Trauma affects everyone a little differently, and divorce is no exception. I remember reading that recovery from divorce is estimated at half the years of the marriage; if you were married for ten years, for example, your likely recovery time would be five years after the divorce. If you were married for twenty years, however, I would guess that even after a decade, you may still carry deep wounds of fear and loss.
Especially for men, who in particular take any kind of action very seriously, divorce can be devastating. Divorce hits men in the provider gut – a trait that is socially reinforced and becomes such a big part of a man’s mission and identity. Divorce affects a man’s overall financial health and how well he can provide for his children, financially and emotionally. It’s no wonder then that divorced men can be hurt for many, many years after a marriage end.
Naturally, this is terribly unfair to the many incredible women out there who happen to be in relationships with men who’ve experienced divorce. They didn’t cause the pain, and yet, they become responsible in part for recovery and damage control.
So, how do you build (or re-build) trust?
First, keep your own word. Divorced men may have experienced dishonesty and infidelity in their marriage, and they may have even gone to counseling to receive the cheery but misguided advice that they must learn to blindly trust again – regardless of their intuitive feeling to protect from further heartbreak. Show him you’re trustworthy through everyday actions of doing what you say, and he won’t group you with the others.
Second, be vulnerable yourself. When you share intimate details about yourself, you demonstrate trust in the other person. Emotional vulnerability invites him to let his guard down as well.
Third, come from understanding. Women want to do it all, perfectly. Men want to be seen as strong, unflappable. A woman wants to know that she is enough, without perfection. A man want to know that he is loved, as is, even in his weakest moments. Recognize and appreciate the difference.
Finally, offer ways to connect. So often with divorce, emotional walls go up, and the people behind them don’t feel worthy of connection. Yet, connection is a deeply vital human need. Be open with your feelings. Be open to connecting. It sends the okay that he can share something, too. If something upset you in your relationship, invite him to discuss it with you without accusation by focusing on the event, “You aren’t to blame. I just feel angry / sad about this happening, and I want to share my feelings about it.”
Trust is built through shared intimacy – which takes courage on both sides. Be open-hearted and brave, together.