"I have been divorced for almost two years now. I thought he was "the one" and that I could trust him. Turns out he was secretly a sex addict who basically used me for a green card. (He was from England.) I'm terrified to put myself back out there in the dating world. I just can't seem to trust anyone these days and terrified of falling in love again. It's been over a year since I've been intimate with anyone. I'm just scared. I know I need to work on loving myself first, but I keep getting distracted. Any advice?"
Dear terrified to fall in love,
The three most important things to remember when someone betrays your trust is that 1) you didn't deserve or earn the betrayal, 2) it's not your fault for not seeing it coming and 3) just because you were betrayed once doesn't mean you will be betrayed again.
One of the most common outcomes of the kind of betrayal that you've experienced is that we personalize what happened, and assign blame to ourselves. We should have seen it coming. We pick bad partners. We are destined to have it happen again. None of these things are true. Just because it happened to you once, doesn't mean it will happen to you again.
When someone perpetuates a betrayal like the one you've described, it is natural to shut down emotionally and physically. You mention that it has been a year. There is no correct timeline for healing or getting into a new relationship. You are completely justified in taking the time you need to feel safe again. The road back to falling in love requires patience, both on your part, and on the part of any future partner. In the new relationship, you should take your time until there is a strong foundation of trust that allows you to become more emotionally and physically open.
You are the only one who defines your future, not your past, and not the people who have hurt or betrayed you. The core issue here is for you to not only work on loving yourself (which you absolutely should), but to trust yourself, and your instincts. Trusting yourself means getting to know yourself, and honoring your needs. It means creating space and taking time to build intimacy and trust without judgment from yourself, or from your partner. A betrayal like the one you experienced causes a complete reset. I urge you to use this reset as a positive opportunity for self discovery and healing so that the next relationship you pursue is one that is built on trust, with yourself and with your partner.
Lastly, you mention that you keep getting distracted from loving yourself. I suggest integrating some self care rituals into your schedule that you honor no matter what, including a 15 minute morning meditation and 15 minute evening journaling session, as well as at least two hours of exercise (whatever form resonates with you!) and one hour of indulgent self care like a blow out, manicure, facial, or hot bath. Each of these self care commitments will bring your body and mind closer together, and connect you with your needs, so that you can regain trust with yourself and build trust with a potential partner.
About Dr. Christina Stein
Christina is a Sex Therapist and Relationship Expert who specializes in reinvigorating relationships and empowering women. She has a private practice in Santa Monica, California where she works with individuals and couples to reclaim desire and connection with themselves and their partner. She is passionate about teaching people how to take the monotony out of monogamy.
In this day in age woman are expected to excel both personally and professionally, as both mothers and wives, and Christina is aware of how challenging that is for many women. In addition to personal and professional development and success, women are constantly struggling to stay connected to their sexuality and maintain a passionate relationship with their partners.
With her enthusiasm for facilitating personal growth and awareness, Christina focuses on helping individuals and couples discover their strengths and accomplish their goals, leading to a more inspiring life. Christina helps women awaken their desire, giving them greater self-confidence and empowering them as women. She also works with couples to create greater intimacy and teaches them how to light a spark that creates anticipation and excitement in their relationships.
Christina is a licensed marriage and family therapist, holds a masters in clinical psychology, and a Ph.D. in human sexuality.
If you have a question for Dr. Christina, you can ask it anonymously here.