest with their feelings and end the relationship before they hurt the one their with. I myself could not hurt someone like that…if I’m not happy….I’m honest about it..and if whats making me unhappy can be repaired, great..if not….it’s time to move on. I hope that eventually I can stop waiting for the other shoe to drop but its hard to think positive when you continue to be betrayed. Your post helped me a lot…it feels a little better to know that I’m not the only one always thinking “this is too good to be true”….so thankyou

  • Louisa Truth

    I really liked this post. The questions at the end were just what I needed. Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up with yourself and how you’re feeling rather than looking at the bigger picture. It’s a brilliant perspective on this difficult subject. LT x

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m glad you found this helpful Louisa!

  • James

    Someone just broke my trust, and coming from a history of fater and stepfaters who has broken their promises to my mom, I find it exceptually difficult trust this guy again, even though he has promised not to hurt me again … But I will try my best.

  • Camille

    Same story. I know this dude is my other half, but an instance (or a few) of a breach of trust wants to remove that knowledge, forcefully throw it on the ground, and stomp it.

  • Gaja

    Loooooove what you say!! Thank you, it goes perfect with what I am feeling in this exact moment…just what I needed to read ♥

  • Karen

    A little over 9 months ago, a friend of mine betrayed my trust. Big time. Friends and family have told me to move on and leave him in the past. They’ve vilified him to a point where I no longer feel comfortable telling anyone that I feel otherwise. The thing is, he was the first person I wanted to trust and open up to. So yes, his betrayal hurt more because of it. But I can’t find it in myself to cast him aside as some awful human being. I’ve started forgiving him and I actually don’t want us to become strangers again. I want us to become friends again. Am I worried that he’ll hurt me again? Of course. But do I want to work through it? Yes. Because I never felt so strongly about any one person upon meeting them. Ever. So despite this great betrayal that hurt me more than anyone else has before, I want to give it another chance and I want him to know that I’m willing somewhere down the line. Does that make me weak? Does that turn me into a doormat?

  • ms g

    I BELIEVE IN HONESTY ND TRUTH. Even when it something u dont want hear. I learn from mistake i made. I feel if we didnt have llessons even ir lf hurtful we feel nothing . For me pain and loss trust to someone i lesrned that it wasnt there fault but mind. Once i acceptedvthat it was easy let go and trust

  • Cheyenne

    I think that makes me felt better because me and my boyfriend broke up and no I wanted to hurt him but this makes me say I should just let it go and forgive him bit if he annoys me then he will not be spoken to and he not be answered or taken to because he is a piece of sh**

  • Rosita

    I am so glad to be on this site today in other to express myself to the world because i made a promise to Dr.olikipa that if he grants me my heart desire that i am going to make sure that the world knows about his powers.. My lover left me nine weeks ago after searching for solution all over i came across Dr.olikipa and i was convinced with what i read about Dr.olikipa. So i contacted Dr.olikipa for help, With my greatest surprise my lover came back to me within 48 hours.. Once again don’t forget Dr.olikipa contact details which are drolikipasellhome@gmail.com i am so glad that i met you.

  • mickey mouse

    I am going through a very painful phase of my life. I have been with my boyfriend for almost 4 years, and it has been crazy from the beginning. And also we have a two year old son that adds more crazy to the equation. Point is, he has cheated on me. twice. long time ago, not physically, over the internet. Of course I have never been able to fully trust him again but at the same time I know he will not hurt me again.

    The worst part is that it has destroyed my self esteem (which has never been really high anyway) i compare myself to everyone without even trying, I have no confidence, I despise myself completely and I dont know how to fix it.

    Now he is amazing and our lives are finally comfortable after a lot of struggle, but I cant be happy around him. I am always jealous, always thinking hes doing something that will hurt me, I check his emails, phone everything. He changed his email password and I almost had a heart attack. His ex coworkers (girls) made me so angry all the time and I found out he still talks to them which made me incredibly angry.

    Im just rambling and going crazy and Im sorry I just dont know what to do, I know the drill, I have to love myself, let go, focus on myself, etc etc. I dont know how to do that. I dont know how. I tell myself everyday to let go, that I will be fine, that I will be positive from now on. Still nothing. I think about dying all the time because I dont see a way out and I dont even know if i want one at this point. I just want it to stop. I really love him, and he is great to me. Not the most romantic guy in the world and he does mess up, but sometimes he makes me very happy and I dont want anybody else.

    I convince myself to break up with him and I try to do it, but then I flip out because thinking about not having him in my life makes me sick. Thinking of him with someone else makes me sick. He is my best friend in the whole world. He is the only one I can really truly trust and talk to. But I am breaking it and i dont know how to stop.

    If you have any advice that would be nice. I dont expect you to read the whole thing I just wanted to let it out because I felt I was going to explode. Not much of a difference but at least its out.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi there,

    I’m so sorry to hear about what you’ve been going through. I can only imagine how painful it’s been to try so hard to move on but still feel stuck. And I know how tough it is to rebuild trust after it’s been broken.

    Have you considered seeking outside help, perhaps by seeing a therapist or going to couple’s therapy? Sometimes, when you’ve tried everything and still struggle, getting some outside assistance can be the best thing. Because really, it’s not a matter of sheer will–it’s a matter of getting to the root of the underlying fears and beliefs that make it so hard to move forward; and then figuring out the best choice for you based on what you find out.

    If you’re not open to seeing a therapist or couple’s therapist, I’d recommend taking some time to explore what goes through your head when you feel jealous/mistrusting. When you understand the thoughts and beliefs that trigger the feelings, you’ll be able to challenge them.

    You are in my thoughts…

    Lori

  • Joe

    Hello,

    As the offender, I broke trust multiple times. I had a lot of demons from my past that I was unwilling to acknowledge; they ultimately led me to act in ways that were angry and vindictive to people in my past that were really quite insignificant to me. It culminated in me sending several text messages to another girl that appeared like I was trying to cheat on my fiancé, which is something I’d never do. I then tried to cover the whole debacle up, but joked about it to friends, another immature move on my part. For the last 12 weeks, I’ve seen the light so to speak and have completely changed who I am, finally living as the person that I want to be and that my now girlfriend deserves. I am trying everything I can do to regain her trust because I love her and want to work it out more than anything, but she still doubts me and struggles daily with what I did. I just want her to be happy, but I know I can make her happier than she’ll ever know, so I’m looking for any advice you might have on how I can help her to get over what happened? She doesn’t believe me when I tell her the truth about why I did what I’ve done, and she still thinks I’m this monster that I’m not. How can I show her that I’m not that monster, that I’m genuine and that I just want to love and support her, and only her, for the rest of our lives?

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Joe,

    I’m so sorry to hear about what you’re going through. I imagine it’s quite stressful to have learned this lesson, but to not have regained back her trust.

    I know this is likely not what you want to hear, but I think this is the kind of thing she’s going to need to do in her own time. And if you try to force her to trust you/get past this sooner, it may just push her further away.

    I think in these types of cases, the best thing you can do is be honest, express remorse, and then let her know you respect her right to make peace with this in her own time. The very acting of allowing her whatever time she needs is, in itself, a sign that you are someone who can be trusted to honor her needs and feelings.

    I hope this helps somewhat. You are in my thoughts!

    Lori