Every relationship experiences breaches of trust. Fortunately, most of them are minor.
But sometimes offenses are serious and threaten the survival of the family.
Perhaps a wife becomes Facebook friends with a former lover and rekindles the romance. Or a man continues drinking after promising his family that he would quit.
Trust is like a bank account. We accrue funds in that account every time we behave in a trustworthy manner.
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But those earnings quickly vanish if we lie, cheat or act in a misleading, inappropriate way. Then we must begin the process of rebuilding our emotional net worth.
Fortunately, there are steps partners can take to re-earn lost trust.
The actions are surprisingly similar regardless of the transgression that has occurred.
Both the perpetrator and the recipient must participate if the relationship is to adequately heal.
▪ Admit to your wrongdoing. Don’t dodge responsibility or blame anyone else for what you did. That’s confusing to the recipient and promotes more distrust. A heartfelt mea culpa is required to make things right.
▪ Show sincere remorse. Say how sorry you are for your actions. Without remorse, doubt will always remain about your intentions.
▪ Expect an emotional response from the recipient. Be willing to listen to the disappointment, anger, inconvenience and worry you caused your loved ones. They need a chance to be heard and to process what you did to them. It probably won’t be a one-time event. They may need to do it several times.
▪ Lay out a plan to avoid future problems. Identify the reason you behaved badly. Decide how to prevent it from happening again. For instance, you may choose to delete all dating apps from your phone, or begin attending regular AA meetings.
▪ Be transparent. The offended party has every right to monitor your actions. Provide any cellphone records, web browsing history or credit card statements they request to see. Also, check in regularly so that your location and actions are known at all times.
▪ Behave in an upstanding manner. Actions speak louder than words. Prove to the recipient that you’re consistent, dependable and worthy of being trusted.
▪ Be patient. Trust isn’t rebuilt overnight. Depending on your offense, it can take days, months or even years to re-establish. Never pressure the recipient to heal faster than they’re ready. Instead, demonstrate your commitment and await acceptance.
▪ Don’t overreact. Yes, you’ve been wronged. You’re entitled to your feelings. But don’t emotionally annihilate the transgressor. You want the relationship to survive the wrongdoing.
▪ Heal as best you can. Share your pain with the offender. But you may need to get outside help to sort out your feelings.
▪ Be willing to forgive and move forward. At some point you’ll need to heal completely. Don’t bring up the issue again.
Linda Lewis Griffith’s column is special to The Tribune. She is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit www.lindalewisgriffith.com.