Sophia: Trusting Again

My fiancé and I are in the middle of marriage preparation online (as he is in the army/police officer and hardly never in the same town as me) and I just wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to fully prepare for marriage as a couple and be open to any/all advice we can get. 

I was curious if you had any advice for both of us on how to build better trust in our relationship, especially when I am feeling down on myself? I was previously in an unhealthy relationship with my son's father that took years to break the cycle of abuse. I tried to date off and on after that and was constantly finding the guys to be unfaithful. My fiancé finally won me over and here we are preparing for marriage.

My fiancé is such a genuine guy that I trust with my life, however I still have glimpses of doubt in my heart. He is not the type of guy to ever cheat and I believe that with every ounce of my body, so I do not know why those feelings come out occasionally. He is constantly wanting to show he loves me by his actions and words. Could this be past hurt rising to the surface that I never dealt with? Will I ever not have these doubts or is this a normal part of every relationship?
 
Thank you!!
Sophia

Sophia, 

I am happy that you are now with a guy who you believe (cognitively) will not harm you.  However, presuming he is that good guy and he has never given you any reason to doubt, your insecurity must mean that, emotionally, you are still vulnerable.  Let me try to help with that. 

Our minds are wonderfully formed to help us survive and thrive as we walk out our lives.  The rational/thinking part of our mind figures out how to best live given the current information you have.  Once we've done that, we essentially turn that functioning over to the "deep brain within".  BTW: If it didn't work that way, we'd be continually re-learning even the most basic functions.

So, here's the problem, even though your man, in the present has given you no reason to distrust, your past emotions are sometimes over-riding your present knowledge.  This is probably due to the traumatic way you have previously been hurt.  'Trauma' is the word we give to this condition; to describe memories that our minds can't currently comprehend.  The logical rules of yes/no, right/wrong and even true/untrue don't seem to apply.  Our mind is seemingly unable to reliably cope with these memories.  Often this leaves us to blame ourselves/others or to suffer shame or some other debilitating negative thoughts.

What can be done about traumatic memories?  Well, in some fashion you will need to process that trauma; to process in such a way that your mind will ultimately comprehend and be able to cope with the risk.  For example, in the case that you have raised, your mind will have to come to terms with the thought that betrayal is always a potential outcome of a close personal relationship.  Nonetheless, you can come to believe that focusing on the life you are living, with a man who loves you, is the reality which brings you great pleasure and satisfaction.

You must reprocess the old memory so that it becomes clear but non-threatening.  I like to think of this as 'smoothing out' a gnarly old memory making it smooth and 'adaptive' (helping us instead of hindering us).  To do this, there are several choices I'll present below; you can choose between them or you can use a couple of approaches simultaneously.  Whatever you choose, just be cautious; go slowly at first because you must be able to process the old memories safely.

1)  Intimate Person Support: Your fiancé can learn, sooner rather than later to 'take your pain'.   This is not something men do intuitively so you may have to work together to achieve the goal; let me describe what I mean.  Many women are good at listening to a family member or friend as they recount a moment of misery; you listen and validate, listen and validate and, when done, usually your friend will feel better (at least temporarily) because somebody listened.  When pain is deep, this method is often not effective with a friend.  However, your fiancée, because you trust him deeply, can be the support you need allowing him to 'take your pain' 

He probably won't be good at it initially but when he learns this technique well, you will both be blessed for life!  Check out 'Conversation 5' in part 2 of the book, "Created for Connection", by Sue Johnson for a description of this 'technique'.  While not a perfect description (because your fiancé is only a proxy for the betrayer), it will work because you have a deep emotional attachment with him.

2) Professional Counseling:  Seek out professional counseling for your previous pain of betrayal.  With a professional counselor, you should be able to deal with this pain and hopefully get to the reason(s) that it is hard to let it go.  Seek out someone who is skilled at working with trauma.  There are several trauma-oriented therapy styles, my favorite is EMDR; a qualified EMDR therapist should be able to help you with your pain of past betrayal.

3) Prayer, specifically Meditative Prayer:  As Christians we have a tradition of meditative prayer.  This may be the first... or the last method you try, but it won't hurt to accompany any other trauma processing technique with this practice of seeking God's understanding.  Try using these scriptures in meditation:  

Psalm 34:4  I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Proverbs 1:33  "but those who listen to me will be secure   and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Sophia, thanks again for your question; whatever you decide, don't assume you have to live with this insecurity.  You and your fiancé deserve better.  Let me know how it turns out.

Ron Kaufmann, MA, CO LPC #11336, EMDR Clinician
National Certified Counselor #267299
AASAT Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist