Who Do You Trust? Part 1

Who Do You Trust

Trust evolves. We start off as babies with perfect trust. Inevitably, trust is damaged by our parents or other family members. Depending on the severity, we may experience devastated trust, in which the trust is completely broken. In order to heal, we must learn when and how trust can be restored. As part of this final step, if we cannot fully trust someone. then we establish guarded, conditional, or selective trust.

Perfect Trust
The first people besides ourselves that we learn to trust — or mistrust — are our parents. If they behave with integrity, tell us the truth, and keep their promises, then we are inclined to believe that other people will do the same thing. If our parents tell us to trust them, and then break their word, we may never learn to trust at all.
When Cathy, a college professor, was betrayed, she experienced total mistrust at first. She asked me, “Can I trust anyone: myself, other people, or even God?” I asked her if she remembered feeling this way before. She thought for a moment and then replied, “Yes. When I was a little girl. My father was a minister devoted to spreading the word of God. Yet he beat me and my brother regularly. It seemed so crazy to me. How could someone who was supposed to be so good act so bad? If I couldn’t trust him to back up his words with actions, then I couldn’t trust anyone else.” Since I fully empathized with how Cathy was feeling, it was difficult to disagree with her. But I did tell her that unless she changed her attitude she wouldn’t have healthy love relationships in the future.

None of us become adults and retain the perfect trust we were born with. But that doesn’t mean we have to go to the opposite extreme. As my good friend author and public speaker Cheewa James puts it, “I trust everybody at the beginning. I assume everyone is loving until proven otherwise”. For best results, start off a relationship with the assumption that the other person is trustworthy. Be careful to protect yourself, but give him (or her) the benefit of the doubt.

Damaged Trust
Inevitably, the person you love will violate your trust. The most common warning signs include: Withholding vital information. You say, “Where were you last night until 2:00 A.M.?” “Nowhere special.” Lying. He says, “I was working late,” but when you called his office, there was no answer.

Giving you mixed messages. He denies your accusations but doesn’t look you in the eye. Refusing to negotiate. When you ask, “Will you promise to stay away from her?” he says, “Leave me alone,” and walks away. Deep in your heart you know that trust has been damaged.

When you find out about a betrayal immediately after it happens, trust is broken. But it is not necessarily devastating. Especially if it is a mini-betrayal, you and your partner can talk about the incident, agree that it won’t occur again, and reestablish a bond of openness and loyalty.

Devastated Trust
When your partner violates your limits and behaves in a way you find morally unacceptable, your trust is completely broken. Typically this happens after a betrayal when you’ve been cheated on, lied to, and treated with profound disrespect.

Devastated trust is a crisis. The first time it happens you may totally regress. You feel as if you’re five years old as you re-experience your original fundamental loss. You ask yourself, just as Cathy did, “Whom can I trust?” You may answer your own question, “Not my mother or my father, not even my partner. Who’s left?” Before you can think about trusting yourself and other people, you have to deal with the situation at hand. Can trust possibly be restored? If not, you will have to end the relationship despite any remaining good qualities.

What happens if you suddenly find out that you’ve been betrayed long ago? This happened to Edith, a newspaper editor. After her husband, Joe, returned from a weekend personal growth seminar, he decided to “come clean” about his previous sexual infidelities. Late one night, he told Edith that when he had visited an old out-of-town girlfriend five years ago, the two of them had sex. Furthermore, they had both discussed the possibility of ending their marriages so they could have a serious relationship together. “I could never trust Joe again after that,” Edith told me. “If he had told me at the time we might have been able to salvage something. But to find out five years later? All this time he’d been withholding vital information. How could I possibly know what else he is hiding now?”

Francesca, a computer technician, was offered a choice. Her husband, George, told her, “During the early years of our marriage I committed a few indiscretions. I’d like to tell you so I can get them off my chest. Is this all right with you?” Francesca thought for a while before she responded, “You can tell me if you like. But if you do I’ll never believe another word you say again. The time to tell me was when it happened, not now.” Of course, simply by bringing up the subject, he shattered her trust completely.

If you suspect that your partner betrayed you, you should confront him as soon as you can. You may rationalize, “I don’t want to hurt him, get into an argument, or rock the boat.” Short-term pain is long-term gain. Every moment you wait, trust is eroded. Conversely, if you betray your partner, either reveal it at the time or else take a vow of eternal silence. Sharing a betrayal farther down the road devastates trust.
(Continued ‘Who Do You Trust Part 2…)

Authors Details: Who Do You Trust? The Four Stages of Trust by Dr. Riki Robbins, Ph.D a relationship consultant in California and author of the book “Negotiating Love: How Women and Men Can Resolve Their Differences” and “Betrayed! How You Can Restore Trust and Rebuild Your Life”

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