Back when I was a college student, I dated a guy who was going to be a lawyer. I was contemplating law school, too, so we seemed to have a lot in common. Unfortunately, I lost all our arguments and the relationship was a disaster from start to finish. He was far more experienced than I, relationship-wise, was older than me, and moved more quickly than prudence would dictate. My heart broke when he told me that he didn’t love me anymore.
My heart wasn’t the only thing broken: my trust in men was broken, too.
In all fairness to him, I was too immature for a romantic relationship. I opened my heart to him quicker than I should’ve and allowed him to pursue me, even when my gut instincts screamed not to, and set myself up for a fall. I didn’t see that then, though. All I saw was how he had betrayed my trust.
Haven’t we all been there? We trust someone, possibly a romantic interest, possibly a friend or family member. This person breaks our trust, sometimes in relatively unhurtful ways, sometimes in devastating ways, sometimes in cruel and evil ways that leave lifelong scars. The victim limps away.
At times, the victim vows to never trust anyone again; it’s too hard, too scary, too potentially dangerous to be vulnerable.
That’s where I was my junior year of college. Two more guys had dumped me unceremoniously, damaging my trust in men even further, and I was petrified, convinced men were all heartbreakers. I circled around them, avoided them like the Bubonic plague, and turned down every guy who asked me out on a date.
God has an interesting sense of humor, though. He plopped me down in the middle of a church singles’ group that was filled with—you guessed it—men. I had to talk to them at lunch after Sunday church, at Friday night Bible study, at Wednesday evening dinner before prayer meeting. And some of them were actually nice guys. Not perfect, but not heartbreaker material, either.
At one point, I wondered aloud to one of them, “I wonder why there’s so many nice single guys in the singles’ group?” I meant “Why are they still single if they’re so nice?” but he thought the aspartame in my Diet Coke had eaten my brain cells. Single men in a singles group. Duh.
When he asked me out, I said no. I added an explanation that “I was still getting over a bad relationship and wasn’t ready to date again.”
He thought I was shooting him down with a “line”.
I thought I was protecting myself and being nice by providing a truthful but vague reason.
But simply because two people have something in common doesn’t mean they behave the same way. He was male, just like the ex-boyfriend who had hurt me, but testosterone and XY chromosomes appear to be the only things they held in common.
After he asked me out, I watched him warily: was he going to start following me around? Was he going to disrespect me? Was he going to completely ignore my existence? Was he going to be a big-time jerk?
He did none of those things. We went on a singles’ retreat. During a hike through the woods, he held a branch out of my way. A simple gesture, but it’s always stuck in my mind as a turning point in my realization that not all men were untrustworthy. Some might even be courteous enough to be considerate of other people’s needs.
When someone betrays our trust, it’s tempting to lump similar people in with the betrayer. A husband abuses you, a friend spreads your business all over the internet, an admired authority figure turns out to be a hypocrite. But is that really true?
I don’t think so.
- Just because your husband abuses you doesn’t mean that all men are abusive.
- Just because your friend gossips about you doesn’t mean that all friends are gossips.
- Just because an authority figure—pastor, president, personal hero—proves to be unworthy of your respect doesn’t mean that all people in those positions are doing to be unworthy.
Depending on the depth of the betrayal, it may take a long time to trust anyone again. But it is possible. You may never trust the betrayer again (and in some cases, it would be unwise to do so and imprudent or impossible to reconcile with the most extreme, unchanged abusers).
But no matter how devastated and broken your heart is, no matter who betrayed you, no matter how difficult this is to see, there are people who are worthy of your trust. You may need help finding those people but they are there.
It was risky to open my heart to anyone after my negative experiences. But after observing this nice single guy for several months, I changed my mind about him and had to decide whether to pursue him or wait around for him to pursue me. I flirted outrageously with him at a wedding reception, realized that he was more than a little confused at my mysterious, is-she-or-isn’t-she-flirting behavior, and had to make my intentions clearer.
“Would you like to talk sometime?” I asked.
He said yes.
A few months later, he asked another question, and I had another decision to make.
Reader, I married him.
Have you ever had your trust broken? How hard was it to trust other people again?