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10 Ways to Open Up Again After Being Hurt

by Barbara Kennedy

When your partner hurts you, it can be difficult to open up again and bring trust back into your relationship. It's hard to trust your heart to someone who has proven unappreciative and hurtful. You do want to love, and so you throw caution to the wind and open up your heart, hoping you will not get hurt—again.

How do men and women open up to love and trust another person again while staying safe and protected from hurt? Here are 10 ways to do it.

1. Realize that any person close to you can and probably will hurt you. Haven't you ever hurt someone you love? Weren't you sorry afterwards? When others hurt you, realize they may be just like you. They have likely hurt you unintentionally and they're sorry.

2. Be prepared for the hurt. Don't assume that knowing someone well or being in love is going to prevent hurt. It won't. Aspire to win-win outcomes. What's the worst that can happen?

3. It's probably not about you. When someone does hurt you, assume it's not personal and it's not directed at you—it's not even about you. Try not to overreact. Sometimes you can be on the right tracks and still get hit by a train.

4. Learn to set boundaries. To find out what your boundaries are, ask yourself the following questions:

· What don't I want in my life, in my relationships?

· What type of behavior hurts me?

· How would people need to behave around me in order for me to thrive happily?

There are things you will tolerate, and there are things you will not tolerate. Educate the people you love about your needs, your feelings, your dislikes, and your boundaries. But first, educate yourself. A good therapist will help you get clarity and help you prioritize your likes and dislikes. If you need some assistance or guidance, go ahead and ask for it.

5. Develop coping strategies. When you've been hurt, learn how to immediately handle the situation. Think on your feet. For example, if your significant other raises her voice when she's upset, learn how to say, "I don't want to talk about this when you raise your voice." Don't shut down. Don't start yelling back. Or, let's say you're waiting for a call back from a voicemail you left. Stop waiting for the call. Move on and live your life as it was before, and allow your life to continue on track (your track, not hers or his). Learn to soothe yourself.

6. Trust yourself. Realize that most of feeling safe is about trusting yourself. Listen to your inner voice. You can be assured that most people—especially those close to you—will hurt you occasionally. Get over it as quickly as you can.

7. Be trustworthy. Be the sort of individual who can be trusted. Be honest, no matter what. Be discreet. Keep agreements. Keep personal shared information personal.

8. Strengthen communication skills. Learn to communicate effectively and powerfully, yet gently. No attacks, no accusations—everything that needs to be said in order to make an impact can be said with grace and heart. If your partner won't talk, it means she's too hurt to speak, or too selfish to talk. Find out which. If she listens, speak using "I feel" statements. As you know, we all tend to listen more intently if a soft and gentle tone is used.

9. Learn to trust. Believe in yourself and appreciate yourself enough to be able to dismiss the hurtful words. If the behavior continues, discuss your boundaries when you are both calm.

10. Work through the hurt. Learn when it's appropriate to forgive and when it's best to end the relationship. Any partner will hurt you occasionally. The question is how much and how often. An occasional hurt or annoyance can be forgiven or overlooked for the benefit of the relationship. Working through the hurt together can actually bring you closer together.

* * * * *

Barbara Kennedy, MPH, MSW, is a well-known relationship coach, prominent speaker, and public health educator with a private relationship coaching practice in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her new book is Baby Boomer Men: Looking for Love (www.babyboomermenlookingforlove.com).

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