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I’m sitting on the edge of saying words that I almost feel I don’t have a right to lay claim to.
Was it betrayal or deception? Was he “just seeing other people?” Was it a relationship or a “dating” experience? Was I naive or was he a manipulator? Was he a lover or just a love interest?
Language can be tricky. It carries with it many expectations; it also sets the tone for the narrative of our experiences.
After unpacking a messy situation, I arrived at one thing I was certain of no matter how many ways I tried to package it: my trust had been broken.
It has taken me months to understand my confusion when my relationship ended. I use the word relationship for lack of a better word to describe the short encounter we had together. Again—the language bargaining where he stood. Where I stand, what we had. I’m trying to find the right word that can communicate what it’s like to be so close to something that feels right, yet ironically so far away from it.
Last year, I trusted someone who I thought would be honest in his love back.
I’d met him and caved to less conscious desires. I felt safety and craved it, like a child needing a security blanket. Feeling that safety triggered many childhood wounds, and there he was, offering to make sense of it all.
But my trust was broken when I found out there was someone else in the picture the whole time.
I read somewhere that confusion is the first sign of abuse. This rang true in so many ways. Like a flickering light bulb, I remember that was one of the first and earliest signs that propelled me to look at where my love was being invested. It certainly wasn’t in the right place.
When relationships abruptly end—be it a three-week or a three-year relationship—and you’re not offered an explanation, apology, or closure of any kind, it can start to feel destabilizing. Someone denying your experience and your truth is classically known as “gaslighting.”
I experienced grade-A gaslighting—the kind that leaves you questioning your sanity and doubting your actions, unable to connect with your self-worth. I didn’t know there was a term for it until I’d experienced it. It turns out this term is becoming more mainstream now, and is often used to call out emotional manipulators for their abuse.
The end of this relationship redefined my entire value hierarchy. It toppled it upside down, inside out, and shook me to the core.
I never thought I would see myself so crushed that I wouldn’t even know what I believed in anymore. I thought I knew enough about relationships and people to avoid red flags, like I could ride on my intuition and dock safely where my next step would be clear. I thought I knew what I wanted and needed in a partner. No one warned me that broken trust can weaken the spirit this much.
It has taken a lot of inner work to move on.
I realised that relationships with people inevitably carry with them an unknown, but we also bring our own unknown to the table. We bring the parts of ourselves that are hidden; the parts that when triggered, reveal our crutches.
In this healing journey toward reconnecting with my self-worth and basic sanity I learned a few things:
1. Accept it with certainty.
(This is the hardest part.)
Whenever the person who breaks your trust denies what they’ve done, or worse, denies that you even have a right to be confused and angry, it’s often because you’re being gaslighted—they manipulate you by denying your reality. You’re left not knowing if you believe them.
Doubt and closure don’t really go hand in hand—but in some cases, the only closure you need is knowing you deserve better.
Having some certainty around the situation is an important first step forward, and we’re not talking about knowing all the details of how exactly your trust was broken, line by line in a script, but rather knowing just enough to realise that your worth and value is above this. That this situation is not one you deserve in the first place.
Most abusers will deprive you of certainty because it’s a weapon of action, and they would rather see you unable to move, especially when you call them out on their behaviour.
2. Take your dignity and go.
(This is where light is.)
Don’t find justification; don’t soften your heart for someone who hasn’t softened to yours. They may give the impression of remorse, or claim you don’t really understand what happened (whilst not actually saying what did happen). But don’t build bridges to someone who deliberately left you in the dark. We are not everyone’s saviour and sponge (I’m looking at you, empaths).
Your self-respect is something they will never own or break.
In Tibetan Buddhism, there is a Shambhala teaching introduced by Chögyam Trungpa called “rising-sun vision,” or “Great Eastern Sun.” It’s an awareness that gives rise to doubtless precision about our basic goodness, and that happens when we remove deception and illusion.
Begin to heal by engaging your mind with this vision, and moving closer to situations, people, and truths that feel as warm as a sun rising on your day. One of the hardest pitfalls when trust is broken is sinking into despair—what is referred to as the opposite, “setting-sun vision.”
“If you are a warrior, decency means that you are not cheating anybody at all. You are not even about to cheat anybody. There is a sense of straightforwardness and simplicity. With setting-sun vision, or vision based on cowardice, straightforwardness is always a problem. If people have some story or news to tell somebody else, first of all they are either excited or disappointed. Then they begin to figure out how to tell their news. They develop a plan, which leads them completely away from simply telling it. By the time a person hears the news, it is not news at all, but opinion. It becomes a message of some kind, rather than fresh, straightforward news. Decency is the absence of strategy. It is of utmost importance to realize that the warrior’s approach should be simple-minded sometimes, very simple and straightforward. That makes it very beautiful: you having nothing up your sleeve; therefore a sense of genuineness comes through. That is decency.” ~ Chögyam Trungpa
3. Sit with your thoughts and yourself.
(This is the sustained healing phase.)
Practice developing a sense of patience with your world.
Yes, it’s hard to find peace when your trust has been broken and you feel a lot of resentment toward someone, but remembering that our world belongs to us, and the body we live in is a lifelong home, can help calm us down. We begin to appreciate our mere capacity to withstand this much pain and still keep going. We learn the art of patience with ourselves and with people.
Anger can boil underneath the surface and birth impulsive actions or anxiety. In practicing seated meditation, we become aware and observe this chaotic and turbulent phase, framing it in our mind’s eye as it is: aggression. Deep down, we do not want to be a part of aggression. We want to be guided by wisdom and light.
We can allow anger to rule over us, or we can allow ourselves a chance to neither deflect anger away from us nor invite it in. Just allow it to pass through.
Understand that you, as a being, are also passing through this one life you’ve been given. There’s a sense of transience that permeates through—all hard times will pass.
4. Reach out to someone.
(Board the express train.)
When I was going through a hard time, I questioned loyalty in every aspect of my life. As you can imagine, things quickly got dark from there and I needed help. I started seeing a psychologist and it was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Being able to talk to someone who could offer me tools to build myself up again was invaluable.
If not a psychologist, then a trusted friend, sister, or brother. Anyone who can hold space for you to express yourself and be there for you. We all need to feel connected and understood. Releasing our concerns slowly makes us trust again that we deserve to be heard.
5. Future-self journal.
(Shift the focus on your growth.)
Recognizing where you are going, what you are doing today to be the person you want to be tomorrow, nurtures self-trust and vision. It makes you work on being the person you want to be, rather than dwelling on another person’s inability to respect themselves by betraying you.
Your time is more worthy of being invested in designing your own life. This trains the mind to think forward and not romanticize the past too much. The work of both Dr. Nicole LePera, aka “The Holistic Psychologist,” and Joe Dispenza has been life-changing for me. Dr. Nicole has really helpful prompts to use to journal about your future-self. All it takes is a few minutes of journaling every day.
Above all, be gentle. Healing is a process.
I’ve realised there is some pain in deconstructing our lives, just as there is in reconstructing, and that’s okay. It is humbling to know we can never know enough to immunize ourselves from the necessary pain we need to grow, and there is always room to grow.