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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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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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