Defining and Rebuilding Trust After Betrayal

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“When we think about betrayal in terms of the marble jar metaphor, most of us think of someone we trust doing something so terrible that it forces us to grab the jar and dump out every single marble. What’s the worst betrayal of trust? He sleeps with my best friends. She lies about where the money went. He/she chooses someone over me. Someone uses my vulnerability against me (an act of emotional treason that causes most of us to slam the entire jar to the ground rather than just dumping out the marbles). All terrible betrayals, definitely, but there is a particular sort of betrayal that is more insidious and equally corrosive to trust.” - Brene Brown

What could Brene Brown possible be talking about? What could be worst than the examples given in this excerpt? Let’s discuss.

By definition, betrayal is when someone you trust lies to you, cheats on you, abuses you, or hurts you by putting their own self-interest first. Many people think that betrayal means to be malicious; to violate with intention. This isn't the case for every event. Betrayal can happen in small increments and actually starts to occur before the BIG action that caused the ‘blow up'. Small incidents can really add up to become something huge.

Regardless of how the trust is broken, it’s important for you to understand what it actually means and how it can affect you relationships.

Define trust

We must define what trust means for ourselves and how it is defined by the other person. It holds the same foundation as loyalty but we define it through different acts of "showing up" and acts of service. Showing up can be as simple as listening to someone who lost their job, going out for dinner to celebrate a win, or simply saying “I’m here for you” doing a rough time. Showing up can also be studying, praying, traveling, or assisting a friend when in need.

Being vulnerable is the big when it comes to trust. When we are vulnerable and not judged, we feel comfort just being ourselves and that is when trust is built. Determine how you trust people. Listen to the things others need to build trust.

Signs of trust in a relationship

Trust can mean different things to different people. In a romantic relationship, trust might mean:

  • You feel committed to the relationship and to your partner.
  • You feel safe with your partner and know they’ll respect physical and emotional boundaries
  • You know your partner listens when you communicate your needs and feelings.
  • You don’t feel the need to hide things from your partner.
  • You support each other.

Though trust can break in different ways, it can also be rebuilt over time.

Once we determine this, what do we do when it's broken? How do we move forward?

Rebuilding trust after it’s broken

Breaking trust can happen in small increments. For example, not being supportive at a person's time of need. This is what Brene Brown is referring to in her book Daring Greatly. Brene says things we don’t consider is the betrayal of disengagement, not caring, letting go of the connection, and not being willing to devote time and effort in the relationship. These small things tend to go overlooked though it can lead to these significant betrayals of infidelity and other things. When our trust breaks, our mind goes into a fear-based protective space so it can be difficult to rebuild the trust when it is broken.

You and the other party must communicate how each other feel and if you want to move past this occurrence, then efforts must be collective.

Related Blog: "Feeling Trapped in A Relationship? Here Are 5 Steps to Take"

Here are some tips:

Were you the one betrayed?

  • Avoid dwelling on the past - once you say you want to move pass it, leaving it in the past
  • Consider the reason - could you have become disconnected or distance?

Were you the betrayer?

  • Apologize sincerely - don’t give an explanation or excuse, apologize and be specific
  • Give your partner time - everyone process differently so be patient and give them the time they need

Communicate and Confirm

Like any preference, or dislike that we share with our family and friends, we should express when someone earns our trust. You don't have to say, "I trust you because of 'this'". You express that you appreciate, love, or are grateful that they've [what they did] for you in your time of need. Or, you state what you like about their actions while you rebuild your relationship.

Trust is one of the easiest things to break and one of the hardest things to rebuild. It is gained by showing up on a consistent basis with transparency. Transparency is key. Don't dismiss it at any point. Building trust allows you to discover personal growth opportunities. It allows you to determine the solidity of the relationship.

Ensure that you're communicating your needs throughout the rebuilding phase going forward. Accept that rebuilding takes time and patience. It can be difficult but not impossible.

Related Teachable Course: Assertive Communication Featuring Camille Tenerife

Have You Ever Experienced Betrayal? If So, How Did You Move Pass It?

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