Trust is a very important ingredient in relationships and when it is broken, it is hard to mend. In all the years I have been coaching couples, the most challenging were those whose trust had been broken.
My mom used to tell me
“It takes a long time to milk a cow, but only a second to spill the milk in the bucket”
Trust is just like milk. It takes months and years to build and only seconds to destroy. My first suggestion to you is to guard your trust at all costs, because it is one of the hardest things to fix.
Trust is built on honesty and telling the truth. In every marriage, there is an agreement to be truthful. As soon as one person lies, even once, it is like forming a tiny crack in the milk buckets which slowly lets out all the milk.
People lie when they think that telling the truth is going to be painful. There are many different kind of lies. Not telling your partner that you have lost your job or that you are terminally ill are lies just as much as not telling your partner you are having an affair or that you spent your entire savings on buying yourself jewelry or a motorcycle (excuse the stereotyping). They are all lies but they each have a different justification. The first two hid the truth in the hopes of protecting your partner from pain. The other is meant to protect you from pain.
The most common causes of a loss of trust in relationships are due to lies, rage, violence, abuse, drug and alcohol, gamboling and the hardest: sexual infidelity.
Unfortunately, most couples I know find it very hard to re-build the trust and forgive their partner for “killing” it. The brave ones make a huge effort to model trust.
How to rebuild trust
- Do not try to be a lie detector. The first thing that happens when your trust is broken is that you become suspicious and try to find out when he/she is lying. It is a very natural reaction but don’t do this! As soon as you put your mind towards detecting lies, you will think your partner is lying about everything, even when they are not. Things will only get worse.
- Don’t tell your partner that you know he/she is lying. He/she knows already! Betrayed partners often want to feel validated in their fury, as if to say, “I know you are lying. I am not a sucker!”. A fair reaction, but it is probably not going to help your cause. If your partner had the guts, he/she would have done what they did without hiding it. Hiding/lying is a sign they don’t think it was a good idea.
- Do not confuse honesty with saying everything on your mind. It is important to tell the truth but not important to say everything you are thinking. “You look a little dumpy today” is probably better left unsaid. If you nitpick with your truth and flag it too often, it will do the opposite of what you are intending. Be sensible!
- Do not find look for someone to blame. It is possible to have a conflict situation where everyone was doing his/her best and it is still painful. Don’t think of blaming or justifying yourself. It only put you in a vicious cycle.
- Do not play the victim. Playing the victim can make lying partners feel justified in lying. Yes, being on the receiving end of a lie can make you feel angry and betrayed but you are not a victim. Never! You can rise up and come out of the other side, stronger!
- Do not seek revenge. Feelings of revenge are poisonous. Wanting to seek revenge is like drinking a glass of poison and expecting the other person to die. Do not let this feeling reside in your body because of something someone else did. You will be the one to suffer.
- Share your time table fully. Be transparent with your partner. If they know where you have been and what you have been doing, they can feel confident that you are telling the truth. Talk about the people you meet and the things they said so he/she can check to see if you are telling the truth.
- Use the word “trust” often. Always be honest when saying “I trust you to make the right decision”, or, “I trust you to tell me if something is wrong”, or, “I trust you to tell me how you feel about it”. People who are not trustworthy usually do not think of themselves as trustworthy (see the cycle?). Help them learn to trust themselves. If they have big dilemmas say, “trust yourself!”
- Every time you are away from your partner, call. Show him/her that you are thinking of them and not doing things behind their back. Tell them where you are, what are you doing, who is with you, when you will be back, how long the ride will take. Do not leave any space for suspicion and guessing. Hopefully your partner will do the same. But be careful. Do not keep them on the phone the whole way home. It defeats the purpose of trust. Over doing it may do the exact opposite. Be reasonable. A 30 second phone call is good enough.
- Be transparent with your emails and social media correspondence. Email and social media is very private. Make sure your partner is connected to you so he/she can see everything. Leave your mail open for him/her to see and even CC him/her on some of your emails to make sure he/she feels in the loop.
The best thing is not to lose the trust in the first place. If it happens and you do find your partner was not honest, think of him/her as a loved one who is afraid of telling the truth. Give them good examples which they can model.
This post is part of the series Save Your Marriage:
- Self-Regulation in Your Marriage
- How to Save Yourself from Divorce
- Marriage and Divorce Statistics
- The Marriage Institution
- Marriage is the Foundation of Families
- The Unpleasant Side of Divorce
- How to Get Things Wrong in a Marriage
- Marriage and Self Talk
- More About Self Talk
- Facts vs. Meaning in Marriage
- All Men Are… All Women Are…
- When Two Do Not Become One
- Marriage and Money
- Be Your Partner’s Best Friend
- Relationship Between Two Onions
- The Greatest Gift: Stay Together
- Marriage of Singles
- The "Right" Trap
- The Intention Trap
- Best Marriage Quotes
- 10 Rules for Civilized Dialogue
- 10 Tips for Re-Building Trust
- The King and His Servants
- The Nitpicker
- Expressing Feelings in a Marriage
- Don’t Be On Guard
- Don’t Clam Up
- Have Good Sex to Save Your Marriage
- Trust (or The Boy Who Cried Wolf)
- Emergency Relationship Coaching Essentials
- Save Your Marriage with Better Time Management
- Choice Theory Can Save Your Marriage
- How to Have a Hot Relationship