Trust, what does it mean, how does one gain it, keep it, break it? Trust has often been billed as the cornerstone of a healthy relationship, along with good communication which is another post altogether. Trust yourself, trust your partner, trust in your religious beliefs. Trust is this built, or given blindly, depending on the situation. Trust is defined by Webster as, “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” Assuring anything these days seems quite a daunting task in and of itself. What happens if assurance is impossible, as in relationships, where one partner cannot guarantee anything to the other partner? The days of the firm handshake meaning a bond stronger than superglue are gone. Nowadays, it seems the handshake is more akin to the strength of glue stick glue, tacky at best. So how do humans ever trust in one another? How is trust to be built, or rebuilt after it is broken? Can one partner have trust when the other does not?
In a romantic relationship trust usually comes in the form of believing a partner is not cheating. Other forms of trust issues in a relationship may encompass money situations, or family situations. Two partners who differ in spending habits formulate a plan of handling money and each trusts the other to carry out the agreed upon plan. Of course, this scenario is easily assured as it is as simple as examining the bank account to check the trust has not been broken. One partner’s family may not like the other partner. Perhaps the family is cordial when everyone is together, but behind closed doors speak ill of the disliked partner. It is up to the related partner to defend the relationship, and the offended partner must trust this will happen. In a healthy relationship this trust is also easily assured through communication. The related partner would be communicating with the offended partner about progress or lack thereof. The family situation would obviously either become healthier or more restricted.
So what happens when the trust involves issues of fidelity? Whether or not the partners have cheated in the past, or have been previously wronged or done wrong, how does one trust a partner not to cheat? Trust in other areas of a relationship often add up to trust in this area. For instance, if a boyfriend has shown himself to be of upstanding character in his work life, and his family life, his girlfriend draws from that and deems him, “a good guy,” and places some amount of trust in him. The odds of him being of good moral fiber in every area except relationships is typically uncommon, although yes there are exceptions to every rule. The more the pair interact and the boyfriend shows he keeps his word, follows through with his promises, the more trust is built. And vice versa, the same holds true with the girlfriend.
So then what happens when Prince (or Princess) Charming, loses his (or her) way and cheats? How can trust be recaptured, or can it?
Once a car is broken it can be fixed, depending upon how broken it is. A flat tire can be mended or replaced. A transmission left on the road is a bit more difficult, and may not be worth fixing in the long run. The same holds true of relationships. When trust is broken, it is up to both parties to assess the situation first. How broken is this relationship? Do we BOTH want to fix it? Can we fix it, even if we want to? Relationships require both parties to be brutally honest with themselves, let alone with one another. Often, being totally honest with oneself is more difficult than anything.
Once the pair have decided that yes, in fact, this transmission is worth hauling off the highway and towing to the mechanic for repair, the real work begins. Both partners need to be aware of what is broken in the first place. Trust does not break itself. It takes human impact for that to happen, and in a relationship, both parties are responsible. I know, I know, you may be sitting there chomping at the bit to rip me a new one because your husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/wife cheating on you was NOT your fault, and it was NOT, that is not the message. The message is, the relationship was broken far before any infidelity or trust breaking happened. The oil was not being changed in a timely manner in the vehicle, or the preventative maintenance was being ignored. Something was left to fall by the wayside. That something falls on both partners, never just one. It takes two to make it, or break it.
After defining the issues that led to the unfortunate braking of our relationship vehicle, comes the really difficult part for us humans, ownership. In order for people to resolve issues and move forward, everyone involved has to OWN THEIR BEHAVIOR. No moving forward without this one, it is a biggie. The offended party needs the offender to own their behavior as a way of saying, “I am sorry for what I did, and I know what I did. I wronged you and our relationship in this manner, and for that I am truly sorry.” On the flip side, the person that ultimately acted out the worst is not the only person responsible and does not want to feel like this is just one big blame game. So, the other partner needs to examine where in the relationship their own actions impacted things negatively, and own that two. Both partners then feel they are working together to mend what they broke together. The idea is that, WE are still WE. WE were wrong, and WE are going to work on this and make US good again. The moment you divide, you conquer, each other. That is not a happy, loving, long-lasting relationship….ever.
Through hard work, which may include extensive couples counseling, two partners who are dedicated to working through issues can do just that. Putting the broken trust of the past behind them and building something that is stronger than the original relationship ever felt. When only one partner is in it completely though, everyone is wasting their time. It is all or nothing, no half-assing this stuff.
Trust can mean different things to different people. For instance, some people are jealous and think flirting is cheating. Others are more open about it, and do not mind if their partner flirts as long as they are aware. Certain relationships are open and both partners explore with other people sexually, while still committing themselves emotionally to the original relationship. The levels of trust in these instances is different. What remains the same is the expectation of defined boundaries. It is up to the couple to define their relationship, at every step, mutually. When expectations are clear, and boundaries are agreed upon, it is easier to avoid any missteps and subsequent blaming. It all leads back to communication, it is key, it is vital.
Redefining trust along the way is possible too. Perhaps a couple has been married for a while and things are stale sexually speaking. One partner may approach the other with ideas to spice things up. Perhaps introducing a new found fetish, or becoming open to other partners. It takes a level of trust to bring up the topic in the first place, and even more for both to be willing to explore new things together. Along the way, new boundaries, and expectations must be defined. Perhaps a wife is comfortable with an open marriage but only if she chooses or has final say over a woman her husband explores with, and vice versa with the husband. Maybe a husband wants to explore a BDSM lifestyle with his wife, but she has no experience in this area. She puts her trust in him that if she agrees to explore, and does not like it, the pair will revisit the openness to this arrangement.
Don’t Let It Make You Cringe
So many people today have trust issues, the word alone often makes people cringe. The more couples avoid discussing issues of trust, the less there will be in any relationship. The less people communicate personal desires, needs, the more likely trust will be broken. Partners should openly discuss how trust has impacted past relationships, and the expectations of the current relationship. Just like the phrase, “I love you,” should not be thrown about willy nilly, neither should the phrase, “I trust you.” It is something to be gained, through honest communication, experience together, and openness to letting someone into the depths of the soul. It is not an easy endeavor, and should be respected, appreciated, and cherished. When a person puts their trust in another, it is almost like giving them an infant. When that trust is broken the purity is lost, and a wounded, vulnerable being is left. The work it takes to build trust is worth it, because the success of a happy, healthy relationship is a feeling few experience these days. Those are the happily ever afters of today’s society.