“Trust is built in droplet and lost in buckets.” – Kevin A. Plank
For the past 5 months, I’ve been working on an aviation summit for pilot wives. We had around 350 people who attended the summit and I’m so grateful. I’m grateful that it was a huge success and so many got resources and information to help build better, happier lives. I’m equally as grateful that it’s over. It was a LOT of work!
After it was over, I had several emails from summit viewers on relationship questions and 5 or so were centered around trust. “If my husband has cheated, can I ever trust him again?” “My partner hasn’t done anything big for me to not trust him but a lot of little things over time to make me question my trust in him. Are we doomed?” “My partner relives patterns that feel like betrayal and hurt me so much. Should I leave or is there a chance we can work it out?”
Trust is one of the foundational building blocks of a marriage. When it’s broken, it’s usually broken in a big way. The betrayed partner feels hurt while questioning the decisions they’re making by staying. The emotional and mental overload is immense! The betrayer may feel remorse, fear of losing the relationship, guilt, and maybe even a need to defend their actions.
The short answer to these questions is that yes, trust can be restored. No, you’re not doomed.
However, the long answer starts with the misconception that trust is easily restored or that it’s a quick process. It’s not, on either account.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting.
A few days ago my son was playing the Xbox and I began to hear him talking to someone through his headset. It was 9AM and while my son is homeschooled, he doesn’t know a lot of other kids his age that are so I knew he wasn’t talking to someone he knew. That’s rule number 1 in our house. Then when I started looking into the game he was playing, it was a game he isn’t even allowed to be on. Strike two.
I forgave him for making an unsafe decision and breaking the house expectations. However, he still lost his privileges on the Xbox for a hot minute.
Forgiveness doesn’t exempt him from taking responsibility for his actions. He now has to show me that he’s learned the lesson and that I can trust him in that situation again.
It’s no different for your spouse. You can forgive them but they’re still responsible for the actions that have hurt you, for apologizing using your apology language (not theirs), and for showing you repeatedly over time that they have learned something from that experience and can be trusted again.
The next misconception is that one time of proof that they’ve done great means you trust them fully again. Not even close. Droplets and buckets, remember? That one time is fantastic and definitely helps but it doesn’t mean your partner is automatically going to praise you, celebrate you and tell you you’re off the hook because you screwed up last time. That’s a very unrealistic expectation.
It may mean that time, repeated “good behavior” and apologizing every time there is a trigger for the offending incident coming up is needed to restore the trust. Does it mean that the offended partner can throw you under the bus, chastise you, or use hurtful words/actions every time they’re triggered? Absolutely not. Healthy communication of emotions, triggers and maybe even avoiding those triggers will be needed to move forward. That’s going to look different for every relationship.
You have to do what works for you and your relationship.
That may mean an agreement that an app like Life360 or sharing your location is put in place. Calling when you get somewhere, facetiming, having your partner with you, being home by a certain time, getting therapy, coaching or counseling is needed or coming up with a game plan to break patterns is put into play. Accepting and respecting the boundaries your partner puts into place to keep them emotionally safe has to happen.
The betrayer has to be open and honest- with themselves and with their partner. They have to be willing to let go of the pride and accept the consequences of overstepping the boundaries put into place and they have to want the good of the relationship more than they want their pride and ego to be stroked.
If you’re needing help with this, please reach out. I do have 4 open spaces for pop up sessions this coming week.
Until next week, love each other well.