Dear Dr. Darcy:
I've had my heart broken so many times in the past. Every time I think I've met someone worthy of my trust I find them cheating on me - usually with a mutual friend. The pain is so profound with each new betrayal that I've recently decided to pull myself off the market. No more dating for at least 6 months. Even though I'm only 24, I do eventually want to get married and have children. It concerns me that I may be wasting time by not dating. Do you think it's stupid to stop dating?
I'm on board with your plan to pull yourself off the market. I've done this with clients in the past who come to me with a history of negative dating experiences. To continue dating with this belief about people not being trustworthy would be bad for you - you'd simply continue attracting the same kind of people into your life, the pattern would repeat and you'd have additional evidence to support your belief that people are untrustworthy. So until you've done some work on yourself, wrap yourself with proverbial caution tape and don't date.
Somewhere early in your life, you learned that people aren't trustworthy. A caregiver blurred a boundary, failed to follow through with a promise, didn't protect you, [insert your experience here]. You've been gathering evidence to confirm this belief throughout your entire dating career. The solution is not as easy as finding a girlfriend who is trustworthy. If that were the case, your happiness would be predicated on someone else. I believe that real happiness ~ the long-term, sustainable type, has nothing to do with other people and has everything to do with the story you tell yourself about what happens to you. This is worth repeating: Life is not about what happens to you. It's about what you tell yourself about what happens to you.
Try an experiment for the next 30 days. In addition to not dating, I want you to look for proof that people are trustworthy. Create a Trust Journal and every day, enter at least one example of someone following through on a promise they made to you. This will require you to take risks and give people a chance to be there for you. Maybe your example is of someone being punctual. Maybe it's them following through on plans that they made with you. Maybe it's a colleague meeting a deadline. Don't look for huge examples. Look for small, everyday behaviors.
Now, if you've been following my blog for any length of time, you know I'm no Pollyanna. So I'm going to confirm that you'll also continue to have disappointing experiences. I want to challenge you to think about those experiences differently. Find a new explanation for them. Catch yourself wanting to chalk those experiences up to your old belief system - but decide that they are not the same and look for a new explanation. Try to take some responsibility the next time you feel disappointed. What could you have done differently? What lesson might you learn about yourself?
Life is not about trusting others. It's about learning to trust yourself and choosing meanings that empower you rather than victimize you.
Writer's Stats: Female, lesbian.