How To Build Trust

Trust is hard when you’ve felt betrayed and left alone. We wonder if we will ever be able to trust again. Trust can exist but there is a risk. This topic of rebuilding trust after hurt and destroyed relationships is one we hear often in our Solo Parent groups. So, how do we build trust again?

Single mom, Elizabeth, joins Robert and Kimberley to discuss rebuilding trust. As single parents, many of us have felt a breach of trust at some point or another. Our spouse’s affair, marital abandonment, and the fact that God would allow something bad to happen is difficult to process. This kind of hurt is one of the primary wounds we carry.

The topic trust can be dark, heavy, hard, and scary. When we’ve experienced abandonment, not necessarily through divorce or loss but even early on in our childhoods, deep wounding and hurts occur. We carry those hurts with us into our relationships and then, when things fall apart, the pain and damage is even greater. We find ourselves asking again, “Who can I trust?” That question resonates and reverberates into every area of our lives.

As a missionary kid, Robert grew up going to boarding school. He didn’t have his family around him and he felt very abandoned. That wound was an early set up for later issues with fear of abandonment and difficulty with trust. When things come up like divorce or death, it triggers wounds like this from our past in a domino effect.

The core issue with building trust again is understanding how our past experiences have shaped us. The first step is getting connected to our own heart, understanding our wounds, and breaking down our abandonment issues. When we have people in our lives who were supposed to protect us, accept, and love us unconditionally, and they don’t, that has a profound impact on us. To build trust again, we need to understand what led us to that place of fear and learn what safe relationships are supposed to look like.

We need to consider the impact of our trust issues. How does our lack of trust play out in our relationships? You may think you’re trusting people again because you have a wide social circle but the number of relationships doesn’t determine their depth. Elizabeth shares that she is a people person. If you saw her from the outside, you would see her as someone who has a ton of great relationships. But, until recently, that wasn’t true. She did have a lot of people in her life but they were shallow relationships, not places of deep trust and connection. She didn’t trust anyone to go further than “toes in the water”.

Robert and Kimberley both grew up with families in ministry. They traveled a lot, adapted to varied cultures, and learned how to keep up appearances. That meant holding people at arm’s length. As a result, Kim knows a ton of people but also has few close relationships. Moving a lot taught her to not go deep with people. When her marriage fell apart, she started to realize that some people will hurt you. She found herself trusting God more than she trusted people because He showed up for her repeatedly.

Robert said that divorce is the catalyst that forced him to reevaluate many of the relationships in his life too. He realized they were shallow, including his marriage. When the bottom dropped out, he had to figure out what real relationships looked like instead.

He recognized that trust is about vulnerability. Only when we can be vulnerable with ourselves and with God are we able to be really known by someone else. That is trust. Before divorce, Robert couldn’t say he had any relationships like that.

Elizabeth’s journey to trust again started with getting honest with herself. She humbly realized she didn’t trust God. As she journaled her honest reflection, “God, I don’t trust you”, she realized that it would take time to turn things over to Him and that was okay. The first step was being able to be vulnerable with herself and admit where she was with God.

The other thing she found is that many of her relationships were shallow because she wasn’t letting others into her heart either. When she started to dig deeper and began to heal, she recognized that many people in her life weren’t willing to stay on that journey of vulnerability with her. Some relationships began to fall away as true relationships gained traction and depth.
We see this transformation of trust in our Solo Parent Society groups. Single parents show up and are honest and vulnerable. They begin to share their experiences and feel heard and seen without others trying to fix them. That leads to self-discovery and they began to flex their trust muscle and build safe relationships.

Our parents and our former partners are the ones we hoped would love us unconditionally and not leave us. When they can’t or don’t do that, for whatever reason, it leaves us afraid to trust. When safe people come alongside us and stay, we start to rebuild trust again. But even that can be scary. It isn’t comfortable to let people into the places we feel vulnerable, but this is a necessary part of the process. As we learn to share vulnerably, we may find ourselves wanting to leave and not stay. It’s not just about people leaving you, it’s also about you not leaving them. Sometimes we assume we are too much for people ,so we self-sabotage and leave them before they leave us.

Robert was severely hurt by his ex-wife. He was betrayed on many levels. Yet, he is married again and feels no fears. What he realized is that he started to trust again when he stopped being dependent on another person to complete him. If his wife made a choice to cheat on him or to use drugs it would be tragic, but it wouldn’t destroy him. He spent enough time before getting married again understanding who he was, and that God is enough. He can move forward in security and trust because he understands his identity and foundation is solid. That has been the root of where he found the ability to trust again.

Kimberley has had the same experience. Jesus walked with her on the difficult journey of single parenting and when her new husband came into her life, her confidence in God was solid. Her husband is a gift to her, but he didn’t fill an empty place in her heart. That place was already full because God had already met her there while she was parenting alone.

Trusting someone doesn’t mean that hurt won’t be involved. We try to protect ourselves and keep ourselves safe by not trusting others, but we can never fully shelter our hearts from hurt. When we care about someone, and risk trusting them, we risk being hurt. The difference is that when we trust God first, our identity doesn’t shift when we get hurt. The Bible tells us that Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” He wants us to trust him with childlike faith. As adults, we have wounds that are piled up and we start to compartmentalize and close off our hearts. Children don’t compete for affection and don’t have to prove anything. They live innocently, knowing they are enough, and they are loved just as they are.

This childlike faith and trust is what God wants for us too. He wants us to come as we are, knowing we are loved and cared for by Him. As we practice this vulnerability of going to Him, we start to grow in trust.

Elizabeth shares that in her new relationship, there is health and safety. She now understands the difference between trauma dumping and vulnerable sharing. She used to “trauma dump”  which mean looking for almost anyone who would hear her out and accept her where she was instead of protecting her story by looking for someone safe to share it with. As her trust in herself and in God grew, she begin to share vulnerably but selectively with those who could honor her healing journey.

This awareness helped her in all her relationships including friendships. Developing solid, supportive friendships before getting into a romantic relationship helped her have balance. She didn’t go into it from a place of desperation and unmet needs.

She thinks of it like the ocean. We don’t dive into the deep water immediately. That’s dangerous. We go in slowly. Brene Brown talks about dropping marbles into a trust jar, as micro-actions, a little at a time. It takes time to build and develop trust. It’s a gradual process. Sometimes we retreat a little and then step back into the fear again. But it’s being committed and not bailing out when things get hard and they will get hard at times because we are human. Building trust is about testing the waters and seeing if the other person is in it with you. If they are, then you push a little further out, and trust a little more. Things may happen that draw you back but you can meet each other with grace and understanding. That builds more trust. There’s a lot of healing that can come from this journey of gradual trust building with safe people, not just romantic relationships.

Even with safe people, rebuilding trust takes time. Abandonment issues from our past can get in the way. It’s not until we get fully vulnerable with ourselves that we can get vulnerable with God and other people. When we are comfortable questioning God and we understand He’s not going anywhere, we find ourselves trusting Him more. That position of trust – with ourselves, and with God – helps us move toward trusting others too. Rebuilding trust isn’t comfortable but it’s important. We can walk it out one step at a time, being honest about our hurts, fears, and hopes. If you are on a journey of learning to trust again, please know you are not alone. We are praying for you! Single parents, join us in a weekly group to talk through this more and began building that trust muscle with safe people who will meet you where you are.

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