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.