Being extra wary after having gotten burned in a relationship is not out of the ordinary, but if your last relationship threw you for such a loop that you feel permanently scarred—like you’ll never be able to trust again—then it’s time for some self-reflection and advice.
Take time to heal, carefully chronicle, and understand your last relationship so that you don’t carry baggage from it into your next one.
1. Make the cut clean. Modern social media makes recovery completely different from any other time in romantic history. Your trust issues may be due to the fact that lingering contact, even peripheral, makes complete resolution seem impossible. While it may mean you will miss out on the year’s best cat videos, close down or limit Facebook until you have indubitably moved on.
2. Understand trust. Sometimes we fall for people based on arbitrary traits: A study at Charles University in Prague found brown-eyed guys give the impression of being more trustworthy. Funny enough, a 2010 University of St. Andrews in Scotland found respondents had a significant bias for trusting narrow male faces. Don't move too quickly, but if a man gives you reason to trust—he follows through, he does what he says he will, and he supports you—take him at his word instead of thinking back to the past hurt.
3. Don’t make the same mistake twice. Often women will choose the same type of man in an attempt to “tame” or “change” him (in psychology this is called “repetition compulsion”). This can end up being a full time job with no benefits. If a man with a history of cheating broke your trust, and you start up a romance with another guy known for his wandering eye...you know where this is going.
4. Know your cycle. While you’d like to think you have free will, your menstrual cycle and hormones like testosterone in your system can be a huge factor in your relationship decision-making process. An interesting to note is that oxytocin, once thought to be a blanket “social bonding” hormone, is more complex. Regarding a residual trust problem, oxytocin may be the culprit: It intensifies memories, both good and bad. As much as it’s easy for a fight with a new guy to bring up negative thoughts about relationships from yesteryear (or for good moments to feel familiar), stay present. Letting thoughts—good and bad—creep into new love can skew your actions and your beliefs.
5. Keep your guard up for round two. If you are trying it again with the same guy, you’ll find it interesting that new research from Redeemer University College in Ontario found that trust can distort you memories, causing us to view a romantic partner's past transgressions as less hurtful than they initially were if you are able to “re-trust” him. But for those with little trust in their partner, memories of a lover's lapse only fester over time.