Keys to Trust in a Post-Divorce Relationship

A guest post from Dr. Karen Finn…

You’ve probably heard recommendations from other experts about how long you need to wait after divorce before you start dating.  These other experts recommend that you wait anywhere from just 1 year to 1 year for every 4 years you were married.

I disagree with these one-size-fits-all recommendations.  I believe that the only requirement for you to be able to successfully date after divorce is that you’ve finished your time in the Divorce Pits.  The Divorce Pits are where you experience the most painful feelings of divorce – grief, anger, guilt and rejection.

I hope you can agree with me that you wouldn’t want to date someone consumed with the Divorce Pits.  So, if you’re consumed with them, you’re probably not going to find someone who wants to date you either.

Once you’re out of the Pits, you’re cleared to date.  There are all kinds of ways you can meet people to date and I’ll save a discussion of that for some other time.  The point I want to get to here is that your dating should be helping you to determine what you do and don’t like about yourself and others in a relationship.  There are all kinds of things that people do and don’t want in a relationship, but the one thing that EVERYONE WANTS is to be able to trust their partner.

For many of us post-divorce, our ability to trust another isn’t quite working ideally.  That’s why I recommend you build your trust in yourself first, then build your trust in friendships before trusting someone in a committed relationship.  The question I always get from my clients about this is how do I know if I can trust someone?

You can feel pretty confident about trusting someone in a committed relationship by using 8 different keys.  These keys are things that you need to examine both in the other person and in your ability to give to them.

We’ll start with the first four keys today and save the other four for next week’s article. 

The first 4 keys to trust in a post-divorce relationship are

  1. 1.     Clarity – Clarity refers to the ability you and your partner have communicating with each other AND in the clarity you each have individually about being in the relationship.  Are you both open and clear about what you want from the relationship?  Are you both clear about what needs you’d like to have the other meet?  Are you both clear about what you are and are not willing to do in the relationship?  The important point about each of these questions is that you’re clear individually without any pressure from the other person or fear of losing the relationship and that you’re able to clearly communicate this to each other.  (You should also be aware that after divorce we all change a lot, so just because you’re clear about what you want today, next month, next quarter, next year, your needs of the relationship may change and you both need to be willing to continue being clear for the duration of the relationship.)
  2. 2.     Compassion – Compassion refers to the ability you’ve each got to care for the other.  Compassion in a healthy relationship MUST be two-way.  There are times when one partner may need more compassion than another, but if the flow of compassion is only one-way, the relationship isn’t conducive to building the level of trust necessary for a long-term committed relationship.
  3. 3.     Character – Character is who you each are as individuals and in the relationship.  It’s not unusual for people to behave one way in front of others and another way in the privacy of their relationship.  If you find that you’re not behaving like yourself in a relationship, that’s not a healthy relationship for you.  If you find that you don’t care for the way the person you’re dating regularly behaves, then they’re not the right person for you.
  4. 4.     Competency – Competency can sound like a funny criterion for trust in a dating or love relationship, but it’s really important.  Would you want to be in a relationship with someone who is simply incapable of meeting your needs of the relationship?  I doubt it.  That’s why I believe it’s critical that you get some clarity on what you want in a relationship and what you’re willing to give to a relationship.  Once you know that, you’ll have an idea of whether or not you’ve both got the competency to be in a relationship together.

I know that this is only half of the list, but it’s a lot of information!  These aren’t necessarily simple keys.  They require careful thought and a deep awareness of your feelings.  But armed with these first keys, you’ve got a great starting point for figuring out if the person or people you’re dating are right for you to enter into a deeper relationship with.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Get clear about what you want in your post-divorce relationships.  You might be looking for your next great love or you might be looking for someone to hang out with and just have fun.  It’s important that you get clear about what you want so you’ll be able to know if dating someone is in your best interest or not.  AND so that you’ll be able to have clarity telling the other person what you want.

How might you determine if the other person is compassionate?  In my experience, this is one of those keys that takes time to evaluate.  You might be able to tell enough about someone’s lack of compassion quickly.  However, if it’s not glaringly obvious that the other person isn’t compassionate, then seeing how you both act in stressful situations is probably the quickest way to determine your level of compassion for yourselves and each other.

If you’re in a relationship with someone, do you like who you are when you’re with them?  For most of us who divorced, when we take an honest look back at our marriage we can usually find something about ourselves in the marriage that we’ve since changed or are in the process of changing.  There was something about what our marriage had become that caused us to be less than ourselves.  It’s so very important that you not enter into another relationship that might cause you to not appreciate yourself 100%.  So, if you don’t like whom you are when you’re with someone, it’s time to end that relationship.  If you do like who you are when you’re with someone, the relationship just might be working and you might be closer to building trust.

Is the person you’re in relationship with capable of meeting your needs?  Are you capable of meeting theirs?  If your answer is “yes” to both questions, you’ve got another key for building trust in this relationship.  If not, then this relationship probably isn’t in your best interest to continue for long.

Guest post from one of our favorite divorce coaches- Karen Finn, Ph.D.

About Karen

Karen Finn, Ph.D. is a divorce coach and the owner of The Functional Divorce (www.functionaldivorce.com) in Keller, Texas. She specializes in working with divorcing or recently divorced individuals who want to successfully navigate the confusion and uncertainty that usually comes with divorce. Karen helps her clients manage and work through the five facets of divorce to reduce their stress, find happiness again and rediscover the best of themselves.