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When It’s Hard to Trust: 5 Reminders to Soothe New Relationship Anxiety

Couple ice skating

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ~Ernest Hemingway

“I'm happy. That's all you need to know.”

These were the final words I spoke to the first person who ever broke my heart and nearly broke my spirit along with it.

He came into my life unexpectedly, and with a ray of light so radiant it uplifted me and gave me hope in the midst of a dark and challenging year. But after only a few short months, that light burned out as he cast me aside quietly, slowly, for reasons I will always struggle to fathom.

The emotional struggle and plethora of mistakes I made in the aftermath of that separation was profound.

I lost weight, cried more than any one person should cry, maintained a painful and dysfunctional involvement with this person, full of blurred lines and manipulation, found myself being referred to a psychiatrist I could barely afford to see, stopped reading books, stopped taking care of myself, lost myself, gave parts of myself away, and eventually made an honest attempt to pick myself up off the ground and do the work of getting my life back together.

It wasn't easy. It took months of heartache and grief that ultimately came to a head when this person said something very cruel to me after I tried to express my pain and disappointment to him, thus twisting the knife deeper into our damaged relationship. After that incident, I became fed up in all the ways I needed to be.

I minimized contact. I placed my time and energy elsewhere. I made a point to get out at least once a week and do something that made me feel happy and good about myself.

Things began to look up, and my heart began to heal. I was taking steps in the right direction, but I still had a painful attachment to him that I couldn't seem to break. Until, on a typical and fortuitous afternoon, I met someone else.

Although I didn't immediately recognize him, I eventually remembered that we went to high school together. I also remembered that he had a crush on me in tenth grade, although I later learned that it lasted for years more than that and his affection ran much deeper than the average high school crush. So when he saw me again that day, his feelings resurfaced and word got around to me about it.

After our first date, I could already feel the chapter with my ex coming to a close.

I had someone wonderful right in front of me—someone who set the standard for how I wanted and deserved to be treated, someone who saw and believed in my worth from the moment he laid eyes on me a decade prior, someone who taught me to let go and let be.

And although love was the very last thing I was looking for at the time, I was nonetheless given the flash of insight I needed to make emotionally healthier choices.

“I'm happy. That's all you need to know.”

And I was happy. I was happier than I'd been in months. But what I didn't reveal was that I was also anxious and full of doubt.

Escaping a toxic and dysfunctional relationship and entering one full of promise and longevity can be challenging. There's a sense of collateral damage. There's a sense of unease and defensiveness.

The nature of my new relationship was different and better in every way, but I still found myself thinking, feeling, and acting out in ways I knew were unhealthy, likely making my partner feel as though he needed to fix me.

After the initial newness wore off and the relationship progressed into something stable and exclusive, I put him and perceived shortcomings under a microscope.

When he told me how great and special I was, I thought he was exaggerating. When he was having an off day or didn't shower me with a steady flow of attention, I turned resentful and passive aggressive. When he expressed his desire to spend a lifetime making me happy, I broke down in tears of fear that he would disappoint me.

Every day I feel almost entirely certain that it will be the day he realizes I'm damaged goods and he's wasting his time. The slightest trigger will leave me feeling anxious and discouraged, and the slightest misunderstanding will leave me feeling defensive and ready for impact.

No matter how many times he convinces me that he loves me deeply, is doing the best he can, and wants to be with me for as long as possible, I can't help but poke holes in his words and actions.

Perhaps it's a defensive mechanism. Perhaps it's a fear of my own flaws. Perhaps it's an ugly scar.

My last relationship broke me down and chipped away at my ability to trust. It wrecked my heart and my mind. It instilled thought and behavioral patterns that have proven to be difficult to break.

Because of my past, the relationship I've always dreamed of having has fallen under unnecessary stress. And although my partner has yet to complain about it, I know that if I don't work on reprogramming my mind and adjusting my behavior, our connection will eventually suffer in ways that can be so easily avoided.

If you too are suffering from new relationship anxiety and trust issues planted by a past relationship, you may need these five essential reminders that have helped me on my own journey.

1. Your current partner is not your ex-partner.

It can be tempting to compare the two, whether internally or aloud, but it's important to remember that your new partner is an entirely different person waiting to play an entirely different role in your life story. Don't give your past a single reason to sabotage your future or dirty up a perfectly clean slate.

2. Pause before you react. 

This is a hard one for me, but before you assume anything or unduly react to any type of perceived conflict, pause and reflect on where your thoughts and feelings are coming from. Could insecurity, fear, or trauma be at play? Is the conflict real or imagined? 

Being preoccupied is not the same as ignoring you. Making a lighthearted and harmless comment is not the same as intentionally trying to hurt your feelings. Showing frequent love and affection is not the same as using you for personal gain.

Separate your emotions from your ego, and consider the rationality of your behavior before you react or respond to anything.

3. Expectation is the root of all disappointment.

Keep your expectations in check. When a relationship goes south, we often tend to carry residual expectations and disappoints into the next one. If you experience disappointment over something your partner said or did, ask yourself what you expected them to say or do instead. Then consider whether or not that expectation is fair and justified.

For example, expecting your partner to listen to your concerns and honor your needs is fair. Expecting them to read your mind, wait on you hand and foot, or make you the center of their world is not. Unfair expectations can poison a relationship if you don't strive to recognize and release them.

4. Fix yourself before trying to fix your partner.

Be mindful of your tendency to project your flaws and insecurities onto your partner.

Projecting is a common mistake in many relationships because pointing the finger at the person closest to you is easier than turning it to yourself and being honest about whether or not your own internal dialogue is the actual source of the problem.

Before you decide to change something about your partner, consider what you might need to work on within yourself.

5. Trust is the glue that holds it all together.

I can't even tell you how many times my partner has stressed the importance of trust after a misunderstanding or moment of doubt and insecurity on my end. Time and experience has taught me that trust is vital to the success of any relationship, but it's something I clearly need to work on after years of being hurt and misled.

While trust may not be an easy thing for many couples, it helps to remember that if your partner is someone worth being with, they will never give you a reason not to trust them.

About Madison Sonnier

Madison is a writer of feelings and lover of animals, music, nature and creativity. You can follow her blog at journeyofasoulsearcher.blogspot.com/ and buy her first eBook through Amazon. She loves making new friends, so be sure to say hi if you like what you see!

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  • lv2terp

    Great post! Thank you for a great message, insight and advice 🙂

  • justme

    I have been alone for the majority of my 48 years. I dated, but didn’t find my “one”. I strongly believe that it’s better to be with nobody than to be with the wrong body. Having said that, I also believe that love and the people you love is the most important thing in life – and that life is better when shared with someone you love. I fell in love for the first time 10 months ago. It was amazing!!!! Unfortunately, she is just a year out of a 22 year marriage. We flirted and became very close, but never romantic. I knew she needed time to heal before she was ready for another relationship. Just days ago, it became apparent to me that she does not love me, she just likes the attention I give her – which is a lot! I finally got the strength to walk away because it would kill me to see her with someone else, and it was not fun loving without being loved. She wants to remain friends, but I can’t. I am heartbroken, rejected, and paralyzed. I can’t breathe. It took me 48 years to find her and I never felt more certain about anyone or anything. I do not think I will find that again given that it took me 48 years to find her. I was fine being alone before I met her, but now it sucks! I don’t know what to do.

  • Pam Lame

    Hi Madison,
    Good article and one I certainly can identify with. I just came out of a 16 year marriage that very nearly destroyed me. And to top it off, my best friend deserted me within the next few weeks of our split up. Two people that I trusted with my heart and they both just took it out and stomped on it. And now after several months and the divorce final, I still haven’t had the heart to even try to make new friends. I spend my time in my own little world and when the ex tells me I need to get out and meet people, and everything I read says not to close yourself off, and to forgive and let go and on and on. And I was feeling almost guilty because I am not making that effort and have no desire to. And then I realized that I was done feeling like I “should” do it this way or I “should not” do it that way. And right now my choice is to give myself time, to let myself grieve in my own way and time and right or wrong, it’s what I have to do.
    To be honest, I feel that right now I am not strong enough to deal with all the things you have to do to make new friends, and it’s not so much that I don’t trust anyone, it’s that I don’t trust myself right now. I don’t trust my own judgement anymore, I didn’t see any of this coming, especially the way it did, and the pain was like being crushed, not being able to breath, not being able to stop myself crying, and so confused and lost, I didn’t even know who I was. And at first it was so difficult not to have anyone to talk to, I thought I would lose my mind, and very nearly did. But now that some time has passed I feel like I had to be alone like this so I could hear my own self and take a good look at things and I’ve learned more about life and what makes me tick than I ever thought possible.
    And finally, I think I am starting to heal. I may even be able to start getting out a bit soon. But I am not pushing it, or forcing it, and I know the trust issues are going to be the toughest to deal with. And I didn’t mean to write a book here, but I wanted to thank you for sharing some of your story, I know I’m not the only one with these issues. And I have made one friend online by the way, she has been through it like me and is further down the road in her healing and she has saved my life in so many ways and she is a million miles away so I feel safe trusting her to a certain extent.
    I never thought I would ever feel so mistrusful, I love everyone and usually see only good things, but not anymore. Okay, shutting up now, sorry. Be nice to yourself, you are worth it. Much love, Pam

  • Pam Lame

    Give yourself time, you were very brave to walk away and I’m so sorry that you are hurting like you are. I know that feeling so well. But I promise you, it will get easier in time. And you don’t have to give up finding someone that will love you back. Sometimes these horrible things have to happen to help us grow. Take some time and get to know who you are again and allow yourself the time you need to grieve, we all do it different and it might take you longer. But just know that you aren’t alone in your suffering okay? People still care about what happens to you, I know I do, no one should have to hurt so badly. Hang in there and don’t give up, there is still too much to experience in t his life, this is only one small part of your lifes journey and you will find yourself on a much nicer road before you know it. Pam