Overcoming Fear in Relationships: How to Trust Again After Heartbreak

The path of true love never did run smooth. However, if every offer of a date leaves you singing, “Once bitten, twice shy,” you might need to overcome your fear of relationships. 

People panic about commitment for various reasons, but one of the most frequent revolves around past heartbreak. How can you learn to trust again? The following eight strategies can help you overcome fear in relationships. 

1. Give Yourself Time

If you get acutely uncomfortable when you are alone, you have some soul-searching to do. Too often, people jump from one relationship to the next when feelings of loneliness grow overwhelming. When these rapid-fire unions fizzle and fail, they become even more mistrustful of future prospective partners. 

Spending time alone after a breakup will eventually make you a better person — but like any genuine cure, it takes time to work. Instead of worrying about who is or isn’t texting or calling, sign up for those swing dance lessons your ex pooh-poohed solo. Spend a Saturday lingering as long as you like at an art museum without listening to a partner’s bored sighs. 

2. Explore a New Interest 

Sometimes, you get so caught up in your relationship that you lose sight of who you are and what you value. If you live to volunteer, but your ex found pursuits that didn’t bring in money pointless, you might feel empty. Fill it up by calling your local Humane Society and making an appointment to help walk dogs or socialize kitties. 

3. Take a Solo Road Trip 

Women, in particular, sometimes lose their sense of independence. When you have a partner, it’s natural to call on them to help you change a flat tire. 

A solo road trip can restore your sassy “I don’t need to rely on anyone” attitude. You might get lost or run into trouble, but you’ll find yourself as you work your way out of a pickle without a partner’s helping hand. 

4. Work on Yourself 

Maybe your ex raised their eyebrows when you sat in meditation or practiced yoga. Now, you have the freedom to practice all the self-care you need to get right with yourself. If you always wanted to go on retreat, now is the time. 

If your last relationship was tumultuous, even abusive, you might need professional help. Talk to your friends and family to find a qualified counselor. You can also contact your health insurer or talk to your HR department or school adviser for resources.

5. Take Things Slow 

When you re-enter the dating game, avoid the urge to progress immediately from date number two to cohabitation. This advice holds regardless of financial realities on either side. Your need to prevent future heartbreak is paramount — seek a roommate, not a date, if money is tight. 

There’s no set timeline for relationship progression. According to one poll, nearly half of all Americans believe that three months is the magic timeframe for discussing exclusivity. Until then, keep your options open. 

6. Set Firm Boundaries

Hopefully, you used your time alone to figure out what you value — including which behaviors you will and will not tolerate in a romantic partner. You need to communicate these to your new love. 

You don’t have to set a date to share a laundry list of demands. However, you do have to be clear in communicating specific limits. Do more than just say, “Don’t go through my text messages or direct messages, please.” If your partner disrespects your need for privacy, then you need to reconsider spending time together. Conversely, if they pay heed, it can help you overcome your fear of being in a relationship with them. 

7. Have a Heart-to-Heart

While you don’t want to spend your first date reminiscing about past lovers, at some point, you and your new partner will discuss your respective histories. When you do, openly and honestly share what worked and what didn’t. Take responsibility for your role in the breakup and share what you learned. Encourage your partner to do the same. 

8. Embrace Uncertainty 

To love openly is to accept uncertainty. You never know what tomorrow may bring, so cherish the moments you share with your new partner without burdening them with expectations. While you may or may not eventually reach the point where you discuss a mutual future, relationships aren’t a race for the finish line. Use mindfulness to relax and enjoy the present. 

Overcoming Fear in Relationships Is Worth the Work 

Overcoming fear in relationships can seem daunting if you have been burned before. However, only through putting in the effort can you find the love you seek.