Did you ever do something you thought a family member or partner wouldn’t mind, only to find out the opposite–you violated their trust and now the relationship is in ruins? Or maybe it’s not in ruins, but there’s definitely damage done–whether you meant it or not? Unfortunately, this happens a lot, especially when there is a history of disappointments in the relationship.
Trust is crucial to relationships. Without trust relationships quickly fall apart.
But what is trust, exactly? According to Meriam Webster, trust is:
assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
So, what does that look like for a relationship? When you are trusted, it means that the other person takes your word for what you are saying or doing because you showed them you are honest and follow through with what you say.
But we are imperfect people and we mess up. We violate the trust people place on us and need to earn that trust back if the relationship is ever going to heal.
Unfortunately, it is much easier to lose trust than it is to gain it back. A lifetime of trust can disappear in an instant. This happens because trust is built on a pattern of honest and upright behavior. Hurt people don’t want to be hurt again and look for potential danger so they can avoid it. This means that something untrustworthy, no matter how small, that might break trust again will be noticed – right at the time the relationship is most fragile. This is not an easy place to find yourself, and many relationships end here.
So how can your relationship be different? How can trust be rebuilt? Well, trust is rebuilt through one intentional and honest decision at a time. If you are the one needing to rebuild trust it is important to think about everything you say and do in terms of what the other person will see. An illustration I like to use is:
Let’s say there is a husband struggling with addiction. Over time, he became really good at hiding his addiction, but his wife had a hunch something was happening. Let’s say he has an “ah-hah” moment, seeks help, and gets sober. Great for him, but he needs to rebuild the lost trust with his wife.
He knows this. In fact, his wife’s birthday is coming up and, feeling bad for the impact he had on their relationship, decides to get her some really nice jewelry. But he doesn’t want her to know, so he finds a way to buy it without her knowing and sneaks it into the house.
However, he is hiding something again, and the wife picks up on those same sneaky behaviors. Now she suspects him of using again, because it looks like he is hiding something. It doesn’t matter that he is doing something for her, the wife still thinks he is using again. The trust was again violated in his wife’s mind because it reminds her of times when her husband was not trustworthy.
In the example above, it doesn’t matter what the husband was actually doing. What does matter is how what we do is seen by the other person. If it looks like a violation of trust, those same thought pathways are active again and the trust-building cycle essentially restarts. This is why it is important to be intentional and thoughtful in everything that is done while trying to rebuild trust.
It might sound unfair (or impossible) to rebuild trust, and it takes both people to rebuild trust. But there is hope for the relationship! Working hard at rebuilding trust, forgiveness, and genuinely changing behavior go a long way in rebuilding hurting relationships. More posts to follow on these topics.
If you would like more information on rebuilding trust, or to schedule an appointment, please do not hesitate to contact me.
MA, ICAADC, CCPG, DOT-SAP, LPC
TBHI Certified Telemental Health Practitioner