How to Trust After a Series of Bad Relationships

by Coach Ellie

For me, the word “anorexia” only ever described a troubled relationship with food. That is until one August evening in Los Angeles when I was sitting on a folding chair in a tired old church, attending a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting for “anorexics.” As emotional/sexual anorexia was explained, I felt like there was a red neon arrow pointed directly at me.

Emotional anorexia was a totally new concept that immediately clicked for me. I felt both seen and terribly exposed. My consolation? The room was packed.

In that moment, I had connected with myself. While I didn’t understand this at the time, that exposed feeling was actually a baby step toward trusting myself.

When we are disconnected from ourselves – meaning we don’t know or cannot accept what makes us tick, what motivates us, upsets us, triggers us, depresses us or compels us to get into funky situation-ships, we are essentially driving blindfolded. The consequences of that are obvious — lots of interpersonal crashes!

So how do you reconnect with the yourself and thus learn to trust again? In this article I will discuss these three important aspects:

  • Deepen your relationship with self

  • Re-root in your own philosophy

  • Embrace “failure”

Deepen your relationship with yourself

Sounds both heavy and vague at the same time, right? Maybe you’re thinking, “I’ve been with me my whole life, what is there to learn?”

Love addiction is born out of chaos and trauma. When we are raised in challenging circumstances or by adults who could not meet our childhood emotional needs, we learn to suppress those needs. After decades of continuing to suppress and suppress, we get really good at it. In fact, we are so masterful, we don’t even know we’re doing it!

That is, until we try to have a romantic relationship …

When we get into a relationship, our copium comes out. Our arrogance, excessive passivity, people-pleasing, victim playing, passive-aggression, laziness, controlling, blaming and so on pop up like a beach ball being held under water. We end up sabotaging the very thing we say we most desire.

It’s time to hit the “pause” button on relationships

Until we gather a deeper understanding of ourselves, we need to cool it on the dating or take a break from a current relationship. We need some quality time with ourselves. To me, that’s the core of the recovery process. We are “recovering” our true, non-addicted selves.

Do all the things!

Methods for getting to know yourself include, but are not limited to:

  • Journaling

  • Meditating

  • Going to therapy

  • Hiring a coach (hello!)

  • Taking YOURSELF on dates

  • Learning to enjoy solitude (instead of loneliness)

  • Attending support groups

  • Actively following your interests

  • Reading books/watching videos about love addiction and codependency

  • Reading books/watching videos about anything that deeply interests you

  • Doing your art, whether it’s music, crafting, photography or whatever.

  • Having and pursuing a vision for yourself

Needs, needs, needs.

You will be “needy” until you (YOU) meet YOUR OWN needs. Everything listed above is about going back and uncovering those unexpressed and thus unmet needs. Only you possess the superpower to do this!

The love-addicted mind begs to differ.

Love addiction has us sinking our teeth into the heels of disinterested, unavailable partners to try to force and cajole them into meeting our needs. That’s one of the most heartbreaking aspects of the addiction.

It has to stop. However, that’s easier said than done. Next up:

Image by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.

Re-root in your own philosophy

To be able to trust others you need to first trust yourself. That means you need to actually like and believe in yourself. That can be a tall order, especially early on in recovery. A good way to counter this is to construct your own life philosophy.

You don’t need to build a shack in the woods and write a manifesto, but you need to do some introspection. What are your values? What are your goals and dreams for life? Start writing it out. Tell someone. Doodle about it. Whatever works for you.

If none of that sounds appealing, I hear you. When I was in a bad place, before I finally understood I HAD to leave my boyfriend, nothing interested me. All I wanted to do was binge watch TV, eat and sleep.

Drawing a blank?

Put one foot in front of the other. Seek inspiration. Is there anybody you admire? Research their life and their ideas. I encourage people to explore different philosophies. Investigate spirituality like you’re shopping for an air purifier. Find what works for you.

I’m not saying you need to adopt a new religion or join a cult or something. Just experiment. Try things. Have an attitude that “X” way of thinking is merely your working hypothesis. You don’t have to commit, just test it out.

Make your own decisions. Give yourself permission to try new things. And if said new thing turns out to be a dud, move on to the next. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

This is a great segue for discussing perfectionism, a hallmark of love addiction.

Embrace “failure”

I put quotation marks around “failure” to encourage you to make friends with being imperfect. Did it work?

One of the big reasons love addicts struggle with trust is that we think we are unworthy unless we are perfect. That makes life unnecessarily difficult.

It’s OK to misjudge people. It’s OK to trust someone and later find out they aren’t trustworthy. In fact, it’s the norm. What isn’t OK is attacking, shaming and blaming ourselves when we mess up. That’s abusive and self-abandoning.

As a love addict, you don’t trust people easily because subconsciously you know you are in for a beating FROM YOURSELF if things don’t work out as hoped. You are going to read yourself the riot act. It’s humiliating, exhausting and automatic.

You can absolutely unlearn this.

It’s an old, faulty self-preservation tactic. As you notice this pattern you will get faster and faster at disarming yourself. This is why coaches and therapists are always blathering on about meditation and mindfulness. These are methods you can use to train your brain to slow down and detach from the crazy so you can skillfully steer yourself way from it.

The good news

As you become a better friend to yourself, you will attract better people into your life. As you come to understand yourself, you will get better and better at trusting your gut. Your instincts have always been there, but like a burly bouncer outside the club, that unresolved trauma is blocking your access.

Wait. How does keeping a journal help me trust?

You might think that learning to trust is about sharpening your logic skills, and that you need to stay very alert and put people through a rigorous battery of tests in your head before you extend your trust. To some extent, you do. Writing out a list of red flags, for example, before you date again is an excellent idea.

There it is again. Writing!

The writing process is personal. You can be as fast or slow as you want. You can be honest in a low-risk way since it’s just you and the page. You are learning to take an interest in your real self and figuring out real-world solutions to get what you want. Listing out possible warning signs that someone is not your cup of tea requires you to reflect on what you like and don’t like.

Over time, you will do this without thinking or writing. You just need practice.

Broken Trust Scenario 1

A cool person turns out to be super lame

Who hasn’t this happened to? You make a new friend and it’s so exciting. You get each other’s jokes, you like each other’s stories and it’s just fun until they massively disappoint you.

Say they agree to rent an apartment with you and then suddenly back out, leaving you in the lurch. You feel angry because you dedicated so much time and energy to finding and agreeing on this place. You’re mad at your “friend” and mad at yourself for being made a fool.

But as you slow your thinking and reflect back, you see you probably ignored some red flags about your friend. You were so wanting things to work out — just like you planned! — that you couldn’t adjust to what was unfolding before you.

Or maybe this person just has problems and it has nothing to do you. Period.

No matter the case, as you recover from love addiction you gradually get to see your own patterns emerge. It hurts, but it’s informative. And it makes you better able to have compassion for your naivete. You see, there is no point in punishing yourself for misjudgment. It’s just something you had to go through to learn better discernment.

Image by Cottonbro studio on Pexels.

Broken Trust Scenario 2

You get cheated on

It’s the same as above but hurts a thousand times more because, as a love addict, you place out-sized importance on the approval of others and overvalue the meaning of sexual attraction and conquest. You think your worth is a reflection of how others treat you.

As you recover, you are better able to separate your flaws from your partner’s. Getting cheated on isn’t a reflection of you, but on the person who chose dishonesty and on the relationship itself.

Love addiction blocks you from being in reality. You don’t trust reality. You cling to how you want it to be.

In order to trust again, you have to be able to be present for what is true, like that X person isn’t emotionally available and their behavior has nothing to do with you. You could be the most amazing, sexy, fun, brilliant person on the planet but, a cheater is going to cheat.

To be with someone who doesn’t cheat on you, you have to be able to call it out when someone does cheat. To keep a relationship, you have to be willing to leave it. That means you must have the very best relationship with yourself first and foremost.

Once you have yourself in your own corner, if someone you love proves undeserving of your love and affection, you can grab your keys and just go.


  • Struggling to trust and being overly trusting are both hallmarks of love addiction.

  • Getting better acquainted with yourself is key to healthy trust.

  • To trust (or trust again) you need to deepen your relationship with yourself, re-root in your own philosophy and learn to embrace “failure.”

  • If you struggle to trust and are not currently in a relationship, it’s a good idea to focus more on getting to know yourself. Pause dating.

  • There are many ways to get reacquainted with yourself, like journaling, self-dates, meditating, learning a new hobby or skill, etc.

  • You have needs. Identify them and get them met.

  • Take time to be introspective and create your own life philosophy.

  • If you don’t have your own, research different philosophies — Eastern, Western, ancient or whatever floats your boat.

  • Challenge perfectionism. It’s likely killing your joy.

  • Learn to cut yourself some slack when you mess up. Be a friend to yourself, not a bully.

  • As you get to know yourself better, you will also get better at trusting your instincts.

  • Consistent journaling is great way to improve your relationship with yourself, but you can do whatever works for you, like painting, talking, photography, Pinterest, etc.

You do you

To trust yourself, reconnect with yourself. You don’t need to attend a house of worship, but you do need to pause, take a deep breath and remember who you are and what you really want.

And if that’s too far out of reach for you right now, schedule a free discovery call with me. We can get to the bottom of it.

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