Contributed by guest author, Deborah Nixon, PhD. Deborah runs Trust Learning Solutions research and consulting services. Be sure to check out her site www.trustlearningsolutions.com. You can also find Deborah on our Midlife Forum where she is known as “Trust Diva”
We all know that trust within a relationship is one of the most fundamental goals to strive for. After all, trust is foundational to all human interaction, but even more so within the context of a love relationship. Without trust, you end up with a relationship that is consumed by suspicion, tension, incessant cross-examination and two people feeling wounded and betrayed. It is not a situation which is conducive to a harmonious long term relationship.
How do we get to this point? Sometimes one partner in a relationship enters the relationship with trust issues. Maybe this stems from childhood when the person learned that you can’t count on others to be there for you when you needed them. What can you do if you are on the receiving end of dealing with a person with trust issues? The first thing you need to do is have lots of empathy and patience. This is not about you, but about them. It is not only you they have difficulty trusting, it’s most people. Sometimes, though, people with trust issues can take it too far.
Take, for example, a boyfriend I had many years ago named Michael. There was nothing I could do to convince Michael that I wasn’t seeing other men. He used to follow me, call my friends to find out where I was and search my things to find ‘evidence’. I tried to talk to him – I was as open and transparent about my activities as I could be – all for naught. Michael could not be swayed. I eventually broke up with Michael because he would not get help, and I could not live with the constant cross examination and scrutiny.
The other situation that occurs is when one partner in a relationship does something to violate the trust. The big question is: how big was the breach and was/is it repairable. Often, a breach of trust can be fixed but it takes time. And the responsibility lies with the violator to do what needs to be done to fix things.
It is easier than you think to lose trust. Not being open, being vague, withholding information, being unavailable – these are all things that cause people to wonder why you aren’t being open and upfront. In a relationship, only forthrightness works to build trust. If you play games or lie about any aspects of yourself, you can expect your partner’s trust to dissipate.
So how do you regain trust after you’ve lost it? A change in behaviour may be necessary. Accept that you will be under close scrutiny, and don’t blame your partner for not trusting you for a while. You don’t deserve to be trusted until you can PROVE to them that you are worthy of their trust. You need to be open and honest and accountable for your actions … actions in the past, present and future. You got into this situation due to deception and a lack of openness … and the only way out is through the mess.
You have to provide your partner with a commitment and a plan of action that reassures them that you do not plan to repeat the behaviour. You have to do that immediately – waiting only makes it worse. And then you have to follow through.
Don’t expect immediate change. It will take time and involve the eating of a great deal of humble pie. But if you do this, the relationship has a chance of surviving.