Attention — 20 February 2011
How can you trust your partner again?

Trust is one of the three main ingredients necessary for creating and sustaining a solid love relationship. It is accompanied by respect and attraction. The absence of trust between mates shakes the foundation of a solid union.

Some partners who come to therapy are pained by their inability to regain their capacity to trust again after an experience of betrayal. Commonly, the loss of trust is a result of: infidelity, lies, unavailability when needed, irresponsible conduct, secrecy about matters that affect both partners, exclusion, lack of support, financial secrets or addictions.

Trusting is a natural emotional state practiced in childhood and later used as a security base for other relationships. Curiously enough, it requires repeated incidents of hurtful experiences, or the perception thereof, for one to permanently lose trust.

Since all thriving relationships in business, politics, friendship, family and love are based on mutual trust the loss of these connections is devastating. Most people forgive first offenses and only get discouraged by repeated, uncensored episodes.

Robert Solomon and Fernando Flores in “Building Trust: In Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life,” pose that the willingness to trust is not a reflexive reaction, but a clear choice. “Trust, like love, is an emotional skill, an ongoing, dynamic aspect of relationships. We don’t just fall in love. We decide to love. Trust is something we do, something we make. Our mutual choices of trust determine nothing less than the kinds of beings we are and the kinds of lives we will live together.”

If trusting is a choice toward wholeness, it is clear how doubly destabilizing it is for us when our trust is violated. It not only sours us toward the person who violated our trust, but also calls to question our judgment, decision making and callous approach to our own self-preservation.

“How can I trust him or her again?” is a common refrain of those who have been betrayed. This is clearly a logical question in view of repeated hurts inflicted by another. However, within that question hides the desire to trust again and restore the emotional comfort within the relationship.

In debating your ability/desire to trust your mate again:

• Accept that in asking, “How can I trust him/her again?” you affirm your wish to trust again.
• Realize that betrayals are almost always NOT intended to hurt you. They are caused by bad judgments, lack of awareness, shame-based or compelling eagerness for self-satisfaction.
• Gauge your own trustworthiness in your dealings with your mate and change the ways in which you did not live up to your standards, if any.
• Assess the potential gains and losses in forgiving and trusting again.
• Clarify to your partner, in no uncertain terms, the conditions under which you will be willing to restore your trust in him/her for the preservation of your relationship.
• Know that many couples have been successful in finding trust and closeness after betrayal and even greatly improved their love connection.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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