They say that broken bones heal to be stronger than they were before. While that’s not necessarily true, bones are temporarily stronger at fracture sites during the healing process, as calcium is being deposited, they do eventually return to a state of being equally as strong as they were. Trust is not a bone, but can it heal like one? Can trust heal as strong as it was before it was broken?
This has been my question, my dilemma. i’m not new to broken trust in a relationship, it’s why i’ve been going through counseling with Maximus, to learn to be trusting. The problem for me is that in my past relationship there were so many betrayals that the only way for me to heal was to remove myself from the relationship–the relationship was just too fractured to heal and had to be amputated. Is that the case now? i’ve been stuck trying to figure out, What should i do?
As i’ve done with questions about BDSM and rage, i’ve started reading about restoring trust. i have begun my research with Mira Kirshenbaum’s I Love You But I Don’t Trust You and i’m finding it quite helpful.
The first important thing i’ve learned from Kirshenbaum’s book is that the mere fact that i am questioning the impulse to flee, to run, to leave the relationship is a sign that it has cause for working on to repair and restore trust. She gives six signs to look for when deciding whether to stay or leave.
1. Would you want this relationship if the trust could be restored?
Looking past the blind rage, remember the past month, the past year before you knew of the betrayal…would you want that relationship? Were you happy enough or were you looking to move on even then before the betrayal?
i was happy right before learning that Maximus had been continuing His relationship with Ms. W. We’d just been to a counseling session with Fern where i shared that i felt the most connected, happiest that i have felt, free of static of mistrust. We had been communicating, understood our love languages. This is why learning of the betrayal was such a shock to me–it had been pure bliss since His epiphany, now shattered.
i want that relationship, the relationship where we communicate, pay attention to each others needs.
2. Does the fact that this betrayal happened ruin everything for you?
Kirshenbaum gives caution here. She shares that while the anger that makes you not want to have anything to do with the other person can last months, that kind of anger eventually subsides, and mostly evaporates with healing. If the betrayal has completely caused you to “re-vision” your partner into something hateful and awful, you can’t stay, but if not, if it’s not clear, then give healing a chance.
i don’t feel like this has changed my vision of Maximus into that of a monster. i am, certainly, extremely disappointed in His decision and it has ruined the feeling of bliss and trust i had finally achieved with Him, but it hasn’t ruined everything. And this is a big realization for me–that it hasn’t ruined everything, just the recent feelings i’d gained.
3. Can I imagine the possibility of forgiveness?
The amount of anger you feel now is not predictive of whether or not you can forgive one day. Forgiveness comes from a realization or understanding that we can decide to let this go; perhaps better understanding their motives, what they were dealing with, or appreciating their limitations. Is your lack of forgiveness destroying your own peace of mind and happiness?
Yesterday, i came to the realization that Maximus had come to a crossroad when i’d last raged two months ago. He had to choose how to proceed with Ms. W while i and we were going through counseling to deal with my rage and mistrust. When i wrote my blog about it, i shared that i was disappointed in the lack of integrity He showed in choosing the easy wrong. Later i was reflecting on what Maximus had said when admitting that He had lied about the continued relationship with Ms. W and concealing it from me, and that was He believed that if i knew He still had a relationship with Ms. W it would slow down my recovery and prolong the process. This was true, it would have. But that still didn’t make sense to me why He would intentionally make a decision that would cause me such pain and hurt, until i recalled how Maximus kept insisting that this was the past not the present. This statement infuriated me, because i took that as Maximus knowing about the continued relationship and lying about it for two months and therefore it was in His past, but it was in my present. However, after thinking about this, i believe that Maximus was not communicating well. i have come to the realization that what He was trying to tell me was that He had made this decision to continue His relationship with Ms. W under the influence of His feelings of guilt about the breakup of her marriage, which was His past belief that influenced His decisions about her. He was not able to make a decision to distance Himself from Ms. W at that point, as He felt enormous guilt, and therefore, knowing it would hurt me if i knew, decided to conceal the relationship. It was wrong, it probably would not have been the decision He would have made now after discovering the fallacy of His belief of guilt versus the reality in fact.
That being said, i am still extremely hurt by the decision. And there was communication with Ms. W the day after His epiphany, much of which was deleted. But i do understand His intention, even though the execution was poorly chosen. i don’t believe He was malevolent in this decision, and that will help me to someday forgive Him, when i’ve had a chance to heal, to get rid of this anger and hurt and toxin.
4. Does the person you mistrust care about how you feel?
Has the other person gone out of their way to show their caring? If not, rebuilding trust is impossible. “With caring, anything is possible.”
i have to say that Maximus has shown care and concern about how i feel. The most important thing He has done was to give meeting with Fern the utmost priority when He had an enormous amount of work to do the day before going offline for the rest of the week on vacation. He could have easily refused, but He did not. In addition, He kept in contact with me during His travels until He was out of cell phone range, despite me continuing to be upset with Him, and did so in a positive and upbeat manner. He could have well chosen otherwise.
5. Can the other person work on your relationship with you?
You’ve got to talk, share information about things that are difficult to say and difficult to hear, and do it without destroying each other. Neither of you can tell the other person to go figure it out on their own and come back to see if it works. You have to listen when you need to be heard and make yourself be heard when you don’t want to talk anymore. Don’t attack, don’t blame, don’t call each other names when that’s really all you want to do–it will make you feel better in the short term, but destroy any feeling of safety, the safety the other person needs in order to talk.
i do feel Maximus is willing to work on our relationship. He has been willing to work on our relationship when i have been dealing with my raging. He’s going to counseling with me, He’s read and discussed books, He’s listened to me, He’s shared His feelings and experiences when it was difficult. We have a framework, Imago.
6. What do you have to lose by giving your relationship a chance?
What’s the worst that will happen if you try? If you try and find out that this person can’t or won’t change, then you know for sure, no regrets later for not trying. But it could also work out, if you go through the process correctly, if they want to earn your trust, it will work out, and you’ll be glad that you did not give up on it. Right now, you don’t need anything more than just a wisp of a feeling that there is even just a chance things can be salvaged. All you need now is the thought that it’s worth attempting.
i do believe it is worth trying. i’m not ready to give up on us, we are worth trying to salvage.
Kirshenbaum believes that broken trust is not like a house on fire, where what’s burned is burned; she believes it is like a broken bone, that what’s broken can heal.
Broken bones heal all the time. Yes, it’s painful. And yes, it can feel like it’s taking forever. But it doesn’t take forever at all.
She also shares that when we discover that our partner has done something bad, we believe it reveals their true character, when, in fact, all we’ve discovered is one truth about them, that they did this bad thing. You can’t let this one thing make us blind to all the good things they do, just as we ourselves are capable of doing stupid, weak, ignorant, selfish things as well. Let the other person have the chance surprise you with their good qualities, just as they’ve surprised you with their bad one.
i will be continuing to discuss what i’m learning from I Love You But I Don’t Trust You in the next blogs. The next posts will discuss the process of restoring trust.