One of the most difficult bonds to repair is trust. Have you ever been betrayed? Then you know what I’m talking about. Many years ago I was in a relationship with a man who cheated on me. I remember feeling deeply hurt and could not reconcile the who, what, when, where, and how’s of his infidelity. After a big confrontation and a lot of tears (on my part) and pleadings (on his part), I decided to stay in the relationship. He was totally devoted and loving for the first few weeks after I caught him but eventually he continued having other relations. Still, during the period when he was pretending to have changed his ways, I sulked and reminded him how much he had hurt me every chance I got. It was exhausting. Eventually it became toxic. I couldn’t forgive and he couldn’t do enough to convince me to trust him again.
Trust is a delicate bond and to rebuild it is not a matter of simply willing yourself to forgive and overlook the hurt. The person who violated the trust cannot expect that a few weeks of revved up attention and doting is going to get him or her back into good graces and restore the relationship to how it used to be. Expectations about the healing process, from both parties, are often unrealistic. To help calibrate expectations it may help to think of broken trust like the cutting down of a tree that once stool tall and solid. It has been reduced to a stump and regrowing the tree will require careful nurturing to encourage the small shoots that with time will begin to emerge. To rebuild trust, both parties have to be in it for the long haul and understand that there will be many painful days before some level of trust is restored.
To repair my relationship, I recognize that I first had to acknowledge my pain and also let go of my desire to punish and inflict pain on him. My sarcasm, bitterness and resentment made him miserable, which was the desired effect, however my actions threatened to permanently contain me in my own pain and misery. I also had to believe that we could get past the infidelity and be willing to communicate about my doubts and request for him to take measures to relieve those doubts. Instead I got involved in a game of gotcha and interrogated him all of the time. If he wanted to be in a relationship, he could have regained my trust by being willing to listen and reassure as often and as long as I needed it and, or course, by being honest and open. He would have had to have consistently behave in way to demonstrate that he was dependable and trustworthy.
Writing about how to repair trust after someone we care about has violated it makes the healing sound so easy. The truth is, it is extremely difficult to rebuild trust. The only way to get through the most difficult times is to ask yourself, is this relationship worth it? If so, you owe to yourself to stick it out. If not, it’s best to end the relationship as soon as possible and save yourself the additional pain.