Recovery is as much about developing new skills and intimacy in relationships as it is about developing and maintaining new boundaries around our sexual behavior. One of the abilities we need to develop if we want to build healthy relationships is trust. We need to develop our capacity for trust, and the wisdom to discern who is – and is not – trustworthy.
Look back on the last couple months. Are you trusting others more? Sometimes experiences from our past make it hard for us to open ourselves up to possible hurt or rejection. We might often feel anxious and suspicious of others.
We likely struggle with trust not only because of early life experiences (where people important to us were not trustworthy), but also because other experiences later in life reinforced our fears. When other people betrayed or disappointed us, the deeply-held core belief that “I can’t trust anyone to take care of me” got reinforced.
In recovery, we gradually open up ourselves to new and deeper relationships. We are learning to discern who the trustworthy people are in our lives. We will make mistakes, just like all people do when learning something new. We may share personal and private information with someone who later turns against us, and uses this information to damage our reputation. We may alienate people who misunderstand our intentions as we try to set boundaries about what we are willing to share and not share.
It’s okay to make these mistakes … we are learning! The important thing is to learn from our mistakes, while not retreating back to isolation.
If we find it hard to trust new people, counseling or group therapy might be helpful. In group therapy (or other recovery groups), we can hear other people’s stories and identify with them. We can learn to be sympathetic to their struggles and get comfortable admitting our own.
In the process of working through the ups and downs of our relationships, it’s important to be attentive and reflective, talking through our experiences with our sponsor, or keeping a journal and reflecting on what we are learning.
If you’ve had some bad experiences with others and are tempted to draw back into isolation, ask yourself if there are lessons you can learn that will help you be more discerning about trust, rather than give up on trust altogether.