Do you ever find it difficult to trust in a relationship? To trust your partner?
We talk to so many couples who have problems with broken trust in a relationship (for which reason we designed a 90-minute mini-workshop about rebuilding trust). Whenever trust is broken in relationship, you have a choice. Do you want to try and repair the broken trust, or not. You might think, “But it wasn’t me who broke the trust, so how’s that my choice?” Fair point.
Even if your partner was the one to break the trust, whether by lying, withholding, cheating, not showing up for certain times or events, or something else, you still have a lot to do with how the process moves forward. Let’s say your partner broke your trust but is willing to make amends and try to rebuild trust. That will only be possible if you are open and willing to participate in the rebuilding process.
As we all know, sometimes breaches of trust might cause you to immediately terminate a relationship; perhaps you’ve been in that situation? Affairs are probably the most common reason a partner would say, “That’s it! We’re done!”
But very often, you don’t want to sacrifice your entire relationship because trust was broken, by your partner or yourself. In fact, in any longer term relationship, it’s pretty much inevitable that trust gets broken one way or another, sooner or later, just by all us being human and sometimes not living up to our own standards.
(On a side note, in our Gift of Conflict Level 2 workshop, we do an exercise where we show participants that 100% of people aim for a relationship built on trust, honesty, and mutual respect. But 100% of people have at some point in their lives fallen short of that ideal. We all do).
Breaches of trust can be used to make a relationship stronger. A hurtful lie or omission can with proper tools become a catalyst for increased trust in the relationship and in each other.
When this happens in your relationship, remember these ideas:
Domain specific trust
Broken trust is often “domain specific”. That is, your partner might have broken your trust by spending money out of your mutual retirement account, but you still trust him or her to pick up the kids or be a good mom or dad. It’s only in the domain of money you have a hard time trusting. This is important because we tend to conclude that someone simply IS untrustworthy if they break our trust once. Plus, when we get domain specific, it’s easier to focus our efforts of rebuilding trust in the relationship.
This idea holds true in many areas. For instance, you might trust Sonika and myself to guide and coach you in the domain of your relationship, but you would not be wise to trust us to fix your car! We just don’t have the chops for that.
So when your partner breaks your trust in one domain, it doesn’t (necessarily) invalidate the trust you’ve built in other domains. This is one of those places where you have some choice in the matter. Do you conclude the he/she is completely untrustworthy, period, or that they made a poor choice in one domain? Do you conclude that no trust can be created, or that there is hope for rebuilding trust?
You both have a choice
Of course, your partner has a choice to make too, and can make it easier or harder for you to trust again, depending on how he/she behaves going forward.
If your partner lied to you about how he/she spent money, but is now trying to repair it, it’s going to be extremely difficult for you to trust again if he/she keeps lying about money or about anything else. Point being, in a relationship of two people, we can either help each other rebuild trust or we can make it really hard.
Change the agreement
Sometimes when there’s a lack of trust in the relationship because agreements are not being kept, it’s the agreement itself that needs to change. An example from my own life is around timeliness. I am by default very specific about time. I’m the kind of person who shows up one min early no matter what.
But I know people in my family and in my life that don’t have that kind of relationship with timeliness. For some, it just not important whether you show up five minutes before or after. So if I make an agreement with such a person to always be on time, they’re very unlikely to keep that agreement, and it might be better to change the agreement to showing up “around 6 o’clock”.
We sometimes agree to things we’re not able to keep, either to make our partner happy, to not lose face, or simply because we didn’t think it through. Have you ever over-committed yourself, for instance? You say yes to participate in a meeting or do a project, but when it comes right down to it, you don’t have the bandwidth to do it? In that case, someone else might call you an untrustworthy person. Or perhaps it’s a matter of making agreements you can actually keep?
Trust is key
Having trust in your relationship is a foundational component of creating successful, loving relationships. If you don’t have trust in a relationship, you can’t open your heart and body, and you can’t relax.
Because we know so many couples have challenges around trust, we made a mini-workshop that focuses specifically on that topic. In just 90 minutes, we walk you through exercises you do with your partner on the spot, from your home. In just 90 minutes you can make huge strides in the process of making your trust stronger. We sincerely encourage you to join us.