Emotionally Scared: How Can I Trust Again?

10 June, 2021
Q As-salamu `alaykum.

I got divorced about a year ago and recently got a proposal for remarriage. I performed the Istikharah Prayer (supplication for guidance in making a decision) for guidance and talked to the man on different occasions (with a third party present) but I still have some reservations and fears. I have not been able to give him a concrete reply. Sometimes, I feel I am ready just to take the plunge and let bygones be bygones, but later on, I get doubtful and lose confidence; then I get anxious and worry a lot.

Maybe I have not completely healed from the trauma of my first marriage of more than twenty years, where I was physically abused and came out emotionally scarred. My main worry is that I don’t know how to trust men anymore; I am worried about entering into marriage without this important ingredient. Another issue is that I want to share my worries and fears with this man who wants to marry me, but I don't know how I could do that given that it is wrong to be in seclusion with a man alone. At the same time I feel I cannot fully open up with a third person present (who I am not very close to). This man is a practicing Muslim.

My previous husband had difficulties in practicing his Islam, and most of our problems arose from this. Please guide me on how to get the trust back, and whether I can talk to this man for him to understand? I need the dialogue and communication that I missed for more than twenty years. I wait for your guidance and thank you in advance for your help. Thank you.


In this counseling answer:

• Does he have the kind of qualities that can be supportive and help you to learn how to trust again? If so, then the way ahead is clear.

• If you doubt him, but cannot pinpoint anything in particular, then it might be worth prolonging the engagement and observe how he interacts with the women in his family (mother, sisters, and aunts). How he treats the womenfolk in his family should provide you with a good indication.

As-Salamu `Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh sister,

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I am sorry to hear about what you have been through. I know how difficult it can be to trust again once that trust has been broken. The twenty years you endured has broken that trust. Trusting Allah (swt) can be easier if we dare to try.

Happiness and fulfillment do not really arise from someone or something outside, but from within oneself. This is where the question of iman (faith) begins to play its role, otherwise, it would just be another useless dogma in a superstitious world. It is a cybernetic process—the more it is true faith, the more it grows, and its reward or result is more experiential faith.

One sister I know became emotionally scarred from an experience that was terrible for her as she had to face a rude awakening about the people she loved. They were not what she perceived them to be, and they took advantage of her kind nature. Even when there were signs to their true personality, she allowed herself to be lulled by her first impressions. You see, it was not that they had actually changed, but as time went by, she became aware. Before, she was unaware, and so what she was to experience was inevitable.

She distanced herself from them, and in the process, being unable to forgive, she became hard and aggressive. She was always in a state of flight as if she felt in danger. She went to sleep with her clothes on so that if she was awakened, at least she was able to run. She learned to smile and not get too involved with anyone. This meant that, with time, she lost many friends. She learned to become totally independent, or so she thought; but with that kind of independence she became lonely, her body ached as her limbs became stiff, she learned to sleep lightly so that she would awake at the slightest movement.

She yearned for her old self, the person who had much joy of life, the kind of joy that was attractive to others, and then she realized that she was becoming the very thing that she hated in others. Not wanting to be like them, she made a definite decision to undo what she had become—but how? She began to remember the good times with the people that she loved, and then she realized, through traveling down memory lane, that it was not their fault, they were victims of circumstance. Then it dawned on her that the only way through this self-created nightmare was that she had to see them as they were, not good, not bad, but people, people with weaknesses that led them to do what they had done.

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Then she forgave them! Out of the blue, the love was still there, but this time with an understanding of whom she loved. She visited them and with time she learned to be herself in their company and not accept certain kinds of behavior. This was a hard test because some visits were more difficult than others. Sometimes she would get caught in their trap of mind games and leave with anxiety and deep hurt. She would return when she was stronger, and with each visit, they learned to respect her because they began to realize her worth. She was able to love again, to trust again, to relax and to trust herself again.

When we learn not to trust ourselves, especially in certain situations, we mistakenly deflect that mistrust onto others. We find reasons not to trust them, but as quantum physics has proven, it is impossible to be just the observer. Whatever situation we are in, we are a part of it, and as a part of it, we try, we affect what is happening.

Until we are able to observe ourselves, we lose perception of the reality of it all—the fact that we are all one in the eyes of Allah (swt). As He (swt) created, we are one of His creations and all His creations are part of one life force. That is why, regardless of race, culture, or tribe, we are to learn from one another, as the Qur’an states.

Old people die more quickly when they are cut off from their relatives and friends and tucked away in old peoples’ homes. Patients recover more quickly when their loved ones are around them. We are all connected, and I question whether it is yourself you mistrust. You mistrust making yourself vulnerable again, you fear being taken advantage of again, or maybe, with this man who has proposed, maybe you are just sensitive to who he really is. Only you can determine which of these feelings of unease is pertinent, so set yourself a task.

Write down on one sheet of paper the things you do not trust yourself. Look at that list and see when those feelings are more apparent. Look again at the list and see who or what is the cause of the fear, the mistrust—you, or others.

Put that sheet of paper away and take another, clean sheet of paper (a few days later) and write a list of the things that you like about this man. On the other side, write a list of his characteristics (no matter how small) that make you feel uncomfortable. Then write down why those characteristics make you feel uncomfortable. Look again at this same list and determine whether the discomfort is coming from him or from your past or your present—do not write an opinion.

Then match this last list of his characteristics to the first list, the list you put away. How much of the obstacle is him and how much of it is in you. If it is mainly him, then your way forward is clear. If it is mainly you, then you have two choices

  • Does he have the kind of qualities that can be supportive and help you to learn how to trust again? If so, then the way ahead is clear.
  • If you doubt him, but cannot pinpoint anything in particular, then it might be worth prolonging the engagement and observe how he interacts with the women in his family (mother, sisters, and aunts). How he treats the womenfolk in his family should provide you with a good indication.

If you fear that he will not wait, then you have to decide how important your feelings are and whether to respect them and request not to be rushed, or to take the risk and enter a second marriage with all your doubts and fears, which in turn will affect marital life. Not all men understand women. If he is sensitive he will be patient to your needs, but if he is not, you will have a problem on your hands.



Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Hwaa Irfan
Late Hwaa Irfan, may her soul rest in peace, served as consultant, counselor and freelance writer. Her main focus was on traditional healing mechanisms as practiced in various communities, as opposed to Western healing mechanisms.