Re-Establishing Trust in a Relationship
By Frank Kermit
Trust is one of the most important components of a relationship. Love is a great start, but it takes more than loving someone, or being loved by someone, to make a relationship work. But what happens when the trust in a relationship has been broken?
Re-establishing trust can be a lengthy process. Depending on what area of trust was violated, and what a person's emotional expectations were, it is reasonable to expect that proving trustworthiness again may take a long time.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that re-establishing trust happens over time. Although there is a correlation between re-establishing trust and the time that it takes, it does not mean that time alone is enough to fix the lack of trust that may exist in a relationship. What does help re-establish trust is being able to identify what the source of the break of trust is (i.e. a lie), and then coming to terms with what has to change so that particular breech of trust (i.e the same kind of lie) does not, and cannot, happen again. It is the evidence that new behavior patterns are in place so that the violation of trust is unable to occur again that will help re-establish trust. And THAT is what takes time.
For example, an act of infidelity is a breech of trust. The first step is to find out what the circumstances were that brought on the infidelity. Was it an act of revenge on a partner? Was it an attraction from work that went unchecked during unsupervised overtime? Was alcohol involved thus lowering inhibitions? Was there a lack of sexual intimacy at home, which left a touch-starved partner to seek it elsewhere?
In order for the couple to re-establish trust again, a behavior has to change so that, whatever it was that may have contributed or prompted the violation of trust has been removed. As they relate to the examples above, these actions could include replace a desire for revenge with compassion training, finding a new place of employment, eliminate drinking alcohol during social outings, or going to couples counseling to enhance sexual intimacy.
That is what takes time. It is showing that the new behaviors have taken affect and that they have become new unconscious habits. As soon as that is proven through actions, THAT is when trust can be earned again.
But what if it does not change? What if the new behavior (for example, changing employment) does not change your partner's cheating ways? At that point you have two options. One option is to see if the wrong source of the violation was identified, and to try a different source, and new combative behaviors. The other option is to change your expectations if such changes would be within your personal value system.
Changing expectations is not easy. It means to learn to accept something that you previously were raging against. Some people find peace with changing their expectations and accepting a situation. It can actually be empowering for some people, because instead of raging against the issue and trying to change their partner, they accept it as part of being with their partner. However this does not always work long term. Usually, a person sets a boundary of expectation based on what they value, and trying to change that expectation means having to also re-evaluate their value system.
Lastly, there is one final key element to consider. There are those people that have major trust issues in general. This means that if their trust is violated once, then even in the face of evidence that a new change has occurred and proof that their partner will not violate that particular trust again, these people are unable to let go of the violation.
Being in a relationship means you WILL get hurt, and that your partner WILL make mistakes. If you are a person that has major trust issues, it is unlikely that the level of trust you will need in a relationship will ever be addressed, because over the course of a long-term relationship, your trust in your partner will be let down.
Human beings are an imperfect lot. Your partner is going to goof, like forgetting to pick up those tickets to that special event you have been planning for 3 months. If you have such major trust issues that a situation of forgetting tickets will be met with that same reactions as an act of infidelity, then you will likely sabotage every good relationship that comes your way. Ironically, the only person that someone with major trust issues can date for any length of time is a compulsive lair who can artistically hide every small goof of trust he or she makes.
Bottom line is that trust is an absolute requirement to make a long-term relationship work. If you do not have trust, you cannot have a relationship. At best, a relationship without trust is just a distraction from the rest of your life. That is escapism, not love.