Close Connections After 50: Broken trust

NancyNormannewmugwebBy Nancy Norman

Haven’t we all felt the shock and heartache of having our trust in another person broken?

We think we can count on her or him to be honest and true and fairly consistent. But it’d be a miracle to get through this life without having to deal with a loss of trust.

A reader writes that she’d been in a relationship with this fellow for a few months and trusted that there was a commitment between them.

Then one day she saw him at lunch with a young woman. When she asked him about it, he said she was a friend from work and they were “just sharing selling strategies.” (That’s a new one.)

As time went on and he gave more excuses for not being with her, this woman began to see the reality: her trust in him was broken. Her heart is aching and she’s asking herself what happened — and wondering whether to risk another relationship.

Trust is defined by Webster as relying on someone’s integrity and honesty. Trusting lets us be confident that another person will treat us in a certain way and not be so unpredictable as to make us lose that confidence. It gives us hope for the relationship continuing.

Trust is built in many ways, from a person doing what they say they’ll do (“I’ll pick up some milk for you when I go to the store”) and following through, to showing us over time that we’ll be their only true love; from saying we can have a ride somewhere and picking us up, to keeping a tender secret; from giving honest comments about the way we look, to being there when life is the hardest.

So back to our reader. What are her choices? If she (and we) trust another person, somewhere along the line we’ll be let down. No one is perfectly trustworthy.

So she can trust and be hurt, not trust and live in fear that he’ll let her down, or decide not to risk being hurt again by not investing in love. While some people can live without trusting others very much, many of us want to learn how to handle the hurts that go with loving because having close connections is vital.

So, this is what I figured out for myself: the more I trust myself to handle hurts and take care of my own needs, the more I can risk trusting and loving other people.

And while learning how trustworthy another person is, I can keep building trust in myself to be reliable, steadfast, honest and strong enough to handle the difficulties that come along in this life.

This means accepting who I am with my shortcomings and strengths, and being able to count on myself if others break my trust.

To do a take-off on Alfred Lord Tennyson’s wisdom: It’s better to trust ourselves to handle the hurts and breaches of trust than never to trust again.

Nancy Norman is a licensed clinical social worker, musician with The Storys duo and former “Intimacy” columnist for “The Wichita Eagle.” Email her at

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