Can you really have a meaningful relationship without trust? Without it, aren’t you always holding back, to some degree?
I think so. The lack of trust always means the presence, to some degree, of uncertainty and doubt, and the need for protectiveness. After a breach in trust, this is even more true. A betrayal sensitizes us, making us wary and putting us on guard. Sometimes we’re so sensitized that we become overly vigilant and lose our objectivity, even to the point of seeing threats that aren’t there.
Nobody ever wants to live like that. The challenge, when trust has been broken, is to rebuild it – assuming that you are in a relationship that can go on.
Through my years as a LifeMatters counselor, I have developed a formula to assist people who need to rebuild trust with someone. Our clients have found this very helpful and easy to work with. There are four elements to this formula, four things that you need from someone for trust to return.
- They have to be aware they were wrong. It will be very hard to trust someone if they don’t even recognize the harmfulness of what they have done. It’s basic to believing that you can be safe with that person again.
- They have to have remorse proportional to the wrong. We’ve all dealt with people who can admit a wrong-doing, but who seem to minimize the damage they caused. How do you feel when you sense that they “don’t get it”?
- They have to change their behavior. This is the pivotal point and foundational to the recovery of any trust at all.
- The behavior change has to last. A change in behavior is good, but it only gains in meaning with time to show that it is reliable.
- To put it simply, you only start to trust someone again when they change their attitude and behavior, and you have time to see that the change isn’t a fluke. The longer it goes on, the more you can let down your guard.
By the way, this formula is also a good guideline for rebuilding trust if you are the one who broke it.