This is part two of a three part series on how a broken trust can be repaired. In a previous post, we looked at phase one – discovery. In this post we’ll discuss the meaning of what happened. In a future post I’ll address the last phase – rebuilding trust.
An infidelity or deception is most often a symptom of an underlying problem in the relationship. In this phase, the offender is challenged to explain the motives behind the behavior.
How did this happen?
This usually starts at the beginning:
- When did you first think about doing this?
- How did your thinking progress into a decision?
- What were you looking for that isn’t in our relationship?
- Tell me all the details.
A word of caution here. A deceived partner may want to know all the small details. That’s OK. Just remember, you can’t unlearn what you learn and some things may be better off unknown. Be careful that you want to know what you ask.
The key in this phase is a shift from blame to understanding. This will form the basis of the next phase.
Do you know how much this hurts?
The offender must take responsibility and connect to the hurt that’s been caused. Often the offender underestimates the hurt and it takes a lot of empathy and compassion to make the other partner feel understood.
Other questions may be:
- How much did it mean to you?
- What was it like to keep it from me?
- How did you think I’d react if I found out?
- Were you pulling away from me or toward something else?
- What do you want me to know about what happened?
- How would you feel if I did the same thing?
Is our relationship worth saving?
By the end of this phase, both people need to believe it’s worth continuing to the rebuilding trust phase. In other words, could you still have a future together? Relevant questions include:
- How do you really feel about me?
- How much do you want to rebuild my trust?
- What are you willing to do to rebuild my trust?
- Do you think it could happen again?
- What would you do differently?
The process can be difficult to manage.
It’s important to understand that this is not a linear process. It’s not like following a manual. There is no textbook that says follow these steps and you’ll be fine. We’re dealing with deep, strong emotions that can’t be predicted.
A good therapist has a suggested process, but it must be adapted to each individual relationship. Your relationship and how it’s affected is unique to you and must be dealt with in a customized way.
Although I’m presenting this as a neat three phase process, the reality is anything but neat. You will go backward, sideways and around in circles before you can go forward. It may be confusing and unpredictable. Old wounds will surface and unresolved issues will emerge. You may feel discouraged and wonder whether this can be overcome.
On a positive note, all of this indicates progress is being made. The more difficult this phase is, the better you’re doing as a couple. If you’re not being activated, you’re not being honest.
You can be proud of yourselves.
Just attempting to repair this damage requires courage, determination and honesty. I always admire couples that accept this challenge and do their best. You should be commended for your strength and commitment.
Professional help is a must.
A good therapist is essential to having the best chance of success. That person will provide both of you with understanding, guidance and support. Navigating these waters is tricky and your relationship deserves to be helped by an experienced professional.
Please call me for a consultation if you would like to discuss this further. I’d be pleased to assist you.