So we’ve established the things we need to focus on in relationships to develop trust. Developing trust, with trustworthy people, from the start is incredibly important.
We all have existing relationships though, relationships we may not have been able to do this with, or weren’t aware that it was necessary. It’s too late to start from the beginning, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to start. It’s never too late.
But what do you do when there has been a betrayal of trust? Repairing trust is, unfortunately, more difficult than developing it.
There are two things we need to be aware of in ourselves. Two things we need to ask ourselves when it comes to feelings of betrayal. Are we:
- Reacting to an actual betrayal of trust?
- Reacting to a perceived betrayal of trust? Or reacting disproportionately to the situation that created the feelings of betrayal?
If it’s a true, serious breach of trust (cheating, abuse, violation of privacy, kicking your puppy, outright lying and deception, etc.) then you need to seriously consider if this is a relationship you should continue with. I know from experience how difficult it is to extricate yourself from a person you love, you think you love… the thought of leaving someone is almost as bad as being abandoned by them. I get it… but this isn’t really the post for that train of thought.
What I’m more concerned with is when you decide to stay. How do you deal with those feelings of betrayal? How do you come back from that? Or even, is it possible?
We need to learn to distinguish between situations where our feelings are warranted and when they aren’t warranted. Where repairing trust is viable, and when it’s time to step away.
Next, there are a few more things we need to dig further with. By this point I don’t think I need to dance around the fact that we can sometimes, kind of, yanno, overreact. Sometimes things happen, and when we look at them cognitively we know they /shouldn’t/ be a big deal, but they sure as hell FEEL LIKE A BIG DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Be mindful of how you react. Step away from the situation. Communicate a need for time to calm down and come back to the situation once you’ve been able to process it a little less emotionally… if that’s what you need to do. Then ask yourself a couple things:
Was [whatever happened] done in ignorance? Was it an accident?
Sometimes, especially when you’re still getting to know someone, people hit your triggers without knowing. They say or do something, joke around about something, that to them is something innocuous, but to our heightened sensitivity and bad experiences can be something different altogether. It’s our responsibility to make new people aware of our triggers. Once you do, once you make it known that you’re hurt, take a look at their reactions. Are they genuinely apologetic? Are they remorseful? These are good signs. A person that cares and is worthy of being trusted won’t want to continue to hurt you. So keep your eyes open. If they clearly make an attempt to work with you and not do what they did again… then this is the kind of behavior that is healthy and caring. Give them another chance. When you’ve lived through as much trauma as we tend to live through, it’s hard not to feel like the world isn’t out to get you, but it’s important to remember that all people, all of them, are human. People do make honest mistakes without an abusive intent. We need our partners to work with us, but we also have to work with them. We need to recognize when our emotions are running away with us, take a step back, and learn to trust our heads when our hearts are going a bit wonky. We have both for a purpose. It doesn’t come easily because feelings are so much stronger than that voice on your shoulder whispering reason, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. And give yourself time.
The bottom line is, if something happens, and the person that breaches your trust genuinely wants forgiveness and wants to make things better… they probably deserve the chance.
- Communicate the problem.
- Do they act in a way that shows they are apologetic and want forgiveness?
- Do they make active choices to not repeat the hurtful behavior?
- Give the wound time to heal.
Feeling are valid even if they tend to be overblown. It’s okay. Just recognize it! Work with it! Our partners can only do so much. At some point we have to do work on ourselves as well. That’s the only way we’ll get through with the least amount of damage.
Now, if it keeps happening though? That’s a problem. Did they have prior knowledge that something is upsetting to you yet continue to do it? Even after apologizing previously? Did they do it again purposefully (or purposefully the first time to get a reaction)? Those are red flags and indicators that a person doesn’t have your best interest at heart. If you communicate the problem, and they keep triggering you, despite knowing how hurtful it is, this is a problem and they might not be worthy of your trust.
Forgiveness and trust is earned. If a person doesn’t show proper indication that they are willing to earn your trust, well, then it’s pretty obvious that don’t deserve it. Even if we WANT them to deserve it. It’s up to us to separate what we want and what we hope, from what actually is. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes trust can’t be repaired.
It’s important to make a distinction between reasonable triggers and unreasonable ones as well. Sometimes we’re triggered by things that are normal, acceptable behaviors for a person’s life (for example: when people go out without us sometimes), these are deeper issues that we need to work on within ourselves, probably with therapy if possible. If they haven’t otherwise given you reason to mistrust their going out, the feelings are being triggered by events in your past, and are maladaptive to your current relationships. It’s important to increase your self-awareness so you can make these distinctions.
It’s also important for us to be reasonable about our triggering requests. We often have a lot of triggers, I mean A LOT of triggers. Some major, some less so. It’s a lot for someone to be aware of and constantly remember. Sometimes people forget, sometimes they just can’t live every second of their life toeing around our issues. We need to cut our loved ones some slack sometimes. Keep the big triggers as priorities, and while you can keep in mind the smaller ones, also keep in mind that just because a trigger is tripped, it doesn’t mean it was meant to intentionally wound.
Here are some basic steps that you can take to begin working on repairing a broken trust.
- Acknowledge what happened. You can fix something you don’t recognize what happened.
- Admit your role in causing the breach of trust. Ego and pride can often get in the way of healing. Feelings of guilt and shame are even bigger problems. It takes courage to own your actions.
- Assess the situation. Figure out where trust broke down. Take a look at that list I posted yesterday in developing trust as a place to start. Where did things go wrong?
- Make amends. Decide what you need to repair the damage that was done. It’s important to demonstrate that you mean what you say.
Forgiveness takes two as well. One person to receive it. One person to give it.
Everyone disappoints us at some point. People are people and people are never perfect. It’s important for us to work on being more flexible and accepting of human nature. Trust might not be perfect either, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still worth a lot.