Trust can often feel strained or even broken in a relationship. A partner contacts someone of the opposite sex on the internet. Inappropriate texts. Cheating. A return to addictive behaviors – alcohol, drug use, gambling, porn – these all can hurt a relationship. Usually there are promises to stop a behavior and an apology for causing hurt. Still, quite often, these things happen again. Human beings are imperfect – we don’t learn quickly. Also, while apologies and promises are good – they are usually not enough to change behavior. A person really needs to figure out the WHY behind the behavior, and address that. If someone can’t figure this out on their own, therapy can often be helpful.
Much of the work toward rebuilding a relationship is up to your partner. However, there are things you can practice that will be helpful. Asking them for what you need, and demanding that you need behaviors to change. Setting high standards for what you expect out of the relationship. Communicating better, if you haven’t been good at this. However, the best thing you can do for both of you is to Choose to Trust. How do you do this?
- You have a choice to trust. At first this idea of “choice” seems impossible. People tell me “I don’t want to be a fool again. I don’t want to get hurt again. I trusted them the first time, and they did it again!”. The reality is that trust is really always a choice. Any time your significant other is not in your presence, they can contact another person, use a substance, be deceptive, do something to hurt you. As long as you decide to stay, the only way to maintain your own well being is to trust. If you stay stuck in being worried, angry, accusative, suspicious – your partner is much less likely to be successful in changing. Also, when you don’t choose trust, you turn into a probation officer, a detective, a parent. It’s not fun and it is not really a relationship.
- You won’t be a fool. Trust doesn’t mean that you are going to be a fool or that you will put up with more mistreatment. You don’t have to believe excuses that seem ridiculous. You don’t have to accept a lack of follow through on agreed upon rules, boundaries, limits. It is ok to ask questions and expect to receive answers. You deserve to hear from your partner WHY they have behaved in a certain way (or what work they are doing to try to figure it out). You deserve to see that your partner is doing what they say they are going to do. If you see evidence of wrongdoing, you can confront them about that.
- Stay in the Here and Now. Something terrible has happened in the past (maybe yesterday) – maybe more than once. What is happening today? Did your husband stay sober today? Did your wife come home from work when she said she would? Has your partner shared their thoughts and feelings with you as you asked them to? Are you spending time together? Do you see cooperation on daily tasks? Do you notice evidence that you have a partner who is trying? Trust is a choice, but it also increases day by day. If you focus on what is good today, it will help you feel better and more confident about tomorrow. Also, if you are focusing on what is good today, it will also help encourage your partner to keep making progress. If you focus on the past and don’t appreciate their current efforts, they may become discouraged.
- Take Care of Yourself. By choosing to Trust today, you do not have stay stuck in dwelling on yesterday. You can’t control what your significant other does today, but you can choose to have a good day for yourself. You can focus on taking care of yourself. You can have a better day at work. You can enjoy time with friends or your kids. You can have more energy to focus on your own health. Choosing to trust is choosing to not let your partner’s behaviors bring you down. No matter what the other person chooses to do you can remind yourself : “I can take care of myself, I can still make myself happy, I can be have a good life – no matter what they do.
- You can Stop at Any Time. Choosing trust, doesn’t mean you are going to accept anything that happens. Trusting today, doesn’t mean that if you are hurt again tomorrow that you have to be ok with that. You can leave at any time. YOU get to decide what is healthy for you. You decide when you’ve reached a breaking point. Deciding when to end a relationship is a topic for another blog (or perhaps a book), but the main thing to remember is that you can choose to trust, and you can also choose to say “I can’t trust you anymore, there’s nothing left.” By choosing to trust as much as you could, you have done your part.
Remember, you are half of your relationship, and you can only control your half. If your significant other really wants the relationship to work, they will show you. You can do your part by telling them what you need from them, and by demanding that they meet the standards you expect from a partner in life. You can also choose trust. When you choose trust, it gives you energy to take care of yourself. It frees you to be able to focus on the positive things that are happening today. Trust allows us to see the good behaviors of others in the moment, which then encourages them to keep working at the relationship. In the meantime, it doesn’t mean you are forgetting the past, or that you are willing to put up with bad behavior in the future. You are in control over your own happiness. If your partner is not willing to do the work, you can end the relationship at any time. However, if you choose to trust, you are helping yourself move on and helping your relationship heal.