Most people don’t know the answer to “How do you trust?” Last week’s post offered the definitions of betrayal and trust, and many ideas about the ways we betray others. It goes beyond simply having affairs. If you missed it you can read it here. It is a nice basis for this week’s Part II discussion.
There are times when we get to a place in a relationship when we really start seriously asking the question “Should I stay or should I go?”
Here are 6 guidelines* to consider when asking this question. And the first caution I offer is not to move too fast with your decision until you have carefully considered them.
- Would you want this relationship if the trust could be restored?
If you didn’t think this was good relationship before the betrayal, then why in the world would you want to stay in it now? On the other hand, if the relationship was good before the betrayal, perhaps it means something to you to work hard to recover it.
2. Does the fact that this betrayal happened ruin everything for you?
Initial anger can be very destructive, so there should be a lot of caution of that front. It can last a long time. But anger is different than having the person change for you in some fundamental unrecoverable manner—so that you cannot imagine ever wanting to be with him/her again. That is the question you must answer.
3. Can you imagine the possibility of forgiveness?
Can you see you lack of forgiveness as a self-destructive act, and can you see the possibility that forgiving is a life-affirming act?
4. Does the person you mistrust care about how you feel?
If the other person has not demonstrated consistently caring about how you feel, or done anything to show his/her sense of caring, then he/she will not be able to work effectively with you to recover trust. So why bother trying?
5. Can the other person work on the relationship with you?
A good way to tell if they are willing and able is for you to attack less and listen more. Often when one partner says “We need to talk” it means “I need to talk” and they know they are in for it—the attack is coming. If you do this,and they become more willing to engage, you’re in business. If you cannot bring yourself to attack less, then you may not be able to go through the process of rebuilding trust.
6. What do you have to lose by giving the relationship a chance?
If you evaluate the relationship and the betrayal, and you have already lost a lot because of it (money, time, trust), and now you see there is not much more to lose, you might simply say “What will it cost me if I’m wrong about just leaving? What if I give him/her one more chance and they turn it around?” In this case, you can make a commitment to the process of repair and set boundaries you will/will not tolerate. Kind of a mutually agreed upon ultimatum when the breached trust is seriously harmful to the partner. One example of this might be gambling debts.
If you are feeling like your relationship has lost the critical element of trust, shoot me an email here. Use the contact form and I’ll give you a call back to discuss the process of healing it.
*Resource: I Love You But I Don’t Trust You by Mira Kirshenbaum