by Candice Christiansen, LCMHC, CSAT-S, Founder
Trust is a loaded term, one that tends to be expected, demanded, and taken for granted, especially in intimate relationships. It is defined as a "firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something."
When an intimate betrayal occurs, such as infidelity of any kind (lying, secret keeping, cheating on a spouse via an affair with money, a person, substances, etc), trust tends to be the first thing to go in a relationship. Interestingly, the spouse who has caused the betrayal often experiences impatience at losing trust, often asking repeatedly, "When are you going to trust me again?" Or, "Why can't you just trust me?", "It's been 3 months," "Aren't you over this by now?"
Questioning the betrayed partner's time line for trusting again is not helpful. In fact, it can lead to them feeling even more pressured and distrusting of their spouse and of the relationship. The spouse's continued demand for trust must be addressed in their own therapy. The goal is to get at the root causes of their insecurity related to not being trusted which may come from on-going emotional dysregulation, trauma, and attachment issues, sometimes stemming from childhood.
The partner has their own process in recovery for rebuilding trust. This process takes as long as it takes and varies for each partner. There isn't a specific timeline for trusting again, especially after a betrayal. It can take years.
Knowing this, there are three key things the betraying spouse can do to begin to rebuild trust. These include:
- Be Consistent
Acknowledge the legitimacy and validity of their spouses distrust and reasonableness of her/his requests (i.e., if they ask to check your phone, bank statements, etc) Note: Even if you do everything he/she asks you to do to be accountable, still be open
Don't make any agreements you can't keep including promising to never relapse; this will only exacerbate distrust
For the betraying spouse, after months or even years of being sober, their partner may continue to question them on certain things ("Who were you talking to?", etc). It is important to recognize that intimate betrayal runs deep and while trust can be rebuilt, it takes a lot of time and patience on both parties parts. However, it is possible.
Remember, you are worth it.
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