How Can I Get You to Trust Me Again?
© by Mary DuParri, MA, LPC
Anyone who has experienced a breach of trust knows the pain and confusion of trying to rebuild it. Many couples and families have experienced situations in their lives that lead to the loss of trust in someone. It can be a fairly minor incident, like a teen being late for a few too many curfews, or it can be major, like an infidelity in a relationship. The person who lied feels they can never do enough to be trusted again. The one who was lied to feels they would be foolish to become too accepting, too soon. Here are some guidelines that can help in rebuilding trust:
Do not make excuses. Admit your responsibility. Apologize and affirm that you will not behave in the same manner again. Blaming someone else or claiming a circumstance beyond your control wonít cut it. Even if your watch did stop at 10:30 PM and you have it bagged as Exhibit A, your spouse, parent or friend is unlikely to buy that as the reason you did not show up until 3 AM.
Do what you say will do. Even in areas that seem rather trivial, you can build trust every day by doing what you say you will do. If you say you will call if you are going to be late, call. If you say youíll do the laundry, do it. Donít forget. Donít have to be reminded. Donít say you meant to, butÖ. If for some good reason, you realize you will not be able to live up to your agreement, tell the other person in advance. Although they may still get upset because they wanted you to do the laundry or call the painter or make the reservation, you still maintain trust, because you are being honest. If you wait until they are upset and confronting you, it looks like you will only be honest if you are caught.
Expect that it will take a lot of repetitions of you following-through before the other person begins to believe in you again. How many? Probably many more than you think your transgression deserves. Even though feelings do not repair mathematically, consider this: If you lied only once and following that told the truth nine times, to the other person you are still untruthful 10% of the time. We do not like dealing with people who may be lying to us. How do we know if this is the truthful you or the deceptive you? Do you see why it takes so many repetitions of honest behavior before the assumptions about you begin to change?
The person who was deceived can also take a role in the rebuilding of trust. First, pay attention to the efforts of the other to now be trustworthy and make amends. Though it may seem insufficient to you, remember that they could be doing nothing and expecting you to just ďget over it.Ē Secondly, instead of feeling a need to put your trust in them, get better at trusting yourself. Trust your own gut instincts that tell you when something is wrong. Some of our anger occurs because we felt something was wrong, but talked ourselves out of it. If your gut tells you something is not right, honor that enough to check it out.
Living with integrity is a life choice. It is at the core of who we are and how we choose to live, more than it is about improving our relationships. We keep our word, not because it pleases others, but because we value honesty and want our daily lives to reflect that belief. Living honestly also improves our self-worth, because we feel better about ourselves when we do what we say.
Though at first, it may seem as if a broken trust can never be repaired, people have a marvelous ability to make amends. The tough part is holding on through the rebuilding phase while consistency replaces doubt, time reduces discomfort and forgiveness replaces anger. If, despite these efforts, problems with trust and honesty persist in your family, or if anger prevents movement toward forgiveness, a consultation with a professional might help fine-tune your relationships and get you moving toward healthier communication.