Learning to Trust


Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend offer guidance for children of divorce who find it difficult to trust.

I really think I have dealt with my anger about my parent’s divorce, but how do I learn to trust a woman enough to give relationship a chance?

Your question is a good one in light of a lot of people’s experience. Not everyone comes from a divorced home, but many come from homes that taught them, in one way or another, to be afraid of relationship and trust. Others will be able to identify with you, I am sure.

Specifically, it is difficult to tell what actually happened from your description, but some things I would wonder would be who did you live with? Why? What was your father’s role in the problems? What was his continuing role in your adolescent years? What were the patterns of behavior in your mother that contributed to the divorce? What were the patterns of behavior your father modeled that did not lead to a lasting relationship?

In other words it is a lot more than just working through anger and forgiving. It has to do with character development and the ways in which one’s upbringing prepared them for life (or didn’t prepare them). God’s system is one where parents prepare their children, and it sounds like you feel unprepared to trust someone and make a commitment. You must find out why.

Your statement about staying single instead of risking divorce is one that needs attention as well. Risk is inherent in love. God took that chance when he wanted a relationship with man, and he got his heart broken. He forgave and was able to reconcile his relationship with many. He is our model, and for us to love, we must risk.

The question you must ask is, what is it about loss that seems greater than love? It sounds like it has to do with the pain of the divorce that you have not worked through. I would suggest if it is still dominating your life, you get some further help to resolve the pain and fear of loss. The fact is you were a vulnerable child who was subject to devastation from a loss like that. Today, however, you have more resources available to you in the form of community and other support. You are in the position to get past the dependent vulnerability of a child. You can get to a place where you are strong enough that if you lost a love you could deal with it. Place yourself in some relationships that are of a healing nature. This can help you get past that early loss.

But loss is not the only issue here. Certainly the divorce was painful and the injury part of it needs to be healed. But the other side of it is the character development that would have happened in a good intact home. You missed some tools in your growing up years that would help you to make a commitment now. Figure out what those were. What didn’t your mother provide? What didn’t your father provide? Find good people in the family of God, your new family, and allow them to grow you up by mentoring, supporting, teaching and disciplining you. That is what they are there for (1 Peter 4:10), and in the process, God can overcome whatever happened to you and strengthen you to a place (Hebrews 12:12,13) where you can get close again. It is always a combination of working through what happened, and gaining what did not happen. God bless you in your efforts to do that, and then you will be able to have the kind of relationship you desire.

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