“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Trust is not something that can be rebuilt in the blink of an eye once it’s broken.
Trying to regain it also means trying to regain everything that vanished with it. It’s a matter of rebuilding respect for the other person, our faith in them and the image we had of them before the trust was broken.
We will all meet people in our lives who betray our trust. Having been there more than a few times, I know that brushing the issue under the rug isn’t a solution.
I was once in a relationship where my partner repeatedly broke my trust. I stayed with him because I thought I could give him another chance and regain what we once had. However, things got worse and ended badly.
I had kidded myself into believing I could trust him again.
This is why it’s important to recognize whether we are capable of rebuilding trust before we proceed with a damaged relationship. We may think we are making the right choice by giving our partner a second chance, but we may be causing more damage in the end.
So how do we know if we are ready to trust a person who has deceived us, without causing further damage to the relationship?
The following five questions serve as a gateway to figuring out where we stand. I’ve learned to answer them honestly before claiming that I can rebuild trust in a particular person.
1. Have we made peace with the issue?
I recall a friend of mine whose fiancé cheated on her after years of being together. Months after the incident, they were back together and she seemed happy and ready to rebuild what had been broken between them. When I asked how she could give him another chance, she told me that she had faced what happened, accepted it, learned from it and then let it go.
In contrast to her experience, I could never accept what happened with my former partner. I couldn’t make peace with the incident. And because I couldn’t make peace with it, I knew I’d never be able to let go of what happened.
If we perceive what our partner has done as the most awful thing we’ve ever been through, then trusting them again won’t work. In order to make peace with trauma, we must first accept what happened and then learn to consider it as a blessing in disguise.
2. Are we still blaming the other person?
One of the reasons I could never rebuild the trust in my past relationship was because I kept blaming my partner. Even when things were good, I would bring up the incident out of nowhere, throw around accusations and make him feel guilty.
This response is problematic because it doesn’t help us or our partner get over what happened. We continue to make them feel guilty and responsible for our own misery, while we continue to destroy our peaceful state of mind.
If we are aiming to rebuild trust, we need to be ready to let go of blame.
3. Do we keep replaying the incident in our mind?
The mind is a wonderful machine—it acts like a hard drive, capable of remembering any data we store on it. But if we keep repeating these painful incidents in our mind, we are actually imprinting them on our brain.
This was my main roadblock to rebuilding trust. I kept replaying what had happened with my partner again and again. Because I kept remembering what went awry, I continued to accuse my partner of wrongdoings.
To help rebuild trust, we need to work on vanishing the memory from our mind, bit by bit. It’s not an easy task to accomplish, but it’s essential to reestablishing trust.
4. Have we forgiven our partner?
Through my own experience, I’ve come to realize that forgiveness and trust are two different things.
Forgiving someone means you stop punishing them for what they did wrong, you let go of the anger. But forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting.
In order to trust our partners, we need to find that magic combination of forgiving and forgetting.
5. Have we forgiven ourselves?
Sometimes we blame ourselves when another person wrongs us. Unfortunately, not every person who causes damage admits their wrongdoing, which can further increase our self-blame.
My former partner could never admit his mistakes, even the small ones. He blamed me for everything he did wrong. At one point I hated myself and refused to forgive myself for what I believed I had created.
I learned that the most important step toward rebuilding trust was to forgive myself for the mistakes I did, and did not, make. What we aim to accomplish on the outside, we must first work on from the inside.
We are capable of discovering whether trust in a relationship can be rebuilt. If we truly believe we can’t move past our situation, we need to walk away, because to stay would only be adding fuel to the fire.
And always remember that before we trust our partner, we must first learn to trust ourselves.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: chany crystal/Flickr