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When Trust is Broken in a Relationship

trust, respect, remorse, contempt, broken trust,relationship

 

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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Trust is a fragile commodity over the long haul because we are human & hungry, so we do things to hurt the people we love. For many people the core of a relationship is built on trust. We don’t kick the neighbor’s dog because it is far easier to kick the people around us. When trust is broken our hearts break…….

When trust is broken can a relationship survive?

The first part to answer this question: Is the other person genuinely remorseful? When my kids were growing up it wasn’t enough to say “I’m sorry”, they had to be specific about what they were sorry for. It’s too easy just to say two words. Real remorse is a tricky business because sometimes the person is just scared to death of losing you; which is not the same as remorse.

The one who betrays you must Separate their fears from the hard work of change & improvement. They need to make amends & figure out how to be different so it doesn’t happen again. It’s easy to say the words, not as easy to do the work.
I believe that the person who did wrong needs to listen to what was painful for you, they need to have clarity about the impact of their shabby self on you so that they will genuinely want to change.

Love requires the work of seriously wanting to be a better person for someone else. My favorite scene in the movie “As Good as it Gets” was when they are at dinner; Helen Hunt stands up & threatens to leave, demanding an apology from Jack Nicholson. He says “You make me want to be a better man” & she slowly sinks back down into her seat & says “that’s the best compliment I ever had.”

The second part of relationship survival depends on whether the relationship has been broken by dishonesty or a lack of respect.

In a world where it is cultural to avoid saying hard things to each other because “it might hurt”, dishonesty is something that easily happens.

Continued Silence about real problems is a death blow to relationships. Resentments so easily stack up over time without any real dialogue & then it is deadly to pile feeling self righteous on top of the heap. Relationships are work because we have to learn to negotiate & problem solve, not just silently extract penance from each other.

I’ve had many couples be able to recover from dishonesty about an affair. An affair that was a one time thing can be viewed as a symptom of problems that have gone unadressed far too long.

The real key to a relationship is respect. Respect is more important than love. It is my opinion that people get divorced 98% of the time because they have lost respect for each other.

In my office it still surprises me to watch interactions of complete contempt & have the other person swallow & ignore what happened. Denial really is the most powerful force in the universe, more powerful than love or hate. Contempt should never be ordinary in a relationship.

I had a couple where it was so obvious that one partner was just dripping with disdain. The other partner had been oblivious for years, which is exactly how they had coped and maintained the status quo. When Therapy pulled back the curtain, then it was clear that a lack of respect had been poisonous for both. Either Holding onto a giant pile of resentments or being on the receiving end is very ugly. This builds up into a Grand Canyon of distance. This is how a guy can end up sleeping on the couch for 25 years even though he has back problems & they still do not face the issues.

You have important choices to make in all your most valuable relationships: You can choose the appearance of things or the hard work of making agreements that really work. You can choose to hoard silent resentments or you can risk airing your discontent when it matters. You can apologize with real effort or pretend your bad behavior is excusable.

Unspoken resentments layer over time into a divorce waiting to happen.
Hurts & wants lie underneath resentments . Hurts & wants are what must be spoken & dealt with if you want to achieve an authentic relationship that will last over time.

So I want to end with a Challenge to improve your own relationship:
Write own 2 or 3 unspoken resentments you have. Then find the courage to be vulnerable and share them using I statements instead of blaming the other person & of course, ask your partner to do the same.

Thanks for listening. This is Rhoda sharing what I’ve learned from 35 years of working with couples.

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