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February 27, 2005
Keepin An Open Mind
Rebuilding Trust...

The long road back

 

Couples who lose trust in each other face a major challenge. Trust is the glue that bonds people together. It is the infrastructure of the relationship, the steel beams that make it strong. Of course there is love. But without trust there is no sense of security, no feeling that you can rely on the person you have committed to. Once there is a breach of trust the relationship can begin to come apart, sometimes very quickly.

 

Trust is defined as a firm reliance on the integrity or character of a person. It is also the ability to have faith and confidence in someone’s word or intentions.

 

We build trust in each other over time. It is a subtle thing that gets created when we share experiences, help each other in times of need and prove to each other that we will actually do what we say we will do.

 

Some of us are more trusting than others. We will extend ourselves and give the other the benefit of the doubt. However, most of us, especially when we are in a relationship, grow to have expectations of each other. There is a sense of comfort and security we get when we think we know that our partner is trustworthy. We need to have this feeling for intimacy to grow.

 

When trust is damaged there is a powerful, sometimes overwhelming feeling of betrayal. The betrayal can come from almost any form of dishonesty or disloyalty of one partner to the other. Obviously infidelity stacks up at the top of the list but lying and hiding important information can also cause trust to fragment.

 

When this occurs there is always despair, regret and hopefully remorse. If a couple is willing to work through the mistakes there is a good possibility that trust can be restored. Trust must be earned though; it is not something one is automatically entitled to. Therefore, the party who has breached the trust must be willing to rebuild it no matter what it takes. That requires a strong commitment, not just from the partner that breached the trust but from the other partner as well.

 

What follows are some tips that can help you travel the road back to rebuilding trust.

 

1)      Talk about your expectations of each other.

Each of you must now decide if the rules of the relationship need to be changed. If so, which is the likely scenario, you both must agree to those changes.  Before the trust was breached things were OK the way they were. However, now that there is suspicion and distrust changes have to take place.

 

2)      Agree on the specifics.

Now that you have agreed that the rules have changed you need to agree on what changes will be made.  If a partner has had an affair, for example, the betrayed partner may want an itinerary of the betrayer whenever he or she is away from home, a promise to call more often or at specific times of the day and a willingness to answer any and all questions.  There is no getting around this one. The betrayer must get into the spirit of making amends. He/she needs to show the other how important this is. If the breech involved withholding of information or intentionally giving the wrong information, the betrayed partner may want a full and open accounting of everything. No more secrets.

 

3)      Deliver more than you promise.

In an effort to build trust, reconcile and get back in the good graces of your partner you might find yourself promising to do almost anything. You may have good intentions but be unable to deliver. That is not to say you shouldn’t stretch yourself a little. However, it is always better to promise only as much as you are sure you can make good on and then make every effort to do more than you promised. The process of rebuilding trust is fragile. You can seriously compound the damage by not delivering on your promises.

 

4)      Be consistent.

Changing behavior requires persistence and consistency. The betrayed partner has to believe that the other partner is truly changing, not just for the short term but for the long haul. It is imperative that there is a strong commitment to change or it will be impossible to break an old pattern and make new behaviors stick.

 

5)      Have a strong commitment and a positive attitude toward change.

Rebuilding trust is not easy. In fact it is very hard to do. Partners have to suspend their disbelief that things can change and that they will once again be trusting and happy together. This process requires a strong commitment from both partners. The betrayed partner has to be willing to encourage the other at some point to show that there is hope and that forgiveness is possible.

 

These are just a few examples of the things a couple can do to get the rebuilding process started. Couples needs to examine what is at stake and commit to making changes if they are to succeed.