Not so long ago I unveiled how not having trust for your partner can be worse than cheating—or as the Bustler interviewer wrote: The Cold Hand of Death.
In truth, she’s not exaggerating. So let’s dive in on how to trust again.
Avoid the Intimacy-Killer
Naturally, when deprived of our needs and when we’ve lost trust for our partner, we fall into daily negative interactions where we only look out for ourselves, even if it sabbotages our partner. Dr. Gottman, a lead researcher in the field, coins this the “secret relationship killer.”
We simply make a bet when we trust. We bet/hope this person won’t let us down, won’t hide things from us, won’t keep important secrets from us, won’t make false promises, and won’t coward to bad influences.
I don’t know a soul that says “I don’t mind being ignored, desrespected, betrayed, and forgotten.”
We want some sort of commitment
We have specific concerns, specific to our own needs, and we do have an expectation that our significant other will not only respect that, but have no resistance to act accordingly. Or else it feels like a slap on the face.
For good reason, because with this bet comes an investment and our own flexibility and sacrifices to consider our partner’s concerns. The last thing we want is to feel robbed or used in any way.
Then, as life would have it, we feel betrayed no matter how careful we’ve been. The same issue comes again and again. Or we hoped it would get resolved with time. And now we need to repair our trust.
Now if you just started a relationship, then you know what you have to look forward to. Only kidding—partly. This list should help you avoid major dissppointments. Take it seriously.
How To Trust Again
1. Test the waters.
Don’t assume your partner will be ecstatic as you hope them to be or ready for whatever it is you want them from them. Test things out slowly. Are they open for this? Or are they ready for that? Are we both ready for the next step? Test in general, and test in specific situations. Before saying “I forgive you,” do you feel that this person has earned it? Test it. Before blurting how disappointed you are, is this a good time to bring up an issue? Test it. Perhaps by saying, is this a good time?
2. Know your boundaries.
While you are testing each other (as I’m sure your partner is testing you too), you’ll start to realize, if you haven’t already, what really ticks you off. During trial and error you’ll uncover your limits. Sometimes this can be the worst way to find out where your limits are, so the sooner you know, the better for the both of you. If you know exactly what your limits are, it will be much easier to draw the line.
3. Respect your boundaries.
Once you’re aware of what doesn’t matter to you and what is completely off bounds it’s time to respect your boundaries. If you don’t respect them, then no one will. It’s your job to be loyal to yourself. Once you practice that self-compassion, others will automatically respect you as well. That means, you really stick to your boundaries, not just sometimes—unless of course, your feelings have changed and so have your boundaries. Most importantly, just because your sister Judy thinks your boundaries are stupid, doesn’t mean they are. Yours are just as important.
4. Practice respect.
In the process of asking for trust, we all can get a bit self-righteous and indignant. It may be true that you might not have wronged your partner as badly as they have (although this is all relative), it doesn’t justify crossing the minimum boundary every human should have…respect. Or it will end conflict poorly. It’s absolutely fair to ask your partner to work at earning your trust back, but it shouldn’t be demanded. Kindly encourage them, even. Say, “I really want to trust you. I know this is hard for the both of us. But I know what will help me trust you.” This takes us to number 5.
5. Practice honesty.
When trying to earn back trust, it can feel overwhelming and hopeless. Being specific about what you need from them, will help them pin point what exactly you need. Let’s stick to needs here. I know we all want 2 dozen roses, but that will not miraculously make you feel full of trust. If it’s about texting, couples in therapy usually practice showing texts without any reservation. Depending on how severe the trust, it may take months or it may take years. I’ve personally witnessed and experienced a few years of solid trust to be formed or repaired.
I believe you are a lovable person that deserves a partner you can trust. Welcome it.
I also believe your needs are important, and boundaries are person-specific. Don’t adapt another person’s boundaries because you think that would be more appropriate! It’s not you. See beyond the judgment of our society or social circles, and believe that your boundaries are essential and a part of you.
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