Healing trust damage is a topic that is pretty common in my office. For example, how does one overcome the trust damage that occurs when a spouse has an affair? What if your family member or significant other is a perpetual liar? What if someone you love suffers from addiction and relapse, even multiple relapses? How are relationship damages repaired when trust is broken in these, and many other, painful circumstances?
I think there is kind of a tricky and interesting line to walk when it comes to trust. There is an inherent truth to all of humanity, and that is this: in this world, absolutely everyone is imperfect. No one alive today and walking the face of the earth can claim perfection. We may try, but it is a lie. So how then, can we trust anyone at all? How can we trust anyone knowing that the person we are trusting is incapable of perfection?
It is easy to become jaded and throw our hands up in the air and refuse to trust anyone in the face of a truth like this. It’s easy to give up. That is not the reason why I point out that everyone is capable of breaking a trust. I bring it up to encourage a realistic view of our significant others, family members, friends, etc. These people that we are in relationship with are imperfect, completely capable of hurting us, same as you are completely capable of hurting them. That’s the reality of the situation.
Instead of becoming jaded about that reality and closing off our walls completely, letting no one in, to protect ourselves from the inevitable; we can operate under the reality that those things that break our trust of others are going to happen, and that when they do we will be able to survive it. It doesn’t have to be a devastating blow that makes us crumble into a million pieces, never to recover. (In fact we must be open and vulnerable to being hurt by others to have any kind of closeness and connection at all…which we are born hard-wired needing, by the way.)
I can hear the push-back already…”You mean to tell me that I’m not supposed to feel devastated by finding out my partner had an affair?” Certainly, this is most devastating news. You are allowed to feel exactly how you feel about it. Ultimately, over time, it is a survivable event. If you will allow it, and if you have a gifted guide, you will learn a metric ton about yourself in the aftermath. This learning that could be acquired in the wake of such a trust break is actually the best preventative for it happening to you, and your partner, again. And again.
Will your relationship survive a trust shattering event like the ones I mentioned? It’s up to you. Can it? Absolutely, yes. Will it? Each person must decide for themselves. No therapist can decide for you either way. What a therapist can do is help you see what happened objectively, and be real about all the angles and risks moving forward, inviting you to grow and learn from it. It is not an easy journey. The decision to take it or not belongs to each person involved.
The truth is that trusts are going to be broken. Sometimes BIG ones. Sometimes the relationship will not survive a trust break. Sometimes it will. The choice is up to the participants. The one key that will determine whether or not the relationship can grow and heal from an event like this, or if it will break and diverge, is the level of humility of BOTH participants.
Are you able to give grace and forgiveness, in due time, to your imperfect relationship partner? Are you able to see any ways in which you may have contributed to the invitation to break trust? Is your partner humble enough to apologize and learn and grow from what has happened…to explore the underlying reasons, and to be honest about the wounds in their heart that they gave in to?
In the process of healing trust damage, there is no room for blame. Blame is a waste of time, in either direction. Blame is an enmeshed excuse to shift responsibility for one’s own feelings onto someone else. While expeditious and satisfying in the moment, it is actually short-sighted and counter-productive. Being real about wounds and taking ownership and responsibility is harder, but it ultimately yields freedom and healing.
This is a complex topic with nuances that require a master trail guide to navigate. With major trust damage, I think it’s nearly impossible to be objective enough to navigate the waters by yourself. Come on in, we’ll talk about it on the deepest levels. Healing trust damage requires time, transparency, insight, recovery, grace, humility, and courage. It’s not going to happen overnight, and it’s not going to be an easy path, but the path to healing does exist. We can do it together.
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Healing Hearts provides counseling services to the surrounding communities of Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville, and Geist. Call or text today to set up your appointment. 317-218-3038
© 2015 Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW