by Ronn Elmore, Psy.d
Life is already unpredictable enough, so of course you want to know with some degree of certainty that the man in your life can be depended upon. When the one you finally risked opening your heart to, engages in behaviors that destroy the faith you’ve placed in him—including broken promises, serious irresponsibility, deception or infidelity—your trust erodes.
Can your emotions—and the relationship itself—ever rebound from such severe breaches? The answer is a resounding yes, but only with a sincere commitment by both parties to rebuild what has been damaged.
Of course the big question is, how?
Steps to Restore Trust
I. Admission and Acknowledgment
The offending party has to own up to his or her transgression and sincerely apologize for the harm caused by it: “I am guilty of this, and from here on I am committed to doing the opposite of that.” Warning: Don’t insist on a play-by-play retelling of the events with all the gory details. The condensed version of the offense will be more than enough.
It’s crucial that neither of you become so focused on the erring partner’s crime that you never get around to an honest look at what factors may have led to it. Certainly the selfishness and lack of discipline of the one who messed up play a part—but that’s seldom the whole story. Both of you will have to explore all possible behaviors that may have led up to the incident—inattentiveness, unavailability, poor communication and conflict-resolution skills, misplaced priorities, inadequate checks and balances, etc.
Enlist some supportive help as early in the trust rebuilding process as possible. Seek the support of qualified counseling professionals, your spiritual leaders and one or two trusted friends who can remain objective. Compassionate third parties can help the two of you stay focused on your goal of reconciliation and not become overcome by your urge to punish or your mate’s urge to rebel.
When it comes to establishing trust, talk is cheap unless it results in action. Start by spelling out your expectations. For example, insist that he cease all visits to X-rated websites, that she cut off all contact with the other man, that she enter rehab, or that he give you your space until you had a minute to recover from the trauma.
Making Up and Moving On
Moving on means accepting the fact that neither of you can go back and change the past. It also means that you and your mate refuse to be permanently shackled to what happened.
In the end, it’s important to take your and your mate’s entire history into account—before their big failure and after it; not merely one single dark chapter in their story.