60-something client of mine traveled to Florida and - among other activities
- spent time with a young woman friend "to help her through a tough time."
He didn't tell his (second) wife of 25 years about helping, and she found out "by
accident." He insisted there was nothing romantic or sexual in his
intentions, and that he "simply forgot" to tell her. He had never had an
affair (nor had she) in their remarriage.
The couple called me a year later because the wife was voicing suspicions
about another Florida trip her CEO husband was about to take to "be alone
for awhile." He swore he had no interest in contacting the young woman, and
was astonished his wife didn't trust him "after all this time." They had
made no conscious effort to rebuild her trust in him. He had thought her
distrust would "heal itself."
She said "For a year, I've wondered whether you're telling me the truth
about other things because I'm not convinced you did then." He was stunned,
and had called me for ideas on how to rebuild her trust in him. Like many
couples, they didn't know how to do this.
Two essential ingredients for satisfying relationships are mutual respect
and trust. "Betrayal" occurs when someone violates (breaks) our trust
- e.g. "I always thought you'd tell me the truth, and now I find you lied to
me." Each time someone violates a person's trust it becomes harder to regain
Trust is solid faith (belief) in someone or something. The opposite of
trust is doubt, disbelief, and skepticism. Four major types of lost trust are in...
your own worth, judgment, and
competence - i.e. self doubt and loss of self confidence;
your hope for some prized
outcome in the future;
your Higher Power's intentions,
reliability, thing; and...
another person's reliability, honesty,
This article focuses on the last of these. To understand what's
needed to re/grow trust in or from another person, consider...
Where does trust come from?
Pause and try answering this question out loud. Then compare your idea with
this premise: in interpersonal
relationships, trust comes
from needs + direct experience + hopes + assumptions. Let's
look at each of these sources briefly:
Needs. Our earliest
experience of dis/trust occurs in infancy. We're entirely dependent on
giant adults to know and fill our current physical and developmental needs.
If they do so reliably and effectively, we grow wordless trust that they
value us and want to help us feel safe and comfortable.
If our needs
are met erratically, harshly, or inadequately, we grow wordless distrust
we age, we slowly become more capable of filling many of our own needs, and
we can become increasingly selective about which people we trust for
maintaining our safety and comfort. An inescapable challenge is whether we
learn to trust our own abilities to fill our needs in different situations
or not (self trust).
Hope-based trust is faith in something without direct experience validating
it. A primal example
is hope for (faith in) an afterlife free of Earthly suffering, and reunion with
God, ancestors, and beloved friends and hero/ines.
Your trusts also come from repeated observations over time e.g. "In 22
years, Pat has never broken a promise to me."
So if trust
is lost, we need repeated experiences, vs. verbal assurances, to rebuild
Another implication: in some relationships we start out unsure or
distrusting, and may reverse that to some extent over time based on
accumulated experiences: When we met, I was uneasy hearing that my future
stepson had been recently caught shoplifting, but since our wedding, hes
never done that again.
Trust also comes from believing certain sources of
"Pastor Lueking would never lie to me!"
The mail carrier will never read my
I trust my doctor to
assess me accurately and prescribe the right
We also assume the
reasonableness of some things: I trust that Martha will never run for
President, become an exotic dancer, or shave her head.
Can you think of
other sources of the trust (faith) that you award to living and spiritual
things and Natural laws?
What do adults and kids need
Think of an important relationship in your life, and see how you feel about
each point below. We each need to
our own judgment (i.e. our true
Self), our competencies, our intrinsic human worth, and our
perceptions. (I Agree / Disagree / It depends...)
that there is
and meaning to our
life, despite periods of doubt and "failure." (A D
that adults and kids are
basically good, and that life on Earth is usually safe enough.
(A D ?)
we each need
to trust that other people want to...
consistently keep their promises
to us. (A D ?)
respect our needs, opinions, habits, and beliefs equally with
their own, even if we conflict
(A D ?)
affirm and encourage us in troubled
times, vs. ignoring, criticizing, or abandoning us. (A D
tell us their truth or if they don't
feel safe doing so, and why. (A D ?)
accept us for who we are, rather than
how we look, sound, or what we do. (A D ?)
respect (vs. agree with) our choice
of friends, activities, and
(A D ?)
be honest with themselves and us in
important matters. (A
And we each need to trust
other people to want to...
with us, within
their limits. (A D ?)
confront us directly
when they need to, in a loving, empathic (vs.
shaming, insensitive) way
(A D ?)
respect our limits and
including times we need privacy and solitude.
(A D ?)
vs. fix us (solve my problems),
when we need to vent. (A D ?)
seek win-win compromises when
we differ on important matters. (A D
appreciate our personal talents and limitations.
(A D ?)
be respectfully direct and assertive
with us, rather than aggressive or submissive. (A D
balance our flaws and mistakes with the
good in us. (A D ?)
(add your own interpersonal trust items)
This summary is not comprehensive.
Change or add any items to make this more complete and relevant. Note that this
trust-items related to mates, kids, relatives, friends, possessions, Nature,
assets. Special social roles and relationships - like mate-mate, parent-child,
and employer-employee merit unique trust items.
above is a chance for betrayal (broken trust) or
relationship satisfaction and security.
Note the key phrase
provides trusts like these out of duty, guilt, shame, or fear, instead of genuinely
wanting to, would that fill your needs for trust?
implication of this summary is I
dont trust you can have many meanings. One is "I don't feel
safe with you." Another is "I don't trust you to
value me or my needs equally with your own."
let's put these foundation ideas to work:
Options for (Re)gaining
Someone Else's Trust
someone you care about says or implies
I don't trust you (about something), three possibilities are:
person is significantly
distrustful - in general, or of people "like
you." If so, you can do little about that except
feel compassion (vs. scorn or pity) and perhaps
themselves for psychological wounds
- specially if they're a parent. Or...
You two had
a communication problem - e.g. the other
person misunderstood a commitment s/he thought you
made and didn't keep; or...
psychologically wounded, and your behavior with the
other person merits distrust - i.e. your
(a) committed to something you couldn't
do (or didn't want to), or (b) broke a promise,
lied, or otherwise disappointed or betrayed the
other person once too often.
If the last case applies to you, what can you do?
for psychological wounds (Lesson 1 here).
If you find symptoms, then focus on
to guide you in all
situations. As you do, there are specific things you may choose to
regain someone's lost trust in you - if
they are guided by their true Self.
Do you know how
Regaining an Adult's Trust in You
You have more choices if your distrustful person is an
adult than a child. We'll look at your options with
suspicious kids later.
for Psychological Wounds
To regain another's trust in you,
first assess both
of you for psychological
- specially for significant
Because of childhood trauma, some people are inherently suspicious of
some or all other people, regardless of their behavior.
in this Web site offers an effective way to assess for and reduce
you are wounded, your behavior (like lying, stealing, or making false
promises) may merit the other person's distrust. If this is the case, you
must commit to reducing your wounds and
your true Self to guide you.
Then you can change your behavior and become more trustworthy.
the other person is wounded (controlled by a
false self), you may be unable to regain their trust no matter
what you do. In that case, learn how to relate to
wounded people, and use the
to accept what is.
neither of you are significantly wounded (a subjective judgment), the next
step is to...
Confirm the Distrust
Option - if the person hasn't said they distrust
you but you suspect they do - ask them. That might sound
have the feeling you don't trust me about
(whatever). Is that true?"
If the other person is guided by their
true Self, you'll
probably get an honest answer. If so, that opens the
door to asking why they distrust you now.
Caution - if the other person describes some
actions by you that caused their mistrust, avoid
defensive explanations and criticisms ("Well, how 'bout
the time when you (did something similar)?!"
They usually indicate false selves have taken over.
What the Other Person Really Needs
If the other adult is vague or generalizes about what
they mistrust, seek clarity on what they
from you -
- "Well, you know, at times I just can't count on you."
you be more specific? You can't count on me for what?"
- "OK, I
never know if you're going to be here when you say
you will. You're late all the time."
"You don't trust me to be on time when I commit to
doing that, and you want (need) to trust that I'll
be here when I say I will." (This is an
empathic listening statement, not a
shows that the other person may distrust one aspect of
your behavior, and trusts other things about you. Implication - 'I don't trust you" can mean
things - so in important relationships,
identify the real problem (unmet
As you learn what the other person needs to
trust about you,
check for an equally important need:
respect. What happens to your
respect for a person
if you don't trust something bout them?
Often, the more
things we distrust
about someone (including ourselves), the less we respect
them. Do you agree? When you're done here, see
this article for
more perspective and options.
Now decide whether the it's important to you to regain
their faith. If so, an option is to tell them you want
to do that - e.g. ...
sorry I haven't been more prompt (or whatever). I
understand that's bothered you, and I'm going to be
more timely from now on. If I'll be more than 10"
late, I'll call you. If I don't make good on this, I
need you to tell me right away, OK?":
Think of an
adult who distrusts something about you now, and imagine
saying your version of this to them. Could you do so,
and mean it? Beware your false self trying to be
"nice" and making promises you can't or won't keep! If
you've promised to be "more prompt" before and haven't
done so, the issue is
can the other
After trust is lost,
you'll need to repeatedly demonstrate
promised behaviors and attitude changes, rather than
talk about them.
To do this without background senses of
resentment and anxiety, your true Self must be steadily
guiding your inner family of talented subselves. As you
demonstrate your reliability, three options are...
say something like "I
hope you're aware that I've kept my promise about
(whatever) six times in a row. I'm telling you this
because I want to regain your trust." and/or...
"(Name,) have I regained
your trust (about whatever) yet?" Be prepared for
"not yet"; and...
as you make good on
tough commitments. notice how that affects your self
trust and self respect. Affirm and enjoy your
Special Case: Dishonesty
Convincing another person that you're telling them your
truth can be tough if your subselves haven't felt safe doing so before. If you and another
person can negotiate such safety, then how is s/he going
to determine that you're now speaking the truth? S/He'll
have to validate that through other people who know you
and your situation - which is beyond your control.
So meet your commitments (preserve your integrity)
and let go of the other person's reaction -
specially if s/he is ruled by a false self.
perspective on and options about honesty, see
this after you finish this
Typical dependent kids are less likely to think or say
"I don't trust you" or equivalent than honest adults.
Young kids may need help in understanding what "trust"
and "distrust" are, and may be unsure of their right to
distrust unreliable adults without shame, guilts,
and anxieties. Remember how that was?
Distrust is an
instinctive reaction to fear of discomfort and
injury. So if you perceive a child is
avoiding you physically or behaviorally (e.g. little eye
contact and/or notable silences) suspect they distrust
something about you but can't or won't say so. They also
may distrust their ability to keep themselves safe
from pain - around you or in general.
Six essential trusts all kids need with their
caregivers are: "I'm sure...
you genuinely value,
care about, and enjoy (love) me, despite my flaws and
you'll genuinely accept and respect
me as a worthy person, tho I'm weak, ignorant, and
clumsy at times;
you want to know
how I feel emotionally and physically, and
make my pain go away;
you want to help
me learn how to be OK in the world by myself;
you'll always do what you
say you'll do; and...
you'll tell me the
truth, every time.
Recall your early years. Did you trust your main adults at home and
school with these six essentials? If not,
how did you (a) feel and (b) cope? If there are kids in
your life now, do you feel they trust these things about
you and other adults well enough?
powerful things you can do to earn and keep a child's
trust (and respect) are to...
true Self steadily
in charge in calm and stressful times;
be clear on the
difference between surface needs and the
you and the
each need in various situations, and stay aware of
whose needs are most important in stressful situations (yours, mine,
or ours); Take responsibility for
your primary needs, and managing your frustrations rather than
blaming the child;
keep an attitude of
genuine respect for them and yourself,
of your and their equal
worthy persons, and teach them their rights,
learn how to think,
effectively, and teach the child/ren how to do
those (see Lesson 2);
learn how to give and
when it's merited;
say what you
mean, and mean what you say. Keep every
promise, or explain honestly and promptly why you can't, without
stay aware of the difference between "bad behavior" and a "bad
teach and model tolerance and compassion, not indifference,
scorn, and ridicule;
intentionally make it
safe for the child to tell you their truth.
Learn to want to guide, teach, and discipline
when they're old enough, teach kids to
tell you without anxiety or guilt if they don't trust you about
something, and why they don't.
don't expect kids to be as trustworthy
as adults, because they're far more impulsive and focused on
immediate gratification. Remember that kids unconsciously need to
test you and the world to see how things work, how much power
they have, and whether they're really safe
(add your own ideas about
earning a child's trust.)
Pause and reflect: what are you aware of now? If there is a child
who distrusts you now, do these options seem useful in regaining
their trust? If not - why? If so, is there anything blocking you
from trying these options?
Options for (Re)gaining
Trust in Someone Else
the wife in the example at the top of this article wanted to regain
trust in her husband's fidelity and honesty, what could she do? See if
you agree with these options:
Again, assess each of you for
psychological wounds, and commit to reducing any you find (Lesson 1).
If false selves control either of you, rebuilding lasting trust and respect
is unlikely no matter what you two do or say.
Acknowledge that stable mutual trust
and respect are essential for any important relationship. Then
acknowledge honestly that you've lost trust in some aspect of the other
person. Refer to the summary above to help you do
this. Beware of generalities!
Ask yourself "Do I still respect
this person?" If you've lost some or all respect, accept that to save
the relationship, you now have two concurrent problems to resolve.
See these options on restoring lost respect when
you finish this article.
Review your current life
and assess how important repairing this relationship is to you (e.g.
low > medium > high). When you must choose where to put your time and
energy, use this priority-ranking to decide.
Face the reality that it will take
an unknown number of tests over months or years to restore full trust and
respect if (a) your true Selves are steadily
you both, and (b) you both work together to repair your relationship.
It will also require you two to communicate and problem-solve effectively.
Define what specific
behaviors (vs. words) you need to experience from the other person.
In the opening example above, that might sound like "The next time you talk
to, email, or see this young woman, I need you to want to tell me
about it immediately - beforehand, if you're going to initiate contact. I
need this to happen some number of times without me asking, snooping, or
nagging." Note how different this is from "I demand that you promise to
never contact this woman again."
Remind each other periodically that rebuilding lost trust (and respect) are
still current goals. Other-wise "daily life" is apt to diffuse your efforts
and defocus you from this vital relationship task.
This Lesson-4 article is
longer one on reducing the
common psychological wound of compulsively trusting too little or too much. This
perspective on interpersonal trust, and practical options for
intentionally regaining lost trust with adults and kids. It
suggests that doing this also may require restoring lost respect at the same time.
Pause, breathe, and reflect: why did you read this
article? Did you get what you needed? If so, what do you
need now? If not, what
you need? Who's
these questions - your wise