Rebuilding Trust After a Betrayal

If you have been betrayed by someone you trusted—and are now having difficulty regaining trust—try these recommendations—taken from Jane Greer’s book How Could You Do This To Me? (Doubleday)

The most difficult task in confronting a betrayer—and the step where most confrontations get derailed—is staying focused on your objective: the actions you want taken and the behaviors you will no longer tolerate. Set boundaries for yourself by determining your Trust Bottom Line. Four elements make up your Trust Bottom Line: your expectations of the other person in the relationship; what behavior you can accept and ultimately forgive and what actions you can’t accept; how much disappointment you will tolerate in the relationship, and the actions you will take if the betraying behavior occurs again.

Determine the motive. The key to determining someone’s motive is to remain genuinely curious about what the person tells you. Your objective is to learn his/her truth, not try to convince the person of your truth. You want to find out where he/she was coming from. Does she rationalize and justify her self-serving behavior? Does he genuinely believe that he wasn’t doing anything wrong? Many people tend automatically to attach malicious motives to the other person’s actions before giving the person a chance to tell his/her side.

Consider how a person responds when confronted. Does he acknowledge his untrustworthy behavior and promise to change? Or does he excuse and/or justify his hurtful actions?

Look for consistent behavior. The most significant action someone can take in rebuilding trust is to follow through on whatever she promises to do. Don’t accept what she says at face value. Instead, verbally identify the concrete ways she can work to maintain your confidence.

Base your trust on whether the person makes you feel respected, valued, belittled or ignored. Be wary of the occasional nice gesture—an invitation to dinner; a bouquet of  flowers—since it can cloud your vision. Distinguish between the random nice gesture that is sweet but is often self-serving—and the kind of trustworthy behavior that is tailored specifically to your needs.

Examine the role you played in the betrayal. When you’re smarting from the pain of broken trust, it can be difficult to acknowledge that you played a role in what occurred. Nevertheless, victims sometimes do play a small role in their own betrayal. For example, do you convey to friends or lovers a sense of helplessness or neediness? Do you give the impression that you are willing to let others control your life and make decisions for you? Are you reactive? Do others avoid talking to you because they’re afraid you’ll explode in anger? Conversely, do you come across as so agreeable and accommodating that people believe they can get away with anything around you? Do you try to justify your own actions when you hurt others?

From now on express your feelings and verbalize your needs more often.

Be more suspicious and don’t take people at their word without objective, collaborating proof.

Ask more questions and check more things out in the relationship,

Deal with what is, instead of wishing for what might be.

Walk away earlier from a relationship when your needs aren’t being met.

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