Repairing Broken Trust (Part 2)

Last week we began discussing the impact of broken trust in our lives and relationships.  Broken trust is incredibly hurtful.  It rocks the foundation of a relationship and can leave you wondering what was real.  Knowing how or when to trust someone again can be tricky business.  Often, we get caught either wanting to trust too soon, so as to move on from the painful event and silence our own heartache, or living behind the multiple walls we have built out of self defense.  Both options often lead to continued heartbreak and sadness. So all of that begs the question:  How do you know when to trust someone again?  How do you know when it is emotionally safe to re-enter the relationship or to begin a new relationship?  How do you repair broken trust?  Here are five factors to consider when repairing broken trust:

 

How does he function in other areas of his life?  Who are his friends?  What does his previous behavior tell you about the possibilities for the future?  One of life’s greatest truths is: past behavior is the greatest predictor of future behavior.  That being said, is he addressing his previous behavior?

 

After trust has been broken, both individuals understand the relationship is going to be different moving forward.  This isn’t “let’s go back to the way things were.”  Rather it is “let’s start a new chapter and learn from the previous mistakes.”  The person who broke trust needs to understand the ripple effect of her actions and wants to change her behavior.  At the same time, you (the person whose trust was broken) need to understand that you cannot move forward unless you peel back the layers and deal with your own emotional wounds.  A repaired relationship cannot heal a broken heart, but a healed heart can help repair a relationship.

 

When you try to share what you have been through, a trustworthy person will not only stop to listen, but he will genuinely care about the ripple effect of his actions and respond accordingly. It is hard to trust someone if whenever you bring up what happened he responds defensively by either redirecting the focus to you (Well, you…) or blaming someone else.

“Desiring and, ultimately, requiring that someone be concerned about his or her impact on you is not a matter of self-absorption or ‘it’s all about me.’  It is your responsibility and evidence of self-stewardship.  You only have one heart, and that heart is the core of you.  If you repeatedly subject it to bad treatment, constantly have to protect yourself, or realize you are the only one in the relationship who is concerned about you, you are not taking good care of that heart.”        -       John Townsend, Beyond Boundaries

 

Remember, we said that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  It is for that reason that there must be noticeable and sustainable behavior change.  If there is no behavior change, it is impossible for you to have realistic hope that the relationship will ever be different.

“When the person changes behavior, but you see no evidence that the change is due to a heart-level understanding of how the person impacted you, most likely what you are seeing is compliance.  You are not seeing transformation.  Compliance is about getting caught and not wanting to get caught again.  It does not develop trust.”      - John Townsend, Beyond Boundaries

 

Rome was not built in a day and neither is trust.  Whether we are learning to trust someone for the first time or we are trying to repair broken trust, building true trust takes time.  Remember our quote from last week:  “Love is free, trust is earned.”  If you are willing to quickly trust again, then it may indicate that you are trying to avoid healing.  If the other person is pushing you to quickly trust her again, then it may indicate she is trying to avoid changing.    The work of healing and repair is a marathon, not a race.  There are no extra points for fastest time.

Trust can be repaired, and hearts and relationships can be healed.  It takes work and time, and the hurt you may be feeling today will not last forever.  As you work to heal your heart, you may feel confident you can trust this person again or you may feel less certain about the future of your relationship.  Whether you stay in the relationship or decide to go, you have to let go… let go of the hurt, let go of the old patterns, let go of the broken relationship.  You have to let go so you can be free and enter into this next relationship chapter healed and untethered by the past.   Your heart longs for and deserves that free.

What hurt do you need to heal and begin letting go of today in order to free your heart?  What have you learned about yourself during your healing process?  What behavior change do you need to see from the other person in order to begin trusting him again?

 

Townsend, John, Ph.D. (2011).  Beyond Boundaries: Learning to trust again in relationships.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

Repairing Broken Trust (Part 1)

Do you remember the famous Charlie Brown and Lucy storyline that involved the football?  Lucy tells Charlie Brown she will hold the football while he kicks it.  Because of previous attempts at this game, Charlie Brown is suspicious and doesn’t trust that she will actually hold the ball.  Lucy tells him that this time it will be different.  Charlie Brown, ever hopeful that maybe this time Lucy is telling the truth, runs as fast as he can to kick the ball, and sure enough Lucy moves the ball just as he is about to kick.  Poor Charlie Brown ends up flat on his back deceived again.

Did you ever read the comic strip or watch the Charlie Brown specials and think, “Don’t do it, Charlie Brown!  Don’t do it!  Don’t trust her- she’s up to her same old tricks!”  Charlie Brown wants to trust Lucy and what she is saying this time around.  He wants to believe that things are, and will be, different.

Have you ever been Charlie Brown?

Trust is a funny thing.  For the most part, we want to trust people.  We want to believe people.  Trusting someone allows us to feel safe.  Even the most untrusting of us started out with a trusting spirit.  Just as we want to love and be loved, we want to trust and be trusted.

Have you ever had someone break your trust?  I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t.  How does this very common rupture in relationships occur?  Broken trust occurs when someone acts the opposite of how you assumed/hoped/expected he/she would act or when he/she goes against the spoken or unspoken “agreement” in the relationship.  Lucy said she would hold the football, and she didn’t.  You expected your relationship would be safe from wandering eyes and hearts, but it wasn’t.  You hoped your loved one would stop his self destructive, addictive behavior, but he hasn’t.  You assumed your friend would never betray you, but she did.

Our deepest hurts are often caused by those we trust the most.  It isn’t part of the plan for that relationship.  That’s why it hurts so much.  It is unexpected.  We didn’t think that person could do this to us.  A spouse.  A parent.  A best friend.  Sometimes it is hard for us to admit that trust has been broken and this person is no longer trustworthy because it shatters our image of that person.  This, in of itself, can be devastating.  Sometimes we may even try to convince ourselves to overlook broken trust because it may feel easier to just move forward than stay in the present and heal the wound and repair the brokenness in the relationship.

However, we cannot ignore someone’s untrustworthy behavior.  To do so is like running when you have shin splints.  Yes, you can run through the pain and eventually you won’t feel it anymore, but you are doing damage to your body.  Eventually, you will have to stop and take the appropriate steps to heal your body.

We can keep trying to ignore broken trust and the emotional wounds it leaves in its wake, but eventually we will just become emotionally numb.  Just because we stop feeling does not mean our hearts aren’t breaking.

How do you repair broken trust in a relationship?  How do you learn to trust again?  Rebuilding trust in a relationship takes two people… two people working on themselves, fixing the areas that need fixing, healing the wounds that need healing, and strengthening the emotional and communication muscles that need strengthening.  It takes BOTH people working, growing, and changing to rebuild and repair trust.

But wait a minute, you might be thinking, I did not deceive this person…I did not break our agreement.  No, you did not, but we cannot successfully repair a relationship, or enter into a new one, unless old patterns change and deep wounds heal.

We cannot expect the other person to heal us.  That is our job.

But earning trust?  That is the other person’s job.

John Townsend in BeyondBoundariessays, “Love is free, trust is earned.”   I absolutely love that and I think it is so true.  We give our love freely.  Love does not fall on a grading scale.  But trust… trust is different.  Trust is earned.  We trust those with our hearts who have shown themselves worthy of our trust.

As you work to heal your heart, you have to simultaneously discern if it is safe to trust again.  How do you know someone is trustworthy?  How do you know if the relationship can be saved?  How do you know when you are ready to enter into a new relationship?  Trust is an integral part of any relationship.  You cannot have true connection without trust.  This is part one of our discussion on repairing trust.  I hope you will join me for part two when I will discuss five key factors to consider when learning to trust someone again.

Healing takes times and rebuilding does take work, but your heart can be made whole and you can have a healthy, loving, trusting relationship.

When has your trust been broken?  What was that like for you?  How has broken trust in a relationship impacted you and your life?