A Jewish Matchmaker’s Guide to Rebuilding Trust in Your Relationship
Not everyone has the same approach to trust in a relationship. Some are able to trust from the beginning and they only lose that trust if their partner engages in damaging behaviors. Others start off with a low level of trust, and it builds over time as their partner shows him/herself to be honest, reliable, and faithful.
There is nothing right or wrong about either approach, but understanding which of the two is your style, and which is the style of your partner, can do much in alleviating conflicts and misunderstandings. If you are dating someone who automatically trusts, and you are someone with whom trust builds over time, your partner may grow to feel that you are overly suspicious and untrusting although he/she hasn’t done anything to “deserve” your suspicion. To a person who trusts automatically, this need to “earn” trust can feel cold and judgmental, and may eventually lead to a break-up if it develops into unfounded suspicions, accusations, and over-the-top jealousy.
So first and foremost, learn each other’s trust style and the behavioral characteristics of that style.
But what can do you do if trust has been broken but you want to save the relationship? Neither trusting style has an easy time with a breach of trust. Often, the one who is able to trust from the beginning can seem more shaken when trust is destroyed, because the other style has, in a sense, been anticipating a breach all along, but for the “instant truster” it’s a shock to the system. Regardless, it is painful to both styles and can make any previous issues of suspiciousness and jealousy much worse.
With a lot of work and determination, however, trust can often be rebuilt. The key is that both parties have to be willing to do whatever it takes to help their partner feel safe and secure in the relationship again. The following steps are a good starting point to mending that safety net that all of us want to feel is the underlying support of a love relationship.
No More Lies: The first step to healing is coming “clean”. Be honest about the action that broke trust and vow to each other that from this moment on, lies are off the table and straight-up honesty is the new go-to state of being. This can’t just be lip-service. Honesty has to be the new policy without any hesitation. If there is hesitation or one of you has reservations about his/her ability to be truly honest, that hesitation needs to be examined and addressed before the relationship can more forward.
Eliminate “Excuses”: No matter how many times the transgressor has to reassure his/her partner about their remorse and sincere pledge never to again violate their trust, and no matter how strong the need to defend or justify their actions and what led to the breach, the transgressor must never, ever make excuses. Providing an “excuse” to an inexcusable action sends an underlying message that the bond and commitment to each other is resting on shaky ground that can be disrupted by life’s inevitable stressors. Your behavior has to be the proof that no matter what else is going on inside or outside the relationship, it cannot and will not affect the stability of the union. Excuses also have a way of invalidating the feelings of the other person, so no excuses, no justifications.
Accept Responsibility: It is essential that the transgressor accept full responsibility for the breach of trust with no attempt to put any of the blame on the other person. None of that “You drove me to do it” or “It just happened” or “I didn’t plan it” BS. The wrongness and damaging nature of the action should be fully acknowledge and sincere remorse for the painful experience that the partner has had to endure needs to be expressed. We’re human, we make mistakes; it is inevitable that some of our actions will affect other people in painful ways. Couples need to be particularly aware that what they say and do is directly tied to the emotional security of another human being. This is a big responsibility and when one’s actions have wounded another, accepting responsibility and showing genuine regret is deeply healing.
Re-commit: After bringing the relationship back from potential destruction and moving forward with no lies, no excuses, and an empathetic acknowledgment of the pain that has been caused, it is time to re-commit to the relationship and each other. This can take any form that suits the couple. Maybe an intimate verbal re-stating of vows will suffice; maybe a full-blown re-marriage ceremony with guests is more healing. The couple needs to decide what feels most genuine and real for them, and create a ceremony that will infuse the relationship with a reborn strength, sense of security, and faith in the ultimate durability of the union.
No couple is the same and the healing process will not be the same for everyone, yet some truths are universal. A relationship built on honesty, the acceptance of personal responsibility, refusal to make excuses for bad behavior, and continual re-commitment to the partnership will strengthen any relationship – breach of trust or not.