How do I get over my trust issues enough to start a relationship with a man who actually seems to care about me?

I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. — an inconceivable Sicilian
01-03-04-13-21 / 02

Hello Diner. Calling them “trust issues” tells me that at a rational level, you understand you have nothing to fear, but your fear feels very real anyway.

Past experiences left a bad aftertaste that flavors future encounters. Can you find palate cleansers of the dating world to make relationships tasty again? Technically, yes. Trying something and seeing that things turn out fine will help you get over this feeling. [1]

So find some loyal and boring table water biscuits to date casually. Soon you’ll regain your appetite for dating seriously and discover that people—in general—do care about their romantic interests. We can’t say this for sure, but in all the years we Fortune Cookies have been served to tables for two, we see that it’s mostly true.

But dating is a little more complicated than picking at a plate of bland wafers. You want that deep connection right now with someone you’re crazy about. I get it. And trusting things to remain casual with these guys needs as much trust as risking a deep passionate relationship in the first place. My point is you don’t have to go through a spartan diet of guys you’re not interested in to ready yourself for the real thing. Just approach those you want to date slowly.

Your question made it seem like you either completely shut someone out or go full on. Remember there are things in between—relationships that give you some fun and intimacy, but don’t demand that you be completely vulnerable. You don’t have to set up tests of trust, just chew slowly. Take time to get to know him before you fall for him. Look at how they treat friends and people who serve them. Other Diners have had problems with very charismatic but self-interested partners. If you did too, it’s no wonder dating has taught you to be suspicious.

Just have fun, Diner. Flirt, date casually, and let him know you want to take things slowly to warm up to him. Your order sounded very somber and full of surrender. “Getting over trust issues” and settling for “a man who actually seems to care” (while leaving out any other positives about this person) seemed like a lot of work and no fun.

As you’re getting over losing trust in someone you were close to, don’t look at future relationships as monumental things that can crush you. It’ll just cause you to wince through them or run from them. People forget that they can decide how much things are allowed to affect them.

Now that I’ve reminded you, how much will you let this new relationship affect you?

Good luck with it, Diner—and don’t forget to have fun.


[1] Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan. 103

How do I stop being used?

I was used by a guy who I was deeply in love with. I came to his house and the last time this happened, he told me to piss off when we were lying in bed. So I’m wondering, what happened for me to end up in a situation like this? Obviously he’s a horrible person if he doesn’t care about my feelings at all or even wants to hurt me but I probably also had character traits that made this possible. So, how did this happen and what do I have to change so it never will again?

Don’t worry. You got this.

02-10-13-35-42 / 28

Hello Diner. Your normal, natural ability to trust and love made you susceptible to this betrayal. But trust and love are the very ingredients of your humanity. However much human emotions puzzle us, Diner, we Fortune Cookies will never advise you to give up the traits that make your spirit beautiful.

We must therefore find another way to help you. Let’s take a look at your ex-boyfriend.

The abruptness of the break-up—going from pure romance to total disregard—tells me that the relationship was relatively new. Yet in that short amount of time, he made you feel very deeply in love. That is a sign of a master manipulator at work. Without the trappings of empathy for you, he—very convincingly—told you whatever he believed you wanted to hear to get attention, care, and sex from you.

We described in this Fortune that the “dark triad” of personality traits—manipulativeness, cockiness, and emotional detachment—are proven to be very attractive. These traits also literally describe your ex.

Understand, Diner, that I’m not calling you gullible. This trinity of predatory traits are perfect for a hunter and leader. At one point in prehistory, it helped your tribe survive in scarce times. Your attractions may simply be instinctively responding to an ancient need.

Does this mean you’ll be fighting your very instincts to avoid another horrible boyfriend? Not at all.

Think back again at that image of a tribe having barely enough to survive. Realize that you’re no longer physically in this harsh position, but you may be emotionally starving. However you grew up as a person, you crave the affections and forcefulness someone with these traits can easily provide—at very much your expense. So how to solve this?

Be emotionally self-reliant.

When you learned to feed yourself as a young adult, your hunger no longer depended on someone bigger and more capable than you. Likewise, emotional “food” does not have to be made and packaged by Boyfriend, Inc. Challenge yourself to be single. It may be months or a year—whatever you feel comfortable with.

In that time, you are trying to learn two things: that you can get affection, validation, and attention in completely different ways than having a partner; and that you didn’t need as much as you thought to feel fulfilled.

Once you’ve learned that, your tolerance for manipulation will be much lower. You would have the confidence to be on your own instead of constantly checking your messages for meager pellets of attention. Instead of being overwhelmed by his apparent kindness toward you, you can step back and look at how he treats others to see if his kindness is truly genuine.

The more you can take care of yourself emotionally, the less you’ll need it from someone like your ex. Learn to fend for yourself. Good luck, Diner.