Relationships require trust, 100%. You trust the babysitter who’s keeping your kids safe, and you trust the person repairing your car. You trust that your employees will take good care of your customers, and you trust the instructor who’s teaching your teenager how to drive. And of course the obvious: you trust your spouse with everything from your joint bank account to your loving heart.
Without exaggeration, I can say that 90% of all conflicts I’m asked to help resolve deal with a breakdown, one way or another, of trust. It happens — sometimes gradually and sometimes instantaneously. And when trust leaves the relationship, it often takes hostages, such as respect, love, friendship, and security.
Can trust be regained?
Therapists think so, and I tend to agree. It does, however, take an ongoing commitment by both parties. And a whole lot of patience.
So, the obvious question is how to start the rebuilding process?
Well, first I think we need to get past the denials, the rationalizations, and the excuses. So if you’re the one venting, get on with it and then get past it. And if you’re the one listening, try to do so without interrupting, and with the understanding that this needs to happen before the rebuilding can commence. After all, if an earthquake flattened your house, you’d have to clear out the debris before relaying the foundation.
Once the venting and listening has taken place, the relationship might benefit by a few new ground rules. I like alliteration, so I’m going to refer to these new ground rules as “The Three As.”
The first A is for Attention. It’s time for both of you to pay attention to your relationship. I talk about this frequently because it’s very important, and can be as simple as asking “how was your day?” Date nights, walks, morning coffee behind closed doors, whatever works for you, just so you make it a consistent priority. Also, remember the follow-up questions: “how was your presentation” or “did your assistant arrive late again this morning” will show your partner that you’re paying attention to what’s going on in their life.
The second A is for Affection. This one may be easier for some than for others. I get that. I also get that affection doesn’t mean sex. It means a touch, or a smile, or a wink, or a smooch, or a hug. Do what is most comfortable and natural. Just do something.
The Third A is for Appreciation. This can be a game-changer, especially if you’ve ever felt taken for granted. Noticing what your partner has been or is doing on your behalf, and then saying something about it, is of critical importance when rebuilding trust. Sometimes, I think we show more appreciation for our food-server at a restaurant than we do at home. Take a look at what you’re not saying and start saying it to your partner.
And please, please give the process adequate time to evolve while you commit to nurturing it.