Trust is a fragile thing. It can be broken in an instant, and it can take years to rebuild. How can you forgive someone when they break your trust?
A simple example of a trust breakdown is when you lend your car to a friend and that person returns it with an almost-empty gas tank without informing you. You will be hesitant to lend your car to that same friend again after this.
Trust can be broken by the slightest of mistakes and misunderstandings. Then it might take years to rebuild the shattered trust.
What trust really means?
Trust is the “confidence that one will find what is desired from another, rather than what is feared.” (Deutsch, 1973).
Research describes trust as an attitude or state that changes depending on circumstances. But, according to Jane Penaz Eisner, in close relationships, trust is a trait, that is, a specific feature determined by genes, environment, or interactions between them. There are 3 dimensions of trust—predictability, dependability, and faith.
Penaz, introducing the Interpersonal Trust Questionnaire in her Ph.D. dissertation Interpersonal trust in close relationships, says, “Departing from current state approaches, I argue that (1) trust in close relationships is a trait, and (2) dispositional trust importantly influences friendship formation.”
Why is trust important in a relationship?
Trust is vital for us to survive and thrive as humans. Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Without it, we cannot thrive.
We are here today studying our minds and brains because our forest-dwelling ancestors laid down the first rules of mutual trust. That mutual trust keeps modern humans secure from physical, mental, and emotional harm.
Researchers Larzelere and Hudson found when one person in a romantic relationship trusts another, they base it on:
- Benevolence – whether the other person is interested in their good or merely seeking their own gain, and
- Honesty – whether they can believe in their declared intentions.
Without trust, we go through the motions of keeping alive a relationship merely for the sake of it.
How do you lose trust?
Trust is presumptive in nature, and there will be times when the future will not mirror the past. Even if they were completely trustworthy in the early days of the relationship, your expectations from them in the future might go somewhat less fulfilled.
There has been little research focusing on factors that contribute to the erosion of trust. Research by Holmes, 1987, found distrust in marriages is marked by:
- perceptions of neglect by the other partner, and
- perceptions that the other person is trying to control the relationship.
From the non-scientific sources, we found the following anecdotal explanations:
- Trust is lost when you break promises
- Trust is lost when you show disrespect
- Trust is lost when you are not honest
- Trust is lost when you attack or abuse
- Trust is lost when you are not dependable
- Trust is lost when you are not open
- Trust is lost when you are not committed
- Trust is lost when you break the rules
How do you forgive a broken trust?
Trust gets strengthened when someone opens up with all their vulnerabilities, and yet trust is in itself a vulnerable thing.
What if the person who broke your trust was someone you loved and trusted with your whole heart? How do you forgive them for betraying that trust?
That is when forgiveness becomes an art form, but it gets easy if you understand that forgiveness is something you mainly do for yourself.
You may have to find ways to forgive them, even though the gravity of their mistake does not make them deserve it. You have to find ways to love them again, once you talked it over and are assured that they are sorry, will not repeat it, and will change themselves for the better.
Forgiveness is the act of believing that someone has done something wrong and deciding not to punish them for it. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting what happened, nor does it mean that you have to reconcile with the person who hurt you.
To forgive someone is to let go of feelings of anger and resentment towards them. It’s a process that requires time, patience, and understanding.
It may help the forgiver feel better about themselves and relieve the guilt or anger they have been feeling since the betrayal. The person who was forgiven may also feel relieved and less burdened by their guilt or shame.
Forgiving someone is a difficult choice when someone close breaks your trust, but here are the essential steps to doing it:
The first step in the forgiveness process is acknowledging that what happened was wrong and that it hurt you deeply. Unless both persons acknowledge that what happened was wrong and that it hurt you deeply, forgiving is extremely hard in a relationship.
2. Be Flexible
The next step is accepting that the person who hurt you was not acting in the best interests of themselves or others at the time. This attitude of flexibility lets you give them the benefit of doubt that they were trying their best not to harm you intentionally.
3. Stop Blaming Yourself
Befriend yourself by focusing on all of the good things about yourself and your life. Then, you must find a way to stop blaming yourself for what happened and instead focus on all of the good things about yourself, your life, and the people around you.
Narcissists are known to betray your trust and then try to prove it was responsible. This victim blaming is a cruel behavior of even vulnerable narcissists.
4. Forgive But Remember
Lastly, most importantly, don’t forget that forgiving them doesn’t mean forgetting what they did or letting them do it again. Forgive them while keeping their actions in mind. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting what happened or even agreeing with the other person. It means letting go of the negative feelings that are hurting you.
What is victim blaming?
Victim blaming is a form of shaming where the victim of a crime or any wrongdoing is held entirely or partially responsible for the incident, regardless if the victim actually did anything to encourage it.
This can happen in many ways, including making excuses for the perpetrator, implying that the victim should have done something to prevent it from happening, and so on.
Victim blaming is not always intentional and often happens subconsciously. The perpetrator might genuinely believe that they are not at fault and that they are not responsible for what happened. They might also be trying to protect themselves psychologically because acknowledging that they committed a crime would make them feel guilty and remorseful.
What is victim shaming?
Victim shaming is a type of bullying that involves defaming and sullying the reputation of someone who has been the victim of an accident, crime, or other atrocity.
Victim shaming is often done by people who want to assert their own power over others or make themselves feel better.
This form of bullying can be done in many ways, including social media posts, comments on articles and videos, and text messages.
Victim shaming has been around for a long time. The immediate intent behind victim shaming is to make people feel as though they are less worthy than others.
The masked threat behind this type of shaming is that if you are not careful, you might be next.
Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Other than personal and close relationships, trust is also an important factor in any business or professional relationship. Without it, any relationship can crumble.
Check out these 12 working strategies to rebuild trust in a relationship.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, wellbeing, mindfulness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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