I was a basket case of mixed emotions when David first told me that he had feelings for me. I liked him, I really did. But I also felt scared. I was still hurt from a previous relationship, and still had feelings for Owen, even though I knew that relationship was over for the better.
We were sitting on a park bench by Sailboat Pond in Central Park, having just taken a stroll through Poet’s Walk in the bright but chilled autumn air. Earlier that morning I had broken down, running to the bathroom and curling up in the fetal position on the floor, sobbing. I had suspected that David was interested in me and I was conflicted. I knew that he would probably ask me out soon, and I felt overwhelmed by that thought. I wanted to say yes, but love just seemed too complicated and too terrifying.
I had to learn to trust again, but the question was, how?
David and I are now about to celebrate five years of being very happily married. Looking back on it, I think there were three things that helped me to grow to trust him, despite my initial fears.
1.) I knew he was a good man.
We attended the same small college and had many mutual friends. I saw that David was respected by his classmates, his teachers, and his boss at the student services desk. He was hard working. He was kind—not just to me, but to everyone. He and I also went to the same church and so I knew that we shared similar values and beliefs.
2.) I was honest about my feelings and fears.
On that fall day in Central Park when David first asked me if we could date, I was honest about where I was emotionally. I told David that I wanted to get to know him better, but that I was still healing from a past relationship and that that might make things more difficult in our relationship. He understood and was patient with me and my conflicted emotions.
Sometimes, especially if I was mad at David about something, I would miss Owen and have an urge to call or text him. But I didn’t act on those feelings. I knew that that relationship had ended for good reasons. Instead of calling Owen, I would talk to David about how I was feeling. He understood that it is normal to struggle with “getting over” a person from a previous relationship, and he would listen empathetically to me.
It was hard for both of us to talk about the fact that I still sometimes had feelings for Owen and that I sometimes compared Owen and David in my mind. But it was better that we shared that burden together, acknowledged it out in the open, than for me to struggle with my past baggage all on my own. This increased our trust in each other because we knew that we were completely honest and open with one another, even about things difficult to face. It also reassured us that our love was based on more than fluctuating feelings. It was built on a deep friendship and care for the other person.
3.) We took the physical aspects of our relationship slowly.
People often talk about “taking things slow” and by this they might mean having sex and moving in together—but waiting to get married. That kind of “slow” does little to rebuild trust. Having sex and living together merges your lives together so closely that it is often hard to see the situation clearly and to know whether the relationship is built on real committed love or on physical desire alone.
Instead, David and I set boundaries so that the physical aspects of our relationship mirrored our gradual degrees of commitment. David and I first held hands about a month and a half after we started going on dates. Our first kiss was about six months into dating. And we didn’t have sex until our honeymoon. That gave me time to grow to trust David before jumping fully into a whirlwind relationship.
That all might sound extreme, but we wanted to get to know each other well before introducing the beautiful fireworks of physical intimacy into our relationship. It made us confident that we loved each other for who the other person was not just how the other person made us feel. Taking things slowly, helped us build true confidence and trust in one another, and that made physical intimacy that more amazing.
Trust is not something that happens at first sight or even over night for that matter. Building trust takes time and courage, but the result is a healthy relationship and a happy marriage—and I think that’s well worth the effort.
Have you ever had to rebuild trust? What are some things that you found helpful?