I Don’t Trust You – PART TWO – Deciding Whether to Go or Stay

Listen to all three parts of the article as an extended version on my podcast, or read part two below!

When there are trust issues in a relationship, the question arises if the trust can be restored. Mistrust can provide an excuse to leave a relationship if we had already been thinking about ending the relationship. It all depends on what the relationship was like before the betrayal happened. “Most people who leave a relationship right after the betrayal have regrets if the relationship had been good before that point.” (Kirshenbaum, 39)

Before deciding to heal and restore the broken trust, the author Mira Kirshenbaum recommends that you ask yourself several questions.

1. Would you want this relationship if the trust could be restored?

You need to examine what the other areas of the relationship are like. What has your sex life been like before the loss of trust? Can you still have fun together? Do you still enjoy co-parenting?

2. Does the fact that this betrayal happened ruin everything for you?

If the betrayal has changed how you see the other person at such a fundamental level that you cannot imagine wanting to be with them after your anger has died down, then you are better off ending the relationship.

3. Can you imagine the possibility of forgiveness?

Forgiveness isn’t just the cherry on top of the sundae of reconciliation. Forgiveness is essential for our relationships. You cannot trust somebody whom you haven’t forgiven and just as importantly, you cannot trust somebody who hasn’t forgiven you. Forgiveness is a life-affirming act. It is not an intellectual process; it is a softening and opening in the heart. Instead of our heart feeling closed and hard because of anger or fear, it opens and relaxes when we forgive and let go.

4. Does the person you mistrust care about how you feel?

Has he or she gone out of their way to show that they care? If not, then he or she will not be able to work with you during the trust-recovering process. You are better off leaving.

5. Can the other person work on the relationship with you?

Rebuilding trust can only happen when the two people work on it together. The partners need to talk to each other, share information about hurt feelings, and talk about things that are difficult to say or hear. If one or both people are conflict-avoidant and just want the relationship to be easy and trouble free, the process of rebuilding trust cannot unfold successfully.

Kirshenbaum names two main reasons why we are afraid to talk to our partners. One is the fear of being attacked or blamed. So you need to commit to not attacking, blaming, or yelling and instead focus on making each other feel safe. The second reason is that we might feel that we won’t get a chance to express ourselves. So the second commitment is to listen and give each other equal talking time.

You need to discover together what the mistakes were, how you both contributed to them happening, and how to avoid them in the future.

6. What do I have to lose?

If you can get to the point where you can honestly say, “I don’t have anything to lose; the worst that can happen is that the person who has betrayed me will show that he or she hasn’t changed”. If this is the case, then it’s worth staying to work on the relationship. If he or she ultimately can’t or won’t do what is needed to deserve your trust and make you feel safe, you can see it as his or her way of letting you go, and move on at that point.

Often the betrayed partner does not need to hear how sorry the other person is and how bad they feel. Instead, they need the betraying partner to really understand how their life has changed through their choices. After the betrayed person has shared the impact the break of trust had on them and their life, the offending partner repeats this impact back to her or him. That allows the betrayed spouse to feel seen, heard and truly understood. That is much more valuable for the healing process than an apology.

Mistrust can heal. What prevents it from healing is excessive anger. The angry part inside of us is naturally trying to protect us. Often yelling does make us feel stronger and therefore safer. It can be somewhat of a test to see if the other person cares enough to hang in there while you are furious about their betrayal. At the same time, it is unfortunately a test of the other person’s ability to withstand discouragement.

The less anger we engage in, the faster the healing happens. Kirshenbaum’s guidelines are: if the betrayal was a major betrayal, there is most likely still unlimited anger by the end of the first month, but by the end of three months, you should be able to have a sane, productive conversation for the purpose of accomplishing joint goals. By the end of six months, there might still be flashes of anger, but it should no longer be your operating mode. By the end of the first year, you are ideally no longer angry. Trust might not be completely restored, but you feel you are on your way. By the end of the second year, trust has been restored and you can now talk about the betrayal without getting angry and upset.

The things we do to make us feel safer, like yelling, cruel words, coldness or distancing ourselves, won’t restore trust. If you find it hard to not express your anger to your partner, you can keep an anger journal, vent about the betrayal to a coach or give yourself a “time out” if it gets too much. I also like two other suggestions Kirshenbaum makes. She suggests to vent in emails and give your partner the choice whether they want to read the e-mails or not. She also talks about “having a Vesuvius”, which entails setting a timer for two minutes (or however long your partner can listen) and using that limited time to get your anger off your chest.

In PART THREE we will explore the steps to healing the broken trust. Click here to read part three.

If you would like to work on a trust issue by yourself or with your partner,

contact me for a free phone consultation

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Why Won’t You Apologize?

Listen to this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

Sue is at the stove making dinner. As she turns to tell her children to get ready, she sees six-year-old Adam ripping a Barbie doll’s head off while his four-year-old sister stares at him with fear in her eyes. Adam is watching his sister and seems to take pleasure in her response. Sue is shocked and disgusted. Before she is aware of how she feels and why she was triggered into those feelings, she says to Adam. “You are horrible! That was just mean and malicious! How can you do such an awful thing? Don’t you care about your sister’s feelings at all? You need to apologize to your sister right now!” Adam feels deeply ashamed. He hears that there is something inherently wrong with him.

Twenty years later, Adam and his girlfriend Sarah are having a fight. Her choir had their first performance and he forgot. He stayed late at the office to work overtime and went out for a drink with his colleagues afterwards. His seat in the theatre stayed empty. Sarah is upset. “How could you forget? Don’t you care about my life and my feelings at all? You are horrible!” Adam’s shame is triggered again. He doesn’t say anything. When his girlfriend says, “you should apologize, but clearly you don’t care!” Adam gets defensive. What he doesn’t do is take responsibility for his mistake and apologize.

Apologies are almost impossible when we are stuck in a place of shame. Being able to say, “I am sorry” requires a solid foundation of self-worth. We need to feel that we are fundamentally lovable even if our behaviour in a situation has caused somebody else pain. Adam has learned that he is fundamentally flawed. Criticism and the anger of a loved one trigger self-loathing in him. He feels like he is six years again, being told that he is horrible. Only when we have a solid basis of self-esteem can we take responsibility for a mistake and for the effects our words or actions had on another person.

Sarah is hurt and continues to be upset. Adam feels not good enough and, in an attempt to stop the uncomfortable confrontation, he says, “I am sorry” in an irritated voice. His apology comes with the meta message that Sarah’s feelings are silly and annoying. He adds, “You could have reminded me again yesterday that the performance was tonight” and essentially blames her. A little later in the conversation he says, “I am sorry but you are overreacting. It’s not as if you had a solo performance!” Because of the deep shame he feels, he is unable to validate her feelings and take responsibility for his absence with an authentic and heart-felt apology.

What constitutes an effective and honest apology?

  1. It is never too late to apologize. If we apologize within the first minutes after an event, the repair is easier. As Stan Tatkin points out, when we can repair very quickly, the experience does not pass from short term memory into long term memory. On the other hand, if the repair does not occur quickly, the behaviour is regarded by the injured party as a “trait” and will be encoded in their memory as such.

However, Adam can still apologize when he has calmed down and has taken a moment to put himself in Sarah’s shoes. Going back to the conversation at a later point means a double apology is required; a heart-felt “I am really sorry, I wasn’t at your choir performance as I had promised” followed by, “I am sorry I felt too ashamed to apologize properly right away.”

  1. Apologizing requires listening and understanding. The willingness to sit with Sarah’s disappointment and validate her feelings is required from Adam. “You must have been so disappointed”, “I understand why you felt like I didn’t care”, “I am sorry you felt abandoned” and so on.

  1. Apologizing means taking responsibility for one’s part in a situation. Adam needs to look into Sarah’s eyes and show her through his body language, his tone and his words, that he is sorry for forgetting. An authentic “I know I really screwed up!” or something similar shows that he is not trying to pass the blame.
  2. The word “but” negates an apology. A true apology only focuses on our behaviour, without making excuses. Harriet Lerner in her book “Why Won’t You Apologize” reminds us to keep “but” and “if” out of our apologies. “I am sorry if I offended you” is for example also a non-apology, as it questions the validity of the other person’s feelings.

Just as there is an art to apologizing, there is also an art to receiving an apology. In accepting the apology, there is also no place for a “but” or a lecture. Sarah needs to receive Adam’s heart-felt apology with grace and openness. She needs to simply thank him for apologizing and save any further discussion, for example about Adam having been forgetful lately, for another time.

As parents, grandparents, and educators, who want to raise children who are ready to say sorry, we have to keep in mind that saying less is more. If a child apologizes, we need to accept the apology with a simple thank you instead of following with a whole lecture. We need to give them credit for being mature and responsible enough to offer a true apology. Making statements about the child’s character instead of their behaviour and lecturing them only causes further shame instead of a positive experience. A true heartfelt apology is not just a gift to the person we are apologizing to but it is also a gift to ourselves as it raises our self-worth when we are able to take responsibility and act in integrity. Let’s remember to make apologizing an experience of personal growth and increased self-esteem for the next generation.

 

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Angelika

Relationship Coaching

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Why Should I Apologize?

Apologizing4I met a young man this year who went through a time of huge change. In fact, his entire family went through this big life change. Some familiar faces and his old rhythm of life changed. New people came into his life with other ways of doing things. The new events came out of nowhere for him, and naturally he was struggling with the emotions coming up. Things being different triggered in him a feeling we all deep down have, the little nagging voice which says, “I do not feel good enough”.

Nobody “makes us feel” a certain way, but other people, of course, trigger our deepest doubts and insecurities. Sometimes we overreact when we feel not enough. We want to blame others for making us feel “like a bad person”. We push them away instead of giving them a chance to share how they really feel and think about us. We get stuck in the idea of being a victim who has been hurt by another person. When the other person wants to apologize, we take it as a confirmation that we have been wronged instead of a sign of him or her caring enough to say sorry.

Where I come from, people have a hard time saying “I am sorry”. In the German mind-set, it is deeply ingrained that saying sorry means “I did something I shouldn’t have done. I wronged you in some way.” They ask, “Why should I apologize? I have done nothing bad.” This attitude seems less common in Canada but there still are people who see an apology as a confession of wrongdoing.

Apologizing5

“I am sorry you feel this way” just means that we care enough to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes and that we are acknowledging the feelings somebody has. “I am sorry” can also mean “I acknowledge that I was part of this experience you had and I am sorry we created something together which did not feel good for either one of us.” It is a sign that we are taking responsibility for our own words and actions independent of the right and wrong dynamic. Sometimes things aren’t right or wrong, they just are.

Rumi

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, we can meet in a field of communicating without judgements and of understanding each other’s feelings. We can all—no matter how old we are—make mistakes; we can all say “I am sorry you feel this way”; we can all take responsibility for co-creating our experiences with each other; we can all let go and give second chances. If we want to have second and third chances in life, we need to start by giving others that opportunity as well.

Apologizing2

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Life and Relationship Coaching

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca