Learning to trust again

Some people enter the dating pool after having ended a relationship because of cheating. Some have been cheated on multiple times, by the same person or with several lovers. I’ve only been cheated on once (that I know of) and that experience was devastating. I can’t imagine how debilitating it would feel to be cheated on multiple times.

Last week, a 43-year-old woman called into a radio show where I was the guest. She shared her sad tale. She’s left her husband because he’d cheated on her with multiple women. A while later, she met a wonderful man who got along well with her only child, a teenaged daughter. They dated for a few years and got engaged. She was so happy that they’d be a family.

Then she learned he was also sleeping with her now-college-aged daughter. She was traumatized. Of course she broke off the engagement, but her daughter continued to see him. The caller became persona non grata and was estranged from her daughter. They never talked. Recently she got a text that her daughter was in the delivery room giving birth to a child by this man. She was hugely torn between grief that she hadn’t been able to support her daughter during her pregnancy nor be present at the birth, and elation at the birth of her first grandchild.

She asked me how she could learn to trust again.


I am not a psychologist, so I was flummoxed at what to say. Mostly, I empathized with her situation and told her how tough it must be for her. I applauded her strength to be able to explain the scenario calming and dispassionately, even though I’m sure it must still hurt. I told her how emotionally mature she was to recognize she had to learn to trust if she expected to be in a loving relationship, and how smart she was to seek input on this.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have many recommendations other than to seek counseling to help clear the anger and hurt that still lingered. I also suggested she list the signs which are clear retrospectively that she was with a cheater, so she’d better recognize them in the future. She should give that list to her closest pals so they could look for signs that she might ignore. And she should not just ask them to tell her if they’re seeing something she’s not, but they are required to say something, even if she doesn’t want to see it. She is not allowed to argue with them.

Why do women take cheaters back and ignore the signs that someone is cheating on them? We think that we love them so much, we can’t let them go. Or we think that we’ll never love someone else as much as we love them. Both are based on scarcity thinking and low self-esteem. I’ve learned it’s not hard to love someone, nor to have someone love you. The hard part is to have both people commit to a relationship and all that entails: working out the messy stuff as well as enjoying the good stuff. And trust is critical to working things through — you have to know the other won’t leave if you bring up something that’s bothersome.

So what would you advise this woman?

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5 responses to “Learning to trust again”

  1. veer Avatar

    This is horrible for men or women who are suffering from cheating and living scared life with his or her partner. S

  2. Liz Avatar

    I would tell this woman, thank goodness you dodged a bullet. The song “Someone saved my life tonight” by Elton John came to mind. Unfortunately for her, though, instead of a random woman he cheated with it was her daughter, which is a double whammy.

    You learn to trust again by realizing that life is one big learning experience, that in hindsight she missed signs or perhaps was in denial about who he really was. It was a valuable but painful lesson to be learned, no doubt. Since I heard this from Maya Angelou years ago, I always remembered this and I am paraphrasing — people show you who they are, believe them! It has proven invaluable to me and prevents me from sugarcoating who is really sitting in front of me.

  3. Jessica Avatar

    There is a Cornish saying. ”Kissing don’t count; Cooking do.”. If you are spending all your time looking for a good kisser, you are perhaps missing the point. Once the kissing phase is over, it’s time to cook. But who delivers both?

  4. Alexander Avatar

    Well I think if you have got a friend who has made the same mentioned experience you should encourage him or her to trust his or her feelings again. That would help the person to get over her unpleasant experiences.

  5. Karl Avatar

    As someone that has been in this position (guy girl its the same) I recommend being completely honest with yourself and deciding if you can live with what happened, people make mistakes, if you can’t then move on, if you can then learn to forgive it is one of the hardest things to do (assuming they are truly repetitive on their actions, which is hard to tell, it comes down to having faith in them or not). The hardest part for me was figuring out ‘why’ it happened and that I didn’t do something wrong. Relationships are a two way street though. I don’t know if this helps, but its my 2 cents. Would love to get feedback.