Straight Talk Blog

Part 2: Trust Again? Yeah, Right… How?

By Kristin Kalbli

Last week I wrote about learning to trust ourselves – learning to trust that we won’t betray ourselves – as a first step in learning to trust other people, and (gasp!) future partners again. 

I wrote that integrity is when actions align with words, something that did not happen in many of our relationships with closeted people. It is inevitable that when someone is not being true to who they are, their words and actions will not align, whether that misalignment is intended to deceive, or the product of denial, or the result of deep confusion on the part of our partners. From closets we learn to trust actions, not words, because we have so much experience with words being meaningless, or used to deflect, or distract, or gaslight. 

So, when we are rebuilding our ability to trust others, we have a powerful tool at our disposal: observation. We can sit and observe the people immediately around us – our friends, our family members, our colleagues. We see if their actions align with their words. If they do, that’s good information. If they don’t, well, that’s also good information. 

And then we see how our body responds to what we observe. Was there tightness in the chest? Queasiness? Resistance? Exhaustion? These are all ways our bodies speak to us when something is out of joint. When we are in the presence of integrity, I’ve noticed, the body doesn’t have these reactions. 

I remember when I was learning to trust others in relationships again. Years after my divorce, I was still coming out of a fog of intense gaslighting by my closeted ex spouse. I landed in a relationship with a lovely man, more a friend than a lover, but we enjoyed each other. He was the first person I’d dated whose actions, on balance, matched his words more than not. But one night, something was off. I don’t remember what happened, or what he’d said, but I noticed that his actions did not align with his words. And that set alarm bells ringing, my stomach got that sinking feeling it used to get around my ex husband…

“I don’t know what’s happening right now,” I said, “but I feel like I’m being manipulated, and I’m going to leave.” And then I did. 

In that moment, I did three things: I observed that his words in that moment did not match his behavior, I observed my body speaking to me, and for the first time in my life, I spoke up in the moment when I felt something was off. I didn’t have to know why it was off, I didn’t have to get to the bottom of what was going on, I didn’t have to defend myself. I stated what was true for me, and then I removed myself from the situation. I finally knew I could keep myself safe. And that meant I was safe to trust others when they merited my trust.

And a few days later, after the dust settled, we talked it out and came to a better understanding of what was happening that night, and his actions made more sense. 

Observation is a powerful tool. We can sharpen our abilities to notice when people’s actions don’t align with their words, consistently, because we’ve practiced it with ourselves (see Part 1). And the more we discover that people in our lives do or don’t act with integrity, and we learn how our bodies signal us when there is a lack of integrity, we can make decisions on that information about how much interaction we want to have with them, how far to let them into our lives, and whether or not we want people in our lives whose actions do not match their words. 

And eventually, the people around us are more likely to be the kind of people we can trust. Then, we just have to take the leap to do it. 

How do we do that? Check out last week’s OurVoices Podcast featuring Dr. Debi Silber, founder of the Post Betrayal Transformation Institute and author of Trust Again. We talk about what happens to us when there has been intimate partner betrayal, and how we move through it and learn to trust all over again. 


One response to “Part 2: Trust Again? Yeah, Right… How?”

  1. Cindy lesieur says:

    I feel abandoned by family

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