Would you let an elephant stand over you?
If you’ve never met Tara and Bella their love and trust are inspiring.
For someone whose spouse has been unfaithful, it can seem easier to imagine a huge elephant foot hovering over their ribcage than it can be to imagine offering their heart to this person again.
What IS trust?
How do we earn it in the first place, and is it possible to restore trust once it’s broken?
Trust is earned as we run 3 criteria* through our emotional and logical filters.
- INTENTION – an emotional evaluation ~ does this person mean to do me good?
- CAPABILITY – a logical assessment ~ is this person capable of doing what they say?
- HISTORY – a logical proof ~ in the past, has this person been predictable and reliable?
We probably all know folks who seem to trust way too easily, becoming vulnerable with no logical input. Conversely, too much logic and we’ll never allow ourselves to be vulnerable . That’s the “magic” if you will, of trust. It’s that Goldilocks place where we are “advisedly vulnerable.”
So – how did Bella come to trust Tara, and visa versa? How can we begin to rebuild trust with someone who has hurt us badly?
For Tara and Bella – they sensed their mutual “Lets-be-friends” intentions; they were both capable of bringing joy through play and loyalty; and historically, day by day, they built up evidence to support these truths. Bingo – massive trust such that Bella can lie on her back and know the vast foot rubbing her tummy will be comforting, not crushing.
I have found that even when two partners both want their relationship to heal after a breach of trust, the process is confounded by ~
- Lack of a clear goal (how will we know when trust is regained?)
- Paralysis over the first step (is it forgiving, forgetting, penance, transparency – what?)
- Aftershocks (waves of loss, betrayal and hopelessness undermine honest effort)
- Foggy Progress (no clear feedback loop for either partner).
Both partners focus on the unfaithful partner’s 3 compromised Trust Tanks ~
Considering these three tanks, the hurt partner gets to answer the question:
“When you hear your partner tell you they want to do whatever it takes to win your love and trust back, how full is each of their tanks?”
This is a more-or-less typical response.
INTENTION is at 97% ~ The hurt partner believes their unfaithful partner genuinely wants to repair the damage. This tank will notch up to 100% as the unfaithful partner keeps reassuring the hurt partner that this is exactly what they want – their intention is to keep doing everything they possibly can to win back the trust.
CAPABILITY is at 65% ~ The hurt partner is somewhat encouraged. He/she has noticed that in the effort to re-build trust, their partner has done everything asked of them: made their phones and computer fully transparent; switched departments at work; put a block on the affair partner’s number; worked extra hard to be there for the kids, etc. This tank will slowly fill as the couple discusses the twists and turns of what the hurt partner needs that the unfaithful partner is capable of delivering. E.g., “I realize I need us to have a plan for what happens if we bump into your affair partner one day together.”
HISTORY is at 2% ~ It sounds like bad news to be at only 2%. However, the good news is that this tank can fill one faithful day at a time as history is re-written. The couple can decide if one year is enough to have this tank refilled, or if it will never go above say, 90% in recognition of this event.
Now you have ~
- A clear goal ~ filling each of the tanks
- A step by step path ~ as the partners identify what is both needed and possible to fill the tanks
- Infrastructure ~ to counter the aftershocks, now understandable in the face of low History levels
- A feedback mechanism ~ by using these percentage estimates to talk about how each tank is filling.
May your journey toward “advised vulnerability” bring you to a place of safety so, like Bella and Tara, you can walk in the woods and wag your tails together.
* I heard these distinctions of trust at a Family Therapy conference ages ago. Long since lost my notes and can’t remember whom to credit. If you know – do write me. I’d love to be able to give credit and read more by who-ever-wrote about this first.