"How will you ever be able to trust anyone again?"
This is a question I get a lot. Even recently, I was being interviewed and, though I knew the question was coming, it momentarily rendered me speechless.
It would be so easy to decide that I simply will never trust again. It would be so easy to answer that question, "I won't." Because even thinking about trusting someone new after being betrayed so deeply is terrifying. Let alone actually building that trust in the real world.
So you can make the decision to take the easy way out. A lot of people do. But I don't think it's that simple or that easy, and I have struggled so much with this question because behind the question is fear. The same fear that led me into blindly pursuing a relationship that was contrary to my emotional well-being in every way, is the fear that whispers, "I won't. I won't ever trust anyone ever again."
Before it was the fear that I was unworthy of love that didn't cost anything. Now it is the fear that I am worthy and what it means to open myself up to that type of relationship. It would be so much easier to shut down. Or run away. It is fear masquerading as strength.
I am going to explain why I believe you can trust again. Not only can you trust again, you will find trust and love in a deeper way than ever before. I also believe that it is imperative that you wait until you have a healthy sense of self before you engage in any type of serious romantic relationship. This means that you must understand what your boundaries are and also be actively enforcing your boundaries.
Before my ex-psychopath, I had no idea what boundaries were - the best way I can describe them now (because it's a somewhat intangible concept) is: What are your 'deal-breakers'? The red-flag behavior that you decide you will not, under any circumstances, put up with? It can be something as concrete as, "I will walk away if I ever discover cheating." Or it can be something a little more subjective, such as, "I will walk away if I am constantly made to feel like I am second-guessing intentions or where I stand in the relationship."
It's actually incredibly difficult to resolve these boundaries and then actively enforce them. But the more you do it, the better you get at it. Enforcing them looks a little something like: You are making a choice that hurts like fucking hell short-term but that is aligned with your emotional and mental health long-term. And trust me when I say that each and every time you make these decisions, small and large, you build your self-esteem and your sense of self and it feels AMAZING.
Now, I'm not saying that every time you enforce a boundary, it necessarily means you are avoiding a psychopath. It doesn't even necessarily mean that the person you are cutting off is a "bad" person. Being flaky, non-responsive and emotionally blocked does not a psychopath make, however, with my new set of boundaries, these people just don't pass the test of who I want to put energy into.
The reason I'm so adamant about being clear on your boundaries and your self-worth before navigating a serious romantic relationship is because a) you will automatically stack the deck in your favor in terms of who you bring into your universe, and b) even WITH this strong foundation, I still constantly find myself questioning, doubting and projecting my past betrayal into my current reality.
If you are willing to do this work, though, and you are willing to open yourself up to a person who does NOT present these deal-breakers and red-flags (that seems obvious, but I have a feeling I'm preaching to the choir when I reiterate that I was strongly drawn to the assholes and game-players during my first few months of dating again even knowing EVERYTHING I now know), you will find yourself being able to not only build trust with someone new, but to be vulnerable, be loved and give love in a deeper way than ever before. It will probably feel scary and foreign because it is REAL.
Instead of taking away from the experience with your ex-psychopath that you can't trust anyone ever again, take away this: There are bad people out there, there are psychopaths and narcissists, yes that is true, but you now have finely tuned radar to weed them out of your life. You were drawn to him/her for a reason, focus on that first, grow your sense of self-worth, form your boundaries, begin to trust your intuition because goddammit it's there for a reason. And then realize that he/she is a fucking anomaly, he/she is 4% of the population, and he/she does not stand a chance against you now.
Take as much time as you need working on yourself and remember that, for all of your strength, the beauty lies in your frailties.