When trust is broken


Most of us don’t have to think very long or hard to remember the last time our trust was shattered. Maybe it was a friend who devastated your trust and turned their back on your friendship. Maybe it was your teen who made some really bad or dumb choices. Or perhaps it was the devastation of an affair where you felt like your wedding vows were just thrown in the trash bin.

Trust is at the core of every healthy relationship. When you trust someone, your mind is at peace, and even the thought of that person brings joy to your heart. When it is broken, however, there is a deep and unsettling pain at even the mention of the offender’s name.

Trust provides an environment of confidence in a relationship. It fosters an openness and boldness in a way that causes us to speak the truth in love. But without trust, it’s hard to believe the best about another person, let alone take the risk of being honest and open with them.
Trust matters!

So what happens when trust is broken? Is it possible to rebuild and restore what has been lost?
Yes, but it takes time and lots of hard work.

• The first step toward healing is complete and utter transparency. The offender must own his or her mistakes without any “yeah-buts.” It’s not okay to say, “I’m sorry I hurt you and let you down, but . . . ” It’s never okay to rationalize or justify bad behavior.
The only way to rebuild trust is to take full responsibility for our actions. It’s also critical for the offended person to do some self-assessment as well. Broken trust is rarely 100% the other person’s fault.

• The next step involves a willingness to accept the consequences. The offender can and should be forgiven, but mercy and grace don’t always eliminate the consequence.
When we are willing to accept the consequences for our actions, it builds trust because it demonstrates humbleness and a committment to the healing process.

• The final step is the hardest one because it’s not something us humans tend to be good at…..waiting. We must embrace a process that involves lots of time and many baby steps along the way. It requires not just one or two, but many open and probably painful conversations. The rebuilding of trust is a process – and sometimes a slow one.

Picture trust as a bridge that has been damaged or destroyed. The gap is large and the challenges ahead are difficult, but not unachievable. There are no shortcuts, it simply takes time. Time to heal. Time to earn again the trust that was lost. Time to rebuild the bridge.

In my home town where I live a large freeway was built between two states. For this to happen it took some major work, including a couple of new bridges that needed to be built. At times, it seemed like no work was being done. In fact, the progress seemed ridiculously slow, but little by little, inch by painful inch, the roads & bridges were built.

I’ve got a couple of relationships just like that bridge; one where I broke someone’s trust, and another where mine was badly broken. The process will take time and a lot of effort, but I know the end result will be worth it all if we just keep moving forward.

To trust again is to believe again in a way that restores faith and hope in the offender. How could that not be worth the time and effort?

All of that being said, like dancing, it takes two committed people ready and willing to move together for something beautiful to happen.

About the Author

Fiona Leeworthy

Fiona is a Counsellor & Family Therapist (MCouns, GradDip Psycho, AdvDipFamTherapy and her husband Rick is a businessman, speaker and mentor. Together they share a passion to help couples build strong & healthy relationships in the midst of a busy life.

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