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12 Things You Can Do to Learn to Trust Again

12 Things You Can Do to Learn to Trust Again

T R U S T–a simple five-letter word. Yet one that carries so much weight. Trust is the soul of any relationship. It is the super glue that binds it together. If you have it, it is the reason you can go to sleep at night next to your partner and feel at peace; the reason that the ding of a text, or the ring of a phone doesn’t shoot off alarm bells; the reason that your partner working late doesn’t cause an anxiety attack.

Lack of trust, however, creates just the opposite effect. It causes untold psychological distress. It turns you into a spy as you search for clues that will validate your suspicions. It pits you against your worst insecurities. It makes you sick and hypervigilant; it keeps you up at nights wondering, Am I not good enough? Is it my fault? Is everything we have a sham? What will people think?

If your trust has been shredded, you might feel hopeless. But, there is good news. A relationship that has been tarnished by a betrayal can be saved. As Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D, writes in her article in Psychology Today:[1]

“Relationships are very complex and, depending on the circumstances, betrayal doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the relationship.”

Like a masterful tapestry, relationships are colossally multiplex. Understand that trust was broken because something in the relationship was broken. Are you willing to invest the time and effort it takes to salvage what took you years to build? Are you willing to find the missing pieces that made the relationship crumble? If so, then it’s possible to put the pieces back together.

Let’s learn some of the ways to do that…

1. Get Clarity

When a betrayal occurs, it feels cataclysmic. Emotions are fragile, fingers are pointed, and a war of sorts ensues. But no event that big is born in a vacuum. Things happen for a reason. To gain clarity, you must dig deep. Was there something that should have been addressed, but ignored instead?

Talk to your partner. Find out what happened and why. You are going to be angry, no doubt, but if you want to reconcile, you must listen. The answers will often reveal the corrosion poisoning the relationship prior to The Event. The betrayal was the symptom, not the actual problem.

In her article, How to Regain Broken Trust in a Relationship, Dr. Magdalena Battles talks about “Coming Forth.” She writes,

“Both sides must be willing to come to the table and be open, honest, and vulnerable. They must also care enough to want to put forth the effort that is required to make the relationship work again.”

If this doesn’t happen, then the relationship will surely die in a heap of pain, regret, and resentment.

2. Discover the Motivation

People do things for different reasons. Usually, those reasons are significant and rational to the person doing them. They might feel hurt, lonely, and/or unappreciated. Sometimes, an outsider does the job that the other partner is failing to do.

For instance, in the film Thief of Hearts, Mickey Davis, played by Barbara Williams, is constantly ignored by her husband, Ray Davis, played by John Getz, whose main focus is writing. He’s always working against a deadline. His wife is nothing short of an accessory in his life. It doesn’t take long for an encounter with a handsome stranger, played by Steven Bauer, to open up her lonely heart and have her fall, heart first, into an affair. He pays her all the attention she isn’t getting from her husband. Of course, it helps that he’s a thief, has stolen all her diaries, and now knows her deepest, darkest wants and desires.

Motivation plays an important role on whether or not your relationship can be saved. Neglect, an unsatisfactory sex life, anger, lack of commitment–they can all lead to infidelity. You might blame yourself for what happened, maybe even had a part in it. Then again, you may have had nothing to do with it. In an article by A. Pawlowski, she states:[2]

“You could be doing everything right and your partner could still be tempted to cheat for reasons that have nothing to do with you or the quality of feelings you share.”

3. Commit to Rebuilding the Relationship

How valuable is your relationship to you? Once the dust settles after the infidelity, ask yourself these questions:

Am I willing to commit to him/her despite what happened? Do I still love him/her? Will I be able to do what it takes to get through this crisis?

Terry Gaspard, MSW, LICSW, in her article in The Gottman Institute writes:[3]

“Do you have enough admiration and respect left to salvage the relationship? Be honest and ask yourself: Do we still have fun together and enjoy each other’s company most of the time?”

If you answered yes to those questions, then despite the long road ahead, it will be a worthy endeavor. If you are committed to each other, willing to examine the situation, and work on rectifying it, it is possible to pull through and come out on the other side.

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Once you commit, forge ahead. Don’t half-heartedly work on it. It’s got to be all or nothing. If you’re halfway in, that means you’re halfway out.

4. Consider Couple’s Therapy

In some instances, regaining trust and working through an affair might be too difficult a challenge. In that case, perhaps couple’s therapy is in order.

With a trained professional, you can address issues you might not otherwise be able to do sitting at home, talking over a bottle of wine, and asking, “Was she better than me? Tell me everything! I want all the details.” You actually don’t, but I won’t get into that here.

Outside help is an invaluable tool. You’ll learn how to navigate the rockiest of roads. And this is exactly what you need at a fragile juncture such as the one with which you are dealing.

Find out more about this here: Is Relationship Counselling for You? Find Your Answer Here

5. Forgive

You’ve fought hard for your relationship; worked tirelessly to get beyond what happened. Your relationship is still tender, but at least you’re still together, and working to keep it that way. Sometimes, however, even though you’re still together and you think you made it through the crisis, anger and resentment linger. All is not forgiven.

The victim can start using that to their advantage. “You have nothing to say about (blah, blah, blah), especially after what you did!” The hurt party can hang the betrayal over their partner’s head, reminding them continuously that they better tow the line, or else. Because of what happened, the hurt party feels entitled, and maybe even becomes a little punishing.

In order to really get beyond The Event, there has to be forgiveness. On both sides. The betrayer may be feel so guilty that they can barely stand themselves. In fact, they may start acquiescing on things that they shouldn’t.

Forgiveness, while not easy, is key to the survival of the relationship.

6. Give it Time

My son required jaw surgery when he was 19 years old. It was quite a painful ordeal. After the surgeon broke his jaw and put it back together, my son’s jaw was wired shut for six weeks in order for the proper healing to take place. He could only eat soft foods through a little syringe in his mouth. It took a good month and a half before his jaw was healed.

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Unfortunately, betrayal is not like jaw surgery. It’s much worse. To mend a broken heart requires the skill of a surgeon and lots of time. You’re looking at about 18 months to three years, depending on how long you’ve been together.

If you’re committed to making your relationship work, patience is crucial. You’re going to be nursing anger, sadness, disbelief, insecurity, maybe some even shame. That’s a full plate.

Take it one loving step at a time. Talk things out when necessary. Eventually, if you keep taking those tiny steps, you’ll get to the Healing!

7. Be Transparent

…like a perfectly see-through glass window! In order to regain trust, the guilty party needs to be absolutely transparent. The betrayed cannot think for a minute that there are any secrets. Secrecy will create further distrust.

For instance, when the phone rings, don’t say, “I’ve got to take this,” and walk into another room. As a trust trasher, there is a lot of mending to do. Put aside the fact that you feel like your privacy is being invaded. You haven’t earned it at this point. You will need to re-earn their trust, so be open.

8. Cut Ties Completely

If you are the person who has betrayed your partner, you must cut all ties with the interloper. That means no phone calls, no texts, no emails, no coffee dates. No last meeting for “closure.”

No contact means no contact. If it’s over, then let it be over. Your partner deserves that. You may have had your reasons for doing what you did, but have a better reason for rebuilding your relationship. That can’t happen if you maintain contact with the “Other” person.

Your partner will not be able to rebuild trust if they know you’re still seeing and talking to the person that nearly destroyed your lives together.

9. Don’t Keep Bringing up the Event!

When you arrive at the point where you’ve picked up most of the debris, rebuilt your lives, and feel like you can move on, move on. That means, do not keep bringing up what happened. That will only serve to re-open the wound.

Imagine severely cutting yourself. You get multiple stitches, and get it bandaged up. Instead of letting it heal, you keep taking off the bandage, and ripping off the stitches, just to look at the damage. Ouch!

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If you truly want your relationship to become solid again, put the affair in the past, and leave it there. Learn from what happened, make the necessary adjustments, then proceed onward. Talking about it ad nauseam will only keep the pain alive.

10. Do What You Say You’re Going to Do!

If you’re the betrayer, then this one is very important: Don’t lie! Say what you mean and mean what you say. Even the smallest lie, a “white” lie, if you will, could cause doubt to sprout, and result in your relationship taking another hit. At this point, irreversible damage can be done. Be consistent, reliable, and honest.

11. Do Things That Brought You Comfort and Joy before “the Event”

After the Event, it is easy to get buried in the rubble; difficult to pull yourselves out. But here’s the encouraging news: your relationship is not defined by what happened. There were good years prior to the betrayal, right? Now, it is time to pull from that reserve.

Sit with your partner. Talk about all the things you used to do when you were both happy; about all the places you used to go to that made you feel warm and cozy. It’s time to revisit them again. Start dating. This will psychologically take you back to the good times. Build on those. Then create new moments.

Betrayal always creates a big mess, leaving in its wake incalculable emotional detritus. Betrayal has sharp claws. It takes a lot of work to heal the scars. But they can be healed. Sometimes things have to be torn down in order to rebuild them better and stronger.

12. Apologize

Express your remorse. Be genuine. This goes a long way to start repairing the damage. Do what it takes to let your partner know how truly sorry you are.

The suggestions listed above can work. But there has to be a willingness to try, a commitment to do what it takes, and a decision that the relationship is worth saving.

But that’s a decision only you can make. So what’s it going to be?

Featured photo credit: Svyatoslav Romanov via unsplash.com

Reference

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Rossana Snee

Rossana is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. She aspires to motivate, to inspire, and to awaken your best self!

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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