• When a relationship ends, we can be left with questions and painful emotions, especially if there has been any abuse

  • Counsellor Georgina Sturmer offers her tips for rebuilding trust after a breakup

  • We have counsellors and therapists available to support you here

When things go wrong in a relationship, it can feel like it might be impossible to consider trusting someone again. There are a few key steps that we can take to rebuild that trust:

Reconnect with yourself and rebuild your own sense of trust

1. Your sense of identity

When relationships end, it can shake our sense of who we are. Ask yourself, how much do you know yourself now that you are going solo? You might feel liberated, you can do whatever you like without need for compromise. Or you might find it difficult. Sometimes we become so adept at compromise we don’t know what we want or what we like any more.  

Start with small steps. Notice how it feels to make choices without seeking approval. If you’ve left a controlling relationship, pay attention to how you talk to yourself. If we have become accustomed to criticism or judgement, then often these messages remain in our mind even when we are free from the relationship.  

2. The blame game

The end of a relationship can be an opportunity to take stock. Even when we have been treated badly, for example if a partner has been unfaithful or abusive, we sometimes turn judgement on ourselves. It might sound simple – just tell yourself that you deserve to be treated well, and that it’s not your fault if someone else has treated you badly.  

But this isn’t easy. In counselling we look at how you feel you deserve to be treated, and where this has come from. It can begin with noticing the feelings that come up when you think about your role in the relationship. 

Consider how you trust in the people around you

1. Relationship patterns

When we look at relationships and friendships, we notice that we unconsciously fall into familiar patterns of behaviour. Maybe you’re quick to trust others, even if they disrespect this trust.  

Or perhaps it’s difficult – or impossible – for you to trust. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between. In counselling we look at how you relate to other people, and where it might come from.  

2. Boundaries

Imagine an invisible fence that separates you from other people. Too low, and you risk taking on other people’s stuff while neglecting your own. Too high, and you risk living in a bubble without being able to connect.  

Or maybe your boundaries aren’t set in stone. Perhaps they’re different with different people, or in different situations. Maybe sometimes they’re lower, higher, or more porous. This can depend on how vulnerable you’re feeling. Or how vulnerable you’re prepared to let yourself be.

In counselling we aim to build a healthy, trusting relationship together, where you can explore your boundaries, and how they have developed.  

Moving on when trust has been broken

1. Grief and loss

Acknowledge any grief that you feel about the end of a relationship. Even if you chose to end it, or if it was unhealthy or abusive. There might be a sense of loss about the future that you imagined with your partner. It might be replaced with fear and uncertainty.  

This can shake a wider sense of trust that we have, our sense of trust and knowing in the path that our life was going to take.  

2. Acceptance and closure

We are often left with unanswered questions. This might relate to the other person. Why did they leave, cheat, or whatever they have done to break our trust? Or it might be related to ourselves. Why did we end up in this position?  

In counselling we can explore these questions and unresolved feelings.  We can voice them out loud, look at what the answers might be. And perhaps move towards acceptance that some questions will remain unanswered.  

3. Support network

When a relationship ends, it can shine a light on friendships and the people in our life. They might ‘pick sides’ or feel uncomfortable with what’s happened. We can’t control or predict what other people will think or feel. Make sure you know who you can call if you need support, who you can trust. 

Consider reaching out and building new friendships and support networks too. The end of a relationship can be an opportunity for change and growth.    

Seeking out a new relationship

1. Feeling ready

Tune in to what you really need right now. It is important to take time to reconnect with yourself and rebuild trust in yourself. Life is unpredictable. Maybe you’ve met your perfect partner and you’re ready to jump right in. 

But it might be wise to think about what you need. Are you able to meet your own needs yourself, independent of being in a relationship? That way you can enter a new relationship feeling secure and confident in yourself.  

2. 'Red flags’

This is not about being suspicious or on high alert all the time. That sounds exhausting. And it might mean that you miss out on a sense of connection with other people. It’s just about being aware of things that might appear at a beginning of a relationship. 

‘Lovebombing’ is an example, where someone showers you with attention and affection. This can be a sign that someone has really fallen for you. But it can also be a tool for manipulation, a precursor to criticism, isolation, and abuse. It’s worth finding the balance that works for you – having these ideas on your radar, without feeling hypervigilant.    

Georgina Sturmer is a verified Welldoing online counsellor based in Hertfordshire

Further reading

5 tips for anyone with dating fatigue

Understanding relationship challenges and conflict if your partner has BPD

What's at the root of love addiction?

What's the cost of being too nice?

Loving someone with an addiction: do you need help too?