Relationships, Part 31: Dealing with Betrayal

Someone has betrayed your trust. I know, it hurts. You don’t like what your partner did and you also don’t like feeling this way. You want to trust, but how do you come back from a thing like that?
It’s inevitable that trust will be broken in minor things. Appointments get missed. Chores get forgotten. Secrets get spilled. She asks you about your day and forgets to listen. He says he’s going to feed the dog when he gets up in the morning and he walks out the door while Bowser’s still hungry. You can come back from those betrayals simply by trying again and giving your partner the opportunity to do right. Even if he never gets around to feeding the dog, at some point you may just give up expecting. You can share responsibilities for the household some other way. The little things are not the problem.
It’s the big betrayals of trust that are hard to get past. She’s been having an affair. He’s been hiding a bank account from you. She’s been buying cocaine with the money for the electric bill. He’s been shooting porn for ten years and you never knew why he needed all that photography equipment. The truth gets out; your partner says he/she is going to change, and you’re left wondering, how do you trust?
It depends on what you mean by trust.
If, by trust, you mean a feeling, then you are going to have to make a decision. Feelings are like the idiot lights on a car. They signal that there’s a problem. They try to get you to pay attention to something, like, check the oil, cool down the radiator, address an injustice, let go of a loss. They should not be confused with the decision itself.
The check engine light went on in my car once. I took it to the garage. They said the engine was fine, it was the light that was malfunctioning. It would cost hundreds of dollars to fix. It was an old car, so I decided to ignore the light. It lit every time I ran the car. I finally covered it with a piece of electrical tape.
Your mistrust may be like that. If there was a betrayal, the light’s going to go on, you’re going to feel that feeling. Check it out, but don’t let the feeling make the decision. Decide for yourself what you want to do, based on the likelihood that it’s going to happen again, what you have to lose, and how much you care.
Your partner can’t get rid of that feeling for you. Feelings are the property of the person feeling them. Your cocaine-addicted wife might go to rehab, join NA, complete an outpatient program, have a spiritual awakening, be a model of recovery, piss clean for the next six years, but you still may not have that feeling of trust. You might still expect her to relapse, to look to score some blow every time she has a disappointment or a triumph. The feeling is there because your idiot light works. It’s your job to decide what to do about it.
So, what do you do about it? How do you trust?
You build and maintain a collaboration. See my last few posts and the next one if you don’t know how to do that.
Click here to go to the entire Relationships series.

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