In my last post, I wrote about how couples can begin to recover from an affair. One of the side effects of discovering a betrayal is that you’re not only uncertain about your partner, but you’re also afraid to trust your own instincts and decisions.

Whether your relationship survives the betrayal or not, it’s important to rebuild your trust in yourself. 

Where to start?

Consider not just the current relationship but your overall relationship history. Is this the first betrayal you’ve experienced, or is it one in a long line, possibly beginning in childhood?

The roots of our relationship patterns go back a long time. If you were mistreated in childhood, if you were let down by people who were supposed to care for you, you might find that you tend to replicate that throughout your life. You choose people who subconsciously remind you of your family, for better and for worse.

Now, if we were raised in healthy families, then trying to replicate is a good thing. But if we were raised in families that bred mistrust, where we had to look out for ourselves and be self-protective even with those closest to us, it can lead to negative relationship patterns throughout our lives.

So it’s important to figure out whether this betrayal represents a one-off, or is one in a series.

The good news is, awareness is the starting point for all change. Knowing that you keep picking people who don’t deserve your trust is how you can begin to change your criteria for the people you let in. You can proceed with greater caution. You can trust, but verify.

Or if the betrayal is a unique experience, then there’s also good news. That means that while you can look at your role in what happened, you don’t have to second-guess yourself repeatedly. You have a history of solid decision-making, and you should trust your instincts.

The nature of the betrayal is also significant. You want to look at the context surrounding it. How did it come about? Were you actually ignoring some instincts while it was happening? Had you started to take the relationship for granted, and were no longer tending to it?

Self-blame and shame won’t help you, but an honest self-evaluation will. Recognizing the circumstances and taking responsibility for any part you may have played will actually empower you. It means you’re not doomed to repeat the same mistakes; you can create a different future. You can trust yourself again, and decide if you want to try to trust your partner, or if it’s time to move on.

***Holly Brown is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay area. She has a private practice in Alameda (http://hollybrownmft.com/ ). She’s also the author of–what else?–psychological thrillers (http://hollybrownbooks.com/ ).