(This goes for the guys, too).
Feelings of emotional fragility is perhaps one of the most overlooked conversations that we should be having, but aren’t.
Now, let’s talk about how to dust yourself off and (eventually) learn to trust people again when that feeling of fragility keeps your walls up around your heart.
To begin, we must acknowledge that we are, in fact, fragile. Despite how the word itself sounds, there is no shame or weakness in admitting this. On the contrary — I’ve frequently stated publicly that I believe acknowledgment of our feelings is a sign of strength, because it means we’re willing to look and feel the difficult things. To avoid them is where weakness is created.
Acknowledgment of our own fragility can help us understand it. Where is the true source? How are we projecting this fragility in our actions and in the relationships around us? How is it affecting our daily life and the decisions we make?
For example, some people become defensive or angry as a mechanism or self protection. This is the “the best defense is a good offense” strategy — but unfortunately this just pushes more people away from you, exacerbating the feelings.
Others will turn inward and become quiet or distant. They figure if they don’t put themselves out there, they can’t get hurt again. While this may be true — they also won’t find happiness again, either.
No matter how your fragility shows up, the key is to recognize and understand it so you can further explore how this is hindering your daily life.
Next, exploration of what this feeling really means to you. I believe that many feelings and emotions are a result of others, rather than the emotion or feeling itself.
What I mean by that is, underneath the fragility might be fear, or pain, or sadness, or anger, or loneliness.
Discovering what is underneath the surface helps us to find the root cause, and subsequently explore solutions.
For example, if you’re feeling emotionally fragile but underneath that is a sense of loneliness, then separation from others is absolutely not what you need, and may actually be making the feelings worse. If you can reconnect with those around you, the fragility may dissipate as the loneliness also does.
You see, the early stages are more about learning to trust yourself again, first.
I believe that a big part of our hesitation to trust others is actually an insecurity within ourselves.
If you’re really being honest with yourself, the thought process is probably something like this:
“I made a bad decision with the last person, how do I know that I won’t do it again?”
Naturally, then, you protect yourself “from others,” when in reality you’re protecting yourself from your own decision making.
The above explorations will assist you in understanding your own feelings as well as their root causes, which will in turn help you trust yourself again, because you’ll be making clearer decisions for the right reasons.
As far as trusting others goes, there are a few important key points:
1: Understand that it’s not your fault.
“Why did I trust that person?” will reverberate in your mind for days, weeks, or months.
You’ll look for all of the red flags that you missed and try to understand why.
You’ll blame yourself.
And, while all of your feelings are valid, it’s important to understand that trusting the wrong person is not your fault.
Them being untrustworthy was the problem, and that has nothing to do with you.
2: Remember your “next” is not your “ex.”
This is a hard one, which is what makes it so important.
I believe that many of us carry the hurt and pain from our last relationship into our next relationship.
Helpful? Absolutely not.
It’s natural to learn lessons and be apprehensivebecause of being hurt before, but we must be careful not to assign the negative qualities of our “ex” to our “next.”
In doing so, we demolish the chances of this new relationship working out from the very beginning. What’s more, we never truly and fullyget to know this new person, nor do we give them a real chance of showing us who they are,because we’ve already made our mind up about them without actually knowing the truth.
Let each new person show you who they are, and decide whether or not they are right for you.
A clean slate is a hard thing to start with, but swimming in muddied waters helps nobody.
3: Really define your “wants vs. your needs.”
These are two different things.
Most people have an idea for what they do (and don’t) want in a partner, but few take the time to dig into the reasons why they want it.
In fact, this is true in all areas of life.
We have a lot of wants, but when we get them, they don’t seem to actually fill the hole.
Why is that?
It’s because we haven’t gotten fully clear on the deeper need we are looking to fill.
Do you want your partner to stop using their phone so much, or do are you really craving a deeper sense of connection that comes from their undivided attention?
If you can get clear on your needs, then you’ll have a much better chance of achieving them rather than chasing after some empty wants that never actually make you happy.
How does this help you to trust again? Because you’ll have a stronger sense of what (and who) you’re looking for in your next relationship.
4: Observe their PAST PATTERNS.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Patterns don’t lie.
Too many people think they’re going to be the one to finally break the negative cycle of their new partner.
Yet, in reality, the story of their life before they met you is far more telling.
Can people change? I believe that, to an extent, they can.
Do they often? Eh, not really.
So, how do you know where this new person stands? Simple: Pay attention to where they’re coming from.
What sort of life did they build before you? What values and beliefs did they hold? What were their past relationships like? What sort of friends do they have — if any at all?
If he/she is into their 40s, 50s, or even 60s…and never been married, it’s likely a good idea to explore why. That is, if marriage is what youwant.
If someone’s been living their life a certain way for decades, they need to be damn ready to make a change, and the truth is that you won’t be able to do that for them, they’ll need to choose it for themselves.
5: Value CONSISTENCY above all else.
Here’s the unfortunate answer: You’ll never really know if someone deserves your trust until they prove it to you.
This means that you need to give them a chance in order to figure it out.
This, obviously, is a risk.
It’s also the only way to find out for sure.
The best way to monitor this is to watch how consistently show up for you. I don’t mean “oh, he/she texts me every day” because we all know that actions speak louder than words.
Anyone can text you all the time, but not everyonewill put in the effort to spend real time with you and build a relationship — particularly for months.
If they stand by you through thick and thin, if their words align with their actions, if they are consistently authentic and genuine in their treatment of you…the question starts to become why wouldn’t you trust them?
It’s important to remember that humans are not foolproof. There is no guarantee your love will last a lifetime (sorry). There’s no guarantee that they won’t hurt or betray you (sorry again). There’s no guarantee that the next one will be THE one (sor…you get the idea).
But, that’s part of the journey of life. The learning part.
The hurt, the heartbreak, the disappointment — as much as it all sucks at the time — are the very things that help us learn and grow. They teach us valuable lessons, teach us what we do (and don’t) want, and help us navigate our journey towards the right person for us…even if that person is ourselves.
As Peter McWilliams so eloquently pondered:
“It is a risk to love. What if it doesn’t work out? Ah, but what if it does