After a Breach of Trust Don’t Make It Worse

4 min read
Javaistan / Pixabay

Source: Javaistan / Pixabay

A trust may begin as a leap of faith, but ultimately, it is not a gift. It must be earned. Communicating is always very important, but this is especially critical when a violation occurs.

Specific conversations must occur to mend a broken trust. Through unmistakable effort, the offending partner must demonstrate that they are committed and that it is emotionally safe to be intimate with them.

Defensiveness Is Common and Damaging

Talking productively in an emotional crisis is not easy but essential. Moreover, the emotional fallout from a broken trust is not usually limited to the offended partner. The offender may also feel bad. Feeling distressed, they may react openly and validate the offended partner’s feelings, clearing the way for the breach to be repaired. This is an admirable response but, unfortunately, not common. More often, the partner who has violated trust reacts defensively, adding insult to injury.

Now, the offended partner not only feels hurt and anger, but the sense of betrayal is heightened by denial, distortion, or minimizing.

Rather than heal the wound of betrayal, the lack of openness by the offender will almost surely erode the trust base further. The couple will inevitably move toward increased and unproductive conflict, either over the areas directly involved in the source of mistrust—lying or an extramarital involvement, for example—or over a wide range of lesser issues. In either case, the relationship unravels.

Talking It Out Sensitively

The point is that there are two main ways for the offender (and the offended) to make things worse when confronted with a trust violation: One is to continue lying and underplay the breach. The other is to erupt, to emote without restraint.

When a man or woman has too many internal conversations, playing out the issues in their mind, they probably do not have enough trust with their partner. If they are screaming, hurling insults, and looking to vent without concern for the impact, not briefly, but mostly, the relationship is guaranteed to deteriorate.

Guidelines for Constructive Discussions

  • Stay focused. No fair dredging up mistakes made twenty years ago or complaining about how much the in-laws are hated. A fight is not an opportunity to rehash old grievances. Stick to the issue, or the discussion will surely sink from the weight of the problems.
  • Define issues. Be clear and specific about the problem. This will help you stay on track.
  • Listen and listen. Don’t just pause until it’s your turn to speak again, with your mind formulating the next sentences while your partner talks. Being defensive is a sure path to alienation.
  • Agreement is not essential. You don’t have to agree, but if you validate a hurt partner’s feelings sincerely, your partner will likely feel that you get it. In other words, be agreeable. To do otherwise is to risk prolonging the potential healing process. Lie? That would be stupid.
  • Don’t interrupt. You can be angry without being rude or bullying.
  • Don’t personalize. Stay with the issue rather than attack the person. Contending that your partner betrayed you in some manner is legitimate. Calling your partner names, belittling them, or verbally assaulting them is not constructive.
  • Recognize “his” and “her” conflict styles. Men and women have different conflict styles as well as intimacy styles. Respect the differences. A man may, for example, feel emotionally flooded and need a time-out, while a woman may view that as withdrawal. If the man reassures her that he is simply taking a few minutes to “regroup,” his partner will likely abide.

Bear in mind: A critical action on the trust-breaker’s part, to reassure their efforts to restore trust are sincere, is the willingness to delve into him or herself, confront the personal issues that lead to trust breaches, and acknowledge them openly and responsibly. And, of course, going forward with integrity is essential.

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