From the start, you feel really good about this relationship. Your newfound love checks all the boxes.
✅ Compatibility on values, morals, spirituality, lifestyle, etc…
✅ Emotional connection
✅ Health minded
✅ Financially responsible
✅ Stable family background
✅ Wants kids
So you decide to go to the next level. You enter a monogamous relationship. Perhaps you marry or move in together. Either way, you feel really good about sharing your life with this other person.
Things are going really well. Sure, you have your occasional argument but you work through it. The love is still there and you’re building a dream life together.
But then your heart is broken. For some, it is a major event like some form of betrayal. While in other cases it is a series of disappointments in your spouse that question their reliability to honor a promise or keep their word.
Trust in your mate’s willingness to care for your needs is suspect. Maybe even broken.
It begs the question, “What happens when trust is broken?”
Before I answer this, let’s define the term in a couple relationship.
What is trust in a couple relationship?
Trust is a sacred exchange between two people devoted to caring for each other.
Includes the following:
- Belief in the honesty and reliability of the other person
- Confidence in the other person’s ability to show up in the relationship
- Certainty in the person based on a congruent pattern – their actions and words match
Trust is a belief in the benevolent character of the other person. Knowing their intent is to do good and avoid doing harm.
In a committed relationship, a couple forms a bond based on love and trust.
- We are in love with each other
- We are going to do life together
- We establish a monogamous relationship
- We promise to do good and avoid doing harm to each other
- We open up and share our hearts with each other
- We protect each other’s heart
When couples establish a relationship at this level of trust there is a deep sense of security in their bond.
What happens when trust is broken?
Based on what happened to violate trust the damage may be minor or catastrophic. The epicenter of casualty is the couple bond. Mistrust forms. Love feels vulnerable to more hurt.
Distance forms between the couple as a safety measure against further harm. Freedom to express love or be vulnerable feels unsafe.
Mistrust forms an anxious bond in the relationship. Communication breakdown and conflict patterns increase. Health and viability of the relationship is at risk.
None of this sounds good, does it?
So, now let’s get to the question…
Can a relationship recover from broken trust?
The short answer is “yes”. However, getting there is challenging and complicated. Let me explain.
Depending on the level of damage, recovery is hard work over a period of time. In previous blogs and in my book, I describe a formula for rebuilding trust: Trust = behavior/time.
Recovery from catastrophic damage is difficult but possible. This requires long hard work. It takes both individuals working together to recover. Sometimes one partner is unwilling or too broken by the harm to work on it.
Rebuilding trust requires a mutual effort. Each person has a role in the rebuilding process.
Couples who go through the arduous process of rebuilding trust often have stronger relationships. I see this often in my work.