By Dr. Joel Block(Part One)
There are two main ways for the offender (and the offended) to make things worse when confronted with a trust violation:
One is withdrawal, to keep everything bottled up inside. The other is to erupt, to emote without restraint. If you are having too many conversations with yourself, you are probably not having enough with your partner. If you are screaming, hurling insults and looking to vent without concern for the impact, not briefly, but mostly, the relationship is certain to deteriorate.
Bear in mind: a critical action on the trust-breaker’s part, as reassurance that his efforts to restore trust are sincere, is his willingness to delve into himself, confront the personal issues that lead to trust breaches, and acknowledge them openly and responsibly.
A new start
To begin, an unequivocal apology is in order. No excuses, no “buts,” no mitigating circumstances. The apology is something like, “I am very sorry that I behaved in an irresponsible manner, that I betrayed your faith in me by deceiving you.” It is not something like, “I’m sorry you’re upset about my gambling but if you didn’t make me so nervous about money I wouldn’t have taken such risks to pay the bills.”
Grownup vs. child
The former is the statement of an adult who realizes that he is in charge of his life, and the consequences of his actions. The latter is the statement of a child who still believes that he is a victim of other people or circumstances. Unless he changes his view and begins to take charge of his life, the chances that he will be a trustworthy partner are near zero.
Following an apology is the discussion, or more likely a series of discussions with the goal of understanding the basis for trust violations. Simply stated, “Why has this happened, and what is going to happen that will prevent a recurrence?” Understanding the basis for a breach of trust does not guarantee that it won’t happen again. However, unless there is a belief in magic, it is unreasonable to assume that trust violations will not recur without addressing the reasons they have occurred and formulating a prevention plan.
2. Ask Questions
Some questions to pose for a discussion: What influences from our family of origin may be undermining our relationship? What changes need to be made in the relationship to strengthen the trust and intimacy? Very specifically, what kinds of behaviors are acceptable and what are out of bounds? Can the damage be repaired? What, specifically, will it take?
3. Walk the Talk
While talking is critical, it is not enough. Behavioral patterns require change as well. In the past, for example, the partner who has violated the trust may have come home at night, barely mumbled a hello as he was reviewing the mail, made some small talk during dinner and retired to the TV to watch the ballgame for the remainder of the evening. That routine, not much of a relationship promoter under any circumstance, definitely won’t cut it in the wake of a breach of trust.
4. The Vision
The offending partner needs to think through exactly what he’d like to see happen in the relationship and behave in a manner that promotes his vision. Regardless of the specifics, the general message his behavior should convey is, “I love you. You matter to me. I want to demonstrate that I am trustworthy.” This may require a shift in the usual manner of behaving and in the daily routine; it can be a lot of work, a real stretch for some people. If a serious trust issue is to be repaired it can only happen in the context of a caring environment. It is up to the offending partner to create that atmosphere, even if it is at some sacrifice.
5. Small Steps.
The reparative behaviors required might be new and a stretch, but they do not have to be sensational. Indeed, some people are so preoccupied with major shifts that opportunities for small but important gestures are overlooked. Others mistakenly believe that a repair process moves along on its own energy and consequently do not bother to fuel it at all. These individuals are the same as those who seem to sidestep escalating conflict by sweeping the incident under the rug and acting as if it hadn’t occurred. It may appear as if conflict has been safely avoided in these instances. Appearances notwithstanding, there is no avoidance of trust violations without negative consequences. <<